The road to big fights, large purses, and world title belts can be difficult and painstaking journey for most boxers.
Alfredo Angulo can vouch for that. The popular pressure fighter has seen and experienced a lot in his 25 fights as a pro, despite having never fought for a major world title. However, it’s his experiences outside of the ring that have forged his character.
Angulo will be the underdog when he takes on Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in a 12-round junior middleweight bout on Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, but a hard life has prepared him for that role.
The battles that he has faced in the ring pale in comparison with what he has had to face outside of it.
It did not just start when Angulo was detained for eight months at a Immigration Detention Center east of San Diego about a year and a half ago. It was growing up on the rough streets of Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, his hometown.
Before making a name for himself as an Olympian for Mexico in the 2004 Games in Athens, Angulo had to provide for his family as a teenager. He would take on odd jobs that included delivering pizza to working as a butcher inside a carniceria (Spanish for meat market).
Those experiences made Angulo grow up faster than typical teenagers. It also gave him the mental toughness to accompany the gritty and aggressive style that have endeared him to fight fans.
Some might think Angulo is jealous or envious of Alvarez, who seems to have had the easier road to success. Not so, according to Angulo, who is living out his dream as a fighter.
“I’m just happy with my career as a fighter,” Angulo told RingTV.com over the phone on Monday. “If I’m looked at as an underdog, that is fine. We prepared very well for this Saturday and we are pleased with the work we did in the gym. I’ve faced the tougher opposition and the best fighters.
“I’m very motivated. I’m very relaxed because I’m confident. We can adjust to any style that he brings, but ultimately he has to adjust and fight my style.”
Angulo (22-3, 18 knockouts) has demonstrated he can adapt quite well to any style, as evident in his last fight against Erislandy Lara in June. Angulo was able to successfully get on the inside of Lara’s guard, even dropping him twice during the bout.
Angulo would lose in the 10th round when his injured left eye swelled to the point where her could not continue.
Will Angulo be able to apply enough consistent pressure that will allow him to get inside of Alvarez’s guard as he was able to against Lara? That remains to be seen.
Angulo believes he has the advantage of being able to release the aggressive side in him, similar to what a dog will do when it is in a cage. Angulo’s nickname is “Perro,” which is “dog” in Spanish.
“In the ring, I’m a dog, but outside of it, I’m a puppy,” he said.
Angulo’s demeanor outside of the ring is opposite of what people are accustomed to seeing in the ring. Angulo is soft-spoken and quiet.
But the shyness is part of his charm, as is his charitable side. After leaving the Immigration Detention Center, where he also called for immigration reform, Angulo called attention to children who suffer from cancer.
Angulo grew out his hair and had it cut off at the kick-off press conference for the Alvarez fight in January. The hair will be donated to “Locks of Love,” a charity organization that assists children who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy.
“I’m just happy to help kids and give them what they need,” said Angulo, who will be headlining a card in Las Vegas for the first time in his career on Saturday. “I donate publicly to help motivate the public to assist these kids. I would like for more people to donate to worthy causes for the kids.
“People don’t know what these kids go through. Adults with cancer are aware of what they need to take care of themselves, but kids don’t know what goes on. The more I can help to bring about awareness is great satisfaction to me.”
It is hard not to root for Angulo based on what he does in and out of the ring. In an era where some fighters expect title fights or large purses to be handed to them, it is refreshing to see someone like Angulo work to earn his opportunity.
Maybe that is why boxing fans are fond of him. While he is overwhelmed by the support from fight fans, Angulo says it is just who he is.
“I do appreciate when people reach out to me or even want an autograph,” he said. “It seems people respect me and what I do. If they view me as a people’s champion for what I’ve gone through, then I take great satisfaction from it.”
Defeating Alvarez on Saturday night may be the culmination of Angulo’s long journey. Angulo believes that the best is yet to come.
“I’m not done and my career s far from over,” he said. “Saturday is an important opportunity and I will demonstrate I’m still able to go far in the sport. Bigger and better opportunities await me.”
Photo / Naoki Fukuda
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing