The best boxer fight fans might not know

Updated: August 29, 2008

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This is gonna take a while: With little pop in his punches, Ivan Calderon expects to go 12 rounds every time he steps in the ring.

'Iron Boy': Boxing's best little secret

How good is world junior flyweight champion Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon, the Puerto Rican pint-sized boxing wizard?

The 2000 Olympian, who made 11 defenses of the 105-pound strawweight title before moving up to 108 to capture the junior flyweight crown, once defeated countryman and good pal Miguel Cotto, who would go on to become a dominant junior welterweight and welterweight titleholder.

The 3-2 victory came in a 1993 amateur bout when Calderon was only 17 and they each weighed only about 100 pounds. In the 15 years since, Cotto has grown into a hard-punching, full-fledged 147-pounder. Calderon, who is just 5-feet, has added only eight pounds to his fighting frame.

Latin Fury
TV Lineup for Top Rank's "Latin Fury" pay-per-view card Saturday night (9 ET) from the Ruben Rodriguez Coliseum in Bayamon, Puerto Rico:

• Junior flyweights: Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon (31-0, 6 KOs) vs. Hugo Cazares (26-4-1, 19 KOs), 12 rounds, rematch, for Calderon's world title

• Junior featherweights: Roman Martinez (19-0-1, 11 KOs) vs. Santos Benavides (14-1-1, 12 KOs), 12 rounds

• Bantamweights: Eric Morel (38-2, 20 KOs) vs. Heriberto Ruiz (39-6-2, 23 KOs), 12 rounds

And although Calderon (31-0, 6 KOs) is not a knockout puncher in any way, shape or form, he's been dominant throughout his career, and is perhaps the finest pure technician in the sport over the past 20 years.

How dominant has he been in making his opponents look silly? In going 15-0 in championship fights, he's won -- according to the judges -- 83 percent of the rounds, a preposterous statistic.

So what's it like for Calderon knowing that virtually every time he goes into battle he'll need to go 12 rounds?

"It's real hard, believe me," Calderon said. "I got to train double just because I know I am going 12 rounds because I don't have that big power punch. To knock people out, you have to receive some punches and that is not my job. My job is to box and win. My boxing is not boring. I put on a good show and my punches are hard, but they're not knockout punches."

Expecting to go 12 rounds yet again, Calderon will enter the ring Saturday (Top Rank PPV, 9 p.m. ET) at the Ruben Rodriguez Coliseum in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. He'll face former world champion Hugo Cazares (26-4-1, 19 KOs) of Mexico in a rematch of an Aug. 25, 2007, split-decision victory that earned Calderon the title in the same ring in which they'll meet again.

That first fight was perhaps the toughest of Calderon's dominant career.

"Many people felt that Cazares was too big for me, but I know how to win fights against bigger guys. It's not easy, but I did it," Calderon said.

Cazares, a visibly larger man with excellent power, dropped Calderon in the eighth round, but Calderon was able to survive for the tight victory.

"He really connected [on] me good; I grabbed him but he kept moving and I went down," Calderon said. "It was a tough fight, my first time going up to 108. I didn't throw enough combinations, but I couldn't fight him toe-to-toe. My body is now used to 108. I will be able to throw more punches in this fight. It should be better than the first fight."

Cazares believes this time he'll finish Calderon.

"All I really need is one good round to win this fight," he said. "I can knock out Calderon at any time during the fight, and that's all I need to finish him -- one good round. I don't need the 12 he needs to beat me."

Calderon is 33, practically ancient for a fighter in such a small weight division. Yet he remains relatively fresh. His secret is simply not getting hit too much, which he takes great pride in.

"Every time I come out well, not swollen," he said.

Calderon takes so little punishment that he often goes directly from the arena out dancing after his fights. He likes to dance, and it "keeps me in shape," he said.

Eric Gomez, the matchmaker for Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Cazares, has followed Calderon for years. He was ringside for the first Calderon-Cazares fight and will be on hand Saturday. He's always been impressed by Calderon.

"He's a great fighter," Gomez said. "He is probably pound-for-pound the best pure boxer in the world. He is incredible. The moves he makes are incredible. He does not run, he throws punches, he scores points and he makes guys fight at his distance. He's really, really good."

Despite his perfect record and gobs of championship experience, Calderon remains largely unknown outside of Puerto Rico. He understands that most boxing fans prefer bigger fighters and heavier hitters.

"It's been hard to get my name out in a lot of places other than Latin America, where they like the small weights," he said. "I've been on HBO pay-per-view [on major undercards], but I still don't get the credit I should. I think a lot of people change the channel when they see small fighters, but we can fight."

Calderon

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Calderon, right, hopes for an easier time out when he meets Hugo Cazares in the rematch.

Gomez said, "It's a shame that in the U.S. people don't notice those little weights and they don't get a lot of exposure. But around the world, Calderon is respected and considered one of the top fighters. I have seen him many times. Even if his style is not what a lot of people like, you have to appreciate what he does. He is so clever. He should go down in the Hall of Fame as one of the best-ever small guys. He has that kind of ability."

Lately, Calderon has been getting at least some attention in that he's cracked the top 10 pound-for-pound rankings on ESPN.com, Ring magazine and Yahoo! Sports.

"A lot of people in Puerto Rico talk about the pound-for-pound list," he said. "It's so difficult for a small-weight fighter to be in the top 10. But people know what is good boxing. I am not the best knockout person, but of boxers I am one of the best."

Cazares, 30, figures to pose another stiff challenge for Calderon, who won the first fight 115-112 on two scorecards while the third judge had it 116-111 in favor of the harder puncher. Cazares, who is five inches taller, also won't be intimidated by fighting in Puerto Rico. He's made a living there, going 4-1 on the island, including 3-1 in title bouts.

"In the first fight I needed the first three or four rounds to figure him out, and I gave them away by doing very little," Cazares said. "But the rest of the fight was mine, as you saw by the judge who scored the fight in my favor by five points. And that was with only one official knockdown. There were others that they didn't count, and he was never penalized for all the holding he did. This time the pressure will come from the first bell, and I will knock him out."

Gomez believes the knockdown Cazares scored actually hurt his chances of winning.

"He made the mistake of trying too hard to get him out after he dropped him," Gomez said. "He went for the kill and to the credit of Calderon, he survived and kept boxing and winning rounds. It was a technical error on Cazares' part. He should have gone back to what he was doing, cutting off the ring and scoring points instead of just looking for the bomb."

Calderon has found a way to avoid the big bombs of all of his opponents. He may be small in stature, but steering clear of damage takes a fighter heavy on talent.

Brewster is back

Former heavyweight titleholder Lamon Brewster (33-4, 29 KOs), last seen in the ring taking a pounding en route a sixth-round TKO loss in a July 2007 rematch with Wladimir Klitschko, returns to the ring Saturday looking to end a two-fight losing streak.

Lamon Brewster

AP Photo/Roberto Pfeil

Good as new: Lamon Brewster is feeling like his old self again.

"The break gave me time to think about my career and get a better appreciation for the fight game," Brewster said. "You will see a different Lamon Brewster than before."

Brewster faces Dan Batchelder (25-5-1, 12 KOs) in Cincinnati on a card promoted by Brewster's newly formed company Relentless Events.

Brewster, who boxed Klitschko in Germany despite a medical suspension in the United States because of eye injuries, says he feels refreshed after a year off.

"I finally feel like the real Lamon Brewster again and that's the Lamon Brewster I am ready to unleash on the world," Brewster said. "My defense feels excellent. My offense, how I hold my hands, my footwork -- everything is coming together wonderfully. I'm going to run these heavyweights out of town."

Brewster stopped Klitschko in the fifth round of their first bout in 2005 in a major upset to win a title and made three title defenses before losing a decision to Sergei Liakhovich in a brutal slugfest in April 2006. After a 15-month break, Brewster returned and Klitschko teed off on him until trainer Buddy McGirt stopped the fight.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.

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QUICK HITS

Williams

• Despite the expiration this summer of an exclusive deal to televise Top Rank fights and a new deal to televise the fourth season of "The Contender," Versus will continue its live boxing coverage, two sources with knowledge of the network's plans told ESPN.com. They said Versus plans to air 4 to 6 cards this fall, with the dates not going exclusively to one promoter. Versus declined to comment. The first card will be at the Soboba Casino in San Jacinto, Calif., on Sept. 25, when Dan Goossen will promote a doubleheader involving welterweight titleholder Paul Williams and heavyweight contender Cristobal Arreola. Williams, whose opponent hasn't been determined, will fight a nontitle middleweight bout. Arreola will face Israel "King Kong" Garcia. If Williams and Arreola successfully navigate their bouts, they'll be back Nov. 29 on HBO on a card in which Williams would return to welterweight to defend his belt.

Luevano

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Julio

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Donaire

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Ouma

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Casamayor

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Valuev

• It will undoubtedly be too big for you, but if you want to own the boxing robe that Nikolai Valuev will wear into the ring before his Saturday rematch with John Ruiz for a vacant heavyweight belt, you can bid on it. Valuev will auction the red-white-and-blue robe, which he will autograph, at www.ebay.de/starsandcharity. Bidding ends Sept. 1. The money will go to German medical aid organization Action Medeor, which provides medical equipment to people in developing countries. "I hope for lots of boxing fans to join the auction so that a lot of money will be raised to help children in the poorer regions of the world," Valuev said. "This project means a lot to me."

Schaefer

• Golden Boy's close ties to HBO in America are well known. But now Oscar De La Hoya's promotional company has announced a two-year deal with HBO Latin America Group, with which it will team for a monthly television series, "Next Boxing Generation," that will showcase rising fighters from Latin America. Golden Boy will promote 12 cards per year to support the show, which will air throughout Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean on HBO Plus, which is run by HBO LAG and is the only premium channel in Latin America to televise boxing. The network, which is a separate entity from HBO in the U.S., is jointly owned by Time Warner, Sony and Disney. Half of the cards will take place in Mexico and the other half elsewhere in Latin America. The Sept. 20 debut card will take place in Monterrey, Mexico, and will be headlined by the lightweight title eliminator between Jose Armando Santa Cruz and Antonio Pitalua. "Globalization of the Golden Boy brand while showcasing top boxing talent has always been a company goal," Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said, adding that he was working on securing a U.S. outlet to broadcast the fights.

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