Pablo Cesar Cano vs. Francisco Contreras on February 18th; In depth with Bradley Saunders

LOS ANGELES, February 7 - In 2011, Pablo Cesar Cano made the leap from prospect to contender, capping off his year with a stellar effort in a late notice world title fight against the legendary Erik "El Terrible" Morales. Now gearing up for a title run at 135 pounds, the Tlanepantla product will make his first start of 2012 on Saturday, February 18 in the Televisa "Sabados De Corona" main event against once beaten Francisco Contreras from The Grand Oasis Cancun in Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

In the co-main event, former World Champion Gilberto Keb Baas meets Mario Rodriguez in an all-Mexico showdown scheduled for 10 rounds in the light flyweight division.

Cano vs. Contreras, which is presented by Golden Boy Promotions and Pepe Gomez Promotor Deportivo and sponsored by Corona, Periodico QueQui, The Grand Oasis Cancun, Quintana Roo Tourism and Cancun Tourism, will take place at The Grand Oasis Cancun in Cancun, Mexico. The Televisa broadcast will air on Canal 5 and begins at 10:30 p.m. CT. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. CT and the first fight begins at 7:00 p.m. CT.

Tickets priced at 100 pesos, 500 pesos, 1000 pesos, 1500 pesos are available for purchase at Hooters Z.H., Farmacia Paris Centro de Cancun and The Grand Oasis Cancun.

22-year old Pablo Cesar Cano (22-1-1, 17 KO's) has made his mark in his native Mexico over the last few years as one of the country's top young talents, as his wins over Pablo Lugo, Jorge Romero and Oscar Leon have proven. So when he stepped in on short notice last September to battle future Hall of Famer Morales, he may have been unknown to casual fans, but not to the diehard followers of the sport. On that night in Las Vegas, Cano gave a stellar effort before being stopped due to cuts after the 10th round. Now firmly on the boxing world's radar, Cano returns this February to begin his assault on the lightweight elite.

Santo Domingo's Francisco Contreras (16-1, 13 KO's) tore out to a 16-0 start to his professional career before losing an NABO Lightweight title bout to fellow unbeaten Sharif Bogere last October. As far as the 27-year-old is concerned, that was only a minor setback and he's ready to get back in the win column against the highly touted Cano. A crushing puncher who has knocked out 12 opponents in two rounds or less, Contreras will welcome Cano back to the ring the only way he knows how, with an all-out attack designed to end the fight as soon as possible.

A 16-year veteran of the sport who has excelled in the strawweight, light flyweight, and flyweight divisions, Merida's Gilberto Keb Baas (35-21-4, 22 KO's) finally struck gold in 2010 when he dropped Omar Nino Romero twice en route to a 12 round decision win that earned him the WBC Light Flyweight World Title. After defending the crown with a ninth round technical knockout win over Jose Antonio Aguirre, Baas lost the title to Adrian Hernandez last April, but on February 18, he's back and ready to return to the championship race.

Guasave's Mario "Dragoncito" Rodriguez (12-6-4, 8 KO's) is a 23-year old who has gone 2-0-1 since losing a tough 12 round decision to Donnie Nietes in a fight for the WBO World Title, including winning the NABF minimumweight title against unbeaten Manuel Jimenez. In his most recent bout, Rodriguez knocked out Karluis Diaz in a single round to defend his belt. He will look to keep his unbeaten streak going against the former World Champion Keb Baas.

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2008 Olympian Bradley Saunders makes his long awaited professional this Friday night on the undercard of Kevin Mitchellís London return at the York Hall.

The 26-year-old light-welterweight from Stokton-on-Tees goes straight into a six-round contest against Jason Nesbitt.

Coverage will start at 8pm live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 456/Virgin Ch. 546).

Name: Bradley Saunders

Born: Stockton-on-Tees

Age: Just turned 26

Family background: Iím the oldest of four brothers. Our Jeff has won four national junior titles and the 12 year old has just kicked off (his amateur career). I live in Sedgefield which is íbang oní with my five year old lad, Leyton. Heís already flying on the pads. Loves it.

Trade: Since the age of 14, Iíve been on grants from Sport England and for the last few years Iíve been on maximum money.

Nickname: Iíve never had one. Weíll have to wait and see.

What age did you become interested in boxing and why? My dad had boxed but I didnít see a lot of him when I was a kid. At the age of seven, my mum took me to the Spennymoor (ABC) gym. I packed up at nine but, a year later, seeing the potential I had, the coaches rang me and suggested I go back.

What do you recall of your amateur career? I had my first amateur fight at 10 and stayed at Spennymoor under (coach) Gary Hodgson until me Dad opened the South Durham club when I was 14.Shortly after, I was away with GB most weekends.

I really have to thank (national coach) Terry Edwards for getting me where I am today. After that I was trained by Kelvin Travis, then Rob McCracken and the current set up. I saw them all come and go. I was there longer than any of them.

All told, I had 183 amateur contests and only lost about 20. I won a straight flush of four national schoolboy titles, two junior ABA titles and two National Boys Clubs titles. In the third NABCs I got narrowly touched off by Amir Khan.

I also won the senior ABAs in 2007 and probably had the hardest route ever, all international lads. I beat Martin Stead, the late Gary Barker in the semis then Nathan Brough, a World Junior medallist, in the final. I was underdog but trounced him something like 24-7. That was the only year the national selectors allowed me to enter and I found that disheartening. Thereís nothing better than winning national titles. They did let me have a crack at the British box-offs last year and I beat Scott Cardle in the semis then knocked the Scottish out the Scottish lad in the final.

Iíd say at least 100 of those amateur fights were in an England vest. I first boxed for my country as a !2 year old schoolboy against Russia and I medalled at pretty much every tournament I went to except the 2008 Olympics and the European Championships when I got cut. I won a bronze at the 2007 World Seniors in Chicago, silver at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and two European Union gold medals. Obviously, I went to the Beijing Olympics (where he was eliminated in the second series by Franceís Alexis Vastine, whom heíd previously beaten comfortably).

However, for me, the highlights would be my victories over two Olympic champions, Thailandís Boomjumnong in the Presidents Cup and Russiaís Alex Tischenko at a multi-nations in Croatia. Boxing for England became like a walk to the shops to me. Sometimes, boxing the same lad for the third or fourth time, Iíd get bored. However, for those Olympic champions, I was right on it.

Amateur boxing took me around the globe on more than one occasion. One year alone I visited over 20 countries! If I had to stop boxing tomorrow, no one could ever take away what I done in the amateurs. Iím extremely proud of what I achieved.

Why did you decide to turn pro when you did? If Iíd turned after Beijing (2008), Iíd not have had the right mindset and thereíd have been too many late nights. Also, at that time, Iíd never been the Commonwealth Games or Europeans and wanted those experiences. Since the Olympics Iíve boxed all the best lads in the world and beaten most of them. Iím glad I stayed on.

I made some brilliant friendships on the national squad with the Olympians and, later, lads like Simon Vallily, Tom Stalker, Luke Campbell and Iain Weaver. However, in the end, after so many years, I started to get bored with it. I was going out with the lads because it was all so easy. When my little boy arrived, I really missed being away from him and it started to go downhill a bit.

I had an injury which prevented me from going the first Olympic qualifier. Tom Stalker qualified so that was the end of my London 2012 ambitions. Since deciding to turn, Iím enjoying it a lot more. I donít leave my house other than for training. The pros is my time to shine!

Tell us about your back up team: Iím managed by Frank Warren and promoted by Frank Warren Promotions. For me, heís the best in the business; the man to get me where I want to be.

Iíll be coached by Graham Rutherford and my dad (Jeff). Since the age of 14, Iíve worked with some of the best coaches in the world, including the Russians and Kazakhs but Grahamís as good as any of them. Heís developed 68 national junior champions at the Birtley Boys club. He really does his homework and weíre on the same wave length. Heís no soft touch, mind. Heís warned me that the moment I donít give him 100% heíll be leaving. I respect that.

I also work with Eddie Ellwood, a five time Mr Universe and once Britainís Strongest Man. He sorts out my strength and conditioning and my nutrition. Iíve never made weight so easily or felt so strong.

Whatís your training schedule? Which parts do you most and least enjoy? Iíll have been in the gym for six weeks for my debut, starting on New Years Day. I train Monday to Saturday from 9.30a.m until noon, then work with Eddie on Tuesday and Friday evenings, doing all my weights and strength stuff. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday I do my runs.

With Graham, I warm up, do a round on the bag, skip, do eight (rounds) on the pads at a real high tempo then, after a 10minute rest, weíll focus for an hour purely on technique; just touching the pads but getting feet, distance and position right.

After that, Iíll do a six round circuit, lifting weights, flipping tyres, then smashing Ďem with the hammer. The circuit will also include shuttle sprints. Graham mixes it up every day because he reckons Iíve got a real short attention span. Saturday, I do my sparring with all the lads at the gym, from the very smallest to the very biggest.

I most enjoy sparring and I could stay in the ring forever. I know it sounds wrong but I just love hitting people! I least enjoy running, particularly when Iím coming back after a break.

Describe your style? What are your best qualities? Iím a pressure counter puncher who can whack. Iíve been stopping Ďem consistently since I was a kid. At almost every tournament I went to, I stopped at least one opponent.

What specifically do you need to work on to fully optimise your potential as a fighter? Probably my mindset. Sometimes I think too much, analyse every combination before I throw it when I should just let it all flow out naturally.

What have you found to be the biggest difference between the pro and amateur codes? For a start, having been booed all around the world, itíll be nice to fight in front of a few supporters. Iíll be bringing around 200 down for my debut. Though I boxed the very best amateurs in the world over the last five years, Iím expecting the pros to be a lot tougher. They say the pace will be slower but, right now, Iím as a fit as Iíve ever been and donít intend slowing too much.

Who is the best opponent that youíve shared a ring with? Iím not sure about the best but the toughest was Phil Sutcliffe from Ireland in one of my European Union finals. There was a bit of friction between us beforehand so boxing just went out of the window and we had a bit of Ďrough and ready.í I beat him 8-1 but Phil could really, really whack and I ached from head to toe for days after.

All time favourite fighter: Probably Sugar Ray Leonard but I really like Manny Pacquaio, not just as a fighter but also as a person. He conducts himself very well.

All time favourite fight: Morales-Barrera I

Which current match would you most like to see made? Amir Khan v Kell Brook. Kellís a good friend of mine and heís very gifted. I fancy him over Khan. I just donít think Amir could stay out of Kellís way for 12 rounds and heíd end up walking onto a big one.

What is your routine on fight day? Iím up and out of bed from the moment I open my eyes. Iíll go for a little walkabout then have something like porridge and a bit of honey for breakfast. Iíll have a sleep between two and five in the afternoon then its time to get my Ďfight headí on. At the venue, I always have to go out and visualise the ring, then go through the fight in my head. In the changing room, Iím pretty chilled now. I used to hate my opponents with all my heart but then Iíd not box at my best.

Entrance music: Not decided yet. Any suggestions?!

What are your ambitions as a boxer? Iíve set no time scales but, given my amateur breeding, I intend getting to world level as quickly as I can. Iíd certainly expect to be fighting for British titles within two years. At light-welter in Britain thereís not much about at the minute. Adil Anwar from Leeds could prove my stiffest rival. I rate him very highly.

How do you relax? I like to go out shooting with my lurcher dogs.

Football team: Iím not really interested. My family are all mixed between Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough and my little lad already has a season ticket at Sunderland but I stay out of it.

Read: Just the Boxing News. Now Iíve more time and Iím more relaxed, I might read a few boxersí autobiographies.

Music: I listen to anything and everything. I like retro, funky, house, baseline...

Films/TV: I like thrillers and horrors, anything scary. For TV, I find X Factor funny and always watch BoxNation.

Aspiration in life: To become a household name and achieve nice things for me and my lad.

Motto: ĎQue sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.í No point worrying!

BoxNation is the first dedicated subscription boxing TV channel in the UK to bring together the biggest names in amateur, domestic and international boxing with an unbeatable schedule of matches from across the globe.

For just £10 per month BoxNation offers unbeatable value for money for all fight fans. To subscribe to BoxNation simply go to and hit the ďSubscribe NowĒ button and choose your subscription package. Simple!

Article posted on 08.02.2012

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