NEW YORK -- Boricuas, Nuyoricans and NYC fight fans have been spoiled in recent years, as Miguel Cotto usually shows up the day before the Puerto Rican Day Parade and wows the Madison Square Garden crowd with his aggressive brand of boxing.
On Saturday night at the MSG Theater, another Puerto Rican boxing icon got busy pre-parade. Ivan Calderon's brand of pugilism, though, is of a different ilk, far more subtle than Cotto's. In a unanimous decision over Mexican challenger Jesus Iribe, the 35-year-old WBO light flyweight champion displayed a "Don't get hit, and hit" style that simply cannot compete with Cotto, who currently holds the WBA 154-pound crown, which he wrested from Yuri Foreman last Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
Calderon is a skilled technician, which the judges noted -- they scored it 118-109, 118-109, 116-111 for the Guaynabo native. Pundits uniformly agree that the winner stands in the top 10 pound for pound, but his lack of pop diminishes his stature somewhat, certainly when it comes to putting butts in seats.
The lefty stayed busy, dancing around the ring as Iribe stalked him and looked to draw a bead on the 5-foot Calderon, who is nicknamed "Iron Boy," after "Iron" Mike Tyson. Iribe, 25, did draw a bead in the second, when he scored a knockdown off a right hand. But Calderon, now 18-0-1 in title bouts, regrouped. He fired straights left which didn't really buzz the Culiacan native but did make him pause in his tracks every so often.
There was a buzz when the decision was announced, in the stands and in press row, as some saw the fight tighter than the judges. But perhaps some gave too much credit for the way Iribe got in Calderon's face, rather than comprehending that he didn't land enough when he got there.
Calderon sure enough did feel the heat in the second. "I got hit real hard in the second and I made a decision that I had to use movement to beat this guy."
Calderon, in his sixth title defense, did well to stay clear of blood. His last two fights, against Rodel Mayol, ended early because of cuts from accidental head butts. His record stands at 34-0-1. The loser, who certainly offered ample willingness if not enough technical wizardry, dropped to 16-7-5.
Promoter Top Rank certainly noted the year-over-year difference; 2,150 fans showed up at the Theater. In years past, Cotto would fill or come close to filling the big room against Josh Clottey, Zab Judah and Paulie Malignaggi. Calderon's sweetly scientific manner does not draw like Cotto, but there are not many currently practicing who do.