Alex ‘Cholo’ Saucedo on UniMas
This Friday night from the Theater at Madison Square Garden, Alex “Cholo” Saucedo faces Johnny Garcia (UniMas, 11 p.m. ET/PT). This will be Saucedo’s second training camp under the direction of Abel Sanchez at his gym in Big Bear, California. For the Oklahoma native, it was a move he and his brain trust felt had to be made to reach his ceiling as a fighter.
When the idea was executed last year, Saucedo says, “I was really happy; it’s something that I always looked at since Abel is a Mexican trainer. I’m Mexican and everything he’s done along the years with ‘Triple G’ (Gennady Golovkin) and all the rest of his fighters. I was really excited coming out here and trying it out. I did seven weeks last time; this one’s going to be nine. Just looking forward to big things. I’m seeing the changes now.”
So what’s the biggest adjustment to training at The Summit?
“It’s a whole different level; they push you a little extra and then, with the altitude up there, I mean, the training is just intense. So you have to be ready,” said Saucedo on February 8 after his day’s training at The Summit. In this gym, there’s not only Golovkin but Murat Gassiev, Andy Ruiz Jr., Denis Shafikov and Ryan Martin (who fights on the Golovkin undercard the following evening), among others, who stop by and pay a visit.
On this particular afternoon, he sparred with prospect Luis Feliciano, who was preparing for his pro debut. One of the main reasons young boxers come here to get a certain level of work you can’t get in many places. Saucedo admits, “I’m learning a lot and to not back out straight, doing a lot more side lateral movement and jabs, as well, when we’re coming out.”
In the past, Saucedo had trained in Oklahoma City and Houston. “I’ve been around, trying different things,” he says. But it’s looks like he has found a boxing home in Big Bear, where there aren’t a lot of easy rounds to be had in sparring.
“Every sparring session, I would say, is top level. Everyone is here for a reason. Abel doesn’t just take anybody; everyone is good quality sparring. It’s top-level sparring,” says Saucedo, who is just 22 years old. Sanchez, who has a full roster of boxers, says of Cholo, “Alex is a kid that has a lot of fights but still hasn’t learned his craft fully. We’re working on a lot of little things with him, trying to make him a better fighter. There’s certain things we’re working on this camp, that that’s the only thing we’re concentrating on. I know he can fight; it’s just a matter of fixing all the errors and polishing him to a point where he’s a world championship-caliber fighter and it’s going to take two or three training camps but he’s willing and Top Rank (Promotions)’s willing to wait with him. So hopefully four, five fights, we’re talking different.”
Back on Nov. 4, Saucedo won an eight-round decision against Raymond Serrano. He scored a knockdown but failed to finish the job and showed there was still plenty on which to be worked.
Sanchez says, “I was happy that I saw what I saw. I wasn’t happy with him getting hit as much as he did but we noticed and he noticed and we pointed it out that, maybe, in the past, he was hitting guys in the gym too easy and knocking them down, so he held back or went to sleep after he throws a good shot. So, in the Serrano fight, he kind of did the same thing – he’d land a good shot and he expected Serrano to land on his face. And it didn’t happen, so he got countered a lot of times.
“So we’re trying to fix that and it’s going to take time to fix it because it’s something he’s done for a long, long time.”
This much is clear: Saucedo and his attacking style is a good fit with Sanchez, which is why his management pushed for this move, as it tried to find the right environment for him to sharpen his skills.
“We’ve been talking about a training situation ever since we were about to get involved with Alex,” explained Sam Katkovski of Churchill Management. “We were after Alex for two years and one of the biggest things for us when we came into his life was making sure he made a decision to change his training atmosphere. That meant getting out of Oklahoma, coming out to California and working with a premier trainer. We had a short list of trainers we put together for him and, collectively, after getting some advice from everybody and getting Alex’s opinion of who he wanted to go with, Abel was on top of that list.
“Obviously the success Abel has had…and it’s hard to ignore that style, that he trains, is a style Alex is suited for. He’s Mexican; he’s a come-forward fighter. He likes to fight; he’s got power in both hands. So, to us, Abel seemed like a great fit.”
So what is it about Sanchez that Saucedo likes?
“It’s just everything combined,” he states. “Everything he does, the workout, the strength-and-conditioning workout he does, the run he does. I mean, the boxing workouts we do. Everything is just tough. You have to be tough to get through it.” But Big Bear isn’t for everybody, there really has to be certain discipline and dedication to the craft to stay up there for months at a time. When asked if he ever got homesick, Saucedo answered, “No, I don’t. Now with the technology, the iPad and Facetime, you do all that. You stay in touch. I keep in contact with my family at home. They keep me happy.”
There was a realization that, for Saucedo to reach his full ability, a sacrifice like this had to be made.
“I’m seeing it, as of now,” he said, of the progress he’s made while in the mountains of Southern California. “This is barely our second fight. This second camp, I’m seeing a lot of different changes and I’m seeing changes in my punches, the way I’m moving, the way I’m taking punches away. All these kinda things, you see them when you’re sparring. You’re like, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen this.’ It’s different.”
So just how close is Saucedo to being within striking distance of a title shot at 140? (Katkovski notes this fight on Friday has a weight limit of 143 pounds and the plan is to challenge for a belt down the line at junior welterweight.)
“I’m 23-0, now; my record is there. Maybe a couple more fights, two, three fights, and I’ll be ready for something good like that,” says Saucedo.
As for his upcoming assignment on Friday, he says, “Johnny Garcia, he’s a tough opponent with a hard hit. He’s put down his last three opponents. Lost two of his last three fights but he can put ’em down. He’s 20-3, I believe (Editor’s note: 19-4-1 (11), actually), but he’s an experienced opponent. He comes forward. He’s good. He has power. It’s going to make us work.”
So what has Saucedo gleaned from training alongside Golovkin?
“That with hard work you can get to that level. Other than he’s a great fighter, very smart, he works hard and he’s been up with Abel and he gives us pointers on everything he’s been through, everything he’s done to get to where he’s at. So it’s great for us coming up,” he says.
In addition to boxing veteran Lou Mesarona, Churchill Management – a group that was founded by noted film producer and boxing enthusiast Peter Berg, with investors like Mark Wahlberg – is handling Cholo’s career.
Katkovski explained to UCNLive.com, “It’s a group of guys and some of the partners are actually from the East Coast, who have come together. It’s not their number one business but they all love the sport. They all want to help some of the fighters grow in an environment, in a business where it’s such a tough sport for these guys. It sometimes doesn’t reward their hard work, in terms of financial incentive or growth.
“So we want to make sure that, as a team, we help them get on the right path, if that’s the case. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the fighters. They need to do their jobs in the ring.”
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