Alfredo Angulo has been Antonio Margarito's main sparring partner for his last two fights, and their sessions have been proverbial gym wars. A rising star with a crowd-pleasing style, Angulo can be seen in a B.A.D. tripleheader which includes Cuban sensation Yuriorkis Gamboa and Sergio Martinez (43-1).
For a young boxer with only 13 fights and a total of just 39 rounds of experience, Angulo (13-0, 10 KOs), has been matched very tough in his last two bouts, and will again be on Oct. 4 when he takes on world-ranked Andrey Tsurkan (26-3-17 KOs). It is a mark of how fiercely competitive Angulo is that his promoter Gary Shaw -- who usually moves prospects at a slower pace - says he is forced by his fighter to take the fast lane for fear of boring him. "I've had to give him fighters with good records because I didn't want him to get bored. He has a tendency to get bored if you don't put him in with someone who is tough," Shaw said.
Undoubtedly that mindset comes from years of sparring with Margarito, who trains as hard as he fights. It is probably something of a comedown for the action-loving Angulo to get in the ring with anybody after the Tijuana Tornado. Like Margarito - who will be at the fight in support of the 25-year-old - Angulo is intense and aggressive and perhaps even a little more of a complete fighter, having been an Olympian for his native Mexico.
A veteran California writer who frequents Margarito's gym near East L.A., says Angulo's sessions with the champion are better than many staged fights he's seen. "I have been present for a few of their sparring sessions, and because they both love the challenge of good competition, the action at times is pretty furious," said William Trillo of Pound4Pound.com.
Besides comparison to Margarito, Angulo's manager, Mike Criscio, likens him to another of his top fighters, unbeaten light heavyweight Chad Dawson. "When he gets in there he just does his thing, like Chad. He reminds me of Chad because of how fast and strong he is," Criscio said.
Angulo has knocked out his last nine opponents, and is unbeaten in more ways than just his professional record. "As a teenager he fought in the streets (of Mexicali) all the time and told me he was undefeated in the streets, too," Shaw said. "He also has another unbeaten record going. Every guy Angulo has sparred with to get them ready for a fight, the fighter went on to win his bout."
Shaw said the California agent who first spotted Angulo for him set the bar for the fighter very high. "An agent who scouts for me said Angulo is going to be as good as, or better than Margarito," Shaw said.
So high is Shaw on Angulo that he said a world title fight for him is on the near horizon. "He is one or two fights away from challenging for a title," said Shaw. "It would depend on who the champion was. We want to fight a champion who'll stand in front of him and fight, not someone he'll have to chase all over the ring."
Obviously one reason for Shaw's optimism is that the junior middleweight division Angulo competes in is not very deep in talent, and its four current champions are all over 30 - Vernon Forrest (whom Shaw promotes) is 37, Verno Phillips is 38 and both Daniel Santos and Sergei Dzinziruk are 32.
While there currently aren't any glamour fights to be made right now at 154 pounds - unless Oscar De La Hoya anoints you or Shane Mosley decides to bypass bigger fights at welterweight -- Shaw plans on keeping him there. "He has no trouble making weight, and there are a lot of welterweights who will be coming up, guys like Andre Berto, Kermit Cintron, Paul Williams and of course Mosley would for the right fight," Shaw said.
Angulo has certainly looked like a contender close to a championship fight in his last two bouts. In May on HBO, Angulo took on Richard Gutierrez, who was then 24-1 and had given current welterweight champion Joshua Clottey a tough fight in a majority decision loss. A precision puncher and compact fighter, Angulo wore down Gutierrez with a relentless, two-fisted assault on body and head, eventually winning on a TKO in the fifth round. Prior to that, Angulo needed just one round to knock out Ricardo Cortez, who came into the ring with a 22-1-1 record.
Tsurkan (26-3, 17 KOs) is another tough opponent for Angulo. The Ukrainian-born boxer in the last two years has had good wins over Hector Camacho Jr. and rugged Jesse Feliciano, while losing a very close split decision to the unbeaten, world-ranked Yuri Foreman.
Angulo isn't the only young boxer on the card with budding star power. Gamboa (11-0, 9KOs), the Cuban Olympic gold medal winner in 2004, has also been brought along fast by co-promoters Ahmet Oener of Germany and Shaw. All 11 of Gamboa's opponents have had winning records, something you rarely see with a prospect.
Gamboa made his HBO debut on the same May 17 card as Angulo. He showed incredibly fast hand and foot speed in winning a unanimous 10-round decision over another well-regarded prospect, Darling Jimenez. But Gamboa also looked reckless and sloppy, and fought in the amateur style -- head-hunting and virtually ignoring his opponent's body. Oener wasn't pleased to see Gamboa get knocked to the canvas by Jimenez in the fourth round, a result of keeping his hands too low.
The Gamboa who enters the ring this time may look a bit more professional because immediately after his fight with Jimenez, Oener fired his 26-year-old's trainer, Osimiri Fernandez and replaced him with Orlando Cueller, best known for his work with former light heavyweight champion Glen Johnson.
"I felt this was necessary mainly because Gamboa didn't seem to respect Fernandez," Oener said. "He was more like a buddy type. In addition to that, Fernandez was an amateur coach who came from Cuba who barely had any pro experience."
To understand how highly-regarded Gamboa is, Carl Moretti, the respected matchmaker for DiBella Entertainment said after seeing Gamboa fight that, "He has the fastest hands I've seen since Meldrick Taylor, the difference being he has power in both hands." That's high praise from Moretti, who was matchmaker for many of Main Events' great champions before joining DiBella. Taylor was a former two- division champion who came within two seconds of handing the great Julio Cesar Chavez (then 68-0) his first loss. Taylor had been ahead easily on two scorecards in the 12th round, when he got knocked out by Chavez at 2:58. Lou DiBella is the promoter of the other intriguing fighter on the card, Sergio Martinez (43-1-1, 23 KOs). The 33-year-old Argentinean is something of a mystery, however. Despite having won so many fights. Martinez has fought nearly all of his bouts in Argentina or Spain against less than stellar opponents.
This time Martinez will is matched with a top-five ranked opponent in Alex Bunema (30-5-2, 16 KOs), who has victories over two former world champions, Roman Karmazin and Vince Phillips. Bunema also lasted into the seventh round before getting knocked out by Jermain Taylor in 2004, 16 months before Taylor's first victory over Bernard Hopkins.
All in all, it looks like an action-packed night from top to bottom.
I have been present for a few of their sparring sessions, and because they both love the challenge of good competition, the action at times is pretty furious,
HBO BAD - Oct. 4, 2008
Angulo vs Tsurkan
Martinez vs Bunema