On Tuesday, Dominique Yanni, Albuquerque boxer Fidel Maldonado Jr.’s wife, gave birth to the couple’s third child: Myla Lynn Maldonado.
Meanwhile, Myla Lynn’s father was in Las Vegas, Nev., preparing for a potentially career-altering fight Saturday night on Showtime against unbeaten prospect Amir Imam.
“I had to miss (Myla Lynn’s birth),” Maldonado said. “So this guy (Imam) is gonna pay for that.”
The oddsmakers don’t see it that way. The Albuquerque southpaw is listed as a 5-1 underdog against Imam (15-0, 13 knockouts), promoter Don King’s latest prodigy. The vacant WBC Continental Americas 140-pound title will be at stake.
The Imam camp is discounting chances of an upset.
“He’s not strong enough for Amir, and Amir will walk straight through him,” Stacy McKinley, Imam’s head trainer, told boxingscene.com.
At a Thursday news conference, Amir was far more direct.
“You don’t know what you got yourself into,” he said, addressing Maldonado. “I see you’re scared on your face. You’re going down.”
Maldonado said he loves hearing such things.
“He’s underestimating me,” Maldonado (19-2, one no contest, 16 KOs) said of Imam. “He’s never fought anyone like me.”
In Imam, Maldonado is facing a tall junior welterweight (5-foot-11; Maldonado is 5-8) with advanced boxing skills. He believes sparring sessions with Rio Rancho junior middleweight Brian Mendoza, Maldonado’s Atrisco Boxing teammate and a bigger man than Imam, have prepared him well.
“Brian’s been mimicking (Imam’s) style,” Maldonado said. “And Brian can actually hit, so I’m used to his power. Unless this guy has something I’ve never seen before, which I really doubt, I’m gonna be ready.”
Fidel Maldonado Sr., his son’s trainer and co-manager, remembers Imam from the amateur ranks and has closely followed the young New York fighter’s progress as a pro. He believes Imam has been protected by his promoter as he piled up victories against mostly nondescript opponents.
“He hasn’t fought anybody,” the elder Maldonado said. “… He’s in trouble Saturday night.”
Maldonado Jr., in contrast, has been the underdog before.
Two consecutive losses, suffered four months apart in 2012, seemingly dropped Maldonado in the esteem of his promotional company, Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. He’s had to fight his way back.
Golden Boy sent Maldonado to Mexico, where he knocked out Jorge Romero (then 24-4) and Abraham Alvarez (16-3-1) in 2013.
In December of that year in San Antonio, Texas, Maldonado scored an upset victory by seventh-round TKO over Luis Ramos Jr. (23-1).
“He’s had a couple of fights he wasn’t supposed to win,” said Cameron Dunkin, a former Albuquerque resident who co-manages Maldonado with the fighter’s father. “He just keeps winning.”
If Maldonado can continue that trend Saturday, Dunkin said, it certainly will help advance the South Valley fighter’s career.
“Whenever you beat anybody that’s undefeated and is somebody that (promoters) are pushing and the boxing world perceives can fight a little bit, like Imam, it’s good,” Dunkin said. “Winning’s always good.”
Yet, Dunkin, who manages several world champions, isn’t sure a victory Saturday will elevate Maldonado past “opponent” status.
“He’s got two losses,” Dunkin said of Maldonado, “so he’s got to knock someone (at a higher level) off.”
Saturday’s stage will be the biggest on which Maldonado has performed. He and Imam are scheduled to lead off the Showtime telecast, headlined by a WBC title fight between heavyweights Bermane Stiverne (24-1-1, 21 KOs) and Deontay Wilder (32-0, 32 KOs).
Maldonado said he’s not concerned about anything other than winning Saturday and getting home to his newborn daughter Sunday.
“I’m just focused on this fight right now,” he said. “After this fight, I just want to get back home to my baby.”