by Cliff Rold
In his prime, he wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. He won fights with his feet as much as his fists. While the reality may have been that he could hit hard enough for respect, it rarely looked like he could damage a wet paper sack.
Oh, and Ivan Calderon, the former Puerto Rican Olympian, yeah…
…he weighed 105 lbs.
And later 108.
And now, it’s back to 105 again.
The impact of those weights on most of the boxing world is limited to the nations where their champions hail from. Kazuto Ioka, a unified titlist at 105 right now, is one of the best young fighters in the world. Outside Japan, it doesn’t really add up to much.
Mexico’s Ricardo Lopez made some hay at 105 in the 1990s, but almost all of it was as a supplement to undercards, a bone for the super hardcore. Michael Carbajal, at his zenith in a 108 lb. rivalry with Humberto Gonzalez, is for American fans pretty much the beginning and end of Jr. Flyweight attention.
There have been flashes of attention since. Brian Viloria got some looks, but inconsistency saw interest wane until a recent resurgence at 112 lbs. Calderon had his flash as well.
Moving up after double digit defenses at of the WBO Minimumweight, Calderon won the WBO and lineal 108 lb. title in a fight that started like so many in his prime. Calderon, fleet of foot and full of skill, was soundly outboxing a Hugo Cazares who came into the ring much larger than Calderon. Size mattered. The second half of the bout became a battle against the clock and the heavy hands of Cazares, Calderon coming off the floor with a furious rally to answer questions about the fight inside him.
It set the stage for a near three-year reign that culminated in Calderon’s first defeat and most memorable affair. His legs already getting heavier with time, Calderon went to the trenches with the relentless Giovanni Segura. Both men took turns hurting one another, taking the measure of one another, but in the end it was the power puncher who prevailed. Segura broke Calderon down in eight.
And in the end it was a classic. Selected by BoxingScene and Ring Magazine as the 2010 Fight of the Year, Segura-Calderon I joined Carbajal-Gonzalez I and Gonzalez-Saman Sorjaturong as the only Ring Fights of the Year at Jr. Flyweight.
The evidence since August 28, 2010, suggests Calderon might have been better off tipping his cap and riding into the Guaynabo sunset then. He was run over in a rematch with Segura and opted a return to his original weight class, 105, last October. It was his first fight at the limit since 2007 and time showed. Calderon escaped with a split decision against a .500 fighter who he would have toyed with years ago.
It’s not years ago anymore. It’s 2012. Calderon is 37.
This Saturday, on the pay-per-view undercard of a 122 lb. bout between Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. and Jonathan Oquendo, Calderon will challenge the current WBO Minimumweight champion Moises Fuentes (15-1, 7 KO) of Mexico. Fuentes, at 27, isn’t super fast. He’s a good but not great puncher.
He should be heavily favored to win.
Calderon at any weight is not what he was. Moving back down a class, history says he is likely to be less than he could be. Moving down in weight after becoming firmly embedded higher on the scale rarely works out well.
The most recent example happened only weeks ago. Chad Dawson had been a fixture at Light Heavyweight for years when he opted to move down and challenge Super Middleweight champion Andre Ward. Dawson suffered the first stoppage loss of his career. Whether the weight was an issue is a subject of worthy debate.
The outcome was well in line with the past.
In 1969, former three-time Welterweight champion Emile Griffith returned to the class of his youth after two turns as the Middleweight king. The great Jose Napoles made easy work of Griffith over fifteen rounds, sending the elder man back to Middleweight where he fared better in a rematch defeat of Dick Tiger and two losing, if spirited, challenges of Middleweight legend Carlos Monzon.
The 1988 clash between Ray Leonard and Donny LaLonde saw LaLonde, the reigning WBC champ at Light Heavyweight, come down to 168 to face “Sugar” Ray for his title and a new WBC belt at the lower weight. LaLonde had Leonard down early but lacked the mustard to finish and fell victim to a furious assault from Leonard in the ninth.
With a showdown looming against Roy Jones Jr., IBF Super Middleweight champion James Toney accepted a challenge from former IBF Light Heavyweight champion “Prince” Charles Williams. It was a hell of a fight, punctuated by a Toney knockout shot in the twelfth round that still can leave a viewer in awe. Williams weighed in at 167 ½, his lowest recorded weight since 1979.
In recent vintage, only Shane Mosley erased the issue of the scale for a major victory. Coming in as an underdog in 2009, Mosley’s corner caught Antonio Margarito padding his gloves a little too stiff and then laid a stiff beating to win the WBC Welterweight crown. Unlike some of the other men noted, Mosley had been floating between Welterweight and Jr. Middleweight for a while.
It’s not to say the size did the defeated in. It is to say it asks more of the body. In the case of Williams and Griffith, it asked at a late stage in life when losing weight in general gets tougher. Calderon moving down so far hasn’t looked like his best option.
Now he faces a young, hungry fighter who would love to have his scalp on the wall. The ring knowledge Calderon has in his head is more than enough to beat anyone. The ring life he has left in his legs could be in big trouble against Fuentes.
Calderon at his best danced away from danger. One must wonder if he prepares for his last fistic dance in the days ahead.
The Weekly Ledger
But wait, there’s more…
Povetkin Wins laugher: http://www.boxingscene.com/wbabsolute-nonsense-povetkin-slams-silly-mandatory--57654
Rodriguez, Darchinyan Win Big: http://www.boxingscene.com/rodriguez-pushes-on-darchinyan-saves-his-career--57671
Ratings Update: http://www.boxingscene.com/forums/view.php?pg=boxing-ratings
Cliff’s Notes… Just seeing photos of Abner Mares and Anselmo Moreno squared off is enough to get the blood flowing. This has the makings of a classic style clash and the winner breaks out from the pack in a big way…And what’s up with the new look for Alfredo Angulo? He looks like Vandal Savage with the long hair and beard. That’s pretty rad…Is it too early to speculate on how much money Ricky Hatton-Amir Khan is worth? Nope…Isn’t it cute the way Team Alexander Povetkin acts like they have any stroke in negotiating with Wladimir Klitschko? After dumping out of two mandatories, if they can get the fight (and actually want it), they should just say “Thanks, champ.”
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]