How Oklahoma City boxer Alex Saucedo found positives after losing a world title bout in his hometown
Last we saw Alex Saucedo, he was bloodied and battered.
Worse, he was beaten.
It’s been almost a year since the Oklahoma City boxer fought for a world title in his hometown. He had a chance to win a championship only a few miles from where he learned to box. Had a chance to raise a belt in front of scores of family and friends clad in his red and gold. Had a chance to grow opportunities for the city’s boxing-crazy Hispanic community.
So much was on the line last November.
But in the seventh round, Saucedo was knocked into the ropes for a standing eight-count, and moments later with Maurice Hooker’s fists still flying, the referee stepped in and declared Hooker the winner.
Getting beat nearly broke Saucedo.
“It was a terrible time after the loss,” he said. “I went through some depression and stuff like that.”
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“I haven’t taken a loss since I was like 13 years old.”
Saturday night in Los Angeles, Saucedo hopes to start a new winning streak. He returns to the ring for the first time since that loss to Hooker. A win over Rod Salka won’t earn Saucedo another title shot. It doesn’t even guarantee him a spot in the rankings.
But Saucedo believes this is a first step to one day getting another title fight.
And frankly, winning a bout is about the only thing left for Saucedo to accomplish in 2019. During this calendar year, he became a father for the second time, started planning a wedding and earned his United States citizenship.
“An awesome year,” he said.
The final weeks of 2018, though, were a complete and total buzzkill.
After losing his title bout, Saucedo took nearly two months off. He needed to recover physically — a huge gash over his left eye required stitches after the fight — but more than anything, he needed to mentally process what happened. What went wrong? Where was he lacking? What did he need to change?
Saucedo kept coming back to how uneasy he felt during his pre-fight training camp with Abel Sanchez, the legendary trainer. Saucedo wasn’t completely comfortable but didn’t think he could say anything at the time.
“I mean, I’m not gonna back out from a fight,” he said. “Everything was set already.”
“I didn’t feel right.”
Saucedo called on Eddie Autry, a former boxer from Oklahoma who now lives in California. He had voiced some concerns before Saucedo’s fight, so Saucedo sought advice.
Autry mentioned a trainer named Pedro Neme. Autry had seen him work in Los Angeles and thought he broke down skills in a way that would benefit Saucedo.
Saucedo went to California after the first of the year to spend some time with Neme, and from the trainer’s approach to the limited number of boxers he worked with, Saucedo was sold.
Sanchez was out.
Neme was in.
“We just kind of broke everything down and started from the beginning,” Saucedo said. “Going back to the basics.”
They worked on the simplest fundamentals. Hand position. Head movement. Footwork.
It might seem extreme; Saucedo fought for a world title, so his skills and his style couldn’t have been all that bad. Why do a gut job? Why tear everything down to the studs?
Saucedo believes his aggressive, attacking style was good enough to win but not good enough to win a title.
“I got comfortable winning like that,” the 25-year-old said. “After that loss, it took me out of my comfort zone. I said, ‘You know, I never want to go through this again.’
“I was a better fighter than what I showed that night.”
The bad news: it took a title-fight loss to show Saucedo his ways were flawed.
The good news: he felt like he was still young enough to change it.
Now, he’s excited for the boxing world to see how he’s changed.
“It’s gonna be a whole new Alex,” he said. “A lot of defense. A lot of movement. Quicker. Stronger.”
Saucedo wasn’t himself for several months after he lost last November, but things started to turn in late December. Right after Christmas, he got engaged, and a month later, he welcomed his second child, a son, Thiago Alejandro.
Then in July, Saucedo, who was born in Mexico, became an American citizen. He had been working through the process for several years but finally had time to finish and go through a naturalization ceremony.
“It was an amazing day,” he said.
Alex Saucedo is hoping for another amazing one Saturday. He knows he can’t get back in one fight all that was lost the last time he fought. It will take time to get back in the rankings and return to contender status.
But he has every intention of not only contending for a title again but also winning one.
“That’s still the goal, get to the top, leave my name marked in the boxing books forever,” he said. “Now it’s just the focus on getting back on top, getting back to the top of the rankings.
“I’m not going to stop until I get that championship belt around my waist.”
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.
What: Junior welterweight bout
Who: Alex Saucedo (28-1, 18 KOs), Oklahoma City, vs. Rod Salka (24-5, 4 KOs), Bunola, Penn.
When: Approximately 8:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Dignity Health Sports Park, Carson, Calif.
TV: The undercard, including Saucedo’s bout, will air on ESPN+ starting at 6:30 p.m. The main event, a junior lightweight bout between Miguel Berchelt and Jason Sosa, will air on ESPN and ESPN Deportes at 9:30 p.m.