By Jake Donovan
For most, the phrase “too much too soon” suggests an inability to handle success that has been throw your way earlier than expected.
So far, the only manner in which it applies to undefeated bantamweight Randy Caballero was that he was too young to truly prove just how great he truly was as an amateur.
“Every fighter’s dream is the Olympics, but it didn’t go that way for me,” Caballero admits, though without a hint of regret and for good reason. The reason that the California native wasn’t able to perform on the amateur game’s highest stage – he was too young.
Caballero enjoyed an incredible amateur run, which began at the tender age of eight and included nine national championships when all was said and done. However, he had the unfortunate luck of not turning 18 until a month after the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, which made him ineligible.
He stuck around in the unpaid ranks for another 18 months or so before deciding that 2012 was just too far away. Ending his amateur career with a mark of 167-10, Caballero took his game to the pro ranks in March 2010 as a 19-year old kid.
Anyone with the pleasure of watching him hasn’t stopped buzzing about how good he already is, and how much better he can become.
Part of the buzz has to do with his frequent appearances in a swing-bout capacity on Telefutura’s “Solo Boxeo Tecate” series. The part of the show on which he most often appears is the “Solo Boxeo Extra” portion, which comes after the main event is already in the books.
That changed for the better in his last ring appearance, serving as the televised co-feature in a virtual shutout of Alexis Santiago in a battle of unbeaten bantamweight prospects. The bout was supposed to be the toughest test to date for Caballero, but the Coachella (CA) native cruised to victory in front of a hometown crowd at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, CA.
More so than the Telefutura slots, the Fantasy Springs Casino has been instrumental in his development as a local fan favorite. An upcoming December 2 fight against Arturo Santiago will mark Caballero’s eighth appearance at the venue through 13 career pro bouts, including seven straight.
Some fighters get nervous about fighting so close to home and so often. Others in his position – managed by Cameron Dunkin and promoted by Golden Boy Promotions – would prefer the comfortable confines of carefully matched bouts on the undercard of much bigger events, padding their records in the process.
Even having just turned 21 years young, Caballero is just the opposite – challenge him to the absolute limit and make him rise to the occasion in front of his hometown faithful.
“I love fighting in hometown - no pressure at all, other than putting on a good show,” Caballero insists. “Having all those people scream for me is a huge rush for me.”
The bout will headline that evening’s edition of Solo Boxeo, marking the first time he receives top billing on the series. A non-televised showcase bout in Los Angeles was supposed to be worked into the mix last month, on the undercard of the HBO PPV show headlined by Chad Dawson’s controversial second round knockout of Bernard Hopkins.
Caballero had to pass on that card, though, after suffering an injury. Instead, he moves straight to December 2. Even in missing the aforementioned opportunity, his next fight will still mark his seventh of the year. Much like his not being eligible for the 2008 Olympics, he didn’t seem too bothered by missing out on the October show.
“I was hoping to get in the October 15 fight, but I’m not going to worry about it. I’m happy to just get one more fight before the year is over and that my career is moving in the right direction.”
There are plenty of people to thank for that. In addition to being guided by one of the best minds in the business in Dunkin, Caballero also has the backing of one of the leading promoters in the sport in Golden Boy Promotions.
None of that means anything if you can’t fight or lack the drive to excel. Caballero can fight, and is constantly pushing himself to get better. To both of those attributes, he pays respect to the one man with whom he trusts his career and his own life – his father.
“If it wasn’t for my dad, I wouldn’t be where I’m at,” Caballero states. “I couldn’t have another trainer yell at me the way he does. Every fighter needs that extra push. I’m glad it’s my Dad. People say (the father-son relationship as trainer-fighter) might not work but I love it. I thank him for it.”
Given the results exuded thus far, it’s clear that the formula has worked like a charm. Caballero is encouraged to elevate his game without being pushed too far, or taking too many unnecessary risks in the ring. A counter puncher by trade, the rail-thin Californian isn’t afraid to mix it up when he has to.
So far, he hasn’t needed to, as he’s barely losing rounds even while steadily increasing competition. That he gets better along with the class of opponents he faces is no accident.
“Most people disagree but I love fighting guys with more experience. I knew Alexis Santiago (his last opponent) al through the amateurs. I’d rather fight more experience guys, the wild ones that will push you and test your heart. You just have to relax and be more cautious. It’s how I’m able to learn from my mistakes.”
In Arturo Santiago (no relation to his last opponent), Caballero feels more ready than ever to jump into the ring and show how much he’s improved since his last fight.
The upcoming bout might resemble on paper a step backwards from his September showcase, but it’s yet another opponent with more time in service than Caballero. It’s also another chance for the 21-year old to show that he can adapt to any style.
“I’ve seen video of his fights. I don’t take anything from him. I’m not going to lose. I’m ready. He’ll come forward and apply pressure, try to land a wild lucky punch. Whatever I have to do, brawling, outboxing or whatever, I’ll get it done.”
It’s worked to date, as he aims for a baker’s dozen early next month. Once 2012 rolls around, a lot more can be expected. Shobox, ESPN2 Friday Night Fights – no matter where he lands, he’s content that his handlers will have done right by him, as that’s how it’s been so far.
“Whatever they put in front of me, I’m ready. I just turned 21 and don’t want to move too fast. I love the way my career is going. I’m ready to go as far as I can go. Hopefully, my future will include world titles in several weight classes.”
At the very least, he can take comfort in knowing that he’ll be of age to grab that opportunity, whenever it may come.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at [email protected]