By Phil Doherty
Photos: Reynaldo Sanchez
The American Dream starts with a vision. For many, that vision is to freely pursue a livelihood within one’s chosen passion. It is a dream that has propelled generations of exiles from oppressive societies to America’s shores. For Cuban-American promoter Henry Rivalta, that passion has always been boxing. Rivalta’s longtime dream to form his own promotional company and provide fans the types of fights he loves to watch is coming true. Today’s Dream Team Boxing Promotions press conference at Bongo’s Cuban Café in the American Airlines Arena revealed a passionate, experienced and tight-knit promotional team shooting for the big time. Rivalta announced the big time 12-fight card starting at 7:00 PM Saturday night at the E. Darwin Fuchs Pavilion in the Miami Dade Fair & Expo Center. Saturday’s appropriately-titled “Night of the Prospects” serves as a coming-out party for the impressive stable of fighters Rivalta has diligently assembled to represent his boxing brainchild.
Along with business partner Carlos Rodriguez, Rivalta took the podium to thank assembled media, family and friends for helping to make this dream a reality. Rivalta offered: “We’ve been working hard to finalize this show and we’re going to finalize it with a bang. We’re going all out. It’s going to be a nice, star-studded event with some of the best prospects there are here in South Florida.”
Rivalta then ran down the seemingly-endless list of talented fighters scheduled to battle on the card. “I think South Florida boxing fans will be excited and happy to participate in this boxing show and we’re going to give them what they want.”
The main event features Dominican-American welterweight Ed “The Lion” Paredes (26-3-1, 16 KOs) of nearby Hollywood, Florida defending his WBA Latino belt against Bahamian fighter Jerome “Boomer” Ellis (12-11-2, 10 KOs). The reserved Paredes took the podium to state: “I’m very well prepared for this fight. I’ve been training hard and am in great shape. I’m not a man of many words because I like to do my talking in the ring.”
The co-main event showcases southpaw Cuban heavyweight sensation Luis “El Mercedes” Ortiz (7-0, 5 KOs) in his first career 10-rounder and second consecutive fight for the month of April. Ortiz squares off against tough Philadelphia veteran “Smokin” Bert Cooper (38-12, 31 KOs) for a WBA regional title.
Rivalta commented: “I think, from my experience, what I would dare to say in this fight is we’re fighting a tough veteran in “Smokin” Bert Cooper but I think Ortiz is just going to take over the fight. He’s too big, too strong, too crafty-and too young. Youth could be the factor. I think we’ll come out on top.”
Another 10-round contest pits Miami-based lightweight Richard “El Tigre” Abril (14-2-1, 7 KOs) in a defense of his WBC Latino lightweight belt against an opponent to be named. Abril took the podium to confidently proclaim: “I challenge any 135-pounder out there to fight me.” Rivalta expanded on Abril’s challenge by confiding the team’s difficulty with matching him. “We’ve had guys signed to contracts to fight Abril who just didn’t follow through. He’s the best 135-pounder out there, period.”
Dream Team trainers Osmiri “El Moro” Fernandez and Herman Caicedo received a lion’s share of praise from Rivalta and each fighter for their incredible physical preparation. One clear example is Cuban Humberto Savigne (3-1, 2 KOs), who fights in a 4-round middleweight bout. Savigne used to campaign at cruiserweight and got as high as 238 pounds before a fight. Savigne explained: “Herman took one look at me and told me you’re not a light heavyweight, you’re not even a super middleweight. It’s been a long year and a half but I can’t believe I’m at 166 right now so he was right.”
Dominican bantamweight Juan Carlos “Baby Pacquiao” Payano (5-0, 3 KOs) fights Puerto Rican Luis Angel Paneto (5-9-2, 2 KOs) while his countryman, featherweight Claudio “The Matrix” Marrero faces Hipolito Herrera (1-2) of Puerto Rico.
Crushing Cuban cruiserweight Pedro “El Reguilete” Rodriguez (4-0, 4 KOs) makes a long-awaited ring return on the card against Juan Jose Ruiz (6-7, 2 KOs).
Fast-rising super bantamweight and fan favorite Yoandris Salinas (5-0, 3 KOs) returns for his second fight in a month as he battles David Green (7-2-1, 1 KO). Bantamweight Kadel “La Leyenda” Martinez (1-1) seeks redemption from his first loss earlier this month as he faces Zach Watkins (1-0). Welterweight Inocente “Fabulous” Fiz (5-0, 3 KOs) squares off against an opponent to be named in his 8-round bout as well.
With so much talent gathered under one promotional roof for their inaugural show, Dream Team Boxing definitely seems willing to dream big.
And why not? It’s the American way.