By Ryan Maquiñana
Vicente “Chente” Escobedo is intent on fulfilling the promise that had Golden Boy signing him out of the amateurs in 2005 as a 23-year-old U.S. Olympian. After nine quick wins, the native of Woodland, Calif., found his road to professional stardom rockier than he expected, with an upset loss to Daniel Jimenez in 2006 compounded by subsequent defeats to Michael Katsidis in 2009 and Robert Guerrero in 2010.
Now 30, Escobedo (26-3, 15 KOs) has reinvented himself as a junior lightweight, descending from 135 to 130 pounds and forging his path to a world title shot this Saturday on HBO against Adrien “The Problem” Broner (23-0, 19 KOs) in the unbeaten boxer's hometown of Cincinnati.
BoxingScene.com caught up with Escobedo and discussed his newborn daughter, the journey back to relevance, and his mindset toward the biggest fight of his career as he tries to solve “The Problem.”
BoxingScene.com: First off, congratulations on the birth of your daughter, Milana Sky. How has that changed the complexion of your training camp, especially regarding your mindset for the fight with Broner?
Vicente Escobedo: Thank you. My wife and baby have been with me throughout my training camp, and it’s been great. I see my daughter in the morning, and it’s motivation. I want her to be set for life when I’m done with my career, and a win here on Saturday will help me accomplish that. This is definitely a coming-out party for me. I plan on shocking the world, especially with how hard I worked to get here.
BoxingScene.com: Speaking of your road back to the top, you have reinvented yourself at 130 pounds after spending most of your career at lightweight. Tell me how you’ve progressed in your past few fights at 130, and why you feel you’re a different fighter today?
Vicente Escobedo: I feel much stronger at 130. My power has carried down. I think I’ve finally found my home in his division. Also, I feel like I’m more of a complete fighter. [Juan] Ruiz led with his head, and I didn’t want to get headbutted, so I had to adjust because he’s really awkward. With Lonnie [Smith], I was so amped up and I wanted it so bad. He brought the best out of me and I knocked him out. Here, you have HBO, which is worldwide, and Adrien Broner’s definitely going to bring the best out of me on July 21st.
BoxingScene.com: Ironically enough you were in the same position Adrien Broner is now. That is, you were being touted by Golden Boy as the next big thing, but you had a couple setbacks, starting with your upset loss to Jimenez, and the subsequent losses to Katsidis and Guerrero. What was going on in your mind when you had to regroup, and how has it driven you back here to a title shot?
Vicente Escobedo: There are some people out there that kind of forgot about me, which is fine. I have to prove to everyone and prove to myself that I am one of the top fighters out there. When I lost to Jimenez, it put me in a bad place. It took me awhile to get over it and move on. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I wouldn’t change it. It made me the fighter I am now, and I’m better for it.
BoxingScene.com: Could your experiences in the sport be an advantage in some way against a fighter like Broner who has breezed relatively through his competition as of late?
Vicente Escobedo: That’s the advantage I have over Broner, because I’ve experienced a lot of things in boxing he hasn’t. I’ve been at the bottom. I’ve been knocked down. I’ve experienced bleeding, cuts, headbutts, you name it. I know I can adapt to a lot of things that Broner’s never experienced. I’m 30 years old, but I still feel great. He’s still young, and he’s got a long way to mature, and we’ll find out how stronger I am mentally and physically on July 21st.
BoxingScene.com: Of course, Broner most noticeably struggled against Daniel Ponce de Leon, who remains the only man to take him to 10 rounds. You’ve gone that same distance or longer 10 times. What do you think about Broner never having been that deep before?
Vicente Escobedo: When I step it up in the later rounds, the question will be how he will deal with getting into deep waters. If he thinks he’s going to knock me out early, he’s going to have a hard time doing that. We’ll see if he can adapt when I’m still standing.
BoxingScene.com: If it goes the distance, are you concerned about fighting in his hometown of Cincinnati and getting a fair decision?
Vicente Escobedo: Not at all. It doesn’t matter to me whether you fight in Vegas or California. My old trainer Nacho Beristain used to tell me, “Chingasos are chingasos.” In other words, punches are punches, no matter if you’re in Vegas, Sacramento, or Cincinnati, so I’m not worried.
Actually, with his hometown fans and everyone cheering him on, and all the attention he’s getting, the pressure’s on him. My whole thing is to go for one thing, and that’s the belt. I have nothing against Adrien Broner, but I want what he has. I think if we finish strong, and finish impressively, I won’t have to worry about the judges getting it right.
BoxingScene.com: Broner has made a name for himself by being outspoken, but it feels like he’s been a little more reserved for this particular fight. Why do you think that is?
Vicente Escobedo: He knows what I can do. He definitely knows. He’s 22 years old. When I was 22 years old, I didn’t think I was better than anyone else, but I did feel confident. I felt like I was on a high.
That’s kind of how he’s feeling right now. He feels like he’s the man. He’s on a high right now, and he thinks he’s the next Floyd Mayweather, but he knows what I can do, and it’s time to give him a reality check. He’s a tough fighter, but I’m going to send him back to reality.
BoxingScene.com: How do you disrupt a physically gifted fighter like Broner, especially in terms of his speed and defense?
Vicente Escobedo: Timing and patience. You have to time him. He’s got quick hands, but with the right timing and right punch, you can hurt anybody. You can’t be overanxious or overconfident. I respect his skills. He has power. But in that ring, you can’t respect anything.
BoxingScene.com: Your trainer, Joel Diaz, is coming off formulating a gameplan for Timothy Bradley that resulted in an upset win over Manny Pacquiao. How confident are you in Joel to do the same for you on Saturday?
Vicente Escobedo: I’m very confident in my trainer’s gameplan. What makes Joel such a good trainer is that he’s been a fighter at this level before. So has Antonio [Diaz]. From the first day I met Joel, his plans have been perfect, and I have no doubt in my mind that at the end of the day, I trust him to come up with the right plan to beat Broner.
At the end of the day, it really comes down to the fighter to execute. It’s all about which fighter is going to be perfect for one night. You have all these months of training, and I’ll have one night to prove I can do it.
Ryan Maquiñana writes a weekly boxing column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at email@example.com , check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.