By Austin Killeen
On Friday night Showtime will broadcast a fight card live from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, in Las Vegas, Nevada. It has been a long standing tradition in boxing that the house fighters are on the left side of a fight poster. So if you’re looking for Han’s name, you better role your eyes to the right. Make no mistake about it, J’Leon Love (23-1-0, 13 KO’s) is the house fighter. The powers to be, hope Abie Han (26-3-0, 16) puts on a game effort before finding a way to lose. Han hasn’t had a meaningful fight in two years, unless you believe a one round TKO win in March of this year meets the definition of a meaningful win. The El Paso boxer has no illusions about why he’s being flown into the “Sin City”, but plans to write his own ending to this screenplay.
At the start of our interview I asked Abie how he felt about Friday night and he was quick to respond. “I’m looking forward to fighting on TV; these only come few and far between for most fighters. So being able to fight on television in front of the public is a great opportunity and I’m fortunate to have the exposure.” This isn’t the first big fight in Han’s career, so I asked him if he’s more relaxed now. “It comes with experience, the more you fight the more you’re able to stay within yourself. Your able to execute your game plan the way you want to instead of letting the nerves get to you, let the crowd get to you and force you to make mistakes.” I asked Abie about facing Love who is obviously the house fighter. “I know I’m the B side in this fight, but I’m looking forward to scoring a big upset. I’m going to shake things up, because I’m not going in there to lose.”
I raised the subject of J’Leon Love being the victim of video taken of him sparring. His opponent was doing very well and the video was put up on YouTube. Clearly the video made his opponent look sharp at Love’s expense. This brought a quick response on the part of Han. “If you’re working with someone else who’s not from your team, your there to help each other get better. For someone to do that, to me that’s very disrespectful. To me at the end of the day it’s sparring. When you get into the ring it’s a totally different ballgame. I see some people who are great in the gym, but when they get in the ring where it counts they can’t perform.” With video cameras getting smaller every day, incidents like J’Leon Love suffered will probably occur much more often.
I asked Abie if he saw Love’s last fight against Dashon Johnson. Johnson was giving Love a very competitive fight, when he walked into a counter right hand and hit the canvas in the sixth round. Johnson beat the count and looked to be ok, but referee Jay Nady jumped in and stopped the contest. Abie responded “The referee’s job is to protect the fighter and in Nady’s opinion that’s what he did. Nobody wants to see a fighter suffer brain damage ten to twenty years down the road. Johnson appeared to be in pretty good shape and wanted to continue. A referee has to make a quick decision; it’s not an easy job.”
The previous week I saw Han spar ten hard rounds with undefeated Brian Mendoza (15-0-0, 10 KO’s). Both boxers threw some heavy leather, but at no time did they try to take advantage of each other. When they did connect with some powerful shots, instead of following up each fighter would back away. Abie was very gracious, complimenting Mendoza. “I have a little more experience in terms of ring generalship, but he’s a great fighter who could one day challenge at the world level.” Looking over Han’s record, he has some nice wins over boxers with good credentials. So I asked him if there was one particular fight where he realized he could be successful as a pro. His answer surprised me. “No particular fight stands out. If I look too much into a fighter’s career I might think ‘O my god this guys good.’ If I just treat my next opponent as the next person I’m fighting, I just focus on that. I try not to get caught up in who they beat. Everybody is their own fighter and that night that’s the person I’m fighting. It’s like a chess match, I’ve got to put my pieces where I need to place them. If he takes away my jab, what am I going to do? If he has a great right hand am I going to get around it, can I find an opening.
Han has been fighting pro for ten years so the clocks ticking. He was very honest in his response. “Every time I’ve gone to the big time I’ve come up short. I lost to Glen Tapia and Sergio Mora, but I can’t dwell on the past, if one thing went this way or that way I’d be fighting for a world title and making a lot of money, but the outcomes just didn’t come my way. All I can do is learn from my mistakes and try to get better. As time goes on all those fights and all those experiences, those heartbreaks will come to fruition and pay dividends, giving me a chance to fight for a world title. I can’t look back, it is what it is and all I can do is learn from it and get better.”
I asked Abie what it is like training in the same gym with Austin Trout. “It’s a big plus for me because he’s a world champion and he’s such a great person both inside and outside the ring. He’s a very humble person who always thinks about other people before himself. He’s not afraid to help me if he sees something that I need to work on. I’m very fortunate to have him as part of our team; I wouldn’t be as good as I am now without him. When the bell rings on Friday night Han will be facing a bigger man in J’ Leon Love. Love fights around 168 pounds where as Abie is a natural middleweight who usually comes in below 160 pounds. Love throws an accurate left jab and is an excellent counter puncher. As for power both boxers can hurt you with either hand. Both men are well grounded in the basics; they know how to cut off the ring, are skilled boxers and have solid chins. Abie has a great relationship with his trainer Louie Burke; it’s as if they know what each other is thinking. I don’t know anything about Love’s corner men. This will be a difficult bout for Abie Han, but Han and Burke are well aware of the challenges awaiting them on Friday night. This shapes up as a very entertaining match between experienced boxers. I expect that the bout should go the distance, with the winner being the boxer who executes his game plan while making the fewer mistakes. Obviously I’ll be rooting for fighter from the “Sun City.” GO TEAM HAN!!