July 11, 2003

“El Matador” Fights To KO Poverty

By Fiona Manning

WBC/WBA champion Ricardo “El Matador” Mayorga wants the world to know he has no intention of giving up either of his coveted crowns on Saturday night when he once again faces Vernon Forrest, the man he defeated in the biggest upset of the year in January.

“I will be victorious,” said Mayorga, who is 24-3-1, 1 NC, 22 KOs, pictured here working the mitts with trainer Hector Perez Monday at The Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

“This fight means my family’s ticket out of poverty and I will not let Vernon Forrest think he can take that away from me,” said the chiseled champ, who looks more than ready for the rematch billed “The Battle Of The Orleans.”

WBC/WBA Welterweight Champion Ricardo “El Matador” Mayorga(L) hits the mitts with trainer Hector Perez for his upcoming rematch against Vernon “The Viper” Forrest on Saturday, July 12 at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas. --- Photo: Roger Williams/CF Images.

The Nicaraguan-born Mayorga shocked the boxing world by demolishing Forrest, last year’s darling in three rounds at Pechanga Casino in California.

Mayorga, considered a journeyman by many, managed to get inside Forrest’s head long before the two even touched gloves.

While Forrest – who was the WBC champ at the time – was demanding bigger and better rings and limos, Mayorga quietly and furiously trained and then turned up for the weigh-in munching a slice of dripping, cheesy pizza on the scales.

The Don King-promoted fighter has won the heart of the scrappy promoter who loves Mayorga’s audaciousness.

It’s not the first time Mayorga has dazzled with his pre-fight bluster only to take apart his opponent.

When he fought WBA champ Andrew “Six Heads” Lewis for the first time last April, Mayorga hammered and hurt Lewis until an accidental headbutt resulted in a no-contest.

For their rematch, Mayorga munched an apple on the scales and happily took Lewis’ crown in a one-sided fifth round KO.

Some considered this victory an easy one since Lewis was considered shot.

But pizza! pizza delighted the boxing press because Mayorga was showing the world he didn’t need to “dry out” to make weight, unlike Forrest.

Opinion is divided on who will win the rematch. Mayorga is keeping ‘mum’ about what he plans to eat on the scales on Friday afternoon but promises he will stand and deliver.

“It does not bother me that I am not the favorite,” Mayorga said. “I respect their opinion, but I have to laugh at the oddsmakers, who think the last fight with Forrest was a fluke.

“The people that mean most to me are my family, Don King and my friends. It does not matter which way Forrest decides to fight, he is going to get knocked out again. The way I see it, he is the racehorse and I am the jockey, and I will be the one who dictates the pace.

“As long as he gets in the ring, I will knock him out. I am very sure he is scared, and knows what is going to happen. Poverty and hunger are what made me what I am today, and I still have a lot to do to help my family economically.’’

Mayorga is as defiant and confident as ever in defending against former WBC 147-pound champion Vernon “The Viper” Forrest in one of three world title fights at The Orleans’ spanky new Fight Ballroom.

In the other championship fights, WBO 140-pound titleholder DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley defends against former IBF junior welterweight champion Zab “Super” Judah and WBA super welterweight champion Vivian Harris defends against unbeaten No. 1 contender and mandatory challenger, Souleymane “The Sensation” M’Baye.

The eagerly anticipated eight-bout fight card, which is promoted by Don King Productions, in association with Main Events, Inc., will also include two world title elimination bouts — IBF No. 3 contender Pete Frissina faces No. 5 Jesus Perez in an IBF bantamweight eliminator and former WBA light heavyweight champion and current WBA No. 2 contender, Lou Del Valle, will battle No. 5 Manuel Siaca in a WBA light heavyweight eliminator.

Mayorga who used his purse winnings from the Forrest victory to relocate his family to Costa Rica, is a fascinating study in contrasts.

As angry and emboldened as he is as a fighter, as a person and a businessman, he is easy going and charming.

“I love this little guy,” said King who identifies with the fighter’s pluck and courage – not to mention his hard-scrabble beginnings. He also seems genuinely flattered and flustered that Mayorga remains grateful.

Forrest, who clearly let fame and fortune go to his head, will have an uphill battle against the combined forces of King and Mayorga.

Mayorga, who openly adores King, defers to him on everything. “Easiest guy I ever worked with,” said King who feels that Mayorga, as the poverty-stricken underdog who seems hardly able to believe his own good fortune, remains thrilled with whatever monies King gives him.

“Most world champions think in terms of right now,” said King. “They want it all now. Ricardo wants longevity and he wants long-term comfort for his family. He is willing to wait and he is willing to work. That just makes me want to fight harder to get the big purses for him.”

Mayorga doesn’t feel that Forrest respects him and therefore is asking for another beating. “He keeps saying it was a quick stoppage. He was crumpled in the ropes! If it was not for the ropes, he would have been face-down on the canvas. I have watched the tape a hundred times and I know when a man is knocked out and he was o-u-t.”

He does however feel respect for and from WBO welterweight champion Antonio “El 7 Mares” Margarito. The two men met at Pechanga Casino when Mayorga defeated Forrest.

Margarito, based in Tijuana, embraced him and said he looks forward to their fight. “It was no fluke that he beat Forrest,” said Margarito. “This man is a champion.”

Mayorga vs Margarito is the battle most fans are looking forward to – and which should provide big paydays for both men.

“The ratings will go through the roof for that one,” said King, chomping on his cigar. Margarito will be ringside Saturday night and is rooting for Mayorga to win. Margarito who stopped Lewis in two rounds in February, said he respects the fact that Mayorga is giving Forrest a chance to fight for the titles again.

“I understand that he feels Forrest took a risk giving him the opportunity to fight for the championship and he wants to return the favor,” said Margarito. “But I still think Ricardo will beat him again. In fact, I don’t see how Forrest can win. Ricardo looks very polished, very relaxed. I hope Vernon has good insurance.”

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