By Jake Donovan
It’s a tale of two very different comebacks as Ivan Calderon and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr serve as the two standout attractions of Saturday’s card at Coliseo Mario “Quijote” Morales in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.
The show coincides with the annual convention held by the WBO in its Puerto Rico headquarters, though neither Calderon nor Vazquez Jr come into the show any longer enjoying championship status. In fact, both appear coming off of the worst performances of their respective careers.
For Calderon, it’s the first fight after suffering back-to-back knockout losses at the hands of Giovanni Segura. The latter of the two fight set was the most humiliating evening in Calderon’s long and storied career that otherwise warrants Hall of Fame consideration.
The diminutive Boricua had never lost prior to running into Segura, but their March ’11 rematch marked the first time in his career that he wasn’t remotely competitive in a fight. Calderon was overwhelmed in a third round knockout loss that had may calling for his retirement at age 36 and having as a major titlist for seven years spanning two weight classes.
Instead, he decided to offer one last run just to prove to himself that he still has something left to offer the game. With that also came the decision to drop back down to strawweight, a division in which he dominated for years before moving up to 108 to capture the lineal championship.
Original plans called for a showdown with former strawweight titlist Raul Garcia in an interim title fight. Those plans were canceled when Garcia was forced to withdraw after suffering an injury in training camp.
Calderon will now instead face Mexican journeyman Felipe Rivas (9-9-1, 4KO) in a regional title fight. Both fighters came in just below the strawweight limit at Friday’s weigh-in, each weighing 104 lb. for their 10-round main event.
A belt of similar stature is at stake for Vazquez Jr’s first ring appearance since suffering the first loss of his career in a 12th round knockout at the hands of resurging Jorge Arce.
The second generation champion was in the midst of a nip-and-tuck affair that stole the show on a night when Manny Pacquiao headlined against Shane Mosley, but was suddenly overwhelmed by the aged veteran in the final round, prompting his father and trainer Wilfredo Vazquez Sr to literally throw in the towel to stop the fight.
To this day, Vazquez Jr (21-1-1, 17KO) hasn’t fully forgiven his father’s actions at that moment, though the two enter the ring together Saturday evening for the first time since that May bout.
Chances are he will have a far less daunting task on his hands – if even break a sweat at all – as he faces Roberto Leyva in the evening’s co-feature. Leyva (27-14-1, 21KO) is a former strawweight titlist but has become the proverbial steppingstone in recent years. The Mexican enters the fight having lost eight of his last nine, including five knockout losses over that stretch.
Unlike Calderon, Vazquez Jr opted to move up slightly in weight, as the evening’s co-feature takes place at the featherweight limit. Vazquez Jr came in considerably under at 124 lb, while Leyva was slightly heavier at 125 lb. for their scheduled 10-round bout.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected] .