By Austin Killeen – Screen Side (Click on photo to enlarge)
A boxer knows his career is headed in the right direction when Teddy Atlas is talking about him minutes before he enters the ring. The crowd in my living room was getting energized by Atlas’ comments. Boxer Hector “The Hurricane” Munoz got so excited by the comments of Atlas; he took over the commentary at my house. Munoz was the chief sparring partner for Maldonado in preparation for the Cano fight. He used this knowledge to work the people in my front room to a feverish pitch. I don’t think “The Hurricane” stayed in any one place for more than thirty seconds at any one time. But back to Maldonado, because he did the actual fighting and proved you can teach an old dog new tricks; not that the “Atrisco Kid” is that old. For ten rounds he stayed on task, never straying from the actual fight plan.
As the fighters were entering the ring, Joe Tessitore who was a ringside commentator along with Atlas, made an interesting observation regarding Pablo Cesar Cano. Tessitore pointed out that Cano hadn’t fought a southpaw in seven years. This would prove to be the comment of the night, because Cano seemed confused and ineffective against the left handed Maldonado throughout the bout. Early in the first round Atlas and Tessitore established clearly that they both felt Cano was the better fighter. By the end of the round their comments had taken a 180 degree turn due to the footwork and left hand of Maldonado. One thing I’ve always liked about both announcers, they’re not married to their prefight opinions. By rounds two and three you could see the confidence of Maldonado growing, his right jab was flowing, constantly finding the head of his opponent. His jab was creating openings for his left, which was scoring to the head and body. Cano was throwing a lot of leather but it was finding air. Cano was lunging in when throwing his shots, leaving him open to Maldonado’s counters. Atlas and Tessitore made no secret of the fact, that they loved the ring generalship of the Albuquerque fighter.
Early in the fourth round Atlas commented that Cano fans shouldn’t get discouraged because there were a lot of questions about the chin of Maldonado. Then Tessitore joined in with statistics about the number of times Maldonado’s chin had failed him. Within seconds of their comments Cano exploded a left right combination off the chin of Maldonado sending him to the canvas. Upon rising Maldonado was cut under the left eye and started walking to his corner, but the round was not over. But before Cano could follow up his advantage the bell rang. Although I couldn’t hear exactly what his father was saying to him between rounds, Maldonado senior was calm and reassuring in speaking to his son. Suddenly there was a fight taking place at Tostitos Championship plaza in Frisco, Texas as the bell sounded to start round five. But Cano failed to follow up his advantage, allowing Maldonado to score with left hands to the head and body off his right jab. Both Atlas and Tessitore talked about the weight of the Mexican boxer possibly draining his energy, as it was the lightest he had weighed in over five years. Regardless Maldonado was back in control; whereas the Maldonado of the past would have charged in recklessly throwing wild punches.
In rounds six, seven and eight Maldonado continued to set the pace with his lateral movement and surprising right jab. I spent a lot of time at Maldonado’s training camp and his father had predicted that his son’s jab would be a big factor in the fight. Cano was lunging in with his punches and not trying to establish his own jab. Adding to the enjoyment of the fight was our own screen side commentator Hector “The Hurricane” Munoz, who was pointing out the reasons for Maldonado’s success. Fifteen years of pro experience has made Munoz observant of the little things that can play a big role in a bout. Finally, Atlas pointed out that Maldonado might have a chin of questionable durability, but only if you can hit it. In the ninth round Cano was a little more aggressive and accurate with his punches and might have stolen the round. In the final round he did little more than follow Maldonado around the ring. In addition to scoring with clean lefts to the head and body off his jab in the tenth, Maldonado also showed excellent head movement which he had done throughout the fight. Then the official verdict was announced with two judges scoring the bout 97-93 Maldonado the winner. Having watched the fight on radio, the third arbitrator scored the match 96-93 Cano.
Speaking with Fidel Maldonado Sr. by phone the next day, he acknowledged several people who he felt deserved recognition for their contribution to the victory. “Manual Anaya is the best thing that we brought into our camp. That was the best thing I ever did for my son. He believes in the jab and he id’d it for me.” I asked Fidel about Brian Mendoza because the undefeated prospect is always in Fidel’s corner. Maldonado Sr. commented, “Brian’s another 0%)#@!% who helps us big time, he’s very observant in the corner. He’s obsessed with a fighter avoiding what he calls ‘lazy feet’.” Finally Fidel wanted to credit sparring partner Hector “The Hurricane” Munoz who pressured Fidel all through training camp. He forced Fidel to move constantly, there was no way Fidel could afford to stand in front of Munoz and survive.” Maldonado Sr. suddenly remembered one other person he wanted to recognize, Cristian Cabral. Cristian mimicked Cano’s style, which allowed my son to practice what we were trying to emphasize.” What I like about Fidel Maldonado Sr. is his willingness to listen to other people he respects. He has an ego, but he doesn’t let it paralyze his thinking.
This was a masterful performance by the “Atrisco Kid”, which should clearly move him up the food chain of boxing. A dangerous opponent he was often avoided, but that should change now that he has value. Boxing is all about “risk versus reward”, before Saturday night it was all risk and little reward for facing Maldonado. That equalization has changed, now the knock on Fidel’s door will be opportunity calling.