Note: This story appears in the August 2011 issue of THE RING magazine, which is available now on newsstands or in our new digital format.
When Jorge Arce and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. appeared at their prefight press conference, they seemed like part of a Telemundo comedy roast, playfully insulting each other in machine-gun Spanish. Arce seemed amused, content to let Vazquez talk and talk.
No one could blame Vazquez if he seemed keyed up. This was his chance to display his wares on the undercard of the most-watched boxing event of the year, the Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley pay-per-view card from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Despite the fight’s high profile, Vazquez’ promoter, Felix “Tuto” Zabala Jr., said, “We prepared the way we always do. Nothing is different.”
But there were differences.
The first was the difference between the MGM Grand and the Silver Spur Arena in Kissimmee, Fla., where Vazquez has done most of his fighting. Kissimmee is about outdoor water parks and minor league baseball. Las Vegas is Bugsy Siegel’s dream amplified and transmogrified. It’s where tigers attack magicians. It’s where cab drivers swill beer out of McDonald’s cups. It’s where Paris Hilton appears mysteriously at ringside. It’s where Bob Arum brings you when he thinks you’ll be the next Puerto Rican boxing star. Vazquez grooved on the place. Zabala said Vazquez took in the town like a “kid in a candy store.”
The other difference was Arce, the smirking fellow sharing the dais, the one who is 31 but still looks like the kid who farts in the classroom. Zabala was respectful, describing Arce as “tough and hungry,” but that was like saying Jack the Ripper had issues with women.
Arce does a lot of clowning – he once rode to the ring on a horse, and says that some day he will fly in on a helicopter – but his playful side overshadows a history of brawling that borders on the obscene, and an almost gleeful willingness to turn fights into bloodbaths.
“I have handpicked all of Wilfredo’s opponents very carefully,” Zabala told The Ring a few days before the bout. Labeling Arce as “WBO mandatory,” Zabala lamented, “This is the first time I did not pick his opponent.”
If there was any foreboding in Zabala’s statement, it was lost on Vazquez. He rattled on at the press conference, the words flying from his mouth like frightened birds, until Arce finally placed a finger to his lips to quiet him.
Arce knew whose story it was.
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