February 22, 2002

Bojado: The 140-Pound Mike Tyson?

By Dave Hicks

No, there aren't any reports of "Panchito" causing a riot in Uncasville or mistaking any-one's ear for an appetizer. Sorry to disappoint, but Bojado didn't take a swing at somebody outside the ring following his first professional loss, or go on an expletive laden tirade that would make the producers of Goodfellas blush.

Bojando (R) mixes it up with Rubio.

Actually, Francisco Bojado was far from being like Maniac Mike while being interviewed after his upset loss to journeyman Juan Carlos Rubio. There were no excuses or accusations. No conspiracy theories or ridiculous reasons for the unexpected thrashing. Bojado might only be 18-years old, and still a "kid" in the boxing world, but he definitely took his first loss like a man.

"I learned a lot in this fight," a humbled Bojado said afterward. "I just want to wish him the best, I don't take anything away from him. He's a great fighter. I thought I was going to take him out early, but he's a strong fighter. I'm not going to make any excuses. He beat me and that's it. This is just a great learning experience for me."

Bojado's not the only person that learned something. The entire boxing world learned a lot about the rookie sensation that has had so much praise heaped upon him since he debuted last year.

Anyone that wondered about the heart of "Panchito" saw that when the veteran Rubio began to potshot him, and Bojado's mouth began to open from fatigue, he still dug down and fought hard enough to keep things interesting. He continued to come forward while Rubio was connecting with four and five-punch combinations. And for being hit solidly on the chin for the first time in his career, Bojado took the punches rather well.

The problems were also shown, though - gaps that need to be filled. Bojado's chin held up, but Rubio's just an average puncher with only 10 knockouts to his credit. He never quit applying pressure, but his mouth was wide open for the majority of the fight, making you wonder how much he got done on the mountain in Big Bear. The biggest criticism of the former Mexican Olympian coming into the fight was that he was too hittable, and seeing Rubio land at will strengthened the argument.

The prevalent discovery was the one that future opponents of Bojado had handed to them, free of charge: that it's okay to punch back. For the first time, Bojado had a fighter that didn't crumble after one big left hook and actually had the gall to dish out some punishment of his own.

And this is where the comparison makes a bit of sense. The fighters that Mike Tyson could never overcome were those that weren't afraid of him.

Buster Douglass believed that he could win, he may have been the only one, and he pulled off the biggest upset in boxing history. Evander Holyfield was a former heavyweight champion himself, and never gave Tyson an inch. He wasn't frightened by the reputations Tyson had earned, and eventually "The Real Deal" beat Tyson twice and pushed him to the brink of insanity (as some extra coverage: Lennox Lewis isn't scared of Tyson either, so you folks do the math).

Rubio, who is from the same hometown in Guadalajara as Bojado, kept his combinations going for the full 10 rounds. There were times that he felt the power of Bojado and his devastating left hook, but it never scared him away from coming in and mixing it up. In fact, it looked like "Panchito" was going to put the fight away in the seventh round when he rocked Rubio with power punches. But the veteran never lost his composure. He weathered the storm and came back to convincingly take the next two rounds.

He was constantly in front of Bojado, and "Panchito" didn't look comfortable. Rubio was just waiting for Francisco to leap in with a left hook so he could take the punch and connect with three or four of his own. And it's not like Rubio had trouble finding Bojado. It was almost like a pattern. Bojado would throw a power punch, duck down, and then try to pull straight back out of the way, only to catch the end of Rubio's straight right hands.

In short, Rubio was there to win, not just to make a quick payday and leave like someone else that fought a former Olympian that night. He didn't shy away because of the hype Bojado was receiving, and it paid off. Although, that's not to say Bojado didn't assist him a bit.

The weight that Bojado put on over his four-month layoff turned out to be a factor. How much weight was it? Nobody seems to know for sure, but some reports said that Bojado came back into camp as a middleweight. Bojado admitted to gaining the weight, but didn't feel that that it was a point for concern.

"I did gain a little weight, but I still have my same speed and strength," he said before the fight. Maybe he did, but one thing he didn't have was any endurance. Sure, it was great to see him go a full 10-rounds after never having gone past the third his entire career. But it would've been even more encouraging if he could have gone the distance without running out of gas.

After three rounds, the farthest he had been prior, Bojado's mouthpiece was ready to fall out his mouth. He was that drained. In between rounds he was hunched over the stool, gasping for air, ala another Shelly Finkel advised fighter.

All this after Bojado had praised the results of his Big Bear training camp with Roger Bloodworth. Either training wasn't as successful as he publicized, or, more likely, there just wasn't enough time for a single training camp to shed the 20 or 30 extra pounds he put on over the holidays.

Okay, so maybe the Tyson comparison is a bit overboard. "Panchito" shouldn't be crucified. He only lost one fight, as all other great fighters have. Plus, he's only 18-years old and has plenty of time for rematches and world titles. There's no doubt from this writer that Bojado still has the talent to become a great champion. But there are some obvious trouble areas that need to be taken care of, starting with defense, and I couldn't help but think of how Ricardo Williams, another 140-pound former Olympian, would have outclassed "Panchito" on Saturday.

The best news is, all these problems can be ironed out simply with time.

"I learned a lot in this fight. This loss is going to help me later on," Bojado has continued to repeat. Learning through defeat is a tough road to take, but the 18-year old is right once again - if he realizes where things went wrong. If Francisco works on the problems discovered Saturday and continues to mature as a fighter, a loss could be a pleasant jumpstart to urge him to even higher heights. If not, Rubio could become known as a trendsetter.

(Hicks is editor of Boxing.com)

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