April 21, 2006
Heart break comes in many forms.
Sometimes it hits you like a bullet. Other times, it comes as you listen to a
referee give you an eight count. I’ve endure both. Contrarily, if we never
dreamed and never reached beyond ourselves, we’d never excel. Those who have
traveled this bumpy road will testify, it’s littered with broken hearts and
This time heart break arrived in the
shape of young man from Puerto Rico. It played out on center stage, like a Greek
Tragedy. Like Icarus of Greek mythology, our local hero flew to close to the
sun, failed to listen, took to many chances, made too many mistakes and
displayed poor boxing fundamentals. Like Icarus whose wings were stuck together
with wax, and melted with the sun’s rays, Vicente fell from grace. Vicente
Escobedo, from Woodland, whose pervious nine victories gave him wings, was on
the road to stardom. It may have been too much too soon. Poor trainers, lack of
fundamentals, and questionable training practices. He was flying too high. He
moved to Los Angeles, and signed with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy
Promotions. God knows how many people were blowing smoke up his whazoo. It was
just too much to handle.
After a lifetime in boxing, I’ve
come to learn many things about fighters. One of the most important is that
every fighter needs someone to keep him grounded. Every fighter must have
someone who can keep them in check. It’s too easy to allow compliments to go
to your head. Unless checked by a respected individual, a young fighter tends to
feel invulnerable. Unless supervised, cautioned, and guided, a young fighter
will become reckless. Pride and delusional thinking combine to form a deadly
poison. Sadly, it’s self made and fighters feed it to themselves. Coaches of
low morale character, seeking to make a name, stand aside and let it happen.
Like Judas, they trade integrity for money. Vicente had been living his dream in
Malibu, training amongst great boxers and being named as Oscar’s successor.
More recently, Vicente had become a featured character in a video game. The poor
boy that grew up in a housing project, next to the city’s storage yard,
surpassed his own exceptions. Sitting on the beach, hanging out with starlets
and having women throw themselves at him. It was more than a poor boy from the
Central Valley could take.
In the past, I have presented Vicente
in a positive manner, while also pointing out his poor foot positioning. I have
praised his courage, while pointing out his incorrect hand positioning,
recklessness, and wiliness to brawl. I have complemented his hard work, while
pointing out his temper. I have also made several observations I did not
mention. Several months ago, when I spoke with him during a press conference
before his last fight in Sacramento, I made a troubling discovery. I asked
Vicente what were his biggest distractions. He replied with a well rehearsed,
practiced voice, “I have no distractions”. Oops, I thought to myself, as I
spotted self deception. I would have preferred an honest response. Something
like, ³ man, its hard getting up, running everyday, going to the gym, instead
of chasing women, and spending all day at the beach ². I believe any young man
who is fighting, winning, making money and living his dream would have a lot of
distractions. I know I did. I was disappointed in him. Such answers reveal
character flaws. I smiled and walked away. I don’t like being played. I
“see”, people, not just look at them. I saw impending doom in his reply.
I’ve trained hundreds of young men. I watched guys with great potential piss
it away, drowning in their own bullshit. I watched kids with talent get beat up
and tossed aside because they lacked adequate trainers, but that’s another
This story is about Vicente’s defeat
at Arco Arena, in front of a home town crowd. It was a historical event. I was
proud to be there. I was there to cover this fight; there were others, but none
of any great importance. This was the fight local fans came to see. The home
town crowd raised the roof with cheers and stomping feet as Vicente appeared
wearing turquoise trunks with black trim. As usual he appeared intense,
intimidating and hostile. His expression revealed no sign of concern, other than
a desire to destroy his opponent. His opponent, Daniel Jimenez of Puerto Rico,
appeared none threatening. He seemed small, with boyish features and resembled
Tito Trinidad. I thought Vicente looked dangerous.
Daniel became the aggressor, wanting
to control the fight. I was a surprised Vicente allowed him to take charge. I
expected Vicente to come out banging. Instead, it was Daniel who landed several
jabs and right hands. It was Daniel who took center ring and made Vicente fight
with his back to the ropes. I noted Daniel had better hand speed, although I
thought Vicente was stronger. He must have been surprised when his best punch
failed to drop his opponent. Daniel also threw more punches and forced Vicente
to move away. This was unusual. Both boxers displayed good conditioning and ring
experience. As the round continued, I observed Daniel was throwing better and
more combinations. Vicente rallied at the last ten second and tried to steal the
round. The crowd responded to his tactics and raised the roof. It was close.
Both fighters displayed quick hands and a do or die attitude. However, I gotta
say, I was forced to seat in the nose bleed section. It’s not the same as
sitting ringside. However, I stayed focused and did the best I could. Still,
sitting so far away makes its impersonal. I gave the round to Daniel.
Second round, Daniel began landing
right hands, Vicente got on the inside but failed to explode while in there.
Daniel was able to parry Vicente jabs. If Vicente had his hands in a better
position, he would have landed more. The crowd was going nuts, and then some
idiots stood up. I had to yell, “Down in front”. The action never slowed.
Vicente got on the inside and landed several hard punches to the body, then
threw a combination which Daniel slipped. Daniel landed an overhand right and a
left hook. I was confident of Vicente’s chin, but his foot position made him
off balance. I feared he’d get dropped. The round was close as any I’ve ever
seen. Both boxers demonstrated great stamina, and courage. I gave the round to
Vicente for landing the harder punches. I had it one to one.
Third round. Vicente started throwing
double jabs. Daniel waited, and then landed several jabs, and a beautiful
combination that had Vicente against the ropes. Vicente seemed confused by
Daniel’s jab, and unable to get off. Daniel landed a right hand, Vicente’s
temper flared and attacked with right hands, but Daniel maintained control.
Vicente landed a beautiful combination to the body that rocked Daniel, but only
for a moment. Daniel came back, and then Vicente started dropping his hands in a
reckless manner. I have no idea what would cause him to do so, ignoring years of
training. He traded punches with Daniel who was willing to brawl. This may
indicate his lack of maturity. He’s thus far been unable to dominant himself,
such emotional indulgence only lead to disaster. It was an excellent round.
Sadly, it also displayed Daniel as the better trained, more disciplined boxer.
While Vicente seemed willing to throw caution aside, Daniel stayed in the box,
using the fundamentals of boxing more efficiently. I gave the round to Daniel. I
now had Daniel two, Vicente one.
Fourth Round, I was forced to move
form the seat I occupied and was unable to watch the first minute of the round.
I sat down just as Vicente missed a right hand and landed a left hook, then a
solid shot that rocked Daniel. The brave kid form PR returned fire and landed
several jabs that rocked Vicente. The action slowed and Vicente dropped his
hands as Daniel came in with body shots and jabs to the head. Both boxers banged
away, trying to knock hell out of each other. It was clearly one of the best
fights I’ve witnessed at Arco Arena. With a heavy heart, I had to admit that
Vicente was loosing the round, taking punishment, and missing too many shots.
Daniel was more effective and won the round.
The fifth round Vicente’s jab was
working effectively, but he was dropping his hand to his waist, making him too
slow. The crowd tried to encourage him, while Daniel was banging away at him in
the corner. Daniel attacked constantly which kept Vicente off balance. Vicente
was never able to dominate the action. Another obvious detail was that Daniel
was a better boxer. Vicente, who displayed more guts than brains, lacked the
self discipline to use the tools of boxing to his advantage. Both demonstrated
tremendous chins and brave hearts. It was clear that Daniel's hand speed was
beating Vicente who stopped trying to counter punch over Daniel's jab. Vicente
never wavered and tried to kill Daniel with each punch, while Daniel never
stopped jabbing, setting the tone and keeping Vicente off balance. I gave the
round to Daniel.
The Sixth round. Vicente landed five
or six beautiful jabs to Daniel's head; he also kept his hands too low. Daniel
came back with a beautiful combination. It appeared that Vicente was taking a
round off. Daniel noticed Vicente’s lack of aggression and attacked trying to
kill Vicente, who displayed horrible defensive tactics likes those of Roy Jones,
who described his lowered hands, and bobbing head as “rooster fighting
techniques”. As a trainer, that is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. The
crowd gave Vicente its support, rocking the roof, as he bled, and took
punishment. It might have been his new trainer, or it might have been the
pressure and frustration of having someone who refused to drop when hit.
Vicente’s bad mouthing his opponent may be an indication of his street
fighting background, but it has no place in professional boxing. Vicente lost
the round. Vicente needed a knock out to win.
The Seventh round, Vicente came in
with combinations, throwing bombs, trying to kill Daniel with each punch. He
also jabbed from his kneecaps, as the crowd screamed for him to keep his hands
up. Daniel landed beautiful hard punches, and blood oozed from Vicente’s nose.
Daniel had precision, while Vicente missed several combinations, and refused to
raise his hands, Daniel bobbed and weaved, while Vicente maintained a stationary
head position and took punishment. Vicente’s feet made him off balance which
caused his punches to lack power, while Daniel seemed to gain momentum, and
issued Vicente more punishment. Vicente took it with a stoic expression, never
surrendering or retreating, but loosing the round none the less. Daniel was
clearly ahead and only a knocked would win the fight for Vicente. Vicente was
making lots of mistakes.
The Eight round. The crowd was wild
with anticipation. Both combatants came out with murder in their eyes. Vicente
must have known he was loosing, because he came out with reckless abandon,
completely off balance, focusing on his punches, and took several punches which
knocked him to the canvas. He’d never been knocked down, and it must have
shattered the last remnants of self control. He was up in a second, took the
eight count, but was clearly hurt. Daniel came in for the kill and unleashed a
torrent of punches which Vicente endured like a warrior. Vicente was unwilling
to surrender and fought back. He made a valiant effort for revenge, but Daniel
was too quick. Both boxers missed several punches as the crowd screamed in
agony, fearing a knock out of Vicente. Perhaps fearing a knock out and Instead
of attacking, Vicente moved left, then right, regaining himself, then both men
charged like raging bulls, goring at each other with reckless abandon, in a
flurry of punches. It was a tremendous display of courage, stamina and blood
lust. No one can complain about not getting their money’s worth. I had Vicente
behind on my card. I suspect he thought he lost as well, however he made a half
hearted effort to play to the audience who quickly responded, then booed Daniel
for doing the same. It was a great fight. However, in all honesty, I believe
Vicente lost. It’s difficult not to be disappointed. I wanted him to win.
The judges scored a split decision for
Daniel Jimenez. Vicente Escobedo, whom I’ve praised since before the last
Olympics lost, but he has nothing to be ashamed of. He does however, need a
better trainer. He also needs to abandon his Hollywood attitude, and Roy Jones
defense. Let’s hope his brother, Jose, will find a way to guide him, and
encourage him to drop the bullshit. All that Roy Jones nonsense is nothing more
than misguided ego. Let’s hope Vicente has the strength of character to
recreate himself, stay grounded, and develop the skills necessary to defeat his
As I said earlier, there were other
fights, I was not interested. The terrible seating made it impossible to take
notes and properly cover the event. I hope Arco Arena management finally comes
to realize I could do a much better job from ringside.
According to Greek legend, the Gods
punished those who displayed too much pride. Like today’s boxing fans, the
Gods were fickle, easily bored, and distracted. I would suggest Vicente get a
college education, stop spending so much time hanging out with starlets and
adopt Bernard Hopkins’ attitude of never playing to the crowd. Most
importantly, keep his eyes on the prize. Boxing is a business, not a stage for
personal revenge. It’s about the money. Fame fades quickly. The fans will
forget. Ignore the sportswriters. Most sport writers don’t know boxing. They
cover it because they have too. Most want to become celebrities. They are
whimsical and operate on what sells, not what's real. Boxing is my religion. I
only cover boxing and my goal is to the best job I can do. I also coach boxing.
I study boxing the way Priest study religion. It is my religion. I say let
someone else play the fool. Focus on winning; develop the skills and self
discipline to win. Attack methodically, destroy your opponents carefully, refuse
to engage in brawling, and smile all the way to the bank. Everybody has seen and
met former champions, most don’t look like winners. I say stay healthy, by
always being in better shape than your opponent. Focus on the prize. I want to
congratulate Daniel Jimenez and Vicente Escobedo, for a well fought battle. Even
though Vicente suffered a set back, he has nothing to be ashamed of. I believe
he has the character to make the necessary changes. I am looking forward towards
the rematch. Life is about choices, and the best ones are usually harder to
make. In the mean time, I gotta say, Thank God for Boxing!