By Ryan Maquiñana
BoxingScene.com has been advised by sources within Golden Boy that Vicente Escobedo will step to the forefront of viable challengers for Adrien “The Problem” Broner’s next junior lightweight title defense if the former Olympian can get by Lonnie Smith this Saturday on TeleFutura’s “Solo Boxeo” series.
The 30-year-old Escobedo (24-3, 14 KOs) will be fighting in his hometown of Woodland, Calif., for the first time as a pro this weekend. After losses to former beltholders Michael Katsidis and Robert Guerrero, “Chente” has moved down from lightweight to the junior lightweight division, where he defeated Rocky Juarez last September.
“My body feels a lot more comfortable,” Escobedo said. “The guys were bigger than me at 135 (pounds), and it’s a new me down here at 130.”
Broner (23-0, 19 KOs), a 22-year-old from Cincinnati who owns a share of the 130-pound crown, impressively stopped previously unbeaten Eloy Perez last Saturday on HBO. Both Escobedo and Broner are promoted by Golden Boy.
In an interview with BoxingScene.com, Escobedo discussed a potential meeting with “The Problem” along with his homecoming bout and reinventing himself at this stage of his career.
BoxingScene.com: For the first time in 28 pro bouts, you finally get to fight at home in Woodland. Tell me how it feels to come full-circle.
Vicente Escobedo: I’ve fought twice in Sacramento, which is basically close to my hometown, but this is the first time I’m actually going to get to fight in Woodland. My manager and I were looking for a fight that would get me ranked, and here we got a fight for the NABO title on TeleFutura. Even better, it was in my hometown. It was perfect, and I’m excited for this moment. My cousin’s been taking care of all the ticket requests and all that, but it’s a small venue, so they better hurry because I think it’s going to be sold out.
BoxingScene.com: You’ve been spending most of your professional life in Southern California. What was it like growing up in Woodland?
Vicente Escobedo: Growing up there was such a good time. My friends and family, my brother, my mom—they all still live there. I go back to visit from time to time, and it feels like I never left. But everything comes to an end, and you grow up, and move out of town. I’ve got my life now in Southern California. I’m married now and my wife’s pregnant. We’re expecting a daughter. Things have completely changed in that aspect, but I always go back home.
BoxingScene.com: (Former American League MVP) Dustin Pedroia attended Woodland High during your time, correct?
Vicente Escobedo: Yeah, I went to school at the same time as Dustin, and we knew each other because we had some of the same friends. That’s the thing about Woodland. It’s a small town. Everyone knows everyone. It’s going to be nice to see everyone again, and for them to watch me fight.
BoxingScene.com: On to boxing. Tell us about your opponent, Lonnie Smith. He’s definitely an action fighter who will come at you at all times.
Vicente Escobedo: He’s tough. There’s something about this guy. He’s aggressive, and I know he can fight. He’s going to be there in front of you. If he wants to come forward, that’s fine, but I think he’s going to eat some punches. I don’t think he’s fought someone like me, with my experience. We’re prepared for anything he has, and we’ll see how it plays out on Saturday night.
BoxingScene.com: Explain the transition moving down from 135 to 130 pounds.
Vicente Escobedo: My body’s more comfortable now. It was my body thinking it was comfortable at 135. I only fought two big fights at 135. The guys were bigger than me at 135, and it’s a new me down here at 130. I went back and forth on it with my brother, and we feel this was the best move. Better late than never.
BoxingScene.com: What’s different between the Vicente Escobedo from those two losses at lightweight that you talk about and the 130-pound Vicente Escobedo?
Vicente Escobedo: I think I learned how to handle certain situations. In the third round against Walter Estrada, I really hurt my right hand. I was able to fight him for seven rounds to win a decision, but it was so painful. It was so bad that when I went to the doctor, I had a detached ligament in there. I had to have surgery on it. I think with all this experience I’ve had over the year, I didn’t show my opponents I was hurt, so fighting through pain is something I’ve developed. In my mind, maybe it was feeling good at 130 with the right mindset that allowed me to adapt so well.
BoxingScene.com: Your name has come up in terms of names to fight Adrien Broner in his next title defense should you defeat Lonnie Smith. Coming off what some have labeled a crossroads bout with Rocky Juarez, do you feel there’s an added sense of urgency to get into the title picture ASAP?
Vicente Escobedo: I believe I belong with the elite. I should be there. I should have been there a long time ago. There’s no excuses made. I’m eager to get that title and be on top. Everyone knows they haven’t seen the best out of me, and Saturday I think will bring it out of me. Golden Boy’s waiting for it, we’re all waiting for it, but it all starts with Lonnie. We have to beat Lonnie. Adrien Broner’s the guy to beat at 130, but first things first with Lonnie, and then we’ll see what’s next in the future. No one’s exactly mentioned that to me just yet, but no doubt, I want to fight for a title at the end of the year.
BoxingScene.com: How has camp been in Indio, Calif., with your trainer, Joel Diaz?
Vicente Escobedo: Camp’s been one of the best one I’ve had. I’ve been sparring with my trainer’s brother Julio Diaz, who’s much bigger than me. I’ve been sparring different styles. I’ve been really motivated fighting in my hometown, and I can’t wait to show it on Saturday.
BoxingScene.com: Last question. Being one of Northern California’s most decorated amateurs ever, do you have any advice for local amateurs competing in the U.S. Nationals “reload” tournament for a shot on the Olympic Team?
Vicente Escobedo: Absolutely. The amateur program’s completely different since I’ve been around. I’d tell them to stay focused on the task at hand and ignore your distractions because all you need to worry about is working hard and making the team. Once you make the team, it’s the best feeling you can have because you don’t just represent yourself, you represent your country.
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“Solo Boxeo Tecate” airs on TeleFutura this coming Saturday night at 11 p.m. ET/PT (tape delayed on the west coast) from the Woodland Senior Center in Woodland, Calif. Doors open at 6:00 p.m., and the first fight is at 7 p.m. For tickets, go to www.pacopresentsboxing.com . Friday’s 4 p.m. weigh-in at the Road Trip Bar & Grill in Woodland is open to the public.
Ryan Maquiñana writes a weekly column for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (CSNBayArea.com). He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and Ring Magazine’s Ratings Panel. E-mail him at email@example.com , check out his blog at norcalboxing.net or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.