The Road to Canelo – Cotto: The Iron Boy

CalderonHeadThere is more attention being paid to the lighter weight classes now than there has been for quite a few years. This seems to be the era of Roman Gonzalez as far as him being the main catalyst that is bringing the attention to flyweights and below. Before him there was Ricardo Lopez, Michael Carbajal, Mark Johnson and Johnny Tapia. In between these two eras there was a little fighter by the name of Ivan “Iron Boy” Calderon. Calderon, for most of his career, fought in the minimum weight division of 105 where he was undefeated and made 11 defenses of his WBO title. Calderon was the definition of a slick boxer and like Paulie Malignaggi after him he boasted a record of only a handful of knockouts. Calderon’s record, however, gave fans the impression that he was boring, but in reality he applied the sweet science at it’s fullest as he made his opponents pay while making them miss. He didn’t score the knock out, but could knock you down. Calderon was a victim of his weight class and his own record.

The perception of the Iron Boy changed when he moved up in weight to 108 pounds to challenge for the WBO light flyweight title against Hugo Cazares. This bout for boxing fans is like finding a lost Grover Washington record for a hip hop producer as it was treated as an event for all those involved, but has been largely forgotten in the history of the Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry. Cazares at the time was arguably the best 108 pounder in the world and Calderon like other boxing stylists not lost a bout, but also had rarely lost rounds. The match up took place on August 25, 2007 at Ruben Rodriguez Coliseum in Bayamon, Puerto Rico to a sold out and rowdy crowd. Both men were given long and entertaining entrances with both the Mexican and Puerto Rican national anthem sang. Michael Buffer introduced both fighters and with  Calderon you would have thought it was Felix Trinidad by the sound of the ovation he received from the crowd.  Cazares before the bout was confident that he would just walk through Calderon as he had nothing to fear from his punching power. Calderon dominated in the first half of the bout as he out-boxed, outmaneuvered and out-punched Cazares at every turn of the ring.  Calderon was putting on a clinic in exciting fashion with the crowd fully behind him.  Cazares would close the distance in the second half of the bout and knock down Calderon in the eighth round.  The bout was nip and tuck after the eighth round and after the twelfth round it could have gone to either man. Iron Boy was given the split decision to win his second title in his second weight class. There were some who felt that Cazares won, but what was proven was that Calderon could be in an exciting fight of the year candidate that brought more notoriety to the Mexico – Puerto Rico rivalry.

CalderonCutThe 108-pound weight class was much less dominant for Calderon, as he seemed to escape with victories at almost every title defense.  Calderon made two title defenses against Nelson Dieppa and Juan Esquer before facing off in a much anticipated rematch against Cazares. The bout once against took place in Puerto Rico in August of 2008 and with Cazares once again closing the gap on the scorecards the fight was stopped due to a gruesome cut on Calderon’s forehead.  Calderon was given the decision for the seven rounds that had taken place, but this would be the beginning of Calderon’s decline and issue’s with head butts.  He next faced off against Filipino contender Rodel Mayol where he once again faced the same issue of the fight being stopped due to a head butt. This time Calderon was lucky enough to leave with a draw. Most fans felt that Mayol was ahead and should have been given the decision so an immediate rematch was given where the exact same incident took place, but with Calderon getting a decision.  Calderon next faced off against Jesus Iribe in Madison Square Garden in New York where he was knocked down in the second round, but won an easy unanimous decision.  This set up for a big Mexico – Puerto Rico clash in the light flyweight division against Giovani Segura.

Segura was the mini Margarito as he was high volume with a great chin and even trained by Margarito’s former trainer Javier Capetillo.  The implications of this being a flyweight version of Cotto – Margarito were told in the build up to the fight.  Segura at this point only had one career loss which was to Cesar Canchilla to which he avenged emphatically in the rematch by stopping him in the fourth round and knocking him down in the first and second round. The comparisons to Cotto – Margarito would pale in comparison to what actually took place when both men stepped in the ring.

Segura and Calderon met in August of 2010 for the WBA and WBO light flyweight titles in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.  Once again, just like the fights with Cazares, there was a packed house with a very rowdy crowd.  Unlike Cazares, Segura had gained the respect of the Puerto Rican public by showing respect to Calderon and also acknowledging Felix Trinidad as his favorite fighter.  Trinidad even paid Segura a visit during his training camp. The crowd wasn’t behind Segura, but the crowd did respect him.

The fight won the Ring Magazine’s fight of the year for 2010.  It was a back & forth fight that ended in the eighth round when Calderon took a knee and was counted out at 10. Calderon showed tremendous heart throughout the bout and landed many combinations on Segura, but Calderon no longer could move as quickly around the ring; Segura took advantage and never stopped throwing punches at Calderon.  In Calderon’s first defeat as a professional he had shed any doubt in his career that he was a boring boxer. The fight deserves to be mentioned with the best fights of this decade and a landmark within the light flyweight division.

A rematch took place the next year in Mexico in April 2011, where Segura finished the job even faster and stopped Calderon in the third round. Calderon had finally gotten old and could no longer move like a young man.  For those who have not witnessed the Segura or Cazares fights they have done themselves an injustice as both fights exhibit the sweet science to the fullest.  You can witness a master technician & former Olympian apply all the skills in boxing while still being exciting.  Segura and Cazares exhibited the quintessential Mexican style of coming forward, throwing body punches and showing a never-give-up mentality.  Calderon may forever be an underrated champion from Puerto Rico, but when his day comes to go into Canastota he should be honored into the hall of fame if not for just his skill, but these two fights that he took a part in.  Those like Rigondeaux, Lara and even Mayweather himself should take notes from Puerto Rico’s Iron Boy.

About the Author

Hector Franco
Graduated from USF. Photographer, boxing writer, comedian. 100% Puerto Rican.

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