By: Sergio L. Martinez
Upon entering the professional ranks in February 2005, after an excellent amateur career which culminated with the honor of being a United States Olympian, Vicente Escobedo appeared destined for stardom. The Woodland, California native shot out of the gate by winning his first nine fights all by knockout. He was signed by Golden Boy Promotions and was often compared to his boss Oscar De La Hoya due to his Latin American heritage, large size or his weight class, classic good looks, and natural ability.
Early on, Escobedo appeared to have the potential to be special, possibly transcending the sport to become a huge draw.
The first signs that things may not pan out as what originally hoped for was in his 10th contest when Escobedo faced Daniel Jimenez. Jimenez was a 15-fight professional with one loss and 1 draw on his resume. He was considered to be a decent test but Escobedo, being fast tracked for bigger things in the sport, was calculated to be ready for the likes of Jimenez.
This was a miscalculation on the behalf of his brain trust.
Prior to this fight, Escobedo made an unexpected move regarding his chief corner man, Clemente Medina: a competent, offensive-minded trainer who had the former Olympian firing on all cylinders. Vicente had originally been trained by Joe Goossen but moved to Medina and was having great success.
For reasons not clear to anyone, Escobedo and his handlers at the time decided to have David Gutierrez, who had no real experience training professional fighters, take over the training duties. It was a senseless act with a disastrous outcome.
Before his hometown fans, Escobedo was out-boxed and lost that fight against Jimenez via split decision. The fight did not appear to be as close as the official scorecards read, as Jimenez appeared to be in control for the majority of the contest. In the end, the right fighter was awarded the victory and Escobedo was left to pick up the pieces.
Because the young Mexican-American lacked experienced boxing people in his corner and handling his career, mostly relying on family with no credentials to effectively guide him, Escobedo continued his trainer inconsistencies. Even though he had very little time in professional boxing, Escobedo had already been trained by Goossen and Medina, and after his experiment with the novice trainer failed miserably, he moved on to Freddie Roach for one fight before he found some stability with famed Mexican trainer Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain. This union would last approximately three years.
Escobedo was brought back slowly and rolled off 12 victories over the next three years against limited opposition. This winning streak included victories over faded world champions Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez and the “Flushing Flash” Kevin Kelley. After beating Kelley via stoppage, Escobedo earn a title shot against Michael Katsidis for the interim WBO lightweight title.
With Beristain at the helm, Escobedo fought well against Katsidis but lost via split decision. It was a decent performance, but when the final bell rang, Vicente appeared to be content with just finishing on his feet: as if going 12 rounds at the world level were more than enough for him. Escobedo would leave Beristain soon after his defeat and hook up with Joel Diaz, who was already in the process of forging a name for himself as a trainer.
After stopping journeyman Carlos Urias in three rounds, Escobedo was slated to face fellow Californian Robert “Ghost” Guerrero. The fight was a chance for Escobedo to get his career on track and live up to early predictions of prominence as Guerrero was a respected former featherweight champion with reputable professional credentials.
During that fight, Escobedo was completely dominated by the fleet-footed southpaw and the usually sturdy Woodland native was dropped twice en route to a lopsided defeat. It is not that losing to Guerrero is anything to be ashamed of, but Escobedo appeared to be out of his league in the fight.
Coming into his impending battle against Adrien Broner, Escobedo is considered the B-side of the fight as Broner is the current network and media darling. Vicente is now seen as the one administering the test for the young and exciting power punching showman from Cincinnati. At stake is Broner’s WBO Super Featherweight title.
Broner, who is all of 22 years old, is attempting the second defense of his title. He is the current odds-on favorite to win the fight. Although Escobedo is considered to be a live underdog, he is not expected to beat the Cincinnati dynamo.
Should Escobedo win the fight, this will be a huge step in the right direction as he would have finally won a championship belt and beaten a young fighter that is considered to be well on his way to stardom himself, possibly altering the course of that career while living up to his initial promise.
Because of his career performances, in particular his two step-up fights, the former Olympian is currently recognized as too good for ESPN/Telefutura level type fighters but not good enough to be competitive against world-class opposition. Basically, Vicente is now at the cusp of being labeled as a world-class opponent whose name is good enough to be ranked with sanctioning bodies and a fighter who the major networks are willing to televise, but one who presents minimal threat to elite fighters.
Although this means that Escobedo will be able to make some money and remain viable at the upper levels, it is also at great risk to his personal health, as he will be nothing more than a well-paid opponent brought in as a stepping stone.
Escobedo is a solid professional pug who is seen as a real fighter, because the Woodland native always tries his best, is durable and is television-friendly due to his high contact style. The same qualities that make him a fun fighter to watch also place him at a greater risk of harm in the present and near future. His handlers have failed him in the past but should Vicente Escobedo lose lopsidedly this coming Saturday, one can only hope that those in charge of looking out for Escobedo the person, as well as the fighter, take a long look at how their man will be utilized.
Contact Sergio L. Martinez at [email protected]
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