Dulorme steps up against Abregu

There comes a time when every prospect must prove his mettle. Showing potential against overmatched opponents as a fighter learns his trade is one thing, but getting the job done against a legitimate opponent is another.

Thomas Dulorme, a charismatic 22-year-old Puerto Rican welterweight prospect, has shown potential -- a lot of it -- against the competition he has faced since turning pro in August 2008, and he has often looked impressive. He had sensational knockouts on big undercards that excited many in attendance, specifically violent second-round destructions of experienced opponents Harrison Cuello and Guillermo Valdes.

He also has done what every prospect needs to do, which is to put the name of a faded but still competent former titleholder on his record. For Dulorme, that task came in June 2011, when he rolled to a near-shutout 10-round decision against former junior welterweight titlist DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley, who can still pull an upset now and then.

Dulorme (16-0, 12 KOs) won four more fights in a row after beating Corley, setting him up for what his team hopes will be his coming-out party in a significant step up in competition against Luis Carlos Abregu of Argentina.

Abregu (33-1, 27 KOs) is an experienced, dangerous puncher whom Dulorme will meet in the scheduled 10-round main event of a "Boxing After Dark" tripleheader on Saturday night (HBO, 10:15 ET/PT) at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y.

"I spoke at length with my matchmaker, John Beninati; he felt this was the right fight at the right time for Dulorme," said Gary Shaw, who promotes Dulorme along with Lou DiBella and Javier Bustillo of Universal Promotions in Puerto Rico. "In this climate, you just can't keep babying a fighter. When the opportunity is there, you have to take it."

With HBO's keen interest in Dulorme, the opportunity is indeed there for him to score a career-best win while being seen by a wide audience. The rest is up to him.

"For me it's just another fight," said Dulorme, who is learning English but was more comfortable speaking to ESPN.com through translator Ricardo Rodriguez. "I trained the same as I did before. I've seen Abregu. I know what his strengths and abilities are. I have trained hard for this big opportunity, and I am very thankful to my team and to HBO for giving me this opportunity so early in my career."

Dulorme began boxing as a 65-pound 8-year-old after his father, Thomas Dulorme Sr., took him to the gym, where he began working with Jose Bonilla, who is still his trainer.

"I got into boxing because of two things, watching two fighters -- [Felix] 'Tito' Trinidad and my favorite fighter of all time, Sugar Ray Leonard," Dulorme said. "I try to emulate him to the fullest. My father was also a boxer, but he wasn't very good. But he took me to the gym and I never left."

Dulorme was familiar with Trinidad, who was Puerto Rico's biggest star when he was growing up. He was too young to have seen Leonard fight, but he had heard about him and "decided to get more information about him, so I looked at him against Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns, and then I asked my dad for some money to get a Sugar Ray Leonard DVD collection. So I'm a really big fan."

Also on the card, San Francisco's Karim Mayfield (16-0-1, 10 KOs) will face Mauricio Herrera (18-2, 7 KOs) of Lake Elsinore, Calif., in a scheduled 10-round junior welterweight fight, and in the opening bout, Mexico's Miguel Vazquez (31-3, 13 KOs) will make the fourth defense of his lightweight world title against mandatory challenger and countryman Marvin Quintero (25-3, 21 KOs). If Vazquez wins, he likely will defend against Mercito Gesta on the Dec. 8 Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez IV HBO PPV undercard.

In addition to the three bouts, HBO will air a video tribute to Emanuel Steward, the beloved Hall of Fame trainer and longtime HBO analyst, who died on Thursday at age 68.

Shaw said he isn't really nervous about Dulorme's fight, but understands there is danger.

"I'm always worried that they'll be a deer in the headlights," Shaw said. "It's his first fight on a big stage, headlining the card against a really solid veteran. And Abregu can really punch. Dulorme has always been very cool and controlled in the ring. That's what I want to see -- that controlled fighter that has the ring presence.

"I know he's a very, very good offensive fighter, but I want to see how his defense is and how he handles Abregu's strength. Dulorme has never fought anyone as big and strong."

Abregu's lone defeat came via unanimous decision to then-junior welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. on HBO in July 2010. Bradley moved up in weight to fight Abregu at welterweight as a way to test out the division in which he later won a title by controversial decision against Manny Pacquiao in June.

"Dulorme is supremely confident, and we all know he trains very hard, but he's in with a real veteran," Shaw said. "He did all right with 'Chop Chop,' but Abregu is definitely a step up."

Abregu, 28, said he won't be convinced that Dulorme is for real until he can prove it to him in the ring.

"He definitely has talent, but I do not think he's at Bradley's level yet," Abregu said through a translator. "In the Bradley bout, my right hand was hurt, and I could not fight my fight. It's good now, I'm healthy and I'll be ready for this great opportunity. I worked hard in the gym, and I'm sure that he will not endure the pressure of my attack. I can't wait for [Saturday], as I will have the revenge that I wanted on HBO and let the world see my talent."

When Dulorme -- whose younger half-brother, Starling Cordero (5-0, 3 KOs), is an aspiring bantamweight -- was told that Abregu said he wouldn't be able to handle his physical pressure, he laughed.

"On fight night, he will be dancing to my rhythm. I will dictate the pace," Dulorme said. "I want to take everything away from him. I want to take this opportunity to get to the next level, and I want Puerto Rico to be proud of me and the whole world to be proud. I don't have any type of prediction. The thing for me is to be intelligent in the ring against a foe who is the best foe I have ever faced. But if the knockout comes, it comes."

If all goes well, Shaw said he would like for Dulorme to be ready to fight late next year against the winner of the Nov. 24 interim welterweight title bout between Robert Guerrero and Andre Berto.

"But it depends on what all we see on Saturday night," Shaw said. "If he wins but struggles, we know we have to keep him at that level for another fight or two. If he looks great, well, we're ready to go."

Dulorme likes the plan.

"Being successful in boxing means a lot to me," said Dulorme, who is prepared for life after his fighting career because he has earned a drafting degree and plans to eventually finish the one year left of schooling he needs to earn a civil engineering degree. "I want to be a world champion and to be able to represent Puerto Rico to the fullest with my talents. After that, I want to be a star in boxing. It will help my family and the people important to me."