Colombian-born perennial contender Joel “Love Child” Julio, 35-3 (31), may not be long in the tooth, at just 25 years old, but he’s been around the boxing block long enough to know a big opportunity when he sees one. That’s exactly what he has in front of him when he faces off against rising junior middleweight contender Alfredo “El Perro” Angulo, 17-1 (14), this Saturday night from the Citizen’s Bank Arena in Ontario, CA. The fight is the co-feature to the Chris Arreola-Tomasz Adamek heavyweight bout live on HBO and possibly represents a moment of truth for Julio.
In boxing, you can get a few chances if you’re exciting or well-connected. Julio is apparently both. In his biggest bouts, against Carlos Quintana, Sergei Dzindiruk and James Kirkland, Julio has always come up short. He lost via decision to Quintana back in his welterweight days in 2006. Leading into the bout, Julio was ESPN’s “Prospect of the Year” and a fighter many were touting as the next Felix Trinidad. After the loss, Julio moved up to 154 pounds in an effort to not drain himself to make weight. Some might say he did so to avoid the plethora of talent, at that time, in the 147-pound division. In any case, it was a wise move that allowed Julio to develop and retool his raw talent.
By 2008, Julio had run off seven wins and seemed back on track. But he hit another roadblock when he took on Sergei Dzindiruk in late 2008 and lost via unanimous decision. No shame in that as Dzindiruk is arguably the best 154-pounder in the world.
Julio next looked to bounce back against once-hot prospect James Kirkland, who was gaining heat as a rising force at 154. The thought was that Julio had the tools and experience to stop the reckless and chaotic style of Kirkland. The plan was to box early and fight late. The plan didn’t work at all.
“I had worked hard,” Julio told Maxboxing.com earlier this week. “The plan wasn’t the correct plan I wanted to happen. Maybe if I had come at Kirkland, the fight would have been different. I would have come out hitting him more.”
In an attempt to outbox Kirkland, Julio employed a nearly-all-movement, hit-and-run style that went against his nature as a fighter. Julio, you see, is a puncher/boxer but was converted to more boxer/puncher after the Quintana loss. The strategy ended up getting him beat down until he had to stop on his stool after six rounds.
Since then, Julio, along with his new trainer Anthony Hamm, hooked up with strength and conditioning coach Jeremy Fedoruk. The goal was to get Julio in optimum shape at an optimum weight for the very first time.
“I have a new team, new trainer and a new, fresh outlook. I have a conditioning coach for the first time, so I know I will be in the best shape of my life. Having a conditioning coach makes me not only physically better, but mentally better, too. Now, I know I can just go out and fight. I blame all my losses on not being in top shape,” said Julio.
He’s going to need to be in great shape as Angulo is a hardnosed, hard-hitting, compact-punching pressure fighter who is a darling of HBO and a possible future star of the 154-pound division. Julio, himself, has an uphill climb, come Saturday.
“Angulo is a dangerous fighter, very strong and a powerful puncher. But I have the full package and can do a lot of things. This fight can go in a lot of different directions, but I can’t help but think it is going to be a slugfest. It might be the fight of the night,” said Julio.
That line of thinking might come from the fact that Julio watches tape of himself, as well as Angulo, looking for weaknesses in both their games. From a fan’s perspective, this matchup has everything we would want: two come-forward, pressure fighters with solid power, good chins and the kind of mentality that just spells a potential great fight for as long as it lasts.
“I watched a lot of film of Angulo,” Julio said. “I have seen the mistakes that he makes. I will try to use a little bit of movement and try to punch more. I’m going to try to punch really, really hard to get the knockout but, if not, work him, box him.”
With an “interim” WBO junior middleweight belt on the line, the pot is even sweeter for Julio. “It means a lot to my career. I’m not leaving California without my belt. It’s going to be a great fight. I am going to bring the best out of me. And I am going to work extremely hard. Work intelligent at all times, every round. My prediction is I will become the new WBO champion of the world.”
In a lot of ways, this is a do-or-die fight for Julio. He had a lot of heat early on as a contender and ESPN darling. But the losses at the top level can only be rewarded so long and Julio knows this all too well. But talking with him and seeing him smile as he answered my questions, I got the sense of a fighter with supreme confidence, born of the fact that he had done the work the right way. That may not be the case for Angulo, who was an hour-and-a-half late to the weigh in and was fined $15,000 for it. Reports were that he looked less than happy making weight. All that can add up to one thing: a very good fight and a winnable one for Julio.
“This is a very important fight for me and a big opportunity to defeat a great, highly-regarded fighter and re-establish myself as a legitimate contender,” said Julio. “On Saturday, the fans will see the real Joel Julio. It’s time for me to show the world that I am a talented, elite fighter and it’s my chance to win back my fans.”