The First Fight
My first fight was against National Puerto Rican champ Roberto Mercedes, with me as a last minute replacement. Three weeks before the fight I was approached by trainer Mike Cruz and was asked if I would like to make some money fighting. I was told about the fight and thought it would be a great way to make a name for myself. Until this point I hadn’t even had an amateur fight yet, but I was about to turn 23 and believed it was time to put it all on the line. I needed to know if I had what it took to be a champ.
In the first round I got off to a good start banging away, causing Roberto to bend over. As he came up the back of his head accidentally met my nose, breaking it in the first minute of the round. I had to quickly regroup, and did by scoring a quick knock down from a side kick to the mid-section in the fourth round. I remained dominant throughout the fight, but did not want to leave the end result up to the judges, being I was in Puerto Rico fighting their champ. The fight went into the sixth round and with 15 seconds remaining, I hit my opponent with a left hook that not only ended the fight, but to date, the career of Roberto Mercedes.
Keeping My Legacy
I went on to have two more fights in Puerto Rico and scored K.O.’s in both. I then went back to my native home, New York, where I tried to further my boxing career. In August of ’96 I was again approached by a person involved in kickboxing, and was given a shot to see if I could recapture the glory I once had. Knowing that this time I would have something to lose.
Four years ago I came in as an unknown with no experience fighting a champ, so I was expected to lose. Now I was a seasoned pro expected to win or I would prove the skeptics right in saying that I was a fluke, so this time I trained even harder. My first fight back was against Carlos Mercado. The first round started with us feeling each other out. Halfway through we got a little tangled up and Carlos landed a three punch combination to my face which meant the “feeling out” time was over. I pointed to Carlos and told him he was mine.
The next punch was a left hook that landed to the top of Mr. Mercado’s head which sent his knees knocking as he hit the canvas. The bell rang shortly after, so it would go to round 2. Within five seconds of the second round Carlos Mercado would meet the same fate as did the previous three opponents, by way of a straight right hand that once again to date not only ended the fight but seemingly the career of Mr. Mercedes.
I have gone on to win five titles in three different weight classes, and that road has not been all glamour. I have had my share of disappointments, but a champion is not measured by his accomplishments, but by how he or she comes back from their misfortunes. In 1997, I fought world ranked middleweight contender John Kenny, 6’2″, 160 pounds. I did not train my best for the fight and lost by a controversial split decision. Four months later we would meet again, this time in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and once again I would have to prove myself to the skeptics that said Michael Corleone is not for real. The judges scored the fight all the same. A unanimous victory for me. Virtually a shutout. That was for the Northeast middleweight title. I started to take my skills for granted, and found to be content with just winning by decision.
I then came across a well-schooled kicker named Tommy Bottone. Once again not training like I should have, I was keeping my mind on other things. In addition to underestimation of my opponent. I met defeat again. But like I said earlier, a person is not measured by their accomplishments, but by how they come back from their misfortunes, and this is a misfortune I intend to fix. I was scheduled to fight Tommy Bottone in November then the fight was rescheduled for March. We shall wait and see if the fight ever takes place. If history repeats itself, I would not want to be Tommy Bottone come March.