By Derek Bonnett: The country of Australia is located in the southern hemisphere and comprises the world’s smallest continent. It is known for geographical bodies like the Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast and its vast desert, which makes up the majority of its landmass, commonly referred to as “the outback.”
By Derek Bonnett: When it comes to the sporting world, the Western European country of France is best known for its hosting of the Tour de France and the French Open; one is the premier road bicycling event in the world and the other is one of the four Grand Slam tournaments in the world of tennis.
By Derek Bonnett: The Republic of Ghana is located in western portion of the African continent just a few degrees north of the equator. Since the Greenwich Meridian also passes through Ghana it is commonly said that Ghana is closer to the center of the world than any other nation.
By Derek Bonnett: Venezuela, officially the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is a country located on the northern coast of South America bordering Brazil and Colombia. Back in 1992, Hugo Chavez, the now elected president of Venezuela, attempted to overthrow the government of Carlos Andres Perez in an unsuccessful coup.
Each Nation’s Best: Nicaragua
By Derek Bonnett: The Republic of Nicaragua is the largest nation in Central America. Yet, it is the least densely populated with demographic comparable to that of Honduras and Costa Rica. It derives its name from the famed Chief Nicarao who once ruled over this land and the Spanish word “agua” (water).
In boxing terms, one might refer to this Central American nation as Arguello-Land. Although boxing is considered the second most popular sport in Nicaragua, its history doesn’t possess much depth and no one certainly comes close to the greatness of three-division world champion Alexis Arguello (126, 130, 135). In fact, Nicaragua has spawned only seven other world champions. These men range from the once formidable Rosendo Alvarez, a two-division champion (105, 108) and the only man to put a blemish on the great Ricardo Lopez’ record when they drew in 1998, to Eduardo Ray Marquez who won a strawweight title in March 2003 only to surrender it in May of the same year.
There is not much indication that Nicaragua will be increasing its world championship output drastically in the near future, but it still offers some respectable names in the sport. Of the four men to be featured here, three have already held world championships and one is an exciting young prospect that appears to be title bound. Here are four of Nicaragua’s best.
4). Jose “Quiebra Jicara” Alfaro recently surrendered his WBA lightweight championship by third round KO on May 19. The third round knockout loss to Yusuke Kobori marked the fourth on a career ledger of 20-4 (18). At age 24, the orthodox Alfaro has time to rebuild and become a true contender, but his history of losing to relatively unknown fighters counts it as unlikely.
The best Alfaro has been able to come up with is an off the canvas eighth round KO of a badly faded and weight drained Demarcus Corley. His title winning effort was a close decision over the respectable Prawet Singwancha last December. Early in his career, Quiebra Jicara easily stopped former featherweight contender Genaro Rios in three.
With the taste of defeat fresh in the mouth of Alfaro it is unlikely what the next move will be. He will certainly receive another opportunity as a former world champion, perhaps to one of the young rising stars or fringe contenders. A bout with Edner Cherry, who lies somewhere in between, could be a good move for either man down the road.
3). Roman “El Chocolatito” Gonzalez, 20, hails from Managua and sports an unblemished record of 18-0 (16). The orthodox fighter has been dropped only once in his career, but has competed against mostly journeyman type fighters in his young career which began in 2005. One might point to Gonzalez’ lack of experience as his biggest detraction, but he has shown the ability to go 10 rounds and has had to do so in his last two bouts.
The most impressive feat on Gonzalez’ dossier is a one round blowout of Eriberto Gejon, who had never been stopped and had previously gone to the scorecards against Yutaka Niida in bids for the strawweight championship. He also finished strawweight world title challenger Jose Luis Varela in a single round. In his most recent effort, Gonzalez dropped Javier Murillo seven times over the course of 10 rounds. He is ranked fifth by the WBC at strawweight.
Gonzalez has fought twice in 2008, but has yet to schedule a third bout. A match-up with the winner of the Along Denoy-Sonny Boy Jaro fight on June 20 would be both a step up and a worthwhile challenge for the young power-puncher.
2). Luis “El Demoledor” Perez is a 30 year-old former two division champion at 115 and 118. Despite his nickname it was he who was demolished in seven rounds by Joseph Agbeko last September in a bout that cost him his IBF bantamweight belt. His only other defeat came against Vernie Torres back in 2000. Perez’ ledger remains solid at 25-2 (16). The southpaw fighter has been hindered by inactivity since winning the IBF super flyweight title back in 2003.
Perez should be held in higher regard, but has spoiled the momentum of his best victories with inactivity and inconsistency. He twice out pointed the game Felix Machado in world title fights, but was most impressive in stopping Genaro Garcia in seven rounds to claim his second world title. A questionable win over Dimitri Kirilov fell between those performances.
Perez has nothing scheduled for 2008 and will be inactive for a year come September. At age 30, he is clearly in the twilight of his career and is not likely to regain his former status. However, his name is still good enough to warrant another title run or at least to lure a young contender like Abner Mares into the ring for one last hurrah.
1). Ricardo “El Matador” Mayorga can still draw a crowd at age 34 and is arguably the greatest overachiever in boxing today. His record stands at 29-6-1 (23). Mayorga lost three times early in his career, but since maturing as a fighter only the best have been able to beat the chain smoking tough guy from Managua. There’s no shame in losing to Cory Spinks, Felix Trinidad, and Oscar De La Hoya in the biggest fights of his career.
Most recently Mayorga dropped and out pointed the underachieving Fernando Vargas at super middleweight, but appears to be better off at 154 where he is ranked third by the WBC. His career highlights are his back-to-back victories over Vernon Forrest and they looked even better when Vernon returned to championship form.
El Matador has yet to fight in 2008, but he possesses an uncanny ability to find himself cast as the villain in high profile bouts. With the talent pool at 154 and 160 as shallow as it is, one can’t rule out a title fight for Mayorga in the near future. His name has come up in recent weeks concerning possible bouts with both Shane Mosley and Jermain Taylor.
One thing is certain; there must be something in the “agua” in Managua! Five of Nicaragua’s eight world champions hail from its most major city. The young Roman Gonzalez hails from there as well and holds perhaps the brightest future of these four men. No one looks poised to make us forget the Arguello legacy and it’s doubtful that any will surpass Mayorga’s popularity and financial success. However, the heart of Nicaragua boxing is still beating and the Central American nation will continue to produce world-class fighters.