“Panchito’s” Lil Bro on his own path to glory!
The face is familiar. The voice is familiar. The moves in the ring are eerily familiar.
Meet amateur boxer Angel Bojado, little brother of pro fighter Francisco “Panchito” Bojado, an extremely popular fighter in the SoCal fight scene beginning in 2001. Older bro “Panchito” was a heralded amateur standout with almost 200 amateur fights under his belt, is a 2000 Mexican Olympian, and after turning professional fought to an 18-3 record with 12 KOs.
Everyone was excited to follow “Panchito’s” career while he was labeled the “the one to watch.” As his career progressed, all eyes were on the young man, no doubt building up to an intense pressure amidst all the hype. But outside the ropes, he was waylaid in the prime of his career. There are many reports of Francisco’s fall from the big stage and bright lights of boxing. His last fight was in 2007 and since then has been the subject of “What ever happened to?” and “Where is he now?” columns.
But this story isn’t about the so-called fall of Francisco Bojado.
Enter the second coming of Team Bojado.
Call this one Chapter 2 in the Book of Bojado.
And in writing Angel’s story, his working titles could easily be called “The one to watch!” and “The next star-in-the-making!” Both siblings have been blessed with the looks, talent and charm that captures the attention from both boxing fans and hungry promoters alike. Now baby brother, just 16, hopes to make his own mark in the sport, learning from what he witnessed his big brother (called the “Baby-faced Assassin”) go through.
I recently had time to visit with Angel as he and some his fellow boxers (also talented amateurs) all converged at Agua Caliente in Rancho Mirage, California to watch their amigo and new pro fighter Eddie “Hands of Stone” Cruz take on Ruffino Serrano on the Tim Bradley-Carlos Abregu undercard. Before and after his compadre’s bout, we had time to catch up and chat before he leaves next week to compete in a Kansas City amateur tournament.
The Boyle Heights resident comes from a family of four boys and one girl that were raised in the hardscrabble neighborhood of East L.A. Angel, who is home-schooled, knows (just like Francisco did) that he wants to make something out of his life–and not fall prey to the street life that surrounds and clutches at the youth in the area. For the 16-year-old, this is something Angel knows all too well. “One of my brothers did get involved in drugs and gangs,” he says quietly. “It happens; and he’s still in that life.”
“And what’s Francisco doing now?” I ask his kid brother. I had seen the friendly “Panchito” at a local Club Nokia fight last year and heard many in the crowd asking the fighter, still just 27, if he’s going to make a comeback. He had been a sparring partner for Oscar De La Hoya for the Mayweather fight and was also heard recently calling out Victor Ortiz.
“I don’t know if he’s gonna come back and fight,” Angels says. “But he’s doing good–and he has a baby girl now!”
During the weekend, I asked those in boxing circles what the similarities and differences were between the two Bojados. The consensus was that while they’ve got several traits in common, many said they think Angel will learn from what he saw happen with “Panchito,” who was saddled with such high expectations. And one thing they all say is that both brothers have that “fighter’s heart,” something that can’t be taught by any boxing trainer.
And boxing is something the young man learned early on. “I started boxing when I was around four years old,” Angel tells me. “I was five or six and was shadowboxing and learning how to punch.” Besides his brother, he lists his favorite fighters as “Roy Jones and Muhammad Ali, of course, the great jabber!”
The teen, who doesn’t go by any ring nickname yet, really has been in and around gyms for most of his years growing up in East L.A. “I’ll be 17 in December,” he adds. Then Angel has a request for me. “Can you PLEASE put that it’s December 5th, 1993? It’s ’93!” he laughs. “They have it wrong on the Internet! They have it as 1994 but I was born in 1993.” With technology as it is today, the youngest Bojado is already a YouTube star on amateur boxing sites that track shows and tournaments across the U.S.
Angel then wants to correct another item he read on the Internet that seems to persist. “Can you also be sure to put down that I never fought Frankie Gomez!” he explains. “We’ve SPARRED together–we never had a fight. But they always write that I lost to him!”
Are there any other misconceptions or misinformation that Angel would like to comment on?
“I’m taller than my brother and we’re ten years apart,” Bojado says with a grin. By now he’s heard all the comparisons in regards to Francisco. He is proud of his brother’s accomplishments but also seems to take any pressure to achieve in stride, choosing to not let it get to him while he goes after his own Olympic and pro dreams.
And one thing you learn about Angel right off the bat is that he has a wicked sense of humor; he’s one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met. He jokes around constantly, like any other normal teenager, while he hangs out with the group of boxers who all grew up together.
Angel is part of a top-rated next generation of fighters from L.A.–a band of young guns that are all poised to be the new contenders and champions in the ring. A few, like Lalo Cruz, Frankie Gomez, Randy Caballero, Joel Diaz, and Javier Molina, have already gone pro. And others he grew up with, like Seniesa Estrada, Xavier Montelongo, Denise Rico, and Manuel Medina, (trainer Clemente Medina’s son) are still competing in amateur boxing as they continue to rack up title belts and trophies while perched to maybe go pro.
While he acts like any fun-loving typical teen, many around him also call him an old soul, wise beyond his years. For someone so young, he does have a natural ease in which he interacts with others, especially adults much older than him.
Maybe it’s because he’s been around the business and politics of boxing since he was a kid, back when he watched his childhood hero, his older brother “Panchito” go through the ups–and downs–of the sweet science. If you happen to catch some of “Panchito’s” fights from the past, you’ll see little Angel in the ring celebrating with his brother. He tells me he was there for all of Francisco’s fights. He also had an up-close view when things went awry, when “Panchito” fell out of the limelight with issues that commonly befall many a boxer.
“It wasn’t pretty…” is all Angel will say.
“But seeing all that, it’s probably the one main reason of how I will deal with promoters and responsibility,” he says candidly. “I’ll be really careful of the business people I work with–and I’ll have a great team around me that I can trust!”
So far, Angel is on a path to success. Already a veteran of Desert Showdowns, Blue and Golds, National PAL Championships, National Silver Gloves Championships, Junior Olympic Nationals and tons more, he has more than 70 bouts logged in. Training out of the Montebello PAL Gym with Joe Estrada and Dean Campos, the 145-pounder just competed in the National Junior Olympics held in North Carolina last month. I ask him how the trip went.
“I liked it. I was excited to go there!” he says with a big smile.
But he was also reminded on how to remain tough and fight through adversity too. “The weather was different; the first day I felt horrible…” he admits. “I had no sleep, my stomach hurt, there was the time change difference and I was going from airplane to airplane! And this time I fought the most southpaws I’ve ever fought! Three out of the four guys were southpaws.” Angel reached the fourth round, the championship bout, falling just a little short to Anthony Viera.
He went back to training in the gym and now he and his coaches will be heading to Kansas City for the prestigious Ringside World Championships where the best of the best compete.
Angel has fought in the 140, 145 and 147 divisions while coming up through the ranks. The good-natured boxer is often teased for his one lone weakness–hamburgers! That’s right…it’s not girls, it’s not booze, it’s not drugs–it’s those tasty hot beef patties under two soft buns that tempts him the most! But he’s got it all under control. He may like his occasional quarter pounder, but Bojado is also smart, disciplined and savvy enough to curb those cravings while making weight, refusing to be derailed by a fast food fix.
And it’s someone from his gym who has taken him under his wing in showing Bojado the ropes. Sergio “Latin Snake” Mora, owner of the gym where he trains, has been instrumental in giving the young pug some sage advice.
“Sergio has helped me out a lot with training!” says an appreciative Angel. “He helps me so much with vitamins and nutrition. He’ll even take me out to eat, showing me what to eat to maintain my weight.”
What does he think of Mora’s upcoming battle against Shane Mosley on September 18?
“It’s gonna be a good fight! Mosley’s out of his prime BUT he’s not completely done yet” he says, further predicting a victory for Sergio. “It’ll be another upset. Same thing that happened with Vernon Forrest–same story, different chapter.”
Same story, different chapter.
Same could be said of these two hard-hitting Bojado brothers, ten years apart.
Will Angel rewrite the story on his own quest to ring success? He has already seen the cut-throat competition and politics of pugilism, even while as an amateur and also through his brother’s pro career. But he convincingly vows to do his part in keeping on the right path.
“If I have a great team behind me and I train hard,” the youngest Bojado sensation says, “if I do my part–and train hard–it will be great!”
From the looks of it, the kid’s got it all handled.
Photos by Michele Chong and Erick Molinar: Group Pic (From L to R: Ruben Rivera, Angel Bojado, Seniesa Estrada, Manuel Medina, Eddie Cruz); Angel and Lalo before the fight