By Lem Satterfield
Their clash came during an August reprisal of one of the longest and most contentious rivalries between two of boxing's premiere countries in the sport, this, when hard-punching, Mexican-born, 28-year-old, WBA junior flyweight king, Giovani Segura, of Bell Gardens, Calif., ventured into Coliseo Mario 'Quijote' in Guaynabo, the Puerto Rican hometown of the previously unbeaten southpaw 35-year-old WBO king Ivan Calderon.
Following a volatile, eight rounds of action, the younger Segura was the lone man standing, having earned his seventh knockout in as many consecutive wins against a legendary fighter who had been considered by some to be among the sport's pound-for-pound best -- this at 1 minute, 34 seconds of the final round.
Segura employed a left to the body that was followed by a right to the body from which Calderon failed to rise as referee Jose Hiram Rivera reached the count of 10.
With that, Segura unified the WBA and WBO belts, improved to 25-1-1 with his 21st knockout, and dropped Calderon to 34-1-1 overall, and a remarkable 18-1-1 in championship bouts.
Calderon is now 26-1-1, with 22 stoppages and eight straight knockouts after finishing off super flyweight Manuel Vargas (29-7-1, 14 KOs) in the seventh round of their November match up.
On the year, Segura was 4-0 with as many knockouts, including those over Walter Tello, and, Ronald Ramos, respectively, in three, and, four rounds, in February and March. The triumph over Tello was in defense of Segura's WBA belt, and the one over Ramos was a non-title, super flyweight bout.
Segura last suffered defeat by 12-round, unanimous decision to Cesar Canchila in July of 2008. Segura's run includes a fourth-round knockout of Canchila, whom he floored in the first and second rounds of their March 2009 rematch for the WBA crown.
Canchila's winning streak ended at 20 bouts with 17 knockouts during that run, and his record slipped to 27-2, with 22 knockouts.
Segura's draw was in the second fight of his professional career in July 2003 against Benjamin Garcia, a man that Segura stopped in the first round of their rematch 14 days later.
But on April 2, at Auditorio del Estado, Mexicali, in Baja California, Mexico, Calderon will rematch the now, 36-year-old Calderon, who will be back in the ring for the first time since his loss.
Calderon spoke to BoxingScene.com during this exclusive interview.
BoxingScene.com: From your perspective, how big is your fight with Ivan Calderon in terms of the Mexican-Puerto Rican rivalry?
Giovani Segura: The rivalry is great motivation. I've always like rivalries in sports. This one exists, and everybody from both countries -- Mexico and Puerto Rico -- they always want to see which country is the best. So yes, that motivates me very much.
BoxingScene.com: Was there any concern in your mind about going over to Puerto Rico as far as the partisan crowd for Ivan Calderon and the risk of a home town decision in his favor?
Giovani Segura: Well, yeah, you know, like you said, you know, everybody was asking me questions like, 'Why would you put your belts on the line over there,' and, 'Don't you know that everything is going to be against you?'
You know, everybody was talking about, 'Well, you know, he's a great fighter,' and, 'Your skills are not the best,' and, 'You know, he has good defense and he's really hard to hit.' It was like they were trying to put all of this negative stuff into my head, you know? But it had the reverse affect.
It just motivated me and encouraged me to go and do a better job over there. I wanted to fight him over there even more, because I had seen him fight before and I knew that I could beat him?
BoxingScene.com: How did you come to that conclusion?
Giovani Segura: Because, even though he's a good boxer, he was always going for the head. Everybody seems to go for the head, you know? But I was like, 'Why not go to the body?' Because the body work, the way that I do it, I can cause a lot of damage to another fighter. And thank God I went over there and I had no fear.
That's who I am. That's the way that I fight, and, as a result, thanks to God, I am here and I'm the unified champion.
BoxingScene.com: When you say, 'everybody,' who do you mean?
Giovani Segura: Well, a lot of the critics, you know? A lot of critics from the internet. A lot commentators from television, you know? They were negative about my chances in the fight. One of them even said that I might get knocked out because Ivan Calderon was skillful, and I was characterized as a guy who would just throw punches here and there with no defense, you know?
So I went over there very motivated. I was wanting to prove everybody wrong. They were thinking that it was going to be an easy win for Calderon, you know?
Calderon even said it himself, you know, he said, 'This guy is no match for me, and I've beaten better guys than him.' I went over there and I prove him wrong and everybody else wrong.
BoxingScene.com: Was your strategy, in fact, designed to keep Ivan Calderon in front of you, break down and to knock him out?
Giovani Segura: My only job was to cut off the ring and to land my punches. I wanted to land hard punches because I know that I have a really strong punch, and I may have some of the best power in this division.
I knew that if I could do that, then it would be just a matter of time before I could get him in position to get a knockout. But I had to use my brain and to keep him in front of me. I wanted to just land a good punch, and then, if I could, I knew that he would eventually go down.
I just wanted to stick to my game plan, no matter what punches he threw and landed, and I tried to just force the issue. And that's exactly what happened because he had his chances, and he landed good punches, but this is what it's all about. This is boxing.
BoxingScene.com: What Segura-Calderon I an action-packed fight as a result of what Ivan Calderon did or more because of how you performed?
Giovani Segura: I was looking to dictate the fight and to fight my fight and I was looking to make the fight go my way, because I knew that he was a crafy fighter who has the skills to manipulate the pace of the fight.
You know, Ivan Calderon is a very experienced veteran, and even though he had been dropped in previous fights, he has found ways to manipulate the other fighter and to frustrate him and to make the fight go his way, you know? So, I was fighting against that type of fighter. So I had to be focused not only mentally, but physically.
BoxingScene.com: Was there a moment or a round in the fight during which you felt that the momentum was turning in your favor?
Giovani Segura: You know, by the fourth round, I had felt that I really had hurt him. I thought that from that point on, I had gained his respect and that he was beginning to look at me with fear. You know, it was a body shot, and after that, he changed his approach a little bit.
I'm not sure that I rembember which hand that I hit him with, but I just remember it was maybe a right and left combination to the body. He opened his eyes bigger and then he let out this gasp like, 'Ooohhh!' And he was hurt. And I was like, 'Okay, now is the time,' you know? 'Now is the time to go in for the kill.'
So from there, I just continued to keep putting the pressure on him and looking for the right times to land the right punches. From that point on, I wanted to land the big shots.
BoxingScene.com: From there, can you explain what happened that lead to the end of the fight?
Giovani Segura: Most of my fights, you know, I score a knockdown. So I was trying to set myself up to prepare to land more of those shots to the body and then to try to go to the head. But before I could even really get any significant damage to the head, he went down before that.
I was trying to punish him downstairs and then go upstairs, but I guess that he had enough from those body shots. He started to hug me more when he was hurt. And what I did was I was able to free one of my hands and continue hitting him and pounding him to the body until he would let me go.
It got to the point where he didn't know what to do -- either grab me or to run. Either way, he was going to get punishment to the body. If he would run, I would cut off the ring. If he would hug me, then I was hitting him with one of my hands, you know? So he got to the point where he had no way out.
So I started landing punches, going in and out, and making sure that I was landing the punches and not missing the punches and making every punch count. Because at the beginning of the fight, I was missing a lot of big punches, and that was one of my early mistakes and concerns. So when I started to land the punches downstairs, he started to move slower and slower.
And I felt like I was able to move in for the kill. I was hoping to land a big hook or an uppercut to the head, but I guess that he didn't like the body shots, so, he submitted himself to defeat.
BoxingScene.com: Did you in any way surprise yourself with your performance?
Giovani Segura: The only thing I'm thinking now is what do I have to do to make a better fight against him this time around? Because it was really exciting. Every time that I watch the fight, I just get chills. It's crazy. You see all of the people jumping around and screaming and it's a feeling that I will never forget, you know?
When he went down, you can hear the referee counting. It was so quiet. Everybody was so quiet. They were shocked. They never expected. The whole crowd just stayed quiet.
The only people who were cheering were the Mexicans who went over there and who believed in me. The announcer was screaming, 'Oh my God, Ivan Calderon has gone down, and it doesn't look like he will get up for the first time in his career.'
And you can just see the crowd is just frozen. Some of them raised their hands up in disbelief. I'm like, 'Holy crap, I can't believe that this sh*t is happening.' It was crazy, man, and something that will stay on as a memory for me for the rest of my life.
BoxingScene.com: Now can you do it again?
Giovani Segura: I don't think that he can change who he is as a boxer because he's done it the way that he had done it for so long that way. The only thing that he can do is to run around, because he has no reason to stand in front of me and fight. I think that he will be more concerned about surviving the fight.
I think that he knows that he has little chance of beating me, and I'm going to do the same job. I'm going to be aggressive and I will look for him. I'm not going to act like I'm the champion, even though I'm in front of my Mexican fans this time, but I'm going to go and chase him and do what I do and give the whole crowd and the public what they want.
BoxingScene.com: Do you believe that you are further along in your success than some thought you would be considering your relative amateure inexperience?
Giovani Segura: Well, yest, because I only had 12 amateur fights. I started at the at of 20, and I'm only 28. So far, I've done the best with what I have learned, you know? I can't do anything else. I don't know how to do anything differenty, but I am learning all of the time.
BoxingScene.com: How do you want to be remembered when all is said and done with your career?
Giovani Segura: I want the fans to be happy with my performance and to say, 'You know, that Giovani Segura, he's an exciting fighter,' and, 'He's somebody that you were always going to pay to watch and to see.' I want them to say he's a fighter you can count on for excitement. That's always one of my big concerns, you know?
I want to always fight the best and give the people their money's worth. Because in this day and age, it's the fans who are the ones who are putting the money in our pockets and the food on our tables, and I thank God for each and every one of my fans and I thank God for everything.