By Sean Waisglass: Junior welterweight Alex Trujillo's record is looking a lot better these days - despite the fact that he fought only one bout last year, and the fight previous to that was his first and only loss.
That's because the 29-year-old Puerto Rican with a 23-1 (17) record has faced a string of opponents who have gone on to have startling successes after facing the pressure-fighting slugger.
Trujillo, who's dabbled in both lightweight and junior welter throughout his career, took his first serious step up against Jose Luis Juarez in October 2000, winning a 10-round decision despite being knocked down by the hard-hitting Mexican. Juarez went on to give 140 prospect Vivian Harris all kinds of hell in a split decision loss the next year. He also gave more of the same to Lovemore N'Dou (seen recently nearly upsetting Sharmba Mitchell) six months later in a majority win battle that was one of the best fights of 2002. He knocked Harris down once, N'Dou twice.
He took on Emmanuel Clottey in May 2001 winning another 10-rounder, and Clottey went on to give other 140 prospects Ebo Elder, Jeff Resto, and most recently Francisco Bojado very solid tests, and was doing the same for Olympian Mohamed Abdulaev before a last round knockdown earned him a surprising KO victory.
In his next bout in July of 2002, Trujillo took on Juan Valenzuela, who was coming fresh off of a stunning first round knockout of lightweight prospect Julio Diaz - both were on Friday Night Fights. They mixed in up in the trenches in a tough fight that saw Trujillo come away with the decision. Valenzuela went on upset US Olympian Ricardo Williams and impressively beat a few solid lightweight-area boxers to establish himself as a fringe contender in the 140 division.
In the bout after that, October 2002, Trujillo suffered his first loss in another inside-action slug out with the then 44-10-2 Javier Jauregui over 12 rounds. It was a competitive match, but Trujillo was ultimately out-hustled by the scrappy and smaller Mexican. It was no doubt a disappointing setback to lose to a boxer with double digits in the loss column. But then, Jauregui salvaged Trujillo's rep by going on to KO Felix Trinidad's cousin, the solid Juan Gomez Trinidad, in an IBF title eliminator. Then Jauregui out-fought the sharp-boxing Levander Johnson for the vacant title.
Trujillo came back in August 2003 to face the tough Luis Villalta, who hadn't had a lot of victory successes against up and coming lightweights, but nonetheless, made a habit of knocking down most of the winners along the way. Trujillo took out the normally durable Villalta in three rounds. (Note:Sadly, in his next fight, Villalta suffered brain damage in a decision loss to Ricky Quiles in late February, and passed away four days later).
So now Trujillo, who's name has dropped off the 'hot' lists in the 140 area, looks like he might be one of the dark horses in a division that not only has a wealth of great fighters, but the most populous up-and-comer count around. And he can prove so tonight...
After taking on a succession of hard challenges to prove his mettle, he does so once again against the always ready-to-rumble and visibly skilled journeyman/trail horse/fringe contender Emmanuel Augustus (former known as Burton), 27-23-6, of Baton Rouge, LA. Augustus will provide him with the kind of showcase fight that could easily propel him in to more significant fights right away in a well-populated division with lots of high-level fight opportunities. But if he's just a step off, as he was against Jauregui, he'll be in deep with Augustus, and with a another loss to a double-digit-loser, he'll have to get back in line or take short money against dangerous foes.
Augustus, also a 135/140 switch-hitter for much of his career, has faced, well... just about everybody. The list is long: Ivan Robinson, Diobelys Hurtado, Antonio Diaz, Teddy Reid, John-John Molina, Leonard Dorin, Omar Weis, and a handful of prospects.
Augustus is a frustrating character. He's got obvious offensive and defensive skills, always comes to fight, and is in impeccable shape every time out. He's also a bit of a clowner, and prone to giving as good as he gets - regardless of it's strategic benefits - making him an entertaining boxer to watch. But he often seems to fight with a sparring partner mentality - giving his opponent a great test, but just under-fighting enough to nary come away with a win.
But make no bones about it - if you're not in top form, Augustus won't roll over. He's beaten a couple of fighters he was supposed to be a stiff test for, and come up with draws (some very questionable) in similar instances.
His two fights of note were an admirable feisty effort against a peaking Floyd Mayweather in October 2002 at 135, in which the vet gave the star all kinds of trouble on his way to being stopped on his feet, even bloodying the defensive wonder's nose before his corner threw in the towel in the ninth round.
Then there was his wonderful battle, the Fight of the Year in July 2001 with Mickey Ward, shown on Friday Night Fights. The two warriors battled in out in a non-stop action-packed momentum-shifting slug-fest that was under-rated in terms of skills since its toughness was so overwhelming. Both fighters sent leather flying from first bell to last, and ripped constant combos with a variety of punches throughout. Augustus was turning the tide on the fringe contender when a late round knockdown (a knee taken as a result of a patented Ward left hook to the body) sealed both his unanimous loss and his admiration in the hearts of boxing fans.
He's been back on a run of just-enough performances, going 1-2-4 in his last seven, but was in against top 20-type boxers and prospects in all the draws and losses, and stopped the solid Carlos Wilfredo Vilches on cuts for the sole win.
Augustus, a ham when he's in a good mood, and a threat when he's in a cocky one, will make tonight's fight a good watch, and if he's so inclined, maybe even a great one. Back in the bright lights of ESPN2's Friday Night Fights, who are fans of his work and have brought him on air many a time, he might just be in the feisty mindset that he was in on the night of the Vilches fight. He stated in pre-fight interviews as well as after his upset win that he was tired of goofing around, and wanted to take better advantage of his squandered abilities.
He didn't fulfill that promise, but a win over Trujillo would at put him back in the mix for bigger-money higher-profile fights against the crop of rising junior welters such Juan Diaz, Bojado, Abdulaev, Cotto, etc.
So depending the mercurial nature of Augustus, we most likely will have the pleasure of watching either a good solid pro fight, or an exciting battle for 'bigger things': will he come in and do his 'job' of testing a contender, or will he realize his time is running short, and show his occasional extra fire, upsetting the prospect to jump ahead in the long and intriguing 140lb line?