by B.A. Cass
A three-punch combination, ending with a left hook to the head, is what it took for Jesus M. Rojas to knock out Claudio Marrero. After Marrero hit the canvas, he sat up, shaking his head. He then put his arms over his knees. He seemed more shocked than wounded—as if the idea that a man could knock him out was something he had never considered. The referee started the count. Marrero got to his knees but after that did not attempt to stand. Yeah, you know, shit happens, he told his coach, German Caicedo, after the fight. This is boxing. Anyone can get knocked out. It was Marrero’s response to losing, rather than the loss itself, that first made Caicedo consider whether he wanted to continue training Marrero.
That night, Marrero texted Caicedo to see if they could talk. But Caicedo was at the airport, about to board a red-eye flight to Miami. He had to be back at his gym the next day to train Luis Ortiz for his now cancelled fight with Deontay Wilder. Caicedo and Marrero planned to speak when Marrero returned to Miami.
Marrero’s reaction to losing the fight was not the only reason Caicedo was frustrated. Although Marrero trained hard, he seemed to be letting his modicum of success go to his head; often, he could be heard talking about his “millions, ” and when people asked him about the fight he said it was “easy money.” Marrero also disregarded the entire fight plan. They had trained for a pressure fighter by “being first with your jab, counterpunch if he attacks, if he doesn’t attack, you’re first on your attack, and then you’re stepping around, stepping aside, holding your ground,” Caicedo explains. “Instead what he was doing was jumping around, running straight back into the ropes, surrendering and allowing Rojas to come in freely with no attack.” Marrero seemed more concerned with entertaining the crowd than winning. Multiple times, he dropped his hands and taunted Rojas.
Back in 2013, Marrero had lost in a similar fashion to Jesus Cuellar, who pressured him from start to finish. He handled that a little bit better, being a younger fighter, but he still lost by unanimous decision. After his loss to Cuellar, many people were saying that Marrero couldn’t handle pressure. But Caicedo stuck by his fighter, allowing him to maintain a residence in the Caicedo Sports facility. “He promised me he wouldn’t do that again,” Caicedo explains, “that he would better himself. He wouldn’t let his head get big. He would focus. But they were right all along. He couldn’t handle pressure. He can’t handle a little bit of success because his head gets big.”
After the fight with Rojas, Caciedo assumed Marrero would be back in Miami the next day, on Saturday afternoon. But Marrero didn’t return from Las Vegas until Tuesday. So you’re on vacation, Caicedo thought. Taking pictures in Las Vegas, partying with your friends. The loss didn’t affect you at all. Because of his training schedule with Ortiz, Caicedo wasn’t able to catch up Marrero until two days later. But he had already decided to let him go.
How did he break the news to Marrero? “Frankly,” Caicedo says. “I told him I don’t want to train you anymore and I don’t want you in the gym. I’ve got nothing personally against you other than this, but this is a big one. I can’t forgive this one.”
Caicedo realizes that anyone can lose. The loss isn’t what got to him. “He doesn’t have to be a world champion. I would have never kicked him out of the gym if he said to me, I’m so sorry, I screwed up, I fell apart, I was thinking about my son, I was thinking about losing, I didn’t want to lose. I completely screwed up. Then you say, shit happens, I get you. But that’s not what he answered when he answered me. What he answered was, you know, it’s no big deal, man. I just got knocked out, the same way I knock people out, they knock me out. It is what it is. We’ll try again.”
Not with Caicedo he won’t. Now Marrero will have to try again with someone else as his coach. He’s got to rebuild his reputation, which won’t be easy. He’ll be taken as an opponent and most likely won’t be treated as the A side.
Caicedo still thinks Marrero can become the undisputed. But he’s got to make that his goal and not lose focus when he gets a little bit of hype, a little bit of notoriety. “When he is completely ignored and not spoken about and is not the man, he’s the most humble, hardworking boxer—forget about in the gym, in boxing,” Caicedo says.
It’s important to remember Marrero is only twenty-eight. He has years ahead of him as a boxer—and potentially even good years if he takes Caicedo’s advice and goes back to being the humble, hard-working boxer that Caicedo first knew.
Follow B.A. Cass on Twitter @WiththePunch