By Sam Geraci
Photo: 8 Count Productions
Tonight rising junior welterweight Adrian “El Tigre” Granados (10-2-1, 6 KOs) headlines his first event in his hometown of Cicero, IL, when he takes on undefeated Antonio “Aztec God of War” Canas (6-0-1, 3 KOs) of Chicago, IL, tonight in the headliner of the 8 Count Productions and Round 3 Productions “Crosstown Rivals: Windy City Fight Night 23” event. The 23-year-old Granados, born and raised in Cicero, was a member of the 2008 Mexican Olympic Team. Granados spent approximately a year training in Mexico City with the legendary trainer Nacho Beristain and the Marquez Brothers. Beginning in the Spring of 2008, Granados was a sparring partner for Juan Manuel Marquez as he prepared for his showdown with Joel Casamayor (September 2008).
Before the fight, Granados took time to discuss his unique relationship with JMM, tonight’s contest with Canas, his desire for a rematch with Frankie Gomez, his nickname’s origin, and how he took up boxing.
As a sparring partner of Marquez, what did you think of Pacquiao-Marquez IV?
I thought it was amazing, and I’m still kinda buzzing from that epic fight. I’m a big time Pacquiao fan and a big time Marquez fan, but my heart was obviously with Marquez because he is my idol. I’m very happy for him and I’m very proud of him.
What was it like to spar with Marquez for the Juan Diaz camp?
It was an honor to be his chief sparring partner; I never dreamed that I would be in the ring with him. When I first started boxing, he became my favorite fighter to watch. He’s just a technician in the ring. He can break down any type of fight. The way he carries himself in and out of the ring shows that he is a true role model.
What did you learn most from Marquez?
I learned that using angles can break through any defense, and I was given the opportunity to learn that from a master. It really was a great experience, especially for a young fighter. I had never been in the ring with such an elite fighter like Marquez.
Chicago fans are looking forward to Friday’s showdown between you and Antonio Canas. How does it feel to be headlining for the first time in your hometown of Cicero?
It is honestly a dream come true. I used to always go to 8 Count Production fights as a kid hoping that someday my name would be on the poster as the headliner. You know, I’ve been a fan of boxing even before I started boxing, so I’ve been going to all of the small shows in the Chicagoland area for years.
At what age did you start boxing?
I started boxing when I was a sophomore at St. Joseph’s High School in Westchester, IL. I played baseball, basketball, and football in high school, and one day one of the Christian Brothers there pulled me aside and showed me how to throw a one-two. I’ve never looked back. From there, I started working with Rico Gonzalez as my amateur coach and then when I turned pro I started working with George Hernandez as my head trainer with Rico and Robinson Ayala as assistants. It’s been an ideal situation.
Since turning pro, what has been your greatest improvement as a fighter?
I’ve just grown to understand who I am as a fighter. I’m a boxer-puncher and I’ve improved at knowing when to punch and when to box. Anyone who knows me knows that I watch tapes all of the time because I am a big fanatic and because I want to get better.
How have your preparations been going for this fight?
This has been about an eight to ten week camp, and it’s been great. I feel physically and mentally prepared to get in there and perform.
What do you know about Canas?
We’ve actually sparred twice before when preparing for other fights. I know that he is an aggressive fighter, a strong fighter, and that he brings an undefeated record into the ring. I’ve got my work cut out for me, but I’m ready to impress.
What are you going to do to secure the victory?
He’s going to be coming straight at me, but I know that I will be able to use my overall boxing abilities to find a way to outbox him to impose my will and make him fight my fight.
You are a boxer-puncher and I have seen you brawl. What inspires your style, your strategy?
As a fan of boxing, I know what it’s like to watch a fight so I always try to give my audience something to enjoy. Even when my coaches are urging me to pull it back to box and score points, sometimes I have to fight. The Mexican blood in me drives me to fight.
What will a win against Canas on Friday do for your career?
A win will help my popularity grow in the Chicago scene, and it will also help me continue moving up the ranks to reach my ultimate goal of challenging for and winning a world title.
How much longer before you are ready to challenge a fighter in the top twenty?
To be honest, that’s up to my promoter and management. All I can do as a fighter is keep my nose to the grindstone and keep winning. Eventually, I will get my break and I have to be prepared to make the most of it. I am just hoping to get at least six fights in by the end of 2013. I’m trying to get to primetime during my prime.
Before you challenge a top twenty fighter, many would like to see a rematch with Frankie Gomez, who defeated you by majority decision last year. Do you want that rematch?
Most definitely. I tip my hat to him. He came to my backyard and beat me. I don’t want to make any excuses because I feel that he deserved the win but if we fought again I would be better prepared mentally and physically. That was also the first time I really had adversity in the ring with the knockdown he scored. I’ve grown from that fight and I would love a rematch.
Gomez is from East Los Angeles and the majority of his fights are in the LA area. Are willing to go to California this time?
I’d be more than happy to return the favor by beating him in his backyard this time (laughs).
What would be the difference this time around?
You know, I matured in that fight and I’ve matured with my other fights. Not only that, but I know I had the tools to beat him that night and I just didn’t capitalize on them. Next time, it will be different and I will bring home the victory.
Before we go, I have to ask where your nickname “El Tigre” came from?
When I was out in Mexico, Nacho Beristain was trying to get me started out there and was having difficulty getting me a fight. While he was on the phone in the office one day, I heard him tell a promoter that he had kid at 140 pounds named Adrian who goes by “El Tigre.” When I heard it, I looked up at him because nobody had ever said that about me before. From that time on, it just kinda stuck. I’m a Leo so I always felt like I needed to be a king of the jungle anyways, and when Nacho gives you a nickname like that you take it.
Anything else you want to add?
I’m just a regular, likeable, blue-collar guy who loves boxing. I was blessed to be provided with great teachers and Christian Brothers from St. Joes and all of the great role models that they have as well as great parents, friends, and a beautiful girlfriend. I know I can make this happen with all of the inspiration and support that they provide.
Windy City Fight Night 23 is presented by 8 Count Productions and Round 3 Productions. Cicero Stadium is located at 1909 S. Laramie in Cicero, IL. Doors open at 7pm with the first bell at 8pm. Tickets are available at the box office.