By Austin Killeen March 9, 2016
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The higher you climb up a mountain, the thinner the supply of oxygen gets. It’s no different when a fighter tries to climb the food chain of boxing. The skills that made that fighter dominate in his hometown are no longer enough when the bouts take place in New York, Las Vegas or Las Angeles. Boxers like Sugar Ray Leonard, Floyd Mayweather and Johnny Tapia found something new in their bag of tricks and were able to succeed at the next level. But other boxers become mesmerized by the bright lights, ringside celebrities and skills of their big name opponent. By the end of the evening, those fighters found themselves on a bus, taking a one way ride back to Palookaville. Josh Torres and his trainer Danny Perez will have to avoid acting like tourist at the Las Vegas Events Center this weekend; otherwise it will be a long ride back to the “Duke City.” For Zab Judah “Pitbull” represents the first leg on a comeback which he hopes will lead to a title fight.
Judah has performed on the big stage many times, Torres once. Checking around the “Land of Enchantment,” most trainers and managers see a one sided win for the southpaw who calls himself “Super” and possibly by stoppage. There was one member of the local boxing fraternity who saw Torres as a live underdog and said he would not be surprised if Torres won, even by a knockout. The people seeing a win by Judah cite that he has faced as many quality opponents as Torres has had fights. Judah turned pro in 1996 when Torres was just seven years old. The “Super” one had fought in 115 amateur bouts losing only five times. Among his amateur victims were Hector Camacho and Ishe Smith.
The book on Judah is no secret; at his best he has speed, power, defense and a solid chin. The fact that he’s a southpaw has caused problems for many of his opponents. Many of Zab’s foes have tried turning their fights into street brawls, only to find the power of the “Super” one resulted in KO defeats. Trying to box with Judah has its own problems. How do you land a clean punch to the head of someone who is lightning fast. You’ll look foolish while Judah lands counter punches all night. When Zab eats a solid shot to the chin, his opponents are surprised to find out he takes a good punch.
Torres hasn’t been sitting in a chair waiting for Judah to beckon him to come to the ring. He has been busy while Judah has been on a three year retirement. Josh has a great chin; having never tasted the canvas either in the amateurs or pros. Additionally, Torres is in amazing physical shape and has gone ten hard rounds on several occasions. Although he lacks the speed of his rival, Josh is good at cutting off the ring and operates behind a nice left jab. When it comes to strength, I’d put my money on Josh to win a tug-of-war. If boxing was all about strength, then Mr. Universe would be heavyweight champion of the world. Obviously there is a lot more to boxing than physical power, as huge brutes have learned the hard way. Still being very strong has its benefits.
Josh is trained by former pro boxer Danny “Pitbull” Perez. I like their relationship; they seem to work well together. Although Perez looks like he could make kindling wood out of telephone poles, he’s laid back and waits until the round ends before instructing Josh in a soft voice. You’ll never hear Danny trying to give Josh ten instructions in forty seconds. Perez believes that less is more and tries to give one or two good pieces of advice rather than eight confusing instructions.
In preparation for Saturday’s fight, Danny brought Josh to Las Cruces to train with former junior middleweight champ Austin Trout and his trainer Louie Burke. Torres and Trout, who’s a southpaw, worked forty rounds together, and I could see it paying dividends almost immediately. Both Trout and Burke worked on maximizing the skills needed for dealing with the fleet footed Judah. Many trainers would never bring their boxer to another gym, allowing another voice to offer corrections. It’s obvious that Danny Perez believes in himself and will do whatever it takes maximize the chances of victory on Saturday night.
I asked Josh about his fight with undefeated Dusty Hernandez Harrison which took place in November of 2013 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The “Duke City” welterweight seemed to be in awe of his surrounding the first two rounds and hardly threw a punch. (Perez was not part of team Torres at that time) from the third round until the end of the fight Josh settled down and made a respectable showing. One judge awarding the out of town boxer four of the remaining eight rounds. I asked Josh how he was going to prevent a repeat of the first two rounds when he fights in Las Vegas. He responded “I learn from my mistakes and don’t intend for that to happen again.”
For Judah fans who want to bet the house on their man, I offer one caveat. Their man has not been in the ring since December of 2013. Additionally, three of his last four fights ended in defeat, one by stoppage. There is no guarantee that Judah will have the speed and footwork that he possessed when he decisioned Lucas Matthysse in 2010. Torres has had five bouts since Judah’s last fight, with three of them were brutal wars.
I like the relationship that Torres and Perez have; the sum is greater than its parts. I don’t envision Torres repeating the mistake of the Hernandez Harrison fight. Josh is in terrific condition and should be comfortable facing a southpaw. Although Torres won’t have much of a fan base when the opening bell rings, he might win over a large portion of the audience as the bout progresses. If he does, he might feel like he’s fighting in Albuquerque. I feel this has all the attributes of an upset and I’m looking for an exciting contest on TV this weekend. Go “Pitbull & Pitbull!”
Voices from the Corner: Josh Torres is not the only “Duke City” boxer who has a big fight this weekend. Undefeated bantamweight Matthew “Diamond Boy” Griego and featherweight Jesus Xavier Pacheco will be fighting at the Valentino’s Event Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
Pacheco will be seeking his sixth consecutive win when he faces Joshua Green Jr. in a six round bout. Both Pacheco and Green fought on the same card on February 20 at the Camel Rock Casino, winning six round decisions. Green is trained by James “Buddy” McGirt former WBC welterweight champ and is on the left side of the fight poster. Does that make him the house fighter? This isn’t the first time Pacheco has fought in Phoenix, having been the victim of the biggest robbery since Great Brink’s Robbery of 1950. Pacheco is trained by Aaron Perez.
Griego is also on the left side of the fight poster and should be the favorite against Luis Guerrero. The Albuquerque bantamweight has power in both hands and blessed with solid defensive skills. Did I mention Matthew is also great at self promotion and trains with Fidel Maldonado Sr. They make an interesting pairing as Maldonado is not shy around an open microphone either. The undefeated Griego will be seeking his third straight victory, with his first two wins coming by stoppage. Griego is considered a hot property and is under a promotional contract with Cameron Duncan.