By Derek Bonnett: Great beauty can be derived from that which is not without blemish. As sexy as an unbeaten resume can appear on a bout sheet or at the negotiating table, it can often indicate a lack of experience or too few miles on the odometer. A scan of the current SecondsOut or Transnational Boxing Rankings, along with a myriad of other credible outlets, will reveal an interesting grouping of prominent Mexican fighters both of this generation and ones who have progressed on from the last. Rare is the coveted "0" among this lot unless you find it in the tens column of the KO percentage or loss tally. In that reality, there is much beauty. Boxing fans should be drawn to this special group of boxers, especially for what the veteran contingency could provide them in terms of ring excitement from a multitude of match-ups which would not require any genius in matchmaking nor copious millions in purses. Hey, Tecate! Are you up for sponsoring this one?
Miguel Berchelt, once beaten, is one of Mexico’s top fighters and leads the pack in terms of ranking. Miguel Vargas, vanquished by Berchelt, also owns only one "derota", and still rates favorably in a top ten sense. Eduardo Hernandez, unbeaten, is a name just emerging in the top ten conversations and he is the least experienced of Mexican combatants to be named. However accomplished or exciting all three of these fighters have been and might be, I have no interest in them for the purposes of a Tecate sponsored Aztec Warriors Boxing Classic. No, the names I spy belong to men with far grislier experience. Men who have already seen opportunity and both seized it and let it slip away from them again, and again, and again. These "gatos" will always have the Mexican fans behind them, but they are pretty much on their ninth lives. Please welcome Orlando Salido, Jhonny Gonzalez, Cristian Mijares, Miguel Roman, Robinson Castellanos, and Dante Jardon. This all-Mexican motley crew of the baddest hombres on the planet bring a compiled record of 278-61-8 (192) and the "cojones" break down any wall between them and success or die trying. Tecate? I’m still waiting for my response!
The following sizes up the celebrated Aztec Warriors with their ring credentials, styles attributes, and their prospects for victory.
Dante "Crazy" Jardon - Jardon holds a record of 30-6-0 (23) and, at twenty-nine years of age, is a well-tested former world title challenger. Jardon’s foray into the lightweight division was met mostly with success including one of his career best victories over former 130-pound champion Juan Carlos Salgado. However, Jardon’s last contest and only appearance in 2017 saw him dropped and knocked partially through the ropes by two right hands from Francisco Rojo. With his thirtieth birthday in January, Jardon may want to maximize his financial opportunities and return to 130 for a hellacious tournament with his grittiest of countrymen. After all, he does call himself "Crazy". Jardon is familiar with Miguel Roman already and split two bouts back in 2012. Roman won the first narrowly and Jardon took a wide decision in the rematch in a span of three months. No trilogy yet, but that would be a good match-up. Jardon has been known to hit the canvas, but, as his record shows, he also knows how to keep most guys there himself. Jardon earned his ill-fated shot at Takashi Miura in 2013 with a stoppage of former world champion Gamaliel Diaz in eight rounds after hitting the canvas himself in the sixth. He’s got a strong, albeit wild, left hook that damaged Diaz late in the fight and claimed the victory. In 2016, the same punch from Jardon ended the night for fellow Mexican badass Nery Saguilan, who just might have to serve as Tecate’s substitute on standby for this fantasy tourney. Jardon would be a big underdog to become the supreme Aztec Warrior of the tournament, but a man with nothing to lose can be a dangerous proposition and Jardon’s hands won’t stopped until the final bell or he’s counted out. Familiarity breeds confidence and a third meeting with Roman would be a strong opportunity to find victory. A match-up with Gonzalez could be tricky as they are similar fighter in terms of power and susceptibility; however, Gonzalez has found success at a much higher level and would probably stop Jardon if they met.
Robinson "Robin Hood" Castellanos - As his nickname suggests, Castellanos, 24-13-0 (14), is a man of the people and he fits perfectly into this tournament. His role as a Cinderella Man is not to be undermined either. At thirty-five, Castellanos has the spottiest record of the group, but he is still very much a top contender. Injury recently pulled him out of a showdown with former world champion Jason Sosa, much to the chagrin of fans, but Castellanos acquitted himself quite well in his most recent bout, a close ten round technical decision loss. Castellanos had the champion down twice in round four, but the champion regained composure and dropped Castellanos in the seventh. A pair of accidental butts twice cut Castellanos prompting the untimely advance to the scorecards. Castellanos came up tough though, starting his career at 10-10 including a second round stoppage to Orlando Salido. However, an impressive string of eleven victories brought Castellanos to contender status as he decisioned previously unbeaten Christopher Perez, stopped Alberto Garza, and upset three-time Celestino Caballero amid his best run as a professional. However, the big victories did not stop there as Castellanos has surprised Ronny Rios, Rocky Juarez, and two-time titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa in recent years to earn his lone title fight against Corrales. Castellanos’ big right hand dropped Gamboa in rounds three and four before enough pressure and time forced Gamboa to wilt in his corner after the seventh for a prominent Cinco de Mayo victory this year. Castellanos’ left hook and right uppercut dropped Corrales on separate occasions in July, so don’t let Robin Hood’s lower KO percentage fool you. In terms of excitement, Castellanos will match up well with anyone as well. Jhonny Gonzalez would be an interesting fight due to his imbalance of power and chin and I like Castellanos’ chances in that one, but he has also been stopped more than half the time in defeat. Cristian Mijares might be a bad style for Castellanos. Corrales was able to outbox "Robin Hood" once he got settled and Mijares would be looking to find his openings and counter rather than direct engagement. Part of Castellanos’ effectiveness comes from an opponent’s willingness to engage and Mijares would not feed into that.
Miguel "Micky" Roman - Roman, 57-12-0 (44), will be meeting Orlando Salido on December 9 in a mouthwatering showdown for Mexican bragging rights and, likely, a world title shot. Roman came up the hard way, similarly to Castellanos, but found much greater success early on with victories over Cuauhtémoc Gomez and Cesar Soto, defeating each twice. However, he also hit a bad patch once he progressed further into world class waters, losing two or three bouts at a time to the likes of Jorge Solis, Antonio Escalante, Javier Fortuna, and Antonio Demarco among numerous others. Roman, now 31, split a pair of bouts with Jardon in 2012 and remained unbeaten until his recent stoppage loss to Takashi Miura in 2017. Along this road, Roman dispatched the likes of Juan Carlos Salgado, Daniel Ponce De Leon, and Juli Giner. In June, he stopped Nery Saguilan to get back on track after his exciting war with Miura. Roman will hook with anyone and he never gets tired of throwing it. Against Salgado, he threw a succession of left hooks which put an exhausted Salgado on the canvas, effectively ending the fight even though Salgado would be stopped moments later on his feet. Roman retired Ponce De Leon with a TKO in the ninth under a barrage of punches, mostly wild hooks. His left caused considerable damage in that exchange as well. Before this fantasy tournament will ever take place (You have to admit you are at least interested, Tecate.), Roman will have squared off with Salido and my prediction will be that Roman pulls off the upset. The fighters are very similar in terms of style and build, but "Siri" has more miles than any odometer should have to endure and I think the timing of this outing favors Roman, whose pace will play into his favor on the inside. Should they meet in the tourney, I like Roman’s chances there as well. A Jardon rubber match could sneak up on Roman in a bad way though. If Jardon can fight with the same discipline as the second time around, Roman can be left swinging wildly without the KO effect.
Cristian "El Diamonte" Mijares - Mijares, who actually bears a strong physical resemblance to Castellanos turned thirty-six in October. HIs resume stands at 58-8-2 (26). Like the others, he has climbed the weight classes, but he has reached the top of his division as a formidable world champion. The former three time super flyweight champion has changed divisions to become a legitimate contender and title challenger all the way up to featherweight. However, Mijares continues to win at 130 and above. Mijares suffered some early defeats, succumbed to some of the best during his prime years, but has always been able to re-establish himself with a credible victory such as his 2012 stoppage of Rafael Marquez, which led to a dubious split decision defeat to Victor Terrazas in a bid for a super bantamweight title. More recently he defeated then unbeaten Andres Gutierrez in 2016 as a featherweight. With nine wins behind him since a decision loss to Leo Santa Cruz, Mijares could shine in a tournament of this nature as the fighter most closely resembling a technical boxer. Mijares has won thrice in 2017 and would be more than physically prepared for the challenge even as one of the older statesman of the Aztec Warrior Super Six. Most recently, Mijares countered well on the inside and landed cleanly against Jesus Arevalo, but who can forget the ease through which he outboxed the pressure and power oriented Jorge Arce a decade ago? One can imagine Mijares easily outboxing Dante Jardon while making the one shot KO artist miss all night, but the constant pressure style of the naturally thicker Orlando Salido could pose a lot of trouble for the former champion.
Jhonny Gonzalez - Gonzalez also turned thirty-six this fall and, like Mijares, has traveled to the super featherweight division from as low as 111 pounds. Gonzalez is arguably the most celebrated fighter in the tournament as a three time world champion at bantamweight and featherweight. Having just won a twelve round decision over Irving Berry last week, Gonzalez is both active and still in the hunt for a more significant victory. Gonzalez turned professional with a pair of losses and absorbed a couple more blemishes from Mexican veteran Ricardo Vargas in back to back fashion in 2002. The heavy-handed Mexican built a lengthy win-streak following this setbacks en route to a world championship and victories over Mark Johnson and Fernando Montiel before moving up to meet Israel Vazquez in an all-time classic war, which saw Gonzalez deck the champion repeatedly before getting stopped in the tenth. Gonzalez always stayed relevant as a contender, winning and losing in spectacular fashion as we saw in bouts with Toshiaki Nishioka and Hozumi Hasegawa. Gonzalez built respectable title reigns, but would sometimes lose unexpectedly as he did by technical decision to Ponce De Leon. Yet, you could never count him out as Abner Mares learned as he sat at the top of the sport. An all-Mexican Super Six at 130 pounds would be incomplete without Gonzalez even if his most recent defeat in 2015 came to the ordinary Jonathon Oquendo. Gonzalez has won seven in a row with five stoppages and a whole bunch of knockdowns. Gonzalez still possesses concussive power as seen with the left hook that dropped Mares for the first time in his one round blowout for the 126 pound title. This year, the same left hook looked remarkably sharp and destructive in dispatching previously unbeaten Jessie Cris Rosales in two rounds back in July. Orlando Salido has not been stopped in seventeen years, but Gonzalez’ power could be just the ticket in keeping the frequent canvas visitor down. Speed has always been Gonzalez downfall along with his chin. Thankfully, for Gonzalez’ sake, there are no speedsters in the tourney, but it is easy to imagine a recklessly effective Miguel Roman landing a bomb that leaves Jhonny out for the count.
Orlando "Siri" Salido - Salido will turn thirty-seven next week and will be capping off his twenty-first year as a professional prizefighter when he meets Miguel Roman in December. Salido will arguably have the greatest fanfare going into this mythical tournament due to his high rankings and status as one of boxing’s thrill-a-minute former champions. Salido is a four-time featherweight champion and a super featherweight champion, but had a start as shaky as "Robin Hood" Castellanos’. Going into his 2002 upset of Lamont Pearson, Salido was 14-8-2, losing to Ivan Valle, William Abelyan, and Alejandro Gonzalez most saliently. The Pearson upset marked a turn for Salido though and he built a nine fight win-streak which led to a showdown with Juan Manuel Marquez for two featherweight titles. Salido was outboxed, but his days as a trialhorse were over. Salido split a pair of title fights with Cristobal Cruz, lost a decision to Yuriorkis Gamboa, but had him on the floor late, and was outpointed by a young Mikey Garcia by technical decision in a bout he was coming on late in. Salido’s stoppages of Juan Manuel Lopez forever put his days as a steppingstone fighter behind him. Salido has been near the top his division since then. This, largely due to his defeat of Vasyl Lomachenko and questionable draws in recent bouts with Roman Martinez and Francisco Vargas. A win over Roman likely gets him a title shot and a loss still leaves many doors open, particularly in Mexico. Salido would be the heaviest favorite to win the official crown of "Baddest Hombre on the Planet" if he took home Tequila Gold. However, Salido is the oldest fighter on the list and has been in the most wars, often going the distance. He’s had many trips to the canvas and at some point something’s got to give in the Mexican icon. Salido has already stopped a neophyte Castellanos in two rounds, but neither man is the same fighter as their first meeting and that’s in a good way. Mijares’ lack of pop could be just what the doctor ordered for Salido, but it’s hard not to imagine Mijares as a tough test for everyone involved. Salido has been able to use size and rough tactics to thwart sound boxing though. The Roman fight is sure to be a Fight of the Year contender and even though I am picking Roman, a Salido win should be favored. I think the danger man for Salido is Gonzalez due to his KO power. Salido has seen it all, but Gonzalez will be the biggest crack he takes on the chin throughout his entire career.
Toss the six names up in the air and see how they land. Jardon-Castellanos, Roman-Mijares, Salido-Gonzalez and so forth. I defy you to find a bad match-up on paper. Mexico has produced an abundance of great fighters over the years, but an even greater number of durable, skilled, tough guys just waiting to give a top contender a hard time. The best against the best is always in the best interest of boxing, but sometimes you just have to look at the old adage of "styles make fights" and anyone can see that these six super featherweights make for a year’s worth of great action.
So, Tecate, are you with me? Now reach out to UniMas and Golden Boy Promotions to get this thing done!