Venezuelan Ismael “El Tigre” Barroso was undefeated in 21 professional fights when he entered the ring at a packed Manchester Arena in England on May 7, 2016, to challenge hometown hero Anthony Crolla, the defending WBA lightweight titleholder.
Globetrotter Barroso had every right to feel confident. Fighting in his opponent’s backyard didn’t faze him one bit. He already had boxed in Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico, the United States, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.
Moreover, in his previous fight, he had knocked down Englishman Kevin Mitchell three times en route to a fifth-round TKO victory in London. Winning on the road was his specialty, but that was about to change.
Barroso pressured Crolla from the opening bell, moving forward and winging punches at a rapid rate. But the frantic pace he set quickly wore him down and Barroso began to fade. Crolla dropped him with a right to the body for the full count in the seventh round.
El Tigre hasn’t fought since.
After a knockout loss and 17 months on the sidelines, it’s customary for a fighter to ease back into action against a relatively safe opponent. Not Barroso. At the age of 34, he has no time to waste. So he skipped the get-well fight and took a more meaningful match with dangerous Fidel “The Atrisco Kid” Maldonado Jr.
Barroso (19-1-2, 18 KOs) and Maldonado will clash on Friday at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California (ESPN Deportes, ESPN3, 10 p.m. ET. ESPN3 will stream the undercard live beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET.) Both men box out of a southpaw stance. Their junior welterweight bout is scheduled for 10 rounds.
Maldonado (24-3-1, 19 KOs) is 4-0-1 in his past five fights, including an exciting split decision victory over favored Pablo Cesar Cano, who will be taking on Marcelino “Nino” Lopez in Golden Boy Promotions’ co-feature on Friday.
“Ismael Barroso is a former [interim] world champion, so that says he’s got to be pretty good,” said the 26-year-old Maldonado. “He has some power. I’m up against a good guy, but we’re going to go out there and upset him like we did in the Cano fight.”
One of Maldonado’s most impressive performances was a seventh-round TKO of Luis Ramos in November 2013. Ramos had only one loss in 24 pro bouts and was favored to win, but Maldonado dominated. He scored two knockdowns in the sixth and finished Ramos with another knockdown in the seventh.
“Fidel’s style is very technical, but he’s a pressure fighter — a technical pressure fighter with a lot of power,” said his father-trainer, Fidel the senior. “His style is to come forward and be aggressive.”
That’s an assessment that would surely please Barroso.
“I’m a warrior. I come forward. I come to fight,” said the Venezuelan power puncher.
The 28-year-old Cano (30-6-2, 1 NC, 21 KOs) has been a pro for 11 years and is looking to bounce back from his close loss to Maldonado. He was unbeaten in his first 24 bouts, but he has been inconsistent since, going 5-5-1 in his 11 most recent fights. Solid victories over Mauricio Herrera, Juan Carlos Abreu and Ashley Theophane have been offset by defeats at the hands of Shane Mosley, Erik Morales and Paulie Malignaggi.
The Malignaggi loss, however, was a contentious split decision that could have gone the other way. Cano had floored his adversary in the 11th round, and many of the fans at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center booed the decision, despite the fact that Malignaggi is Brooklyn born and bred.
Cano has announced that he is dedicating the Lopez fight to the victims of the recent earthquake in Mexico City.
“I’m not a brawler. I like to box and move around a lot,” Cano said. “When I feel that I can hit them, I try to hit them as hard as I can.”
The 31-year-old Lopez, who lives in Buenos Aires, is a former South American and Argentine lightweight champion. The Cano match will be Lopez’s third straight fight in the United States. The Argentinian knocked out David Rodela in his U.S. debut but lost a split decision to Michael Perez in his most recent bout.
Perez built an early lead, but Lopez (32-2-1, 17 KOs) came on strong in the late round, flooring Perez with a left hook in the eighth and cutting him over the left eye. It looked like Lopez’s late surge was enough to take the verdict, but two of the three official judges thought otherwise.
“Marcelino is unpredictable in the ring. He can box really well and he has really good footwork,” said Joel Diaz, who will be in Lopez’s corner for the second time against Cano. “He’s the type of fighter that can apply pressure or he can move around and box. He’s got a really good defense and is extremely hard to hit.”