By: Sean Crose
“Camp is going very well,” WBA super featherweight titlist Alberto “El Explosivo” Machado tells me over the phone. “People are going to see the best version of me.” He’s speaking of his July 21st match against fellow undefeated fighter, 31-0 Rafael Mensah of Ghana. “He’s a good fighter with a great record,” the 19-0 Machado says of his foe. “I know he’s strong, but I’ve been preparing for that opponent.” With 23 knockouts, Mensah can indeed pack a wallop. Yet Machado, with 16 knockouts of his own, can hit as well… a fact that was reiterated when he won the title last fall against Panama’s Jezreel Corrales.
Photo Credit: Alberto Machado Twitter Account
Despite the fact that Corrales was cruising past Puerto Rico’s Machado. The 27-year-old was able to get off the mat and then go on a tear. As I wrote at the time: “Machado rocked his man…He then rocked his man again seconds later. The fight was changing course – and getting quite exciting. Corrales came back and nailed his man in the seventh. Machado, however, suddenly dropped Corrales in the eighth.” Corrales gamely go back up on wobbly legs, but the fight was stopped. Machado found himself a world champion.
While Machado has proven himself to be a knockout artist (winning 16 of 19 fights by kayo will do that for a fighter), the bout against Corrales showed that a large degree of heart and guts is also in his arsenal. That sort of thing not only helps a boxer exponentially; it makes that fighter fan friendly. There’s a reason, after all, why Machado can boast of having Golden Boy Promotions, Miguel Cotto, and Freddie Roach on his team. “You need both,” he says when I ask if heart trumps skill. “Heart and skills are things all boxers should have…you need to have heart to fight.”
Despite the fact he’s facing a fellow undefeated fighter on July 21st, despite the fact that he will be facing his man live in front of HBO cameras, despite the fact that the shape of his entire future depends on his performance that evening, there’s something else besides just besting Mensah that Machado may be expected to accomplish. For Machado comes from the same island that produced such notables as Wilfred Benitez, Felix Trinidad, Miguel Cotto, Hector Camacho, Edwin Rosario, and what seems to be countless others. In other words, the young man is representing an impressive pugilistic tradition…not that he’s letting it weigh on him too heavily.
“I’m so happy,” he says, “to see my name on the list of all those great champions” from Puerto Rico. For the time being, though, Machado is happy working hard and being a world titlist. “Training’s good,” he claims. Knowing that the unexpected to can always happen (he proved it himself against Corrales), Machado plans on entering the ring at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Vegas on the 21st ready to battle with the widely unknown Mensah. A bout, as he himself knows all too well, can be altered in an instant.
“It’s going to be a good fight,” he says.