By Jake Donovan
You have to hand it to Celestino Caballero. At age 38 and well past his prime condition that led to two title reigns, he didn’t come to Mexico planning to blend in the crowd. The former featherweight titlist moves up in weight as he takes on unbeaten rising star Adrian Estrella this weekend, in the chief support to current featherweight champ Jhonny Gonzalez in a title defense versus Jorge Arce.
Many believe this weekend’s doubleheader – which airs live on Televisa in Mexico and on beIn Sports Español in the United States – to serve as the final call in the lengthy careers of Arce and Caballero. While Arce will undoubtedly speak for himself at some point this week, Caballero is already anxious to get into the ring and prove his critics wrong.
“Where is the actor who claims he will beat me and use me as a steppingstone to continue his career?” Caballero immediately asked of his opponent upon arriving in Mexico on Tuesday. The “actor” comment wasn’t necessarily degrading Estrella’s abilities as a boxer – though perhaps carrying underlying suggestions – but speaking to his opponent’s past appearances in Mexican telenovas.
Caballero (37-5, 24KOs) has won three of his past four starts, though spread out over the past three years. Back-to-back title fight wins in 2011 – including a decision over Jonathan Barros to avenge a controversial loss earlier in the year – carried little momentum as he sat out all of 2012 before returning last year.
A split decision loss to Robinson Castellanos was thought to be the end of his run as a player at featherweight and its surrounding decisions, although he won his last start – a 2nd round knockout over Jimmy Aburto last November at home in Panama.
Should he lose to the unbeaten Estrella (18-0, 17KOs) on Saturday, it will undoubtedly spark calls of retirement. However, Caballero firmly believes he’s walking into the perfect situation; Estrella was extended the distance for the first time in his career in his last start, a wide points win over Dante Jardon, a vulnerable super featherweight who surprised many in lasting the full 12 rounds against the feared puncher.
Caballero isn’t particularly impressed with what he has in front of him – in the ring or his methods of fame beyond the sport.
“Everyone believes he will use me (as a stepping stone). The only thing I can tell you is that I’m the real star here,” insists Caballero, an established hip hop artist back home in Panama. “The showman is in the house!”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox