10.06.04 – One night before Americans celebrate Independence Day, a Cuban defector-turned world boxing champion, who celebrates his independence every day, will be featured in the main event on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING. “I want all the people in Cuba to have what I have, so I fight for their freedom,” said Joel Casamayor, a former WBA junior lightweight champion and current WBA No. 3/IBF No. 5 and WBC No. 11 contender.
“I have many friends and family in Cuba who never will know what it is like to be free, to be able to do what they want, when they want. It is sad. But I pray that one day all of them can experience what I have since I came to the United States. I support all the Cuban people in their quest for freedom.’’
In a dangerous assignment, Casamayor meets undefeated former North American Boxing Organization (NABO) featherweight champion Daniel Seda (20-0-1, 16 KOs) in a 10-round fight Saturday, July 3, on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING (9 p.m. ET/PT*). The co-feature from the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Fla., will pit former two-time heavyweight champion Michael Moorer (46-3-1, 36 KOs) against unbeaten Cuban Eliseo Castillo (17-0-1, 14 KOs) in a 10-round heavyweight battle. Team Freedom Promotions with Northeast Promotions, in association with Cedric Kushner Promotions, LTD, will promote the SHOWTIME doubleheader.
“Seda is unbeaten, confident and does not think he can lose,” Casamayor said. “It will be a great fight.’’
A forward moving, no nonsense hard-puncher, Seda has won two in a row since his match with then-WBA featherweight champion Derrick Gainer Aug. 24, 2002, on SHOWTIME ended in a second-round technical draw.
“This is exactly the kind of high-profile fight that I want and have been waiting for a long time,” Seda said. “After it became apparent I would not get a rematch with Gainer, I became disillusioned with boxing. I retired for a year. But, now I am back and totally committed to re-establishing myself in a sport I truly love.
“Casamayor is an excellent boxer, and he needs to win, too. But styles make fights, and his style is perfect for me. He made a big mistake by agreeing to this fight. I am very confident I will win July 3.’’
Born in Guantanamo, Cuba, Casamayor was perhaps the most prolific amateur boxer in history (380-30). He won a gold medal as a bantamweight at the 1992 Olympic Games and was a prohibitive favorite to repeat
in 1996. Prior to the opening ceremonies, however, he walked away from the Cuban compound in Guadalajara, Mexico, and left a five-year-old daughter, a girlfriend and his parents in Guantanamo.
“I never got to say goodbye to anyone,” Casamayor said. “But I wanted to be free. I have experienced a lot of success in boxing, but the greatest feeling in my life was coming to America.”
One reason Casamayor defected was that he felt slighted by Fidel Castro, who presented him with a bicycle as his reward for bringing home the gold. The boxer sold the bicycle for a pig to feed his family.
Still, Casamayor agonized over what would be the most difficult decision of his life — to leave or stay.
“When I had doubts (in Guadalajara), I thought of the pressure they put on me to make 119 pounds,” the sensational southpaw said. “It was very difficult for me to make that weight, but they threatened me. ‘If you do not make weight, we will send you back to Cuba.’ That stayed in my head. That made me strong.
“People knew I was supposed to win a gold medal in ’96. But, I made a decision. You cannot eat off of gold medals. I missed my daughter so much. I did not want to leave her, but I had to.”
So, one day, Casamayor told his chaperone that he was going to walk down the street to buy a bottle of water and would be right back. “He is still waiting for me, I think,” Casamayor cracked.
The cool and classy southpaw boxer-puncher has done little wrong since turning pro, and remains at the peak of his game. Both his losses came on disputed 12-round split decisions in world title fights.
“In my heart, I know I won those two fights,” said Casamayor, who will be making his first start since getting narrowly outpointed by Diego Corrales in a rematch for the vacant World Boxing Organization (WBO) 130-pound title on March 6, 2004, on SHOWTIME.
Casamayor, who fights out of Luis DeCubas’ Miami-based Team Freedom boxing stable, won the first meeting when a brawl was stopped at the end of the sixth round with Corrales bleeding badly from the mouth. He spotted Corrales a big early lead in their return encounter, but rallied strongly to floor Corrales in the 10th. It was too little, too late, however, as he fell short by the scores 114-113 and 112-115 twice.
In their first bout on Oct. 3, 2003, Casamayor twice knocked down Corrales, and hit the canvas once himself in a drama-filled slugfest that drew cheers when the boxers went at it, and “boos” when it was stopped. Despite losing a point for a foul, Casamayor was ahead on all the judges’ scorecards at the finish.
Casamayor won the WBA interim 130-pound crown with an easy decision over Antonio Hernandez on June 19, 1999. In his 21st start, he became the first U.S.-based Cuban defector to capture a world title, taking the WBA belt with a devastating fifth-round TKO over Jongkwon Baek on May 21, 2000. He made four successful defenses before the controversial points loss to Freitas Jan. 12, 2002, on SHOWTIME.
Seda, of Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico, displayed class and enormous grit in the bout against Gainer. A former WBA No. 1 126-pound contender, Seda got decked in the first round, but appeared to recover. The Puerto Rican was competing on even terms in the second when an unintentional collision of heads left Gainer with a bad cut under his left eyebrow and prompted the ringside physician to halt the proceedings at 2:13.
In his most recent outing, Seda won a unanimous 10-round decision over Anthony Martinez on March 12, 2004, in San Jose, Calif. The crowd-pleasing Seda, who also is a former FEDELATIN champion, is currently ranked by the WBO (No. 12) and WBA (No. 13).
Moorer, of Monessen, Pa., is 7-1-1 with five knockouts since returning to the ring in November 2000. The former WBO light heavyweight champion captured the IBF/WBA heavyweight titles with a 12-round decision over Evander Holyfield on April 22, 1994, in Las Vegas. In his first defense on Nov. 5, 1994, in Las Vegas, George Foreman rallied to knock out the champion in the 10th round. Moorer regained the IBF title with a 12-round decision over Axel Schulz on June 22, 1996, in Dortmund, Germany, and made two successful defenses prior to losing to Holyfield in their rematch on Nov. 8, 1997, in Las Vegas. Moorer did not fight again until Nov. 17, 2000, when he registered a fourth-round TKO over Lorenzo Byrd. In his last start on Jan. 17, 2004, in Coconut Creek, Fla., the former champion scored an eighth-round TKO over Arimatea Da Silva.
Castillo, of Havana, Cuba, escaped from his home country to the military base at Guantanamo at age 17. Following approximately 90 amateur bouts, the then-20-year-old turned pro on Feb. 24, 1996, and registered an opening-round TKO over Anthony Mack in Miami Beach, Fla. The brother of WBC No. 15 heavyweight contender, Eliecer, has tallied five first-round, three second-round and three third-round knockouts in 18 pro outings. After opening with 11 consecutive victories (10 via knockout), Castillo suffered the only blemish on his record when he fought to a 10-round draw against Terry Pitts on Nov. 13, 1998. Since the draw, Castillo has won six consecutive contests, including a third-round knockout over Drexie James on May 1, 2004, in Miami.
SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING’s Steve Albert and Al Bernstein will call the action from ringside with Jim Gray serving as roving reporter. The executive producer of the SHOWTIME telecast will be Jay Larkin, with David Dinkins Jr. producing and Bob Dunphy directing.
For information on upcoming SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING and “ShoBox: The New Generation” telecasts, including complete fighter bios and records, related stories and more, please go the SHOWTIME website at http :www.sho.com/boxing