By Keith Idec
Bob Arum admits he thought Alex Saucedo’s championship dream was ruined.
Saucedo’s promoter watched from a ringside seat as Australia’s Lenny Zappavigna drilled Saucedo with one punishing punch after another in the fourth round June 30. The undefeated Saucedo seemed well on his way to getting knocked out in his hometown of Oklahoma City.
Zappavigna first hurt Saucedo with a right hand barely 40 seconds into that round. The underdog continued tattooing Saucedo with flush punches his hurt, tired opponent couldn’t avoid.
Zappavigna’s onslaught might’ve finished fighters less resilient than the 24-year-old Saucedo. A referee other than Gerald Ritter rightfully might’ve stopped that beatdown before Saucedo suffered serious damage.
Saucedo somehow finished that extremely rough round on his feet. Three rounds later, a bruised, bloodied Saucedo stopped Zappavigna to remain unbeaten and secure a shot at WBO junior welterweight champion Maurice Hooker.
His seventh-round technical-knockout win was a performance reminiscent of some of the late Arturo Gatti’s greatest comebacks.
“He has huge balls,” Arum told BoxingScene.com. “I mean, I really, really died with that fourth round. I thought it was all over. I thought there was no way that he could come back. And yet, he came back and it was just terrific. It was really a great, great performance. You never know how great a kid is gonna be until he faces adversity, and he sure faced adversity. I thought the referee was gonna stop the fight. It was pretty bad.”
Saucedo’s 12-round, 140-pound title fight against Hooker on Friday night should unfold differently because the taller, longer champion’s style isn’t at all similar to Zappavigna’s. Dallas’ Hooker (24-0-3, 16 KOs) and Saucedo (28-0, 18 KOs) will fight for the WBO championship Hooker won by edging England’s Terry Flanagan (33-2, 13 KOs) by split decision June 9 in Manchester, Flanagan’s hometown.
Arum anticipates a close, competitive bout, but the Top Rank Inc. founder figures Saucedo will win in the main event of an ESPN telecast from Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City (midnight ET/9 p.m. PT).
“I like Saucedo [to win], but I’m a little prejudiced because we’ve had the kid since he was 17,” Arum said. “When we first started promoting him, he didn’t shave. Now he has a little beard.”
A better beard than anyone realized, based on what Arum witnessed against Zappavigna.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.