Nine months since first capturing the 130 pound WBA title, Puerto Rico’s newest champion Alberto “El Explosivo” Machado (19-0, 16 KOs), makes his first title defense against undefeated Ghanaian fighter, Rafael Mensah (31-0, 23 KOs) July 21 in Las Vegas in the HBO co-featured bout, followed by Jaime Mungia taking on Liam Smith.
Machado, a tall and heavy-handed Junior Lightweight, is a seek-and-destroy fighter who wears his Puerto Rican pride as a badge of honor.
In his last outing on HBO back in October of last year, Machado had planned to capture his first title before the eyes off of those back home in his native island. Due to the tragedies that occurred with Hurrican Maria, few Puerto Ricans knew they had a new champion.
This time around, Machado plans to deliver a show, not only to his people back home but to all those in Sin City as well. “It was a special moment for me to be able to return to my country and see myself in the newspapers,” said Machado. “My people had suffered a tough time, the city was still dark with no electricity. The feeling of being able to bring a world title back to them, especially now, was something will carry with me forever.”
Machado rival Mensah has been outspoken on the future encounter and plans to derail any triumphant happy endings for Machado.
Mensah has yet to fight outside of Ghana but history has shown that Ghana produces tough competitors in the sport.
“I know he’s coming to fight,” said Machado “He’s said things that have motivated me more to win. I’ll enter the ring a champion and leave a champion.”
Becoming a champion has not changed the work ethic for Machado and claims that it has only enhanced his hunger to succeed more. Machado trains with the highly regarded Freddie Roach out of the Wild Card Boxing gym and says the chemistry between the two is only growing.
Should Machado have a successful title defense, eyes will begin to turn towards a possible unification bout and the champ already knows who he wants.
“My main focus is this fight with Mensah but I certainly have some names on my list,” said Machado. “One, in particular, is a unification bout with Miguel Berchelt. That’s a fight I would love to get.”
The man they call the explosive one still has to take care of business on the 21st but should he put on a show, all roads would lead to stiff competition moving forward.
A unification fight may not be next but with the tremendous power Machado possesses, coupled with his unique size for the division, it could prove to be an interesting time for the Junior Lightweight division.
Header photo by Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions
Peter Nieves is a sports journalist who's been writing for Round By Round Boxing since 2012. When he's not covering the sweet science, he's busy twirling his mustache and writing a screenplays. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @pnieves90