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Maldonado goes for belt, then a rematch

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MMA fighters set April bouts

In the worst way, Albuquerque boxer Fidel Maldonado Jr. wants a rematch with Michael Perez.

That’s not likely to happen unless Maldonado performs in the best way against Jorge Romero on Saturday night in Cancún, Mexico.

Maldonado (14-2, 11 knockouts) is challenging Romero for something called the WBC Silver Latino lightweight title. The bout, scheduled for 12 rounds, will be televised in Spanish on Fox Deportes. The telecast is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.

Both Maldonado and his father-trainer-co-manager, Fidel Sr., say they’re not looking past Romero (24-4, 21 KOs) in their zeal to get another shot at Perez. The younger Maldonado lost to Perez (18-1-1, 10 KOs) by disputed split decision in August in a bout telecast on Showtime.

Still, Perez’s name keeps coming up.

“We’re gonna get the rematch,” Maldonado Sr. says. “It’s already in the making. We’ve got to get past this guy (Romero). We’re gonna fight for a belt, and we’re gonna defend that belt against Mike Perez.”

Maldonado has fought once since the Perez fight, engaging in a slow dance with an awkward, survival-minded stringbean named Trenton Titsworth in Albuquerque in October. Maldonado won by eight-round unanimous decision.

Before the Titsworth fight, he had lost two in a row — by TKO to Fernando Carcamo at Santa Ana Star Casino in April, and to Perez.

Against Carcamo, Maldonado was knocked down twice and suffered a broken jaw before the fight was stopped in the second round.

“I never felt rocked or anything,” he says. “I couldn’t close my mouth. I’d been hit a lot harder than that (before) and didn’t go down. … I guess it’s just part of the game.”

Part of the game, as well, are disputed decisions.

Against Perez, Maldonado was rocked in the fourth round and virtually written off by the Showtime broadcast crew.

The Albuquerquean then rallied in the late rounds and, with fewer than 20 seconds left in the 10th and final round, dropped Perez with a left to the body followed by shots to the head.

Perez got to his feet, beating the count, just before the final bell sounded. One official judge scored the fight for Maldonado, two for Perez.

“It was close, but I thought I was ahead,” Maldonado Jr. says. “… There’s nothing you can do but move on.”

In Romero, from Culiacán, Mexico, Maldonado is moving on to an opponent with a glossy record and an advantage in experience.

The Albuquerque southpaw is unimpressed.

“I’ve seen his record, who he’s fought and stuff,” Maldonado says. “Every time he steps up (in competition), he loses.

“I don’t care who he is, anyway. He’s just another opponent to me.”

If Maldonado has less than immense respect for Romero, he does understand the immensity of Saturday’s fight. Only 21, he nonetheless must reverse the effects on his career of the back-to-back losses to Carcamo and Perez.

“It’s a big fight,” he says. “So I’m hoping to go there, bring that belt back and get ready for whatever’s next.”

UFC: Featherweight MMA fighter Clay Guida (30-13), who trains at Albuquerque’s Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA, is scheduled to face Chad Mendes (13-1) on a UFC card April 20. The card is scheduled to be telecast on Fox from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.

Brazilian featherweight Diego Brandao (15-8), who also trains at Jackson-Winkeljohn, tweeted that he’ll face Pablo Garza (12-3) on April 6 on a UFC card in Stockholm. That card will be telecast on Fuel TV.

INVICTA: Albuquerque MMA fighter Michelle Waterson (10-3) is scheduled to challenge Californian Jessica Penne (10-1) on April 5 in Kansas City for Penne’s Invicta FC atomweight (105-pound) title.

Invicta is an all-female MMA circuit, founded last year.

Albuquerque’s Jodie Esquibel (3-0), also 105 pounds, is scheduled to face Australian Alex Chambers (4-1) on the undercard.

WORTH NOTING: Five-time world boxing champion Johnny Tapia, who died from heart disease in May, would have been 46 on Wednesday.

The Albuquerquean fought once on his birthday during his long career. On Feb. 13, 1998, in front of a state-record crowd of 13,200 that paid a state-record gate of $240,300, he scored a lopsided decision over Colombia’s Rodolfo Blanco at the Pit.

It was Tapia’s first home appearance after his July 1997 victory over fellow Albuquerquean Danny Romero in Las Vegas, Nev.
— This article appeared on page D6 of the Albuquerque Journal

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