Boxing at Barclays: Jonathan Oquendo Eyes Title • Latino Sports

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Boxing at Barclays: Jonathan Oquendo Eyes Title

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New York, NY – Jonathan Oquendo walks into a room and on the streets of New York City this week he is hardly noticed. The 32-year old featherweight from Bayamon, Puerto Rico is in a division that is highlighted by exciting fighters but one that rarely gets the attention, and Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn he will be in the spotlight.

Finally. after an eleven year career, Oquendo gets to fight in New York City. And he is the co-featured bout on the anticipated Showtime televised WBA middleweight title clash between Danny Jacobs and Peter Quillin, the highlight bout that has also sparked plenty of interest.

As for Oquendo, the journey to get here has not been easy. But, in boxing patience has a virtue and now the time has come. The task, and it is a major one is taking the WBA Featherweight title away from Jesus Cuellar and becoming the next champion from Puerto Rico.

“I know he is a very strong fighter, but we are coming to win,” said Oquendo this week as he made his final preparations in his latest quest to get a title. “I’m happy to be here in New York with the Puerto Rican fan base behind me. I never thought I’d be fighting for a world title here in New York on the biggest stage.”

It is a big stage for Oquendo, (26-4, 16 Ko’s) as a majority of his fights have been held in Puerto Rico, Florida and Las Vegas. The New York City spotlight, especially for a fighter from Puerto Rico has proved to be a difference maker and one can reflect and see the success that the late Hector Camacho and Miguel Cotto had fighting at Madison Square Garden and smaller venues.

Cotto continued his success from the Garden to Brooklyn, at Barclays, and is the first four-time division champion from Puerto Rico.

He has won three of his last four fights. In between was a 12-round and unanimous decision loss to Abner Mares, a fight that may have been closer than what the final scores said. But the Mares loss, and subsequent majority and unanimous wins against Gabino Cota and to Jhonny Gonzalez in September, are what got Oquendo to this point.

In particular, the Gonzalez fight, he claims made him stronger. Oquendo went down in the first round and Gonzalez got nailed with a hook and hit the canvas in the next round. It became a memorable fight of the year and judges had it 98-90, 95-93 and one had it even.
Oquendo has the confidence. He knows, as any fighter does, that coming off a big win can spark the momentum and now the opportunity is there.He learned more after that last fight and got stronger.

“I have been training since after the fight with Jhonny Gonzalez,” he said. “I went to Mexico to visit the virgin of Guadalupe and that Monday I was training and for me it was excellent. My last victory gave me a lot more energy, a lot more hunger and I know on Saturday we’ll come through victorious.”

Cuellar, (27-1, 21 KO’s) has a streak of 10-straight wins. The 28-year old native of Buenos Aires, Argentina won the title outright with an 8th round knockout over Vic Darchinyan back in June. It is the knockout punch that has made Cuellar get to the top of a division that is far from mediocre.

“I’m coming here very prepared,” Cuellar said. “I know Oquendo is a tough fighter and we are not taking him lightly. We’re ready for a 12-round championship fight. We know there will be a lot of Puerto Ricans supporting him, but they won’t change anything. They can’t get in the ring.”

But styles make fights, and this should be a good one. And if Cuellar wants to go punch-for-punch with Oquendo, this fight could close the fight calendar as a fight of the year candidate.

“Cuellar is a very strong boxer who exerts a lot of pressure and we’re ready for that,” said Oquendo. “”We know of his record and the great success he’s had. He’s the current champion and will be until the 5th.”

He added, “I’ve always wanted to fight here in New York and I never thought that it would be for a world title. It doesn’t matter which way, whether it’s a KO or decision, on Saturday I’m going to win. I’m very relaxed. I believe I am going to win this fight. I want to follow in the footsteps of the other great world champions from Puerto Rico.”

And if Oquendo follows what Camacho and Cotto did in New York, indeed another title will be on the way to Puerto Rico….

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About Rich Mancuso

Established sports journalist and educator. Contact Rich at [email protected]

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