Cardona the new welterweight gatekeeper

HARTFORD (February 6, 2008) - Former world lightweight title challenger Israel 'Pito' Cardona has become a gatekeeper of the welterweight division since returning to the ring nearly two years ago after being retired 3 1/2-years. Hartford-native Cardona (36-8, 28 KOs), now 33, heads north of the border for a 10-round test in the main event Saturday night at the Montreal Casino against unbeaten prospect Antonio Decarie (17-0, 5 KOs), the 25-year-old former Canadian light welterweight champion..

'Pito' won his first 24 pro fights, 18 by knockout, including an IBO super featherweight winning performance against Jeff Mayweather and Cardona later defeated Steve Larrimore for the IBO light welterweight crown.

In 1997, 'Pito' stopped 'Mighty' Ivan Robinson (23-1) in the third round of their USBA lightweight title bout and three fights later, Robinson beat Arturo Gatti for the first of two times in their 1998 Ring Magazine Fight of the Year.

After his win against Robinson, Cardona extended his win streak to six, including four USBA title defenses against Sam Girard, Richard Kiley, Golden Johnson, which was also fought for the NABF belt, and Joel Perez. In his only major world title fight, though, Cardona lost a 12-round decision to undefeated Paul Spadafora (26-0) for the vacant IBF lightweight championship in 1999.

Cardona retired in mid-2002 at the age of 27, sporting a 34-6 record, due to his frustrations with boxing politics. He returned to the ring two years ago with a new manager, Bret Hallenbeck, and new trainer, John Scully. Cardona's first two comeback fights resulted in a pair of TKO victories before he became a gauge for young, talented welterweights to measure themselves. 'Pito' lost an eight-round decision to 13-1-1 Juan Maniel Buendia and was stopped in the third round of his last fight to 11-0 Mike Jones last November.

'I understand if people think of me as a gatekeeper,' Cardona said, 'but that's not what I am. I'm at the end of my career with maybe a couple of years left. Each fight is a must win for me; I can't afford to lose. I'm shooting for gold and I can't waste my time waiting around for a big fight to happen. I need to win a few in a row to get a big fight and that's why I'm willing to go
into this guy's backyard in order to get back to where I was.

'The stoppage in my last fight was ridiculous. I fought an undefeated kid (Jones) who was nothing. The ref didn't know me and stopped the fight before I ever got started. I was on my way to knocking him out. It was only a matter of time. I was sitting on the ropes like I usually do. I even threw a nasty hook but the ref stopped it and damaged my career. Now, I have this opportunity, and I have to go in and be an animal. I have to destroy him to make some noise in this division. This fight I will be the judge and referee. I want to shut a few mouths, too. It's all about getting bigger and better fights. I'm a veteran, so I don't mind going into his backyard. All of the pressure is on him. He's undefeated and fighting at home. I'm focused on him and have trained hard.'

Cardona works nights as a lieutenant for a Hartford-based security company, as well as a boxing trainer at LA Boxing in Hartford.

Article posted on 06.02.2008

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