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.
Since 2006, Venezuela has pulled off a partial coup of the lower weight classes of professional boxing. As of this writing, Venezuela owns two reigning world champions at the130 and 126-pound weight divisions. A third surrendered his title just one week ago to one of the best fighters on the planet and a fourth Venezuelan fighter will be vying for his second world championship at a higher weight class.
Prior to this recent success Venezuela has produced a lot of good, but few great fighters. Antonio Esparragoza probably leads the pack as a WBA featherweight champion with seven title defenses bewtween 1987 and 1990. Other capable fighters like Antonio Cermeno (122 and 126), Eloy Rojas (126), Leo Gamez (105,108, and 112), and Crisanto Espana (147) also claimed WBA world title belts in the noted divisions.
In the boxing world, Venezuela is not at a lack for quantity of world-class fighters. The following four fighters represent the best this nation has to offer and the current heirs to some of the same WBA crowns.
4.) Edwin “Dinamita” Valero has garnered a lot of attention in the boxing world with his 100% knockout ratio and staggering percentage of first round KO’s. Valero currently stands at 23-0 (23), but has faced a very modest cast of opposition. Some attribute the lack of recognizable names on his ledger to his inability to fight in the United States since 2003 due to a failed medical exam. The revelation of a head injury he suffered in a motorcycle accident as an amateur later surfaced. At twenty-six, Valero still has plenty of time to bolster his resume.
Valero captured the WBA junior lightweight championship in his twentieth pro bout with an off the canvas KO of Vincente Mosquera in 2006. He managed three title defenses in 2007 by stopping Michael Lozada, Nobuhito Honmo, and Zaid Zavaleta.
Takehiro Shamada should be Valero’s next KO victim on June 12.
3.) Lorenzo “Lencho” Parra is twenty-nine years old and currently campaigning in the super bantamweight division. Weight trouble has caused Parra to be stripped of his flyweight title and seek amnesty in a heavier division. He holds a professional record of 28-1 (18) and his lone defeat is a third round KO loss to Takefumi Sakata, whom he previously defeated twice by decision.
As a flyweight, Lencho scored a number of high-quality victories. Parra captured the WBA flyweight title by dethroning the highly regarded Eric Morel. In title defenses, he posted two victories over Sakata, the late former champion Yo Sam Choi, and, the currently reigning WBA 108 pound titlist, Brahim Ansloum.
Although Parra has not fought a significant bout at 122, he will be challenging Celestino Caballero for his title on June 7.
2.) Jorge “Golden Boy” Linares doesn’t possess the experience of Lorenzo Parra, but the twenty-two year old’s career is riding a lot more momentum in the last year. At 25-0 (16), Linares hasn’t faced a world of great opposition until recently. The only real negative has been a second round knockdown suffered against Jean Javier Sotelo, but Linares dropped him twice and finished him later the same round.
In 2007, Linares came out of nowhere to earn his first world championship with a resounding tenth round KO of the respected and seasoned Oscar Larios in ten rounds. Since then, Linares has notched a single defense against the formidable Gamaliel Diaz, which showed us some of Linares defensive flaws, but highlighted his punching power in the finish.
A May 3 bout with prospect Billy Dib fell through, but Linares will still be fighting on May 31 against the relatively unknown Feider Viloria.
1.) Alexander “El Explosivo” Munoz, 29, fell to 32-3 (27) on May 17 in losing his WBA super flyweight title to Cristian Mijares by split decision. Most felt the split verdict was more than generous to Munoz, but he still remains the most accomplished fighter currently campaigning out of Venezuela. His other two defeats came by split and unanimous decisions to the recently retired Martin Castillo of Mexico.
El Explosivo began his first run as WBA champion with a powerful knockout of Celes Kobayashi in an exciting, yet lopsided, affair that lasted eight rounds. Munoz notched three defenses before being dethroned by Castillo. Three years later, Munoz regained his championship by out-pointing Castillo’s conqueror Nobuo Nashiro quite easily in Japan. Two exciting title defenses followed before Mijares lifted his crown.
Having only been defeated by two of the best 115-pounders in recent years will prevent Munoz from falling too far down the ladder of contention. Munoz should be expected to return in 2008.
Venezuela’s trend of producing solid professional boxers should continue, but each man possesses a roadblock that must be taken care of before any of them can be ranked alongside predecessors like Esparragoza and Cermeno. Valero is in need of a stern challenger, Parra must establish himself at the new weight, Linares needs time to progress, and Munoz will need to rebuild. Venezuela’s best should have enough time to at least attempt to re-write their nation’s boxing history with their names at the top.
May 25, 2008