LOS ANGELES – Carlos Quintana is one of the classiest and respectful veterans in the sport, which is why his podium comments during the final press conference for the Andre Berto-Robert Guerrero welterweight showdown on Saturday seemed out of character.
The 36-year-old veteran from Puerto Rico basically looked past dangerous opponent Keith Thurman, who he fights in the co-featured bout to Berto-Guerrero on the HBO Championship Boxing broadcast from the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif., and called out WBC 154-pound titleholder Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
“I know (Thurman) is young, very strong and he knows how to box,” Quintana said at Tuesday’s presser at the JW Marriott at L.A. LIVE. “I’m expecting a very difficult, hard fight, but I’ve prepared for that kind of fight.
“I told Oscar De La Hoya (president of Golden Boy Promotions, which is putting on Saturday’s fight card and promotes Alvarez) that, unless (Miguel) Cotto gets in my way, I want to fight Canelo on May 4. He’s a strong young champion, the best in the (junior middleweight) division, and the Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry has always given boxing fans great fights.”
Nobody expects Quintana (29-3, 23 knockouts) to be intimated by Thurman. The Puerto Rican southpaw has fought the likes of Cotto, Berto, and Paul Williams – who he upset to win the WBO welterweight belt in 2008 – when all three were undefeated.
However, Thurman, a 23-year-old boxer-puncher from Clearwater, Fla., has scored 17 knockouts in his 18 victories – 11 of those stoppages occurred in the first or second round.
So it seemed a bit presumptuous of Quintana, who was stopped by Cotto, Berto and Williams (in just one round) in their rematch, to look ahead to an Alvarez showdown.
“I’m not being cocky, I’m just extra confident,” Quintana told RingTV.com through translator Ramiro Gonzalez. “I know what I’m facing. I know it’s a hard fight. That’s why I’m so well prepared and so motivated. I feel so strong, so good right now that I know I will win.”
Quintana hasn’t felt this way in a long time.
The soft-spoken part-time farmer admits that his heart wasn’t in the sport after his crushing first-round knockout loss to Williams in their rematch just four months after he won the title via unanimous decision over the heavily favored American. Quintana, who represented Puerto Rico in the 1996 Olympics, only fought twice after the Williams bouts before looking like a faded veteran in an eighth-round TKO loss to Berto in 2010.
“When I lost the rematch to Paul Williams I practically said ‘goodbye’ to boxing to myself,” Quintana said. “I didn’t have the hunger for it inside. But 10 months after the Berto fight I took a fight (against Yoryi Estrella) in Puerto Rico. I only trained about a month, but the fight was at junior middleweight. Even though I wasn’t 100 percent I was able to fight into the late rounds and score a knockout (TKO 9).
“I’ve been in the gym, training every day, ever since that fight. I started thinking about winning another world title after that fight.”
Quintana was ready when he got the call to fight junior middleweight prospect DeAndre Latimore on the Floyd Mayweather-Cotto undercard in May. He made the aggressive southpaw from St. Louis miss and pay for five one-sided rounds before taking out the Mayweather Promotions signee out in the sixth.
“I’ve never lost a fight at junior middleweight and all of my wins have been by knockout,” he said. “After beating Latimore I began thinking precisely about challenging Canelo. I thought that I was an ideal choice for him to fight on Sept. 15 after Williams suffered his injury and the fights with (James) Kirkland and (Victor) Ortiz fell out.
“No disrespect to Josesito (Lopez). He’s a good fighter but he’s a junior welterweight. Besides Mayweather and Cotto, I think I’m the best opponent for Canelo. That’s why I want to look so good against Thurman. No disrespect to him. I know he’s a good young fighter, but my preparation, experience and motivation combined will be enough to beat him.
“And when I do, I hope the media and the fans bring my name up as someone who deserves a fight with Canelo.”
Photos / Gene Blevins-Hoganphotos / Golden Boy Promotions