By Felipe Leon
We’ve heard it many times before. Boxing is not a game. Hands, gauze, tape, leather, foam or at times horse hair are the only weapons needed but unfortunately they can cause enough damage to take a fighter’s life. That almost took place a crisp dark Los Angeles night nearly six years ago when former light flyweight champion Victor Burgos challenged Vic Darchinyan for the IBF flyweight champion. The “Raging Bull” was in command the whole night as he stalked and battered the much smaller and older man.
After meeting the canvas in the second, Burgos survived the rest of the bout on heart and guts alone but at the mid way mark of the last round, everybody in the Home Depot Center had seen enough including the referee at the fight was stopped. As Burgos made his way back to his corner or more like was helped back to his corner, he collapsed and had to be carried out on a stretcher. Later it was known that a blood clot had to be removed from his brain in an emergency surgery.
As many watched in person and on TV, there wasn’t a more attentive onlooker than Victor’s nephew, super featherweight contender Juan Carlos Burgos.
“I saw the fight here in Tijuana and from here we were supporting my uncle. Unfortunately, what happened, happened. Any fighter can go through that. From the best fighter in the world to a beginner, these are things that happen. It was something that my family and I didn’t expect. It hurt us a lot but thank God that he has recuperated one hundred percent and that he is with me, supporting me the way we supported him.”
With that averted tragedy behind him, Juan Carlos “Mini” Burgos (30-1, 20KOs) is ready for the biggest stage of his career as he challenges WBO 130 lbs. champion hard charging Roman “Rocky” Martinez (26-1-1, 16KOs) of Puerto Rico in a twelve round bout from Madison Square Garden in New York City. The latest chapter of the Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry will be the opening clash of HBO’s triple header set for this Saturday, January 19th.
The fight will mark the second time that the twenty-five year old challenges for a world title, in his first back in late 2010, the Tijuana native traveled to the land of the rising sun to challenge veteran Hozumi Hasegawa for the vacant WBC featherweight title. Burgos dropped a unanimous decision in the only loss of his career.
“Since then I have been working to be better. I am working hard to get a world title, that is what I am getting ready for and to be the best fighter in my division,” Burgos confessed. “My first defeat hurt a lot but it helped me to learn to get to confident. My boxing matured because of it and I think that I am proving that I am one of the best super featherweights around.”
After the loss, the tall and lanky Burgos went on a hot streak winning his next five, book casing the wins with knockouts of veteran Frankie Archuleta and his last opponent, the previously undefeated Cesar “Sabas” Vazquez. In between, Burgos defeated Gilberto Sanchez Leon, former champ Cristobal “Lacandon” Cruz and in spectacular fashion, Luis Cruz on the under card of Pacquiao-Marquez III.
“The win over Cruz catapulted my career a little and now people know me a little more,” he stated conservatively. “Unfortunately, I don’t fight much here in Mexico so people don’t really know me here but in the United States where I fight more often, people tend to recognize me a bit more. I think that fight helped me in my career and I am taking advantage of it.”
Campaigning four pounds north of featherweight in those last five bouts, Burgos mentions that he has found the division that serves him best. “In this division I feel good, I feel strong, a little faster and I think I feel very comfortable at super featherweight. This opportunity is coming at 130 lbs. and it came at the right time and this time I will take advantage of it.”
Burgos feels he knows exactly who he will be facing on Saturday night in “Rocky” Martinez.
“Like all Puerto Ricans, he is tough like us Mexicans. He is a fighter that keeps going forward, he doesn’t care in getting hit as long as he gets to hit back,” Burgos said. “He keeps going, throwing punches and that makes him dangerous but I think my style is going to match up well with his.”
As it should be, Burgos feels he has the keys to unlock the Martinez puzzle and with it, take the WBO strap from the Puerto Rican in what many feel might be the fight of the night if my any change the Orlando Salido vs. Mickey Garcia doesn’t live up to the hype. “I am a boxer that moves and I know how to exchange punches at the right time. I will use my footwork and give him a different look. Many of his past opponents liked to exchange punches with him but I am going to box him and my footwork is going to trouble him. I am going to frustrate him because I am going to box but I also know when to exchange punches and I think that is going to be in my favor.”
“He is a fighter that is very wide when he throws him punches and I am going to take advantage of that,” he elaborated further. “I have to be careful because I don’t want him to catch me with a punch I don’t see. I am going to use my defense, keep my hands up and use my lateral movement. That is what I am going to take advantage of, the fact that he goes wide.”
Feeling extra motivated from the fact that his title fight is in the confines of the legendary Madison Square Garden and on HBO, Burgos states that the fact that Martinez will be the crowd favorite because of the large Puerto Rican contingent in the city is of no consequence to him. “I am not worried of that in the least. The fans are not going into the ring. The only ones in the ring will be Martinez and I. Obviously they will be supporting Martinez but I am calm. I am mentally prepared for that and confident in the work that I have done here in the gym. I know that in the ring it will only be Martinez and I and that ring is like any other. I am ready for anything, to win the title and bring it back to Mexico.”