Antonio Orozco rebuilds at 140 pounds
Last September 23, Antonio Orozco was scheduled to face Roberto Ortiz at the Forum, as a co-feature bout on HBO. For the highly-rated junior welterweight contender, it would be another chance to showcase himself on a lucrative stage (on which he’d be earning a career-high six-figure payday) and then fight for a 140-pound title.
The division would become wide open as undisputed champion Terence Crawford decided to take his talents to the 147-pound division.
But in a rather shocking turn of events, Orozco couldn’t – and wouldn’t – weigh-in, as he was having problems making the junior welterweight limit. Eventually the fight was scrapped and Orozco’s standing in the 140-pound class dropped off a cliff.
So instead of fighting for a title, he starts his 2018 off by facing Martin Honorio (again) as one of the undercard bouts at the Belasco Theater, in Los Angeles, this Friday night.
When asked about the episode and the future ahead, Orozco stated, “Responsibility…accountability…and determination. That’s what it’s going to be for the rest of my career. A lot of changes – and changes for the better. This is what I needed; this is what I’m going to to do, just continue my career.”
Back in December of 2016, Orozco was actually hospitalized before the weigh-in with dehydration, as he was scheduled to face Fidel Maldonado in the main event on HBO Latino. But last April, he made weight and looked impressive in dismantling Keandre Gibson in four rounds.
So it’s puzzling why this would occur again. Just what happened?
“For my best interest and the interest of others, there was more to it than what’s being said,” said Orozco of that bizarre episode. “I tried to make the weight. We tried to come to an agreement. Things didn’t come out the way we were expecting and, so, I mean, things fell apart. I gave them what they were asking for and it was just a lot of back-and-forth and it just went to chaos and commotion.”
In Ortiz, he wasn’t exactly facing Aaron Pryor or Frankie Randall.
“Am I afraid of the guy? Of course not; that wasn’t the thing,” he insisted. “From that, I’m here now and I’m ready to come back.”
His manager Frank Espinoza (who was recently involved in a fight in which a fighter didn’t make weight, Oscar Valdez vs. Scott Quigg) told UCNLive.com, “It was extremely disappointing and shocking, to be quite frank with you, what took place in September. Especially after we took steps to make sure that this would never happen again. Antonio’s a good person; this is why it’s so shocking for us. We put a lot of time and resources into getting him into that position, where he was, and now he has to move back. He fully understands the ramifications of what took place. There’s nothing we can really do now but to move forward.”
In the subsequent months, Espinoza met with Golden Boy Promotions in order to map out the future and see what could be salvaged. “Obviously you never want to see that, it’s a tough thing but, at the same time, it happens,” said Robert Diaz, the matchmaker for GBP, who still remains optimistic. “The fighter doesn’t want to be in that position and he’s the one that knows what he has to do in order to not be in it. But I think what came about it is now we’re in the right direction.
“I saw a picture of Orozco on social media yesterday and he doesn’t even look like the same Orozco. He looks very thin; he looks like another person,” continued Diaz on Tuesday afternoon. “This week, more than anything, is just to see how he feels. If he feels healthy, if he feels strong, he looks good in the fight making the weight at 140. And I already called Frank and said, ‘Look, as long as he comes out 100 percent, lets get ready for the next one,’ and I already gave (Espinoza) a proposal for a possible opponent and date. So it’s really not starting over because (Orozco) has what it takes.
“He’s beaten (Humberto) ‘Zorrito’ Soto; we know what he can do. It’s just more getting him to know he can do it and for us to show networks, ‘Look, it was a trip; he slipped.'”
Espinoza, who has managed Orozco for most of his pro career and signed him with GBP, explains, “When you guide a fighter, it takes years of time and you have to work in concert with the promoter to put your clients in the right position and take the right fights at the right time. All of that takes money and patience and when something like this happens, well, it’s a setback. But Antonio has a fan-friendly style and gives you good fights. I really think it won’t be too long before he gets back in everyone’s good graces.”
As the Terry Flanagan and Maurice Hooker fight for the vacant WBO junior welterweight title, on April 14, the reality is Orozco should be in that position. This weekend, Jose Ramirez and Amir Imam duke it out for the vacant WBC strap.
“He should be fighting for a world title with anybody right now,” stated Diaz. “He’s at that level. He has the experience; he has the ability. It’s just a matter of getting sharp again and knowing, ‘Look, I can make this weight comfortably.’ It wasn’t too long ago that his best performance was when he came in at 139 against Keandre Gibson. That was one of his best performances. He looked sharp. He looked fast. He was aggressive and he came in under 140.
“So I know he can make it. Just maybe things weren’t done right in his last camp but when a fighter gets to a point when their body shuts down, the last thing they want to do is keep going. They don’t have the energy.”
Orozco, 26-0 (17), admits it took some time to get over the September snafu, “Oh definitely; it wasn’t anything easy. It’s still bothering me to this day. Because of that, I’m missing out on a big opportunity. I could’ve been fighting for a title now and that’s the repercussions and consequences I have to pay.”
It has to be a humbling experience, from being featured on HBO to fighting on this developmental series – where you’re not even in the main event.
“Y’ know, this time in my career, I just have to give myself completely. Like I said, this is the repurcussions. It’s the consequences going back to September and I have to pay for it. Nothing goes unpaid for and I’m going to pay for it and I’m going to continue moving forward,” said Orozco, who refuses to point fingers.
In the aftermath of all of this, it was decided that Orozco would leave his longtime trainer Carlos Barragan and work with Manuel Robles and his deep stable of boxers. It was something Espinoza believed would be for the best, in the long run. When asked if things hadn’t gotten too comfortable at the House of Boxing, in San Diego, Orozco admitted, “That could’ve been a possibility. I have nothing but respect for Carlos and his father. They brought me to 26-0. I’m not going to take anything away from them. I’m not going to disrespect any of the work that they’ve done. I still have a great relationship and maybe it was time for a change.
“That’s why I came with Manny. I didn’t say no to any change that Frank was suggesting, so this is my turn of the page.”
Much – but not all – was lost in September. Diaz still believes Orozco is within striking distance at 140. His plan, after this Friday night, is another fight on Golden Boy’s ESPN series against a solid opponent and ”after that, let’s go for a world title fight.”
Here’s a full two-hour edition of “The Next Round,” with Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly, in which “Mr. KO Tickets” Jim Boone gives us his weekend wrap-up and his box-office report.
On this week’s edition of “The 3 Knockdown Rule,” with Mario Lopez and me, you’ll hear from Jose Ramirez and Orozco, among others.
More on this later this week but the showdown between WBA lightweight champion Jorge Linares and WBO junior lightweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko is signed, sealed and delivered for May 12, at the famed Madison Square Garden in New York, on ESPN…Also on this card at the Belasco Theater, this weekend, are prospects Oscar Duarte, Jousce Gonzalez and Edgar Valerio. This edition of the “L.A. Fight Club” will be headlined by Seniesa Estrada…Speaking of Oscar Valdez, he will have his jaw wired shut for about six weeks…If Jimmy Graham can stay healthy, he and Aaron Rodgers can be lethal in Green Bay…Is Kirk Cousins worth it?…The final season of ABC’s “Scandal” has been incredible…I can be reached at email@example.com and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.