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Alfredo Angulo Is Boxing's Valentine

Feb 14, 2009 – 9:20 AM
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If Alfredo Angulo looks like a serious fellow, it's because he is.

Ask him about boxing and he'll talk about things that might bore your accountant and put your trainer to sleep. There's maintaining weight, the importance of discipline, and, in training, living a life that Mother Teresa might find just a tad puritanical.

In the ring, he's no different. He has the guts to fight a bull while wearing red boxing trunks and a rebar-enforced punch that might leave that snorting sap seeing stars.

Yes, everything about this undefeated light middleweight prospect is as serious as a tax audit and twice as punishing.

At least until training is over and he eats an ice cream. And laughs.

And the illusion is shattered like an opponent's jaw.

"The ice cream has always been a tradition, every day," Angulo says through a translator. "Ice cream in the summer, perhaps corn in the winter. It's a tradition."

Angulo is not the kind of man to mess with tradition. And tradition knows better than to mess with him. He's worked out in the same gym in Southern California since he turned professional after the 2004 Olympics, surrounded by a vibrant Mexican community, and with ice cream vendors coming by with the kind of scheduling exactness Amtrak could only dream about.

And Angulo is the type of fellow that believes if it ain't broke, it doesn't need fixing.

At 14-0 (11 KOs), and preparing for yet another nationally televised Saturday night bout, this time on HBO's Boxing After Dark against journeyman Cosme Rivera, the only thing that's broken is likely a couple of speed bags.

And, of course, the will of more than a couple of opponents.

"We're excited and thankful for HBO to give us the opportunity," says Angulo, who is making his second BAD appearance after two ShoBox cards. "I'm glad to have the opportunity to show the world what I can do."

But, in a career of highlights, there are two things this serious, baddest-man-to-meet-a-Klondike-Bar doesn't remember.

One is how he got his nickname. The other is his first knockout.

Then again, the two poor fellas that helped him to each don't remember much either.

The specific origin of his nickname, "El Perro," is lost other than that it came while training with Mexican national team for the 2004 Olympics. But its meaning is abundantly clear, even for those whose Spanish is so bad they struggle to order a burrito.

Watch him fight and the dog in him is obvious, even to those that pronounce fajitas with a hard J.

"That's always been my style," Angulo says. "Trainers try and work with me to be more defensive, but I fight and put on a show.

"Sometimes, I don't even feel the punches."

It's a style boxing fans are destined to fall for this Valentine's Day, precisely because of the thing he does so well that he doesn't remember doing it the first time.

Which is to say knocking people so far into the past that their 401k might still be worth something.

Angulo racks up knockouts like most blue chip fighters rack up entourage members. But the first one, on the streets of Mexicali, has, like his nickname, lost its story.

"We fought for fun," he says of growing up in Mexico. "That was every day. I would fight anyone."

From age nine to 17, Angulo worked odd jobs and fought in his spare time. And if this serious looking fellow seems as unassuming as a professional mover rather than a professional mauler, it could just be because he's done that too. If you had an event catered in Mexicali, he might've been the fellow setting up the chairs or bringing in the food.

But at 17, he stepped in the ring fulltime to train for the Olympics. Ever since, he's left a pile of victims behind. Knockout. After knockout. After knockout.

"People always told me I would never make it because my style was more professional," he says. "But I learned every day. And I still do now. You have to keep learning."

Angulo qualified for the Olympics and represented Mexico in the 2004 Games, losing to future middleweight prospect Andy Lee. It was, he says, one of the proudest moments of his life. He turned pro shortly afterwards, signed on with Gary Shaw's promotional outfit and, after a four-fight adjustment period in the pros, has knocked out 10 straight opponents, including a 10th-round TKO of Andrey Tsurkan in his last fight.

And five years after wearing the colors of Mexico in Athens, he's on the verge of again representing Mexico.

Angulo's fighting style is the Mexcian Warrior mold the boxing-addled nation expects from its heroes, perhaps to the point he could take the place of recently disgraced and defeated Antonio Margarito. But, unlike Margarito, Angulo needs no plaster on his fists. They already thud like cement, whether digging into an opponent's ribs or echoing off the heavy bag.

And that combination of power and play-chicken-with-a-train fearlessness could make him the next national hero before Margarito ever returns from his one-year suspension.

"It's very important to represent Mexico, and an honor," he says. "I'm not yet among the great names like Ricardo Lopez or the great Julio Cesar Chavez, but it's great to even think about that."

But the chance to spend Valentine's with Mexico's next great star wasn't enough of a draw for the first two fighters he was scheduled to fight. Suddenly, the budding champ was trying to find a date on Valentine's with all the luck of an awkward teen reeking of Clearasil and Hai Karate.

Angulo was originally slated to fight Ricardo Mayorga, the chain-smoking Nicaraguan who, over the course of his career, has been a one-man stimulus plan for Philip Morris, and whose pre-fight antics could probably get the Pope to take a swing at him.

But the former 154-pound champion pulled out less than two weeks before the bout, robbing Angulo of both a signature fight and the chance to knock the loudmouth's block back to Managua. Two fighters later, he's set to face Rivera, a solid journeyman who knocked down undefeated WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto for the first time in his career.

"I'm disappointed for the fans," Angulo says, "I know it would've been a great fight. But I'm not disappointed for me, because I know I'm ready to fight the best and my team will take care of me."

Beat Rivera and a match with Jorge Julio or former stablemate James Kirkland, top prospects who are scheduled to fight March 7, could be next. And then, if Angula has his way, a legacy-making title reign and an early retirement.

"I don't want to be 37 and fighting," he says. "I want to win a world title, be financially secure and then retire at a good age. I want to be young and be able to do things."

Of course, there is one last challenge for this blue-chipper this weekend which might pose more of a risk than anything Rivera throws Saturday night.

He has to remember Valentine's Day sometime after the punches stop.

"He's promised to take me somewhere nice," says his bubbly girlfriend Jessica, who's been with the boxer for five years and serves as a spot-translator for the Spanish-challenged reporters.

With a little prompting, she turned to ask him exactly what they'd be doing.

"Don't worry about," he says with a laugh, "I'll let you know."

Right now, there are currently two things Alfredo Angulo can't remember.

Should he make it three by flubbing Valentine's Day, he may then have a story he won't forget. It may be the first time he ever gets kayoed. It won't be by Cosme Rivera. And it won't come with an ice cream at the end.

Filed under: Sports