Juan Carlos Burgos surprised a lot of fans with his impressive majority decision victory over Luis Cruz on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight on Nov. 12.
Cruz, an undefeated junior lightweight contender from Puerto Rico, was thought to be too fast and powerful for Burgos, a career featherweight who was in his first significant 130-pound fight.
However, Burgos (28-1, 19 knockouts) out-boxed, out-worked, and out-maneuvered Cruz over 10 fast-paced rounds in front of capacity crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and a massive national audience that bought the Pacquiao-Marquez pay-per-view show.
Burgos’ classy performance did not surprise Kenneth Thompson and Alex Camponovo of Thompson Boxing Promotions, the Southern California-based company that has guided the 23-year-old Tijuana resident’s career since his 14th pro bout.
Burgos, who evolved from a prospect to a world-class boxer under Camponovo’s matchmaking, almost won a world title one year ago when he battled Hozumi Hasegawa for the vacant WBC featherweight title in the former bantamweight beltholder’s home country of Japan.
Burgos, who lost a unanimous decision to the respected veteran in a spirited fight, vowed to bring home the belt in his next world title challenge at a recent press luncheon in Los Angeles.
Thanks to the Cruz victory, which pushed him to the top of the WBO’s and WBC’s 130-pound rankings, Burgos is in position for another crack at a major belt.
Burgos said that he would target Takahiro Aoh, the WBC 130-pound titleholder, and whoever wins the vacant WBO junior lightweight title bout between Adrien Broner and Vicente Rodriguez on Saturday.
He also said he would pursue the top featherweights, as he can still make 126 pounds.
“I want to fight Juan Manuel Lopez, (WBO titleholder) Orlando Salido, (WBC beltholder) Jhonny Gonzalez, Mikey Garcia and Yuriorkis Gamboa,” Burgos told boxing writers through Camponovo at El Paseo Inn restaurant, where Thompson presented him with the WBO Latino belt and the WBC “silver” title he earned by beating Cruz.
When a writer pointed out that Gamboa planned to move to the lightweight division, Burgos replied “I’ll fight him at any weight; it’s not just about titles for me, it’s about fighting the best.”
THE HASEGAWA FACTOR
The few boxing people who picked Burgos to beat Cruz favored the Mexican standout because of the experience he gained from his 12-round battle with Hasegawa.
Burgos said he matured as a fighter during the heated title fight but what aided him most against Cruz was the lesson he took from the loss.
“I learned that I can’t be overconfident,” he said. “I did not have enough respect for Hasegawa even though he was a former champion and I fought him in his country.
“I viewed him an older, smaller fighter who was moving up two weight classes. Once the fight started, I fought my heart out but I didn’t start fast enough.”
Against Cruz, Burgos was on a mission to take immediate control of the fight and maintain it until the final bell.
“I knew I had to start fast and win every single round to get the decision,” he said. “Even when I felt I was in control of the fight by the fourth and fifth round, I made sure to take some risks and continue connecting during the second half of the fight.”
DNA & DESTINY
Burgos said fighting hard in tough distance bouts, as he did in the Hasegawa and Cruz fights, is second nature to him.
The lanky boxer-brawler comes from a fighting family. His father and uncles on both sides of the family boxed professionally. Once of his uncles, Victor Burgos, held the IBF 108-pound title and fought eight major beltholders during his 14-year career, including Jorge Arce, who he out-pointed in 1997, Rosendo Alvarez, who held to a draw, and Alex Sanchez, who he split three fights with.
“Boxing is in my DNA,” Burgos said. “It just comes with being part of my family.”
However, his family almost convinced him to hang up his gloves the same year he signed with Thompson Boxing and made his U.S debut (a third-round KO of Adam Carrera in Corona, Calif., in August of 2007).
In March of ‘07, Victor Burgos was stopped in the 12th round of his challenge to then-IBF flyweight titleholder Vic Darchinyan and was hospitalized later that night due to a massive blot clot in his brain from the pummeling his took during the fight.
He was placed in a medically induced coma following the operation to remove the clot and was not expected to make a full recovery. His very survival was a 50-50 proposition.
“My uncle’s coma was the biggest blow we ever had to my family,” Burgos said. “Seeing him lying there in a hospital bed for more than a month was almost too much to bear.”
The near tragedy prompted Burgos’ parents to ask him to retire.
“At first my family wanted me to stop boxing,” he said. “It was a very difficult time in my life. There was pressure to stop doing what I loved, but at the same time, I was inspired by my uncle’s fight to survive.
“Seeing him come back from that, and make a full recovery, made me want to emulate him even more than I did when I was a child. He always worked hard and was prepared to give his all when hr fought. I wanted to be the same way, and I wanted to win a world title, as he did.”
Victor Burgos came out of his coma with his senses and gradually regained full use of his limbs. He currently works at City Hall in Tijuana and is able to provide for his three children.
By the end of ‘07, Burgos’ family backed off of their insistence that he quit boxing.
“The blessing of my uncle’s health helped me convince them to allow me to continue my career, but they also realized that my dream was much bigger than their wishes,” he said.
Thompson Boxing is considered more of a Southern California club promoter than a major player in the sport but the 11-year-old company has developed its share of world-class talent, including undefeated 140-pound titleholder Timothy Bradley, former bantamweight beltholder Yonnhy Perez, and, of course, Burgos.
What’s their secret?
“It’s a combination of things,” said Camponovo, the matchmaker for Thomson Boxing. “You don’t want to match a young fighter too tough, but tough enough.
“I like to match them with the right styles as they come up, even though their managers, and sometimes the fighters themselves, complain about it. I want them to be used to southpaws, pressure fighters, movers, awkward boxers. I don’t want them to get to a championship fight and not know how to deal with a particular style.
“But the most important thing in developing a fighter is activity. I’d rather have a raw kid, with only 20 or 30 amateur bouts, who I can fight seven or eight times a year than an amateur star with 300 bouts who only fights twice a year.
“The hungry fighter who wants to work is going to get better. The busier fighter who is developed right can beat the better talent who doesn’t fight often.”
Recent examples of Thompson Boxing-promoted fighters defeating amateur stars include Mauricio Herrera’s upset of then-undefeated Ruslan Provodnikov in January and Artemio Reyes out-working 2008 U.S. Olympian Javier Molina over eight rounds in October.
Thompson Boxing puts on 12 shows a year (along with an average of around 10 televised dates that they share with other promoters), which allows them to develop Southern California talent, such as Herrera (18-1, 7 KOs), a junior welterweight from Lake Elsinore, Reyes (14-1, 11 KOs), a welterweight from Colton, as well as undefeated junior featherweight prospect Efrain Esquivias (15-0, 9 KOs), of Carson, and Riverside’s hard-punching featherweight Richard Contreras (8-0, 7 KOs).
Thompson Boxing also signs amateur standouts, such as lightweight prospect Darley Perez and junior featherweight standout Jhonatan Romero, two 2008 Olympians from Colombia.
Romero (19-0, 12 KOs) takes on fellow 122-pound prospect Chris Avalos in the ShoBox: The New Generation opener on Dec. 2. Perez (23-0, 18 KOs), who stopped Oscar Meza in a ShoBox main event in September, is on the undercard of next Friday’s show from Santa Ynez, California.
Thompson Boxing’s first show of 2012 is Feb. 24 at the Double Tree Hotel in Ontario, Calif., where the company has stages monthly shows since 2000.
Both Perez and Romero are co-promoted by Gary Shaw. Burgos is co-promoted by Art Pelullo.