By Jake Donovan
Odilon Zaleta has produced mixed results at the contender level, but is fully confident that he will prevail in what is perceived as an opportunity of a lifetime. The 28-year old is in the final stages of preparation for his upcoming title shot versus World flyweight king Akira Yaegashi, which takes place April 6 in Tokyo, Japan.
The bout marks a number of debuts for Zaleta, including his first crack at a world title along with his first fight outside of Latin America. The majority of the challenger’s career has taken place in his native Mexico, but is brimming with confidence as fight night draws nearer.
“I am in the best shape of my career; I feel stronger, faster and above all have matured professionally,” promises Zaleta (15-3, 8KO), whose last fight was a narrow points loss to former strawweight titlist Mario Rodriguez last September.
Joining Zaleta on the road trip is countryman Adrian Hernandez (29-2-1, 18KO), who defends his 108 lb. title versus precocious contender Naoya Inoue (5-0, 4KO). The title challenge comes just 18 months into Inoue’s career, and a few days shy of his 21st birthday.
Former two-division champ Roman Gonzalez (38-0, 32KO) also appears on the card. The unbeaten Nicaraguan faces Philippines; Juan Purisima (11-4-1, 4KO) in a stay-busy fight while awaiting a crack at a flyweight title.
Zaleta surprisingly didn’t have to wait for a title shot, a bit of a surprise considering all of Zaleta’s losses have come within his past seven fights. The title fight is considered an optional defense for Yaegashi (19-3, 9KO), who is approaching one full year as champion.
“I know the odds are stacked against me – the time zone difference, the weather and the risk of losing a hometown decision,” Zaleta acknowledges. “I don’t want to leave anything to chance and am preparing to knock out (Yaegashi). The most recent wins by Mexican fighters in Japan have come by knockout, and I plan to follow suit.”
Zaleta is well aware of the talk surrounding his given opportunity, but knows that he has the ability to change that perception the moment the opening bell sounds.
“When two warriors face each other, stats are just states,” Zaleta insists. “Nothing matters more than the physical and mental preparation a fighter puts in, along with his concentration and the intangibles he brings into the ring. Otherwise, clearly I wouldn’t be fit to fight for a world championship.”
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