Alex “El Cholo” Saucedo (28-0, 18 KOs) fought in front of his hometown crowd at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in downtown Oklahoma City, taking on Aussie contender Leonardo “Lenny” Zappavigna (37-4, 27 KOs).
A lot has been made of the rising prospect and now genuine contender, Alex Saucedo. Having signed with Top Rank at age 17, it’s been a slow and steady climb up the rankings and now at age 24, a title shot was now in his reach.
To no surprise, the venue rumbled with the cheers of the pro-Saucedo crowd with every punch landed and even punches that didn’t. It didn’t take long into the fight to realize that this was going to be a barn burner.
No fighter wasted any time letting their hands go, with Saucedo getting the better of the exchanges in the opening round. Saucedo continued to press the action early on but the Aussie was game for every minute of the fight.
The third round put the Saucedo fanbase on their feet, as Zappavigna was floored midway through the round. Saucedo went for the finish but somehow, despite being visibly rocked, Zappavigna found a way to finish the round.
What followed in the fourth put the OKC crowd in serious worry, as Zappavigna dug in deep and dominated the round, badly hurting the hometown hero. Saucedo bit down and rather than try and coast in the round, fought his way out of it and never went down.
Moving forward, both fighters displayed a tremendous amount of grit and heart. Both Saucedo and Zappavigna bled profusely and just when Saucedo would begin in a multi-hit combo that would rock Zappavigna, Zappavigna would return the favor and keep Saucedo honest.
Entering the seventh round, Saucedo mounted up some great body and head work, peppering Zappavigna with 1-2 shots and really unloading when he had him on the ropes. It was around this time that the Zappavigna corned had seen enough and threw in the towel. Saucedo immediately ran to the nearest corner and raised his arms in triumph.
“I said that I was ready for whatever he was going to bring the ring,” said Saucedo. Acknowledging the danger he found himself in the fourth, Saucedo spoke to his mental fortitude that helped push him through.
“That was a very tough fourth round, but I got through it because I’m mentally strong. It was a very long training camp and I thought of all the sacrifices I made to prepare for this fight.”
If the plan was to impress a TV audience and continue to build a name, Saucedo passed with flying colors. Moments like the ones Saucedo endured in the fourth round, where pure heart, determination, and will all have to kick in are what champions are made of.
Saucedo certainly placed himself in the perfect position to fight for the world title he’s searched for since turning pro. Saucedo knows what’s next, “We gave them an exciting fight. Now I’m ready to move on to bigger and better things. I want to become a world champion.”
All photos by Mikey Williams/Top Rank
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