By Mariano A. Agmi
Photo: Gene Blevins – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy
On Saturday, June 8th from the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA, former WBA Jr. Welterweight champion Marcos “El Chino” Maidana (33-3, 30 KOs) will face Josesito Lopez (30-5, 18 KOs) in a twelve round welterweight bout for Maidana’s WBA Inter-Continental Welterweight title. The bout will serve as the main event of a Showtime tripleheader that includes Cuban amateur standout Erislandy Lara (17-1, 11 KOs) against Mexican brawler Alfredo Angulo (22-2, 18 KOs) for the WBA interim Jr. Middleweight title and a crossroads junior middleweight bout between prospect Jermell Charlo (20-0, 10 KOs) and veteran Demetrius Hopkins (33-2-1, 13 KOs).
The battle-tested Maidana, who shared the ring with the likes of Andriy Kotelnik (L12), Victor Ortiz (TKO6), Victor Cayo (KO6), Amir Khan (L12), Erik Morales (W12) and Devon Alexander (L10), appears more confident than ever after his third training camp with 2012 Trainer of the Year Robert Garcia. The soft-spoken 29-year-old anticipates another tough bout against “The Riverside Rocky,” who also beat Ortiz by TKO but lost his most recent bout to Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in an ill-advised jump to the junior middleweight division.
Fightnews.com caught up with the hard hitting Argentine on Tuesday, just hours before Team Maidana left training camp in Oxnard, CA for Los Angeles. Maidana discussed his bout against Jesus Soto-Karass, his transition to welterweight under the tutelage of trainer Robert Garcia, and the state of Argentine boxing.
How is training going for your bout against Josesito Lopez?
Training camp is going well. We leave today for Los Angeles and I have about 2 or 3 pounds left to lose to make weight.
The last time we spoke, you were ready to face Jesus Soto-Karass in your first fight with Robert Garcia as your trainer. You tried a few new things, but Soto-Karass’ style is to go to war. Can you tell me about that fight and were you able to do the things you practiced in camp?
The fight against Soto-Karass was pretty tough. He was an opponent who kept pushing forward; he didn’t feel my punches at first and I wasn’t able to push him back. Little by little, I softened him up, and by the sixth and seventh rounds, he was feeling my punches. There was a moment where I stopped punching and acted as if I were hurt so that he would punch himself out, and he did. I didn’t feel his punches anymore after that. I wasn’t hurt at any point during that fight, and I felt like I could knock him out whenever I chose. I dropped him in round seven and then knocked him out in round eight.
This is your third fight with Robert Garcia. What are you learning from him and how do you feel under his school of boxing?
I’m using more side-to-side movement and I’m not wasting punches. I’m throwing every punch with a purpose. We’re expecting that Josesito might be a little tougher than Soto-Karass, so I plan on using more of the technique that Robert is teaching me to break him down and force him into a firefight. I really enjoy working with Robert and Cecilio Flores, my strength and conditioning coach. We work very well together. Between my boxing training and strength and conditioning program, I feel more comfortable in the ring and it will show in my performance on Saturday. You used to get nervous before a fight and admitted that it took you a few rounds to relax.
Do you feel more relaxed before a fight now that you have more big fight experience?
I still get a little anxious, but a little anxiety and nervousness is normal before a fight. I feel much more confident now and I control my nerves much better. I’m well trained, so that helps me to feel relaxed and confident in the ring.
Do you feel that you’re a complete fighter in his prime now?
There are always things to improve. To be the number one fighter in the world takes a lot of hard work, and I’m working hard everyday to improve as a fighter.
I read that Brandon Rios was excited to have Robert Garcia train you because the two of you would get to spar. Did you spar with Brandon for this fight? How is he as a person?
Yes, I sparred with Brandon. Brandon is a very good guy. As a matter of fact, today was my last day in training camp and he was here training with me and motivating me.
This is your fourth fight at welterweight. How do you feel at the weight and did you leave junior welter due to weight issues or in search of better financial opportunities?
A little of both. There were many more high-profile fights for me at 147 lbs. I never tried going back to 140. I could probably make 140 again, but I haven’t tried and I don’t think I would do that unless it was for the right opportunity. I feel good and very strong at welterweight. This is my ideal weight class.
What is your opinion of Josesito Lopez as a fighter?
Josesito takes a good punch and he is well conditioned. At 147, he fought very well against Victor Ortiz and Jessie Vargas. He’s a very busy fighter who throws many punches. I discount his loss against Canelo Alvarez because it was clear that he was out of his weight class. He is much more effective at his natural weight of 147lbs, so I don’t make too much of that loss.
You both beat Victor Ortiz by TKO, but then Lopez decided to jump to 154 to face Canelo. Do you think that fight took a lot out of Lopez?
I don’t think so. It was quick. It wasn’t a continuous beating where he took many shots to the head, so I’m not expecting the loss to have taken a lot out of him.
Do you think this fight will be similar to the Soto-Karass fight in that it will eventually become a war, or do you plan on boxing more?
I think he will want to box and move more. He usually begins boxing and then ends up trading shots. Whatever he does, I’m ready for. I sparred with many different fighters with different styles, so I’m ready to box or trade power punches with him.
You appeared on a short list of approved opponents to face Floyd Mayweather Jr. sometime in the future. Do you feel added pressure not just to win, but to look spectacular doing so to position yourself for that opportunity?
No, I will fight the way I always fight. I’m coming to win, but I don’t feel added pressure to land a fight against Mayweather. Of course, if the opportunity against Mayweather presents itself, I’m going to take it. Fighting the number one fighter in the world pound for pound is every fighter’s dream. Floyd is at the top of the game and is the best out there, but he’s not invincible. I would love to fight him.
Perhaps because you are both big punchers from Argentina, there are many people who want to see you face Lucas Matthysse. Is that a fight that interests you, or do you feel that it’s better for each of you to go your separate ways?
I think it’s great that we’re both enjoying success in the United States, but I just focus on my career. Besides that, he is in a different weight class. Perhaps we can do it someday if it makes sense and our promoter wants to make that fight, but right now, there is nothing to talk about concerning that fight. I have Josesito Lopez in front of me and I’m only focusing on him.
Argentina is going through a special moment in boxing with the likes of you, Sergio Martinez, Matthysse, Carlos Abregu, Omar Narvaez, and many others enjoying success. And it’s not just the men – Jessica Bopp, Erica Farias and Fernanda Alegre are also top fighters in their weight classes. Are you seeing an increase in the enthusiasm for the sport in Argentina?
Yes, I definitely notice that young people in Argentina are more interested in boxing now. If you visit the boxing gyms these days, they’re full of young people who want to be fighters. Boxing is second to futbol [soccer] and that may never change, but it is definitely the second most popular sport there.
Do you know Diego Chaves? What do you think of his chances against Keith Thurman?
I know both fighters pretty well. There was a point where a fight between me and Thurman was discussed, so I know a little about him. I know Chaves very well because I sparred with him in the past. Thurman is a big puncher, but Chaves has a good chance in that fight if he boxes. He may not have as much big fight experience, but we all have to go through baptism by fire at some point in our careers to be successful.
Final question before you take off for LA: what do you do when you’re not training?
I like to do a little of everything: I go fishing, I hunt, I ride horseback. I like to spend a lot of time at home in Santa Fe, where I’m originally from in Argentina.
Follow the author on twitter @MannyBlanco.