On the surface, things seemed to be going perfectly for lightweight contender Urbano Antillon of Maywood, California. Leading up to his July appointment against Miguel Acosta for the WBA interim lightweight championship, Antillon came into the bout in Nayarit, Mexico with not only an undefeated mark of 26-0, but a streak of nine knockouts. He was the prohibitive favorite to defeat the Venezuelan.
Instead, he was surprisingly halted in nine rounds.
Simply put, he could never really get on track and for much of the night, fought aimlessly as he kept walking into right hands from Acosta. It was the worst night of his career, but according to the 27-year old, his problems ran much deeper than just that bout.
"It wasn’t just in the Acosta fight, what went wrong," he told Maxboxing, earlier this week. Antillon’s bout with Luis Arceo tonight in Acapulco, Mexico kicks off the “Top Rank Live” broadcast on Fox Sports Net/Espanol. "It was about a year before that, that I was just not satisfied the way I was training anymore and I wasn’t in the happiest environment I’ve ever been in. There was a lot of negativity around me. So leading up to that fight, it was something I wanted to change for awhile. Since the Acosta fight happened, it made it a little easier to change trainers and just change where I’m working at. That’s just the result of the negativity around me, I believe."
After a short spell at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, California, Antillon landed in Big Bear with the respected veteran, Abel Sanchez.
"It was just a matter of being happy again and I can say that before, I was just an unhappy human being, just walking around and going to work every day, just like anybody else, dragging to work," Antillon explained. "Now, being up here, I’m so motivated again, so happy, looking forward to running and of course, working on different stuff. Stuff that I never worked on before, like I never did no strength training. I didn’t know what that was. All these new things are keeping me hungry and motivated again."
Needless to say, going to a new trainer means leaving one. In this case, it was Rudy Hernandez, who had worked with him since the inception of his boxing career. "It was difficult leaving him," said Antillon. "Ever since the amateur days, it was like 15, 16 years I had before with him. So it was a bond that was more than just a trainer-fighter relationship. It was definitely hard; I talked to him and let him know how I felt and how unhappy I was and let him know I was going to be on my way. He understood it and I guess it was hard on his behalf, as well, to put all this time in to me and for me to go on my way. But it was something where I had to look out for myself and take that step and move on."
Hernandez says of Antillon’s departure, "At first, it’s like a shock because you’re not expecting it. But I personally just got over it."
Like in other sports, when a team disappoints, it’s usually not the players that get jettisoned, it’s the coaches. Fair or not, that’s part of this profession. And in boxing, if you’re in this game long enough, you will have a fighter walk away, eventually. But in this instance, was Hernandez made the scapegoat for a bad night at the office?
"Look, when you have other people talking into his ear, things start to change," he stated. "One of the things that he told me was that I was a very negative person. Well, how am I supposed to be positive when I don’t see that the right moves were being made in his career? Once his brother got involved, the decisions were being made and all I could do is voice my opinion. But that was it, voice my opinion and it really wasn’t meaning much."
Hernandez is accustomed to training and managing his fighters. It was no secret that he did not see eye-to-eye with German Antillon and says he vehemently disagreed with the decision to face Acosta.
"I was against that fight. I told him, ’Why are you going to fight for an interim belt? You’re better off fighting (Edwin) Valero. Because there’s a lot more to win and a lot more to gain by fighting Valero. If you lose, well, you can always go back and fight for an interim belt. But if you win, you put yourself in the mix of high-paying fights where you can ask to fight [Juan Manuel] Marquez, [Manny] Pacquiao, anyone who’s up in the top. Miguel Acosta was not going to take you to the money fights.’ So that was my point of view. All I told them is that when you become an interim champion, that means you make interim money at half-price. You will be defending a title at half the price against the same top 15 fighters in the world- but at half-price.
Continued Hernandez, "Now, you tell me, am I supposed to stay positive about this? Am I supposed to be happy with that?"
Ray Alcorta, an agent for Top Rank, who has worked closely with Antillon and has known him from his days as an amateur, believes that when it’s all said and done, the fighter has to be happy with his surroundings.
"Let me give you an example, you have some fighters who are with trainers- and everybody has their own opinions, they may not think they’re the best trainers in the world or are qualified to be with a fighter at a world-class level or anything like that- but when you have a fighter who responds to his trainer, mentally and really believes him and trusts him and the trainer can get the most out of the fighter, then your fight can get to a whole new level." Alcorta cites the chemistry between Pacquiao and Freddie Roach. "He gets the most of him in the gym, every single day."
Winning can mask a lot of ills. And it may have been the case here, according to Alcorta.
"He was on a great streak, but there were several fights where he was taking a couple of unnecessary shots, he was flattening out a little bit,” Alcorta said. “One example was Juan Ramon Cruz, there was a couple of rounds in there where he got hit with a couple of good combinations he shouldn’t have got hit with. Early in the career, he was so aggressive and so focused and had a lot of movement. He was hitting and not getting hit and hitting with a lot of activity. With Tyrone Harris, it took him a couple of rounds to really get into the groove of the fight. He was a little flat."
Alcorta says that these moments were noticed by the Top Rank brass. "[Matchmaker] Brad Goodman was one person on the outside who really pointed out that, with Harris, he looked a little flat and got hit with shots he shouldn’t have got hit with. He was worried about Urbano getting hit with the same shots at a world-class level. So the signs were there. We saw it as a warning sign, but Top Rank, they’re the promoters, the matchmakers. They’re not the trainers or the managers. So Top Rank does not want to go in the gym and tell them how to train a fighter, the same way Top Rank doesn’t want managers and trainers going to the Top Rank office and telling them how to promote fighters."
But isn’t hindsight always 20-20?
"I had went to the gym a couple of times [prior to the Acosta fight] and I noticed and felt that Urbano could be working harder," said Alcorta, who is quick to add, "And I’m not pointing fingers at anybody, but sometimes a fighter comes in, he needs that motivation, he needs that person to give him the motivation. I’m not going to blame Rudy Hernandez; he’s been around boxing, he’s been with several fighters, but if there’s something there, the manager has to step in and say, ’Wait a minute, we need this done.’ Because it’s a team effort. You got the fighter, you got the trainer, the manager. It’s not one person. It’s not fair for anybody to be pointing fingers at everybody now, after the fact.
"This was something that was noticed; it was something that was spoken upon. Nobody does anything, then everybody is to blame- not just one person. Somebody should’ve stepped up and said something."
Hernandez, the brother of former junior lightweight champion Genaro Hernandez, thinks that too many cooks simply spoiled this stew.
"I believe so, but at the end of the day when it comes down to it, is that each fighter has to take responsibility, as well, for their own actions. It’s my fault? OK, it’s my fault. You know why it’s my fault? Because it is my responsibility to be able to bring 100-percent out of the fighter, whether he believes in me or not. I have to do my job and if I feel like I’ve done mine, then at the end of the day, I can look back and say I did the best I could."
He’s a lifelong veteran of the business, like his brother; he also fought professionally before training and managing boxers. For Hernandez, it’s a dose of reality in losing a boxer for the first time.
"Now, yes, because it happened to me," he admits. "It hadn’t happened to me before. I live and learn, y’know? See, I’ve never had a contract with any of my fighters, any of them. When Urbano decided to leave, he could just leave. He could take his purse and his percentage and everything with him. I wasn’t protected at all. Because I believe if we all do a job, we’re all good and there’s no reason to have a contract. But it does suck that you put in all this time and money into a fighter and, all of a sudden, somebody else is getting the fruits and the benefits. But, on the other hand, it’s no big deal."
As for Antillon, he begins the next chapter of his career without Hernandez. He says he has moved past his fight against Acosta and all the bad vibes preceding it.
"That is my first loss and I’m not the fighter I could’ve been in that fight. Do I want a rematch against him, if it comes along? Cool. But if it doesn’t, this guy still has the same goals and dreams and that’s to become a world champion and that dream is going to be realized, whether it’s through him or somebody else," said Antillon, who is facing a capable foe in his return.
"So I guess I have turned that page. Like I said, I’m just a lot happier in my everyday life, now."
SHOWTIME WILL GO ON
Even with the news of Andre Dirrell “back”-ing out of his fight against Arthur Abraham on March 6th as part of Showtime’s “Super Six” tournament, Showtime will still go on with Vic Darchinyan’s fight against Rodrigo Guerrero at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage, California. Added to that broadcast is a fight between Lenny Zappavigna and Fernando Angulo.
As for Dirrell-Abraham, that bout has been re-scheduled for March 27th, so there’s no need to push the panic button on the “Super Six” falling apart just yet.
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