You can be forgiven if Celestino Caballero’s upcoming first defense of his WBA “regular” featherweight title against Satoshi Hosono has flown under your radar. You can be forgiven if you weren’t aware that Caballero was a titleholder again.
The 35-year-old veteran from Panama City, Panama has only recently begun to resurect his once-promising boxing career, which he considered ending early this year following back-to-back decision losses.
Caballero (35-4, 23 knockouts) will compete in his opponent’s backyard for the third straight time this Saturday on New Year’s Eve, this time against Satoshi Hosono at the Bunka Gym in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan.
Caballero claims to know very little about Hosono (21-1, 15 KOs) – a 28-year-old contender rated No. 10 by THE RING – except that “he’sa strong fighter, a tough fighter and he’s coming to fight.”
Hosono’s lone defeat came in his only previous title challenge to then-WBA 122 pound titlist Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym, whom he lost to by majority decision nearly two years ago.
The bout will not be aired in America and has so far garnered little international attention. Still, Caballero has to feel good about the position of his career.
It would have been very difficult to imagine Caballero holding a title belt, even in an era of four major governing bodies, following his surprising upset defeat to fringe contender Jason Litzau last November.
Caballero, who had garnered a reputation as a high-risk, stylistic nightmare for the higher rent stars of the featherweight divisions with his aggressive, long-armed attack suddenly found himself without any bargaining power to attract the big name opponents he had openly sought to no avail.
Even with the setback, Caballero found himself right back in his very next fight, traveling to Argentina to face Jonathan Victor Barros. Despite scoring knockdowns in the first and ninth stanzas, Caballero was on the wrong side of a hometown split-decision, a frustrating turn that had the former unified 122-pound titleholder wondering if his time in the sport was up.
“Celestino just got to a point where he was so frustrated that he was ready to retire,” said Jeff Mayweather, Caballero’s trainer. “If he didn’t force an immediate rematch, he would have retired. That’s how strongly he felt about being robbed.”
“If Barros had beat me legally, I would have retired,” said Caballero.
With a little assistance from the Panama-based WBA, Caballero got his immediate rematch and defeated Barros in Argentina, securing a bargaining chip with which he could entice bigger names for bigger money.
Yet, as Caballero prepares to take the next step in his career, a storm brews on the horizon as to which company Caballero does business with for future bouts.
Caballero says that he is in the market for a new promoter, unhappy with Dibella Entertainment, the New York-based promotional outfit that he has worked with since facing Daud Cino Yordan on HBO in April of 2010. Caballero claims that Lou Dibella stopped providing bouts for him after the Litzau loss, forcing him to take his career into his own hands to get back to where he is now.
“I believe that Lou DiBella is a great promoter but I think that he couldn’t get the fights that Celestino Caballero deserved,” said Rogelio Espino, Caballero’s former manager who worked with ‘Pelenchin’ from 2001 to earlier this year, resigning after admitting to making poor decisions on Caballero’s behalf. “Now Caballero is at the end of his career and he cannot make any more mistakes.”
Espino admits that Caballero does have two fights remaining with DiBella Entertainment, but says that they are in breach of their contract as they failed to provide him with a bout within the time frame. That meant Caballero should have fought in April of 2011, instead of making his own bout in July 2011 with Argentinian promoter Osvaldo Rivero, according to Espino.
Espino says that the complaint file of the first Barros decision that ultimately got them the rematch and participation in the subsequent purse bid with the WBA involved costs that Caballero shouldered himself without DiBella Entertainment.
DiBella’s lawyer Leon Margules, who previously promoted Caballero to the IBF and WBA 122-pound titles under the Warrior’s Boxing outfit but released him so that DiBella could sign him, says that the reason they were unable to make a deal for Caballero was because the 35-year-old veteran simply became unresponsive after the Litzau fight.
“While DiBella’s contract did have time provisions, we were clearly within those limits when he refused to listen to any offers and allow DiBella to participate in his last two fights,” said Margules.
“He can’t fight by himself for other promoters, keep us out of the loop and say that counts as one of our fights,” said Dibella. “They ignore us like we don’t exist. I have as much time as I want, he’s extended my contract by not being responsive.”
DiBella claims that he had discussions with HBO to prior to the Litzau fight to match Caballero with either Yuriorkis Gamboa or Juan Manuel Lopez, the two bouts Caballero wanted most. DiBella says that he attempted to make a bout between Caballero and former featherweight titlist Cristobal Cruz for ESPN2 following the Litzau loss, but that Caballero pulled out because he was working with the WBA to make the Barros fight without DiBella.
“Things never went sour, but he was trying to be a cutey pie,” said Dibella. “The entire time I was promoting Celestino, he was talking to other promoters from the beginning.”
DiBella claims that his decision to not interfere with Caballero’s attempts to secure title fights without him was business-motivated; Caballero with a title was worth a lot more than Caballero without a title. Still, DiBella is hoping to ameliorate their differences for the common good.
“If he wants a big fight on American TV, he knows where I am,” said Dibella. “I’ll try to make a fight with (WBO 130-pound titleholder) Adrien Broner or a Top Rank guy.
“I’m glad he’s returned to form. I thought he fought very well in his recent fights. I certainly think he could give a helluva fight to some of the big names out there.”
Espino also is optimistic that Caballero and DiBella can work things out and work towards something mutually beneficial.
“I believe that if DiBella Entertainment wants to hire Caballero’s services they have to offer him a good purse. I am sure that Caballero is willing to work with someone that can deliver the best fights and the best purses available. I hope it could be DiBella Entertainment.”
For now, Caballero says that his problems of the past – and the future – aren’t on his mind as he focuses on the task ahead.
“I feel in super shape,” said Caballero. “I don’t worry about nothing.”
Photo / Chris Cozzone-Fightwireimages.com
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News and the Filipino Reporter newspaper in New York City. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel. He can be reached at email@example.com. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.