- Graham Houston, Boxing
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Those of us who feel that the lighter weight classes provide the best entertainment will be looking forward to the rematch between Ivan Calderon and Hugo Cazares on pay-per-view from Bayamon, Puerto Rico on Saturday.
The first fight between the 108-pounders was a thriller, a reminder that the little men can produce bouts that contain drama and cliff-hanging suspense.
Calderon won the split decision in that fight a year ago, but he was dropped in the eighth round and under severe pressure throughout.
This time, Cazares says, he will keep relentless pressure on Calderon and not let him escape when he has him hurt.
Calderon, for his part, promises another display of skill, hitting and not being hit, and another win -- this time without hitting the canvas.
One of them will be proved right, and it will be fun finding out which one.
The fight is a classic match between a boxing master and an authentic aggressor, as well as being a continuation of the Puerto Rico-vs.-Mexico ring rivalry.
Calderon brings true artistry to his fights. The 5-foot Puerto Rican is a superb stylist, a southpaw who makes opponents miss and peppers them with punches.
In Cazares we have a fighter who brings power and pressure, usually in a controlled and intelligent manner.
Cazares was the defending champion last time around. Bigger and stronger, and he fought as if he believed he could simply march in and overpower a boxer who was moving up from the 105-pound division.
Of course, it didn't work out that way. Cazares found himself winging and missing for most of the rounds. In the eighth round, though, Calderon was in trouble and briefly looked as if he was being overpowered.
If Cazares catches him again -- but this time is more disciplined in his follow-up onslaught -- there is a distinct possibility that this time he can finish the job.
Twelve rounds is a long way to go when a five-inch-taller, more powerful man is coming after you, but Calderon has made a career out of outboxing and outsmarting his opponents, and he sees no reason why he cannot do so again.
"This time it will be almost the same, but [I'll be] a little bit quicker than the first time, because I feel more comfortable at 108 pounds [now]," Calderon said over the phone from Bayamon. "The first time it was more difficult because I was [moving] up from 105. I think I can put on a little more pressure and be more comfortable in [this] fight.
"He caught me with a good punch for the drop [knockdown], but I never felt like I was hurt, and if you remember, he hit me but I grabbed his waist and he kept on moving and then I touched the floor, and I stood up fast. I was only a little bit dizzy -- I was not that hurt.
"After that, I kept on moving and surviving the round."
Calderon gave a brilliant exhibition of ring generalship after the shaky eighth round, simply staying on the move in the ninth, giving up the round but also not getting hit by any clean punches. This way, he was able to gather himself and come back strongly down the stretch.
"After the eighth round, I told my corner I knew I had won five or six of the first eight rounds," Calderon said, "so I said: 'I'll give him one more round,' which was the ninth, so that I felt better, and my body felt better, and then I could start putting pressure on him in the 10th, 11th and 12th.
What does Calderon make of Cazares' promises to come out swinging from the get-go?
"He's [Cazares] saying that in this fight he's going to be putting [on] pressure from the beginning, from the first round, but I believe if he does that he's only got six rounds to do it," Calderon said. "After that he won't have the same legs that he had for the first [six] rounds, and I'm just gonna keep on waiting, and when I get my chance I'm gonna do almost the same thing that Floyd Mayweather did to Oscar De La Hoya. Oscar threw a lot of punches and missed a lot, but everything Mayweather threw, he'd connect."
Calderon acknowledges that he is not a particularly hard hitter (just six opponents stopped in his 31 consecutive wins) but he punches with enough authority to gain respect whenever he decides to dig in and put his body behind the shots.
"I don't drop people because I use a lot of movement, and when you move a lot, you lose a lot of power," he said. "That's why you don't see a lot of knockouts [on his record]. But in my last fight, with Nelson Dieppa, I stood there fighting with him and I put him in bad condition twice, and I showed a lot of people that I do have power in my hands."
For Saturday's fight, though, he is unlikely to be staying in front of Cazares too much. And why should he? His style of boxing is not only effective, it is also attractive to watch -- fast and classy.
"My boxing doesn't get boring to nobody because I throw a lot of punches, I show a lot of movement, a lot of good boxing and I don't play around in the ring -- I do serious stuff out there," he said.
"This time I'll make sure that I don't drop my hands, so that the punch that got me last time doesn't get me this time."
Calderon's strategy has been plotted carefully: box, move, counter, let Cazares burn up energy early, then come on strong in the second half of the fight.
If Calderon can implement these tactics, he should be able to repeat his points win of last August. Cazares, though, now knows from firsthand experience what he is facing.
In the last fight, Cazares played into Calderon's hands to a large extent by loading up on big, winging punches, the sort of blows that the Puerto Rican boxer could for the most part see coming and therefore avoid.
This time Cazares might be more measured in his attack, trying to close the distance more effectively before letting the punches fly. The problem here is that when a boxer waits for the perfect moment to punch he is likely to be beaten to the draw and picked off by the sharpshooting Calderon.
Cazares has shown, though, that he can hurt Calderon and put him in trouble -- if only he can hit him squarely. The Mexican fighter will always have it in mind that even if he is falling behind on points he can always change things with just one punch -- and Cazares is particularly dangerous because he can fight just as effectively in the southpaw posture as from the orthodox stance.
Yet, just as Cazares knows exactly what to expect this time, so, of course, does Calderon. The Puerto Rican boxer realized full well that any lapse in concentration can be costly, and he is likely to be on high alert throughout.
Cazares can do one of two things. He can keep pressing in, try not to waste too many punches and seek to get into position to land heavy, telling blows, although the risk here is that rounds might start slipping away from him. Or he can gamble on an all-out, full-frontal assault and endeavor to overpower Calderon early in the fight -- but at the risk of depleting his resources.
No matter which tactic Cazares employs, Calderon is likely to find a way to negotiate the hazardous passages. Calderon is now a veteran master boxer and one who knows how to win. He came through torrid moments to get the victory last time, and the expectation is that he will do so again Saturday.
Graham Houston is the American editor of Boxing Monthly and writes for FightWriter.com.
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