By Trish Kilcullen & Peter Heintzelman: Ready for another comeback? Try Jose Antonio Rivera. The Pride of Worcester, Massachusetts. 37-year-old former WBA World Light Middleweight Champion, and former WBA World Welterweight Champion. Born of Philly, Rivera migrated as a teen, North to Worcester, Massachusetts.
After his retirement in 2008, with a professional record of 39 wins, against 6 losses, 1 draw and 24 knock outs, “El Gallo” has kept his guard up, as a Security Officer for the Worcester Housing Court judges, that boot tenants out of apartments, like Rivera used to bop opponents out between the ropes. Not every judge in the Puritanical Commonwealth, can boast a world boxing champ, as their personal bodyguard. But like so many retirees before him, Rivera had this yen, to try it again, and get back into the squared ring.
Looking now older, wiser, and in phenomenal shape, the Pride of Worcester, is hungry to find out, whether he still has the stuff of champions. The proverbial quest of sportsmen, addicted to the thrill of victory, and unafraid of the risk of defeat.
Looking now in great physical and mental shape, when we walked into Camp Get Right Boxing Gym at 55(E) Millbrook Street, in Worcester, Massachusetts, there was the former champ in center ring. Working the pads. Listening to advice of his trainer, and warming up for an April 9th fight against a yet to be named opponent, on a boxing card promoted by Isperduli’s Paxton Promotions.
The fight location is the historic Palladium, located at 261 Main Street, Worcester, MA, just steps away from the Courthouse where the former champ works. “I get chills walking by that place,” said Rivera, as he strolled from lunch break at the courthouse to grab a bite of championship nutrition. He can’t wait to hear that bell, and see what stuff he still has. After a strenuous workout with Jimbo Isperduli in the ring, Rivera took a few minutes to share his thoughts with EastSideBoxing, about his return to the ring:
EastSideBoxing: So Jose, 37 years old, with a record of 39 wins against only 6 losses, and your last fight in 2008. What brings you out of retirement?
Rivera: I think having the 2 ½ years off from boxing, gave me peace of mind. Away from all the problems with managers, and problems with promoters, and family problems, and personal problems. It did me more good, being away from boxing. Most people think it harmed me or hurt me; I think the opposite.
EastSideBoxing: Do you know when and where you are fighting next?
Rivera: I don’t know who yet, because I just found out this week its going to be on April 9th, in Worcester, at the Palladium.
EastSideBoxing: Do you want to call anyone out?
Rivera: Well, right now, I’m not calling out anybody. I gotta prove to myself, and myself only, how serious I’m gonna go with this. I’m pushing hard, I’m training hard, I’m not taking this as a game. So, I want to see where I’m at. If I feel like I can compete at a championship level again, then I would be calling out any of the champions, at 154 or 160.
EastSideBoxing: At what weight division do you want to fight? Rivera: Well, right now, on April 9th, I’m fighting at 160.
EastSideBoxing: I hear you are intending to fight at the Palladium on Main Street, Worcester, Massachusetts, just a few steps away from the Courthouse
where you work – How does that feel?
Rivera: it feels good, sometimes I’m at work and pass by the Palladium, and sometimes I’m like in a daze. I’m getting a little anxious and excited, because I haven’t been in the ring for the last 2 ½ years.
EastSideBoxing: Do you find it more difficult to train, without a named opponent, or does it matter?
Rivera: No, not for me, maybe for other fighters, but knowing myself, and how I train hard for everybody. Knowing that I have an opponent coming soon; just knowing I have a fight night date, pushes me enough.
EastSideBoxing: As you know, you have won the WBA World Light Middleweight Title against Alejandro “Terra” Garcia in Worcester, and you beat Michael Trabant, incredibly, by a twelve majority decision, in Berlin, Germany, of all places, but what has been your most memorable fight?
Rivera: I would have to say the Garcia fight here in Worcester. The reason I call it memorable, is because I had just lost my welterweight title by split decision to Luis Collazo . I moved up to junior middleweight, and they said I’m not strong enough to compete at that level, and I can’t fight at that weight. And they bring in Garcia, and so, for me to win the junior middleweight title, when I won the junior middleweight WBA title; it was just euphoria, just by the way I won, and how good I looked, and how hard I trained. It was
just my best performance.
EastSideBoxing: Are you still under contract with Don King?
EastSideBoxing: I see you are training with Jimbo Isperduli; how far do you
guys go back, and how did you meet?
Rivera: I’ve known Jimbo since I was 16 years old, so that’s 21 years. He was one of the first guys I met here in Worcester. When I moved to Worcester, me and Bobby Harris were roommates. Jimbo put the lease in his name, because 16 and 17 year olds couldn’t rent an apartment. And we used to work for him; he owned a sandwich shop. And early in my career, I did seven fights with Jimbo, before we went our separate ways. Then, through my comeback, we stayed in
touch, and we started talking about reconnecting.
EastSideBoxing: So, Jose, what is your ultimate goal in coming out of retirement?
Rivera: Well, I think right now, the first fight is to really see if I can challenge myself, and get back to a championship level. And that’s my first goal, and my ultimate goal is, who knows, maybe get another championship title shot!
EastSideBoxing: Any final remarks for your fans at EastSideBoxing?
Rivera: I want to thank my fans for their support. Whether they think I should fight or not, whether they think I can do it or not, my thing is, just watch, and stay tuned.
The Palladium, is located at 261 Main Street, Worcester, MA. Ticket, soon to go on sale, will be prices at $25 General admission, $40, and $60. For Golden Ringside. Doors, until sold out. Doors open at 6:30 pm, and the first bell rings at 7:30 pm. Ringside announcer: JD Vena, Matchmaker: Teddy Panagiotis.