Carlson: Why Alex Saucedo and Arnold Barboza were so nice to each other ahead of bout on Lomachenko-Lopez card
Alex Saucedo and Arnold Barboza came together for a pre-fight presser earlier this week.
Like everything during the pandemic, it was on Zoom.
That meant there was no stage for the boxers. No place for them to have a stare down. No platform for them to mean mug. But had they been in the same room, shenanigans seemed unlikely after the way Saucedo, the Oklahoma City standout, and Barboza, his undefeated opponent, talked about each other.
They were respectful. Polite. Even — and I know this may seem hard to believe — nice.
“Barboza, he’s an undefeated guy,” Saucedo said. “It’s gonna be a tough fight.”
Barboza said, “It’s been hard work getting here. We really started from the bottom. Saucedo and I both started from the bottom.”
Barboza even reminisced about being on a few cards with Saucedo when they were early in their professional careers. They talked once or twice along the way, too.
“Real cool dude,” Barboza said.
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What in the name of Don King is going on here?
Even though such niceties might be rare in the boxing world, what we will likely see out of these two boxers Saturday night in the ring will be much more familiar. Saucedo and Barboza are scheduled for a 10-round junior welterweight bout, and because of the stakes and the styles, it promises to be hard hitting.
Benevolence will give way to bloody.
“It’s my opportunity to get back on top again,” Saucedo said. “It’s a huge opportunity for me.”
Saucedo, you’ll remember, fought for a world title almost two years ago at The Peake. He had a chance to become a champ only a few miles from where he grew up and where he learned to box.
But that dream died at the hands of Maurice Hooker.
Saucedo spent time after that fight evaluating everything about himself. He made his way up the ranks with a seek-and-destroy style, and while it worked against many boxers, he needed more technique, more savvy.
He changed trainers, leaving Abel Sanchez and joining on with Pedro Neme and Eddie Autry. They have worked to make Saucedo less of a brawler and more of a boxer.
“How to move your hands coming in forward. Stepping to the side. Getting different angles. Working a lot on the jab,” Saucedo said, listing the ways he’s expanded his skill set. “It’s still the same aggressive Alex. Just putting all the boxing skills in there.”
The changes have been obvious.
Saucedo has been impressive in both of his fights since the Hooker loss, winning by first-round knockout of Rod Salka last November, then scoring a unanimous-decision victory over Sonny Fredrickson in June.
Every fight has been important for Saucedo, not only because he’s been working to incorporate a new style but also because he’s trying to get himself another shot at a title. He has to keep winning, has to keep proving that he deserves to fight for a belt again.
What happens Saturday night could put Saucedo on the fast track to that end.
His division currently has two champions, Jose Ramirez and Josh Taylor, but those two are expected to fight for the undisputed title early next year. It's believed that the winner will then move up to the welterweight division, and that would leave a bunch of world titles up for grabs.
The winner of Saucedo-Barboza will be in a great position to fight for a title next year. Maybe not immediately. Maybe after one more fight. But still, what's on the line Saturday night is significant. That's why is the co-main event on the card headlined by Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Teofimo Lopez, a highly anticipated bout.
Saucedo is not shying from the magnitude of this fight.
“There’s a lot of things at stake here,” he said.
Because of that, he doesn’t just want to win.
“I want to get an impressive win over this guy,” he said in an exclusive interview with The Oklahoman. “It has to be an impressive win for me. That’s my mentality.”
It shows in his preparation. Saucedo did a longer training camp this time around than he did for his last two. He upped the sparring rounds in practice, too, going from 120 before his fight with Fredrickson to 150 for Barboza.
The stakes should make for a hard-fought battle Saturday.
Ditto for the styles. Barboza has been called a lion in the ring, stalking and aggressive. And even with his refined skills, Saucedo is still an aggressive fighter. Both like to go forward and attack.
So, all those niceties earlier this week?
They're out the window this weekend.
“Saturday night,” Saucedo said, “we make it happen.”
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: Alex Saucedo (30-1, 19 KOs) vs. Arnold Barboza (24-0, 10 KOs), 10-round junior welterweight fight
When: Approximately 9:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: MGM Grand Conference Center, Las Vegas
TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes, ESPN+, undercard starting at 6:30 p.m., main event at 9 p.m.