|A Moment to Remember for Francisco Palacios
INTERVIEW By Gabriel Montoya (Aug 28, 2007) Doghouse Boxing
Away from all the recent activity in Boxing’s hottest division, comes a story a few weight classes higher but no less compelling. Sometimes as fans we get caught up in the stars. Who they will fight next? Why they aren’t fighting each other? What this manager said or what this promoter should be doing. And in that maelstrom of boxing chaos, it is easy to forget the simple beauty of what boxing is at its core.
Two men enter a ring with the hopes of their respective futures riding on the backs of their about to be tested wills. But as is
sometimes the case in boxing, one of those men is merely being sent to slaughter. Most of the time in that scenario, the fighter unwittingly follows the script and the man who beats him moves on to greener pastures and the “opponent” returns to the shadows from whence he came. But sometimes the scripted man decides to improve a little. In a few rare, magical instances, he sees his role as conqueror rather than loyal subject. And always in those moments, boxing fans welcome the sudden change in the story with open arms. Such is the case with Francisco Palacios.
With just five days to prepare, Palacios, a Bronx native of Puerto Rican descent, took on tough and ready Louis Azille in a cruiserweight bout in Hollywood, Fla. The fight was broadcast August 8th, 2007 in what was supposed to be a fight between Azille and former Cruiserweight champ O’Neil Bell. Bell pulled out and instead, it became a coming out party for the skillful boxer/puncher Palacios. The Puerto Rican fighter took control of the ring with graceful movement, a steady jab and ever increasing combinations that punished Azille and eventually dropped and stopped him in dramatic fashion in the 6th round of a scheduled 8 round fight. The excitement and pure joy that Palacios showed that night was something to behold as he let loose with emotion.
I had the pleasure of sitting down and speaking with Mr. Palacios last week. He was still riding high off his unexpected victory that saw him got to 12-0 (6 KOs) and into the living rooms and hearts of boxing fans everywhere. Hopefully his
open, good-natured spirit remains as he climbs the ranks of the cruiserweight division.
Gabriel Montoya: I just finished re-watching the fight, Francisco. You gotta still be high off that victory.
Francisco Palacios: (laughs) Oh my gosh. I’m still like ‘whoa I can’t believe it’. When I won, I was running around the ring. Just going crazy. I am gonna get back in the gym this week but really, I’m still in LaLaLand. (Laughs).
GM: You took the fight on short notice. Was it five days?
FP: Yeah I had five days notice. You know, I stay in the gym. I stay in shape so I was ready to go. I was probably like 80%, 85% to go but I felt confident in my boxing experience. I had like 6 months on the bench, fighting no body. So I really wanted the fight. I didn’t want to wait another six months.
GM: You hadn’t fought since February, right? Why were you sitting on the bench so long?
FP: I don’t have a manager right now. I just been on the bench for so long. I been fighting like that. Every six months. I’m just like a champion without the crown or whatever (laughs).
GM: I’m going to take a wild guess looking at your trunks and say you’re Puerto Rican, right?
FP: Yeah I’m Puerto Rican.
GM: You fight a little different. You fight a little Camacho but with a bit more power and aggression. It isn’t the typical stalker style we usually see from Puerto Ricans like Cotto or Trinidad.
FP: My favorite boxer is Hector Camacho. Always. All my life. I’ve known him since I was a child. I used to watch him training. He sparred my late brother who passed away in 2004. He was a god fighter and he used to spar with Camacho. I loved his style. Everybody could say whatever they want to about him but there was a time when he was a great fighter. And then Lennox Lewis. He had that long jab and great punch. I try to watch all types of fighters and put everybody’s styles together. And then as an amateur, one of my favorite fighters was Miguel Cotto. I was in camp with Miguel for five months. I learned a lot from him. I been around a lot of great fighters. A lot of great Puerto Rican fighters like Daniel Santos. He taught me a lot also about the business. I’m fresh in the business. I just started boxing in 2000.
GM: How old are you now?
FP: I’m 30 now.
GM: Wow. You came to it late, man.
FP: Yeah I came to it late. I started it in 2000. I always knew how to fight but I was more like a street fighter. When I was young. But growing up, all of my friends were boxers. I was the only basketball player. Then I broke my ankle and I went into boxing. I started sparring people who had more experience than me. And I would hurt ‘em or knock ‘em out or box ‘em. And I just learned from all of them guys and I put my all into it.
GM: So you gave yourself your own amateur background essentially.
FP: I won a Golden Gloves. I won two amateur world championships. I went to college on a boxing scholarship. Sechew Powell was there, Roberto Benetiz, all them boys were there with me. You got all those good fighters and put them together, we all learned from each other.
GM: Now, back into the Azille fight, when did you know you had him? You obviously were confident to take the fight on short notice. But early in the fight, you were moving working behind the jab. At what point did you feel you could hurt him?
FP: Well, actually I didn’t feel a sense of urgency. I felt I was winning the whole fight. A lot of people, like Teddy Atlas had me losing the fight. I just stuck to my game plan. I had never seen him [Azille] fight before so I said’ okay I’m going to box this guy.’ He came to fight O’Neil Bell so he must be in really good shape. He must be really prepared, you know.
FP: So I just boxed him, stuck to my game plan and stayed behind the jab. And then in the 3rd or the 4th round, I seen him like getting kind of aggravated. He would throw punches at my head and miss. He would try and get me on the ropes and miss. He couldn’t hit me and he was smiling at me. But it wasn’t a smile like a good smile. It was a smile like ‘ I can’t catch him. I can’t him’. So in the fourth round I just started to throw my hands a little bit more. And then halfway through the fourth round I took a little bit of a break. And then the fifth round I started seeing all these openings. I started throwing my left hook. I started switching up again and throwing my right hook and my left uppercut. I seen that when I threw my hard shots I was missing but by an inch. Then I threw a hard jab and boom I saw his elbows open up and I was like ‘here it comes’ and BOOM I threw my uppercut and my hook. I dropped him.
GM: What’s that feel like, man? The fans always want to know. What’s it feel like to land a homerun punch?
FP: Oh my God. Oh my God. Like I said, it is like the greatest feeling to go in as a big time under dog on five days notice, on five days notice and just go in there and leave everybody in there going “Oh my God “. I looked at this fight the other day at one of my hangouts. I’m overwhelmed. I’m really overwhelmed. I always had confidence in my boxing skills. I always had confidence in myself. A lot of people underestimate me. But whatever I have to do, I am going to do it.
GM: Your brother’s dying wish was that you be a world champion. Would you care to talk a little bit about that?
FP: My brother was a good boxer when he was younger. He was really good. He had like 70 fights and lost 4 as an amateur. He decided to take another route and do something else. But it was something that he always had in him. So when he saw that I was boxing, he had his life through em. He was my biggest fan. He was always telling me ‘you know what? You’re the one who is going to get us out of this. You’re the one who is going to make us rich and help the family.” I was like ‘ I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it.’ He would tell me ‘ I’m going to be in your corner. I want to be in your corner whenever you fight for that title belt. “ That motivation he gave to me meant so much when I would fight. My first two fights, he was so happy. He was like “ Look what my little brother did. He’s going to be a world champion.’ He’d tell everyone. When I buried him, I promised him that before I retired, I was going to retire a world champion. He had five kids and I want them to feel that are something. That they are loved. He left but I am still here. That’s a promise I made him and that’s a promise I am going to make. I could be 100 years old I am going to get that title.
GM: That just makes you run that extra mile. Fight that extra round.
FP: Definitely. Definitely. Definitely. I’ve been training even though I haven’t been fighting active. I am always training.
GM: So what’s next for you? Anything on the horizon?
FP: I haven’t heard of anything but I am always down for whatever. I want to get ready. I want to stay ready to fight for a little title, up my rankings, you know?
GM: Well, you keep knocking people out like that and they can’t ignore you, you know? That’s basically it.
GM: Well, cool man. Thank you for your time. We’ll talk again soon.
FP: Thank you. Anytime.