Ortiz And Barrera Seeking Cuban Boxing History • Latino Sports


Ortiz And Barrera Seeking Cuban Boxing History


Credit: Rich Mancuso

New York, NY – There is this unprecedented duo boxing night in New York City Saturday night with HBO and Showtime televising cards at the same time.

Across the river championships will be contested in the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions at Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. For boxing the unusual is expected and more so what is at stake that night.

And this could be an evening of boxing history when it pertains to the Latino champion in both divisions with two fighters from Cuba getting an opportunity at major titles in the sport. Sullivan Barrera will attempt history in his 12-round bout against Dmitry Bivol for the WBA light heavyweight title at the Garden and if timing is right fans can tune in and view Luis “The Real King Kong” Ortiz and his quest to take the WBC heavyweight title from Deontay Wilder at the Barclays Center.

There is this theory that history could occur and more reason for Ortiz, a 42-year old veteran who has been on this quest with his chronicled use of performance enhancing drugs. Ortiz and Wilder have been going neck-and-neck about the controversy and with the WBC enforcing strict anti drug policies they have declared that Ortiz is clean and clear to fight.

“We believe in duo process,” said WBC President Jose Sulaiman referring to Ortiz and assuring that everything is right for Saturday night in this long awaited heavyweight title fight.

Not an issue for Barrera who makes his second straight appearance at the Garden Theatre. He got his shot at Bivol after a unanimous decision over Felix Valera in November. The headline fight on the Main Events promotion contests another part of the light heavyweight title with Sergey Kovalev defending his WBO light heavyweight title against fellow Russian Igor Mikhalkin.

But that center of attention and more so with Latino boxing history will revolve around Barrera and Ortiz in venues a few miles apart across the East River.

“It’s a big day for me and Ortiz,” Barrera said Wednesday afternoon. “I support him and wish him the best. My opportunity if first will be to fight Kovalev.” And if Barrera does the job making more history he quickly becomes a player in attempts to unify the titles in one of the hottest divisions in the sport.

Ortiz has a chance to become the first Latino or Hispanic heavyweight world champion born outside of the U.S. and just the second heavyweight of Latino or Hispanic descent to capture the heavyweight world title. The first was Massachusetts’ John Ruiz, whose parents were Puerto Rican and who defeated Evander Holyfield for the WBA Heavyweight World Championship in March 2001.

Credit: Showtime

“This fight is not only important for my family, but for Cuban boxing history,” said the undefeated Ortiz with a 28-0 record and 24 KO’s.”My only focus right now is on the strategy I will need to defeat Wilder, but I know this fight has a lot of significance. I’m going to make history for myself and my country when I knock out Wilder on March 3. This is my opportunity.”

Ortiz is a technical fighter and Wilder also a knockout artist said,” This is what boxing is all about in fighting the best.” He and Ortiz are also a part of the new faces in the heavyweight division and Widler has been outspoken in his quest to unify the titles the last two years.

Cuba has had three previous fighters vie for the heavyweight title, with Jorge Luis Gonzalez losing to Riddick Bowe in 1995 and Vitali Klitschko defeating both Juan Carlos Gomez in 2009 Odlanier Solis in 2011. Ortiz hopes to stake his claim to the upper echelon of Cuban heavyweight lore along with heavyweight Teofilo Stevenson, who won three Olympic gold medals and is considered the greatest Cuban fighter of all time, despite never fighting professionally.

The strong boxing tradition of Cuba has continued to this day, with Ortiz looking to become the 18th world titlist from the country. Prominent active Cuban fighters include WBA 154-pound champion Erislandy Lara, who fights Jarrett Hurd in a unification showdown April 7 on SHOWTIME, and two-division world champion Rances Barthelemy, who looks to become the first three-division champion in Cuban history March 10 on SHOWTIME.

Take your choice, record one or the other. Either way champions will be crowned and Cuba could be on the verge of boxing history.

GALARZA IN THE MIX: On the undercard at the Garden Super Welterweight Frank Galazara, the 32-year old from Puerto Rico and residing in the East New York area of Brooklyn, continues his quest to make a statement after a long layoff and now content with his promoters at Main Events. Because of promotional and managerial issues, Galarza was inactive for 14 months.

But on that same Garden Theatre card last November, Galazara, a fan favorite type of fighter, returned and won a tough eight-round decision over Jaime Rivera in his first fight with Main Events.

“The progression it’s been a little slow,” he said Wednesday. “Coming off the those promotional and managerial problems. The layoff slowed me up a bit. Some of those guys have the same record as me and have had a shot,” he said about the hopeful rise over opponents in his weight class.

But it is all about focus now for Galarza who thinks about boxing all the time. In between the training, he is a personal trainer at the same boxing gym where he trains in the vicinity of Red Hook. Saturday night on the undercard, 18-2-2 Galarza opposes 23-10 Norberto Gonzalez.

Regarding his second consecutive fight at the Garden, he said “On the same card with premiere light heavyweights, a kid from Brooklyn I can make Madison Square Garden my home. I fought here for the Golden Gloves. This is the mecca where all the greats fought here , a place I can call home.”

Main Events has established a good relationship with the Garden and there is every possibility that Galarza has a new home to fight before the hometown fans. And, he said, age is not on his side in that quest for a major title but loves the sport in search of that quest.

“I prefer the challenge,” said Galarza. “The key goal is to become world champion. I love the sport, the desire, the passion…. Maybe not this year but hoping to be more active. In another three months fight again maybe three fights this year.”

About Rich Mancuso

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

Recommended for you