By Richard Najdowski
On Friday December 14th, Adrian Granados 10-2-1 (6 KO's) will headline Windy City Fight Night 23 against crosstown rival Antonio Canas 6-0 (3 KO's). These promising Chicago area boxers will trade punches for up to eight rounds at Cicero Stadium in Cicero, Illinois, for the right to call themselves the best junior welterweight in the area.
Granados, who gave rising Golden Boy Promotions blue-chip prospect Frankie Gomez all he could handle in a majority decision loss in August 2011, spoke with me regarding his past, headlining the Cicero fight card, and what he envisions for his boxing future.
Adrian Granados, 23, was born in Berwyn, Ill., but grew up next door in Cicero, home to this weekend’s show. He grew up as what he calls a "sports jock."
Baseball, the first major sport for most boy youths, was also Adrian's first sport. He later added basketball and football, playing all three of these sports in his freshman year at local Catholic school powerhouse St. Joseph's. That same year was spent sharing court time with teammate and future #2 NBA draft pick Evan Turner.
Despite the prospect of future match ups against high school rivals like Derrick Rose, Granados turned away from all of his childhood sports during his sophomore year to focus on what would become his adult profession, boxing.
Boxing was not a sanctioned sport at St. Joseph's. There wasn't even a heavy bag in the exercise room; this didn't stop a school employee, Brother Peter, from hanging one in a storage room and inviting the school athletes to hit the bag as a means of exercise and release.
Granados accepted, officially beginning the journey.
Granados didn't box as a child, but was an avid viewer of the sport. He calls his dad a boxing fanatic and says he grew up watching the big fights on TV, listing Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. as his favorite boxer to watch. His father also took him to many of the local shows that 8 Count Productions – who will present this weekend’s show in their Cicero homebase - began showcasing as far back as 1997.
Back in those days, Granados would imagine himself fighting as the main attraction at his hometown stadium, Cicero Stadium. Those idle fantasies were just that, fantasies, until he stepped into the storage room come single bag boxing gym that Brother Peter setup. Not long after first slipping on boxing gloves, those fantasies started to look realistic.
Brother Peter noticed something in Granados. Peter took the initiative to introduce Granados to a local trainer, Rico Gonzalez. Within a month of training with Gonzalez, he had his first amateur fight lined up.
Granados' dad was his first and biggest fan, driving him frequently to the gym and to the fights, where he'd watch his son in action. According to Granados, it took his mother a little time to warm up to the prospect of her boy being hit in the face for a living, but after he won his first couple fights, she lent her support.
Under the tutelage of Gonzalez, that first year Granados would win a Silver Gloves championship, a national boxing tournament for kids aged 10-15. He'd eventually amass an amateur record of 75-10.
Because Granados's father was a Mexican national, Adrian has dual citizenship. This led to him being invited to train with the Mexican Olympic team for the 2008 Games. Granados spent almost eight months living and training at the Olympic training facilities in Mexico as an alternate. He valued the experience he received, but when his number was not called to participate in the Beijing Olympics, Granados decided to turn pro.
During his time in Mexico, Granados had met hall of fame trainer Ignacio "Nacho" Beristáin, who took an interest in the young Mexican-American prospect. When Granados turned pro, he did so in Mexico, with the added confidence that Beristáin would be in his corner as his new trainer.
All went well with his first fight, a third round knockout. However, when it came time to train for his second fight, Beristáin would not be guiding and training Granados, or any other fighters of his, for that matter. The Hall-of-Fame cornerman was instead in Big Bear, training exactly one fighter - Oscar de la Hoya - for what would be his last fight against growing phenom Manny Pacquiao.
A couple months away from one's trainer, especially as a young upstart, needn't amount to much of anything. But in Granados's case, when those couple months result in you getting "hustled," with the first loss of your promising pro career, and with you choosing to exit the tutelage of one of the greatest trainers alive today, they mean something.
Granados grew up quickly on November 1, 2008. When he was told that he'd be fighting an easy tune-up fight in a non-licensed exhibition match at his weight class of 140 pounds, he was a wide-eyed 19-year old living the dream in a foreign country.
By the time he recognized he was fighting a local favorite, in his hometown, at welterweight, in a legitimate fight, he had a decision to make; he is a fighter, so the choice to fight or not to fight was pretty easy, if ill-advised.
According to Granados, the crowd erupted for Jose Juan Fuentes, the show headliner, his opponent, when he entered the ring. That gave him pause about whether he made the correct choice to take the fight, but moments away from the opening bell was not the time to back out of a fight. It was a four round fight. Granados claims to have thoroughly beat down Fuentes, dropping him in the second round - ruled a slip - and having him out on his feet in the fourth and final round. The referee and judges did not care to see the action the way Granados did, handing him a split decision loss.
After the fight, Granados returned to the place he called home, packed his belongings, and departed for his real home, Cicero, Illinois. After some time, with Manny Pacquiao having established himself as an international superstar by making de la Hoya retire from their fight and professional prize fighting, Nacho Beristáin returned to Mexico. Presumably he pieced together what happened to his young charge and called him up in Cicero, apologizing for what went down in his absence. The talk went smooth enough that Granados decided to return to Mexico and Beristáin.
Shortly after Granados returned to Mexico, Juan Manuel Marquez began his training camp for what would become his first of two grueling battles with Juan "Baby Bull" Diaz. Beristáin and Marquez did not leave Granados for seclusion for this camp. Indeed, according to Granados, he became an integral addition to Juan Manuel’s training.
One of Marquez's sparring partners pulled a no-show one day. Granados, who was training in the same gym, was asked if he wanted to emulate Diaz's forward pressure style in a sparring session with Juan Manuel. Granados jumped at the offer. Apparently, he performed so well that he became the primary sparring partner for the remainder of Marquez's camp.
Marquez went on to knockout Diaz in dramatic fashion, claiming 2009's Ring Magazine Fight of the Year in the process. Granados, despite gaining a wealth of experience sparring with the sure-fire future first ballot Hall-of-Famer, ended up leaving Beristáin for good shortly thereafter. He would only have one more fight with the hall-of-fame trainer in his corner after his return to Mexico.
"It was a tough decision," Granados said about this move, but he wanted the kind of attention from his trainer that he wouldn't be able to receive from a man who trained both Marquez brothers, Jorge Arce and Alfredo Angulo, amongst others. He would return to his roots, to his home, in Cicero.
Granados immediately reunited with Rico Gonzalez and then rounded up his team by hiring two other local Puerto Rican trainers. One of them, George Hernandez would now be his head trainer. Also, Adrian's father would again be accompanying his son frequently to training and matches.
Adrian now would be the main focus for these four men, as far as boxing goes, except for when the two Mexican-Americans and the two Puerto Rican-Americans were telling jokes. Then, the focus is on cracking each other up and creating a light-hearted atmosphere.
Granados flourished in this environment. He got a fight shortly after returning to the States, and knocked his man out in two. He would fight three more times that calendar year, winning all the fights. Then he received an opportunity he thought could be his, "coming out party."
David Estrada was scheduled to fight Larnado Tyner for an IBO Intercontinental belt. Estrada got injured during training, and the Tyner camp quickly tried to get a fighter to keep the Chicago area card alive. Granados was jokingly asked by his coach if he wanted the fight. Granados had no joke in his reply when he emphatically responded, "Yeah!"
Granados was 7-1 at the time. Tyner, 24-4-1, was much more experienced, having recently gone the distance in losing efforts against Mike Arnaoutis, Lamont Peterson, and Saul Alvarez. Tyner also had a marketing edge - his promoter was the promoter for the fight card itself. But Granados has more than enough confidence in his boxing abilities, and when he's on, he knows he's a force to be reckoned with.
In boxing, bad and controversial decisions are another force to be reckoned with. Says Granados, "Without a doubt I did not lose that one," referring to the Tyner fight. He didn't get another loss on his record. He got a draw. He also came away with a bad taste in his mouth for official decisions and a new hunger to go for the knockout and take the decision out of the judges hands. This attitude would not aid him in his next headline fight a few months later.
On 8/26/2011, Granados had a hometown advantage versus another young prospect, Frankie Gomez, who had never fought outside of California. Gomez had the advantage of having fought on TV prior. Boxingscene's own Jake Donovan said, “Granados gave Gomez his toughest test to date" in his fight recap. Granados said he "learned more about myself that night," than in any previous fight.
In 85 amateur matches and 13 pro fights to date, Granados has been dropped to the canvas exactly once, by Frankie Gomez. In the closing seconds of the second round of what was emerging as a pitched battle, Granados was stalking Gomez and left himself open to a lead right that put him down.
"I knew I could come back and go back to boxing," said Granados. In the same breath he admitted being knocked down "changed me." For the next couple rounds, Granados looked to land a big shot without using his long and strong jab to set it up.
At 5'9, not many people at 140 pounds can match Granados's height. At 74 inches, even fewer can match his reach. Granados knows this, and knew he could have controlled the action from the outside. He also now knows how to deal with the adversity that comes from being dropped to the canvas. That knockdown would swing any judge that had Granados winning round 2 to Gomez, and that would be the difference in a majority decision loss for Granados.
"I should have been more controlled," he says.
Adrian rebounded from the first non-victory on his record that he doesn't dispute with two more victories. He also continued the same mode he'd previously done as a pro fighter: work part-time for money, usually in a bank, and then train when he could around his work schedule. This past August, one year removed from the Gomez fight, as Granados was turning 23, he thought to himself, "I'm running out of time."
To buy time, he decided to let go of the outside work and devote himself fully to boxing. He spent just under 10 weeks training for this weekend’s main event, Granados's first time as the headlining A-side fighter. This will also be his first pro fight in the US where he wasn't working to subsidize his boxing. His family helps a little, for now. If all goes the way Granados has mapped out his future, it won't be long before their only help with be emotional support.
In regards to his fight against Antonio Canas this Friday, Granados says he plans to "give him a boxing lesson." And if Canas just wants to bang, Granados feels more than comfortable banging away, too. Confidence radiates from this engaging and likeable young man.
Beyond the Cicero card, Granados says he wants to fight 6 times in 2013. He knows his body is growing and he can already feel it being tougher to make weight, but with he and his mother researching and implementing different nutritional strategies, he feels he can safely make this weight for another year or two. By that time, he feels he'll be properly prepared to take on and take down the big names around his division.
He'd love a rematch with Gomez. Jesse Vargas's name was mentioned - really, anybody, after 2013.
This coming year will be about stepping gradually from prospect to contender and fine tuning the lessons he learns. In 2014, he plans to demonstrate all that he’s learned against the best boxers he can get to step into the ring with him.
When asked if he had any message he wanted to pass along to the Boxingscene.com readers, he said simply, "stay on the lookout for me."
You can start by catching this weekend’s show in Cicero.