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Maldonado faces critical challenge on Friday

Fidel Maldonado Jr. will face fellow left-hander Ismael Barroso of Venezuela for the WBA Fedelatin super lightweight title on Friday in Indio, Calif. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal.)

Both in and out of the gym, Fidel Maldonado Jr. has done his homework.

The exam comes Friday night.

At the gym behind his home in southeast Albuquerque, Maldonado Jr. (24-3-1, 19 knockouts) has been preparing for his crucial fight Friday against Venezuela’s Ismael Barroso (19-1-2, 18 KOs) at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, Calif. The WBA Fedelatin super lightweight title will be at stake.

Away from the gym, Maldonado has done some research. In an interview this week, he noted that fellow New Mexican and fellow southpaw Austin Trout won the Fedelatin junior middleweight title in September 2009. Two fights and 17 months later, Trout won the WBA world title.

“Hopefully, I can do the same thing,” he said.

If Barroso represents a steppingstone, it’s a treacherous one. The 34-year-old Venezuelan is a former WBA interim lightweight champion. His only loss came in his last outing, a seventh-round knockout at the hands of England’s Anthony Crolla for the WBA title.

Barroso is aggressive, Maldonado said, and his knockout ratio says all that’s needed to be said about his power.

“He likes to pressure, but from a distance,” Maldonado said. “He likes to keep his distance and throw his left hand, so we’ve been working on that.”

Like Maldonado, Barroso is left-handed. Some southpaws, fighting predominantly right-handers, struggle with fellow unorthodox boxers.

Again, the homework has been done.

Fidel Maldonado Sr., his son’s manager and trainer, imported George Rincon, a southpaw and a former Golden Gloves national amateur champion from Carrollton, Texas, as a sparring partner.

“He (provided) really good work,” Maldonado Jr. said.

Maldonado holds a November 2013 victory over Luís Ramos Jr., another southpaw, and has sparred in the past with New Mexico left-handers Trout, Joaquin Zamora and Vincent Mirabal.

In June, Maldonado scored perhaps the most impressive victory of his career — a split-decision verdict over Pablo César Cano in Arlington, Texas. Against the hard-punching Cano, Maldonado survived a fourth-round knockdown and outboxed the Mexican fighter over 10 rounds.

It was a breakthrough for Maldonado, who sometimes in the past engaged in brawls and failed to use the boxing skills he’d been developing since he took up the sport more than a decade ago.

“My whole mindset has changed,” he said. “I’ve always had the skills. Now, my team has brought them out and made me use them, instead of fighting stupid.”

There has been some confusion about whether Friday’s fight is for the WBA Fedelatin title or the WBC Fecarbox belt Maldonado won against Cano.

Maldonado Sr. told the Journal by phone on Wednesday that the vacant Fedelatin belt is definitely at stake, but that he wants the bout to be a Fecarbox title defense as well — giving Maldonado Jr., with a victory, two possible paths toward a world title shot.

CONFIRMED: Featherweight MMA fighter Cub Swanson (25-7) will face Brian Ortega (12-0) in the main event of a UFC Fight Night card in Fresno, Calif., in Dec. 9, the UFC has confirmed. Swanson, who trains in Albuquerque at Jackson-Wink MMA, announced the fight on his Twitter feed Oct. 2.

Both fighters are from California — Swanson from Palm Springs, Ortega from Torrance.

IN THE WORKS: Albuquerque welterweight Tim Means (27-8) will face Chicago’s Belal Muhammad (12-2) on a UFC Fight Night card Nov. 18 in Sydney, Australia, according to multiple online sources. The UFC has not confirmed the matchup, but Means and Muhammad both have retweeted posts to that effect.



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