Fights “Zorrita” for WBC Belt
It will be a sea of green, white and red in Orange County tonight when two fierce Mexican warriors go toe to toe in a bout many say could steal the show as the co-main of Top Rank’s “In Harm’s Way” at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Scheduled for 12 rounds for the WBC Lightweight crown will be Urbano Antillon (28-1, 20 KOs) battling Humberto “Zorrita” Soto (53-7-2, 32 KOs) as they share the bill with main event
Nonito Donaire vs. Wladimir Sidorenko.
While Soto will be defending his title, look for Antillon preparing to go out on his shield. I had a chance to chat with the gladiator, who grew up in Maywood, at the first press conference in October where this marquee matchup was first announced–and also this past week during the final meeting before the bouts. Both events were held at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. With the news of a flu-bitten Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. off of the card, Antillon and Soto were ready and waiting in the wings to step up in the PPV card promoted by Top Rank in association with Zanfer Promotions and Tecate.
At both press conferences, Antillon was relaxed, loose and lively while talking to the media. He is a likable, friendly guy outside the ropes, an intense power puncher inside the ring. And during both luncheons, I noticed one consistency for the L.A. resident–his family is always nearby. His mom, brother, tons of relative and even high school friends proudly come out to represent Team Antillon.
He says he is so appreciative of everyone’s support. And back in October while taking his turn at the podium, Urbano made sure to even give a shout out to La Familia, telling everyone it was his mother’s birthday that day.
And also during this first event, the former WBO/NABO Super Featherweight champ said it’s great that his family and friends will finally be able to watch him fight in his own backyard.
“I fought in Japan, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and the last three fights in Mexico,” Antillon tells me. “Some of them even came to Mexico to watch–but THIS time they’ll all be able to come!” Now they will get to witness in person this highly-anticipated collision between the two lightweights.
“One of my coaches from when I was a kid just contacted me,” he said excitedly, of his extended group of supporters.
“Your old boxing coach?” I say.
“No! My flag football coach when I was little!” he replies with a laugh. “I haven’t seen him in years…But he heard about me fighting and came out to see me!”
A Maywood fixture, the former National Golden Gloves Champion comments that he still loves that city. “I was born in Maywood; I trained in Maywood,” Antillon says. “I still go there and workout with Mando Huerta at the Maywood gym.”
As we talk, a bunch of little kids, who I learn are his nephews, run by playfully punching their uncle. “They already have the moves down,” I tell him as we’re surrounded by the cute tykes.
He lights up. “Yeah, they already LOVE to fight; they’re around it all the time!” Uncle Urbano explains. “Sometimes I’ll find my headgear missing; I’ll look around and see that my little nephews will have it on!”
The toddlers continue to circle around us giggling and shadowboxing while imitating their uncle. One boy even has big red gloves on and he practices his stance. “This is Ernie, Benji, Ethan and Evan,” Antillon gestures. “Plus I have two more nieces and one more nephew. These kids love to box.”
As if on cue, little Benji playfully punches his brother in the solar plexus as everyone around chuckles.
And now two months later from this original chat, I got to catch up once again with Team Antillon. As I greeted the fighter, Urbano looked in good shape–with one noticeable addition of a new beard he’s grown out. Since he trains in Big Bear, he says it does help keep the cold chill at bay. “This is a new look for me,” he offers, while he touches his chin. “I’ve never grown this more than a week. I don’t know yet if I’ll keep it for the fight or not.”
He and his brother and fellow fighter German, older by just one year, go back and forth wondering if he should keep the fuzzy look or not. We talk a little about some tough hombres who fought with beards like Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler, Diego Corrales and Roy Jones Jr. as Urbano mulls over shaving or not.
I ask German about the wealth of support from their family and friends. “Oh yeah, the whole family will be there,” he confirms. “We’ll have blocks of people. It’s really brought us all together.”
His hermano Urbano is more than ready for tonight. This is an opportunity he’s waited over a decade for. “It’s been 10 years since I’ve turned pro; yeah, it’s the 10-year mark!” he 28-year-old says, eyes widening when he realizes the milestone. “These past two to three years I’ve been through a lot of changes; I’m a happier person now. Life’s been great–and I’d love to top it off with a world title.”
The boxer credits his current trainer, Abel Sanchez, with his renewed dedication to the sweet science. “Since back in July I’ve been getting ready in Big Bear. My conditioning’s great. And with Abel’s energy and dedication–it’s really rubbed off on me,” nods Antillon. “I sometimes watch him with the others in the gym. I’ll observe the way he motivates them. He’s so positive and really motivates us to train, motivates me to run, motivates me in everything.”
Checking in with his coach, I ask Abel about their Big Bear camp at his Summit HIgh Altitude Training Center. The weather has been unseasonably warm even for that altitude, perfect for training conditions. “Still no chains needed! We usually have two feet of snow right now,” Sanchez says happily. “but so far it’s only been three inches.”
And how has his young charge been doing in the gym and in road work? “We had a great training camp; he’s motivated to get that belt,” Abel enthused. “We’re as ready as we’ll ever be and this couldn’t have come at a better time for him! He’s ready mentally and physically for this challenge.”
If Antillon gets past his tough foe in “La Zorrita,” this puts him in a position to face Brandon Rios next, someone whom he was originally scheduled to fight back in May. That 135-pounds showdown would surely be a brawl for all and I question Urbano about possibly fighting “Bam Bam” Rios. This is the only time in our two conversations that Antillon’s mood shifts. His smile disappears as his eyes flash. “”What about him?” he shakes his head of Rios, known for his YouTube rants. “I don’t worry about it. I’m not worried about him at all!” Hmmm, sounds like if the pair ever get to face each other it certainly would be a fun war of words–and a fan-friendly fight–between these two colorful sluggers.
Brandon, who was supposed to fight tonight but was upped to the November 13 Pacquiao-Margarito card instead, was not at this week’s presser. His trainer Robert Garcia told me, “Brandon was gonna come, he was supposed to be here–but his wife’s in labor right now!” A few hours later, the Rios’ did welcome the birth of their new baby girl.
Signing off with Antillon, I get the former NABF Super Featherweight Champ’s prediction in his fight tonight against the champion Soto, who’s two years his senior.
“Who’s gonna win?” I ask.
“You’re looking at him!” the boxer said confidently with a broad smile.
Watch tonight as the Urbano Antillon vs. Humberto Soto matchup promises to be a war.
See you at the fights!
Tickets: www.ticketmaster.com or (800) 745-3000
Photos by Michele Chong