Another Cuban Bursts Onto Professional Scene: Izquierdo Looking to Follow Legendary Steps of Mantequilla Napoles

04.01.07 - By Ricardo Lois, Cuba's amateur boxing program is one of the best, if not the best. Unfortunately, for boxer's leaving Cuba's socialist regime via defection to Europe, Latin America, and the United States, success has been as scarce as read meat in their Caribbean homeland. More on the red meat later…In recent times, the only Cubans to command the respect of the professional boxing world have been Joel Casamayor and to a lesser degree Juan Carlos Gomez. Jose Antonio Izquierdo now enters the stage..

Friday Night, on Showtime's Shobox series, Izquierdo will clash with fellow lightweight hopeful Nick Casal. Both men are promoted by Gary Shaw Productions, and Shaw informed Boxing Confidential last week that the winner can expect to find himself in a Showbox main event in the coming months.

With a sparkling amateur record of 380-8 (having lost only those eight bouts by a total of eight points, according to Shaw's public relation machine), Izquierdo left his country in 2003 to pursue his dreams of being a professional World Champion.

"Since the age of 20," said Izquierdo, "I had my thoughts about becoming a professional. Thanks to God, I am living my dream and chasing my goal of becoming a World Champion."

His defection left him in Chihuahua, Mexico, where he is trained by legendary former welterweight champion Jose "Mantequilla" Napoles.

"I used to hear about Mantequilla in Cuba. He is a huge figure in the history of professional boxing," said Izquierdo, "I am lucky to be learning from him."

The move for Izquierdo, from communist Cuba to a market driven economic society such as Mexico, proved to be difficult. Being Cuban-American myself and having visited the island on several occasions (I hope the CIA, FBI, and NSA do not monitor this website), the differences in lifestyle can be numbing.

Imagine transitioning from a country like Cuba, where among other things, it is illegal for normal citizens to buy or have red meat. Trust me, the experience could resemble a bad acid trip.

"The change was brutal, but I have adapted myself. I can travel now, something I could never do in Cuba. I can fight in Mexico, in the United States, or anywhere else. I now live in Mexico and am a Mexican."

As Antonio mentions, travel outside of Cuba for the average citizen is pretty much impossible. Enough with my cultural geography lesson and on with the story of Jose Antonio Izquierdo…

Did Mantequilla and Izquierdo spend countless hours in a film room, dissecting Casal?

"I have never seen him fight. I go into my fights without studying my opponent. I never watch video. You might see something in a video and develop a game plan based on what you saw, then when you get to the fight, the fighter does not follow his normal pattern and that totally throws your game plan off. I get prepared to fight anyone, regardless of size and weight."

Izquierdo revealed he has dreamed of becoming a world champion since he was a little boy in Havana, Cuba. Nick Casal stands in the way. Beyond Casal, ironically, he will find Casamayor, a fellow Cuban.

At 29 years of age, time is not necessarily on Izquierdo's side.

"I think I need three more fights in 2007 to be ready for a Championship caliber fight," stated Izquierdo.

As for a dream fight between two Cubans for the Lightweight Championship of the World?

The humble Habana native only had this to say.

"It would be a great fight. We would find out if my youth or his experience would be served."

Article posted on 04.01.2007

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