Lee Groves

10: Best Mexico vs. Puerto Rico fights

9. Ivan Calderon W 12 Hugo Cazares I — August 25, 2007, Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez, Bayamon, Puerto Rico

If ever there was a pure boxer-slugger match-up this was it. The “Iron Boy” no longer was a boy at 32 but rather a slick, quick veteran moving up to 108 pounds after a nearly four-year, 11-defense reign as WBO minimumweight titlist. Meanwhile THE RING/WBO junior flyweight king Cazares was a heavy hitter among the smaller men with 20 knockouts in his 26-4-1 record whose victims included Puerto Ricans Nelson Dieppa (TD 10, KO 10) and Alex Sanchez (KO 8).

Calderon, still comfortable at 105 pounds, had no troubles making weight but for Cazares the journey resembled that of Dante’s Inferno. He had to shed 13 pounds in the final seven days – more than 10 percent of his body weight – to make 107 3/4 and inside the ring he had rehydrated to 130 pounds, making him a junior lightweight in a junior flyweight title fight.

Cazares’ size didn’t matter in the first six rounds as Calderon’s ring generalship and stinging hit-and-run counters piled up points and neutralized Cazares’ aggression. He so easily avoided the Mexican’s swings that the crowd took to shouting “ole” to honor the matador’s successes against his bull. A driving left cross to Cazares’ chin nearly scored a knockdown in the fifth and entering the final minute of the seventh it appeared Calderon was on his way to his trademark mathematical romp.

An accidental butt gashed Cazares’ right eye at that point and the incident served as a spark. Accelerating his already frenetic chase Cazares finally began to land solid rights. A flush lead left uppercut staggered Calderon in the eighth and moments later a right to the button decked Calderon for the second time in his career. With no punching power to turn the tide (6 KO in 28 wins), Calderon relied on his legs to survive the final 1:15.

Smelling victory, Cazares bolted from his corner in the ninth to launch an all-out assault and a right hand nearly produced a second knockdown. Calderon was treading in deep waters and now the experts were about to find out whether the Puerto Rican possessed the final ingredient to greatness — the resourcefulness to overcome adversity.

He did. Calderon emerged from the shadows in the 10th and a single left cross that stunned Cazares won him the 11th. Though both men drove hard in the 12th, Calderon regained his technique and confidence, which in turn translated to the cheering crowd. The decision was split but Calderon emerged a winner with an enhanced reputation.

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