By Jake Donovan
From the moment they first stepped into a boxing gym as pre-teens in Puerto Rico, twin brothers McWilliams and McJoe Arroyo vowed to do everything together as boxers without getting in each other’s way. That dream not only continues on Thursday, but has the potential to grow bigger than ever before.
McWilliams Arroyo heads into a title eliminator with unbeaten Filipino flyweight Froilan Saludar, as the two clash at Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. The bout airs live on Fox Sports 1 (Thursday, 8:00pm ET), with the winner to become the mandatory challenger to reigning flyweight titlist Amnat Ruenroeng.
Arroyo (14-1, 12KO) gets the opportunity to fight in a sanctioned eliminator in the same venue in which he and his twin brother turned pro four years ago. Thursday marks his first fight in more than a year, having been forced to the sidelines to nurse a severe hand injury.
His ring return couldn’t have come at a better time, just five days after McJoe became the mandatory challenger three pounds north, earning a title shot following his minor upset of Hernan ‘Tyson’ Marquez, knocking out the former flyweight champ in 11 rounds on the road in Mexico.
“It was a great performance by my brother, the result of the hard work we both put in the gym,” Arroyo said of his twin’s career-best win to date. “McJoe took advantage of his opportunity, winning in a great fight. I’m proud of him becoming the #1 ranked flyweight in the world.”
McWilliams gets his chance much closer to home, where he has spent all but two of his 15 pro fights to date. Of the two road trips came the lone loss of his career, also suffering his only knockdown as a pro in dropping a four-round decision to Takashi Okada in New York City in June ’10.
The 28-year old has won 11 straight heading into Thursday’s eliminator. Each performance has reflected more on the level of talent that earned the Arroyo brothers a spot on the 2008 Puerto Rico Olympic Boxing squad that competed in Beijing. McJoe drew a tough match in the opening round of bantamweight competition, bowing out against former World amateur champ Sergey Vodopyanov; McWilliams landed a far more favorable seeding, earning an opening round bye and advancing to the quarterfinals before dropping a decision to Cuba’s Andy Laffite, who went on to win the silver.
The fact that they competed together was a historic feat, marking just the second time in history that twin brothers served on the same Olympic boxing team. Their accomplishment came eight years after Volodymyr and Valeriy Sydorenko represented Ukraine in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Volodymyr went on to enjoy a successful career, including a lengthy stay as bantamweight champ. His twin brother Valeriy never turned pro, thus ending any chances of duplicating their amateur success together in the pro ranks.
Meanwhile, the dream lives on for the Arroyo brothers.
“We dreamed as amateurs of fighting in the Olympics; we fought in the 2008 Beijing Olympics,” Arroyo points out. “We have a dream of becoming world champions in the pro ranks and we are now headed towards that goal.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox