A look at The Forum’s undercard players
Typically, they’re played out in front of scarce crowds and, more often than not, come and go without much reflection, barring some crazy upset, but the undercard is where all the fighters of tomorrow are groomed, as they await their big chance. That will remain no different tonight at The Forum in Inglewood, California, but, fortunately for them, their fights will be streamed live on RingTV.com starting at 6:05 p.m. ET/ 3:05 p.m. PT). For those interested in watching the stream and looking for some insight about the undercard, six of the 12 fighters involved spoke with UCNLive.com during fight week and, as you’ll soon find out, there’s always something going on in the life of any fighter.
Of course, this undercard precedes tonight’s HBO “Boxing After Dark” telecast (10:30 p.m. ET/ 7:30 p.m. PT), in which, in the main event, Lucas Matthysse clashes with Tewa Kiram for a WBA welterweight trinket and, in the co-feature, Jorge Linares looks to defend his WBA lightweight belt a third time against longshot contender Mercito “No Mercy” Gesta.
When the undercard was first announced, Japanese action fighter and fan favorite Yoshihiro Kamegai was set to assure that the ring will be warmed up for the televised show but a shoulder injury in the week’s leading up to fight night forced him to pull out. Daquan Arnett, who was set to be Kamegai’s opponent, will fight Osbaldo Gonzales, 6-1 (4), tonight in a six-round middleweight bout, but, in returning to the city where he made his debut six years ago, it could be an emotional night for the 25-year-old, as he will enter the ring a new man.
For the first time, Daquan Arnett will now be known as Daquan Pauldo, when he enters the ring, after legally changing his last name to honor the man who truly raised him.
“I don’t want to get in-depth on it right now but I’m actually working on a project on my own platform to get in depth with it,” said Daquan. “On the surface, I was born as Daquan Arnett. My biological father I never knew and I had his last name. My father that raised me – Gene Pauldo – you know, I figured it was time to make that official transition. He raised me to be the man I am and the fighter I am. That’s the least I could give him, was knowing that I would be taking Pauldo into the ring officially.”
Gene Pauldo, a fighter himself, back in his day, raised Daquan since birth and was the man responsible for introducing him to the sport at a young age. This tribute to his father is a testament to the maturity Daquan has grown into recently and stems off having his first child, a daughter, Gabriella.
“It’s changed me a lot,” Pauldo said. “I welcomed my first child Gabriella this past July. That’s also a big factor in me changing my name because I wanted my daughter to have my last name and my family’s last name of Pauldo. It’s changed me as a man. I’ve matured, I’m 25 years old now. I’m focused on life after boxing. When I debuted at 19 years old, all I thought about was boxing. I only had myself. I was single; I didn’t have kids and I was just focused on fighting. Now, it’s all changed. I’m looking into buying houses, making investments – things like that. Thinking about the future but embracing the moment more with fighting, as opposed to just letting things pass me by.”
Pauldo, 16-1 (9), trains out of Boca Raton, Florida, under the guidance of Derek Santos, who also trains light heavyweight contender Sullivan Barrera, and, in preparation for tonight, sparred with notable names Chris Algieri and Luis “Cuba” Arias.
“I honestly have no idea,” Pauldo said about his late-replacement opponent. “I saw that he was 6-1. I’m not taking anything for granted. He’s a fighter; he’s coming into the ring, so, to me, he’s dangerous. I came into this camp with a lot of energy and focus, wanting the Kamegai fight. It fell through but we stayed focused and trained like we were going to fight Kamegai, so that’s the Daquan you’ll get Saturday.”
Pauldo still wants that Kamegai fight, he says, and will be asking Golden Boy Promotions, his promoter, for it, after tonight’s bout. Pauldo, who fought under the Premier Boxing Champions banner before getting signed to Golden Boy last May, may or may not realize the full circle he’s traveled, going into tonight, but just like he did six years ago, in his boxing debut in L.A., Pauldo will have his first introduction.
Marcelino “Nino” Lopez
At the age of 31, Marcelino Lopez, 33-2-1 (18), hopes to continue recent performances that will breathe much life into anyone’s career. Last October, on ESPN2, Lopez knocked out Pablo Cesar Cano, in the second round, with one of the prettiest combinations you’ll ever see. The Argentinian faces longtime journeyman Breidis Prescott, 30-11 (22), in an eight-round welterweight contest.
“He’s a tough fighter,” Lopez said about Prescott, who has had notable upsets, since handing Amir Khan his first defeat via knockout nine years ago. “He’s a fighter with a skill set that we must respect. We know that he hits hard and has had some really good victories, by way of knockout. We just hope that we can demonstrate this Saturday that we’re capable of this victory.”
Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Lopez now trains out of Indio, California, under the eye of famed trainer Joel Diaz, who also trains his fellow countryman Matthysse. Lopez and Matthysse made the decision together to go with Diaz recently and he credits the teacher for their recent revival.
“I’m really happy training with him. He’s a guy that takes this very serious. I learn more and more everyday,” Lopez said about training with Diaz and, as for having Matthysse around, he said, “He’s a man I really admire. He’s a really chill and tranquil guy and I enjoy hanging out with him. I actually knew him before, in Argentina, and it’s an honor to be training with him in California.”
Tenochtitlan Nava vs. Francisco Esparza
This featherweight match-up between undefeated prospects will perhaps not only be the most competitive but the most thrilling of all the undercard bouts.
“(Esparza)’s gonna try and rip my head off; I know that for a fact,” said Nava about his foe. “In all of his fights, it just shows that he’s gonna try and decapitate me but I’m not going to let that happen. We’re gonna see more boxing and me be even more intelligent than in other fights.”
Nava, 7-0 (1), who is better known as “T-Dog,” is a Los Angeles product who has consistently found himself in heated scraps but is well-aware that this fight will be much different than the others.
“There’s going to be a point where it’s gonna get rough,” Nava admitted about fighting Esparza. “I believe so because, throughout all fights, there’s gonna be that one hiccup, you know? It happens to everyone. But we’ll overcome this and come out with our hand raised.”
Esparza, 6-0-1 (2), who is trained by Fernando Vargas, seems to fight with the same mean-mugging attitude as his trainer and, after an intense stare down at Thursday’s final press conference, he wasn’t afraid to share what he thought he saw.
“At first, (Nava) didn’t look at me right away in the eyes. It took him a little bit for him to look at me in the eye,” said Esparza. “So a little worrisome there, coming from him, but we’re ready.”
Fighting out of Las Vegas, Nevada, Esparza, like Nava, has easily found himself in wars, no matter the opponent, and it leaves no wonder as to what will happen when they face each other.
“I can’t speak for him but, as for myself, I know I put in the work,” said Esparza. “I’ve done everything my coaches have asked. Once I’m in there, I know what to do. All my instincts kick in and I know what do and I feel this fight is no different. Every fight is a test to be honest. My last fight was a tough test too and I’ve been in there with tougher opponents; I believe.”
If you don’t know the story of Romero Duno, you can go more in-depth here, after the Filipino lightweight out-boxed Juan Pablo Sanchez to a decision, last September, also at The Forum.
Ahead of his fight tonight, Duno, 15-1 (13), was his usual quiet self at the media workout but, in what he can’t put into words, the 22-year-old proves everything with his craft. It doesn’t help that Duno tries his best to communicate in English, a second language to him, but he didn’t get into boxing to talk.
“This fight, I want to knock him out but I just show what I’ve practiced. Maybe the knockout will come,” Duno said. He faces Yardley Armenta, 22-9 (12), who has already seen – and lost to – just about every lightweight prospect out there.
“A little bit, maybe,” Duno said on if he feels like he’s improved, since training at the Wild Card Boxing Club. For this fight, Duno said he sparred former lightweight title challenger and current contender Ray Beltran twice and continues to pick the brains of his idol’s trainer Freddie Roach and his right hand man, Marvin Somodio. “In my speed, yeah. My footwork I don’t think so. I’m a little bit late this time because of Christmas and New Years. I came here on December 27th, which is OK.”
Duno assures that getting back to the States later than expected over the holiday will not affect his performance and, to follow-up on the story after his most recent fight, at least one of his parents are coming around to the idea of him being a fighter.
“My father is excited but my mother still doesn’t want me to fight again,” Duno said.
Ferdinand “Lucky Boy” Kerobyan
Born in Yerevan, Armenia, and now fighting out of Los Angeles, Kerobyan, 7-0 (4), will surely have an small Armenian contingent that seems to pop up whenever a fighter of their ethnicity is in the ring.
“They’re very loyal people and, since there aren’t too much of us, when we see one of us getting somewhere in life, we like to show our full support and help them out however we can to push them to the top,” Kerobyan said about the support. “Just so we can see an Armenian who has made it, so we can say, ‘That’s our race,’ and that we’re proud to be Armenian.”
Interestingly enough, as he explained in passing, Kerobyan is a unique surname that is listed as one of the oldest in Armenia. According to him, every Kerobyan on Planet Earth is, without a doubt, directly related to him, as if it were some special bloodline. He added that “Kerob” translates to “top of the food chain.”
Riding a three-fight knockout streak going into tonight, Kerobyan, 20, will look to make that name a known one in the sport of boxing one day but first he must go through the trials of fighting actively on various undercards.
“My opponent’s name is Lucius Johnson,” Kerobyan stated. “He has six fights: four wins, one draw and one loss. I don’t know too much about the guy; I just know that he’s tall and lengthy. I’m very focused. It’s a very big venue and it’s a dream come true to be fighting there. I’ll be working my hardest to put on a good show for my fans.”
As for what “Lucky Boy” is all about, the junior middleweight said it’s a nickname he got from being a great card player and that goes for any sort of game dealing with 52 cards, thus already proving this card shark is already at the top of the food chain in something.