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Once again the collective boxing family in Panama is anxious to crown another one of their own. After watching three Panamanians win world titles in 2005, many believe that come Saturday the boxer who was supposed to have the quickest rise to fame will finally get his due. Panamanian southpaw stylist Ricardo "El Maestrito" Cordoba gets his second try at his first world title when he faces Ukrainian Wladimir Sidorenko (18-0, 6 KOs) for the WBA bantamweight title at the Color Line Arena in Hamburg, Germany. Hailing from Santa Marta, Panama, Cordoba (27-1, 18 KOs) lost by split-decision in his earlier attempt to wrestle the title away from Thailand's Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym last August.
In that controversial fight the overall consensus was that Cordoba did not stick to his brand of technical boxing. For many observers from Panama who have seen Cordoba on a regular basis and marvel at his skills, the belief is the young fighter needs to avoid a brawl and not stray from the gameplan. Since the loss to Kratingdaenggym, Cordoba is 2-0 with wins over weak competition, and in the process suffering two careless knockdowns in a decision win over neophyte Jocklin Herrera. As devoted as Cordoba is to the sport, the 23-year old has occasionally lost focus between fights. However, when that focus is there he has the physical tools and a marksman's accuracy that every fighter yearns for,
The training regimen and cast has rarely changed over the years. Cordoba's trainer and surrogate father Celso Chavez Jr. has shaped the youg fighter's career since the amateurs, while manager Dr. Robert Grimaldo has assisted with the finances. With financial backing from Grimaldo, the one-story house in the San Antonio housing complex was transformed into the Mendes boxing gym. The overriding belief is that if a boxer can exhibit dominance in such a tiny space, the real ring will seem the size of a swimming pool. The trio lost a member in 2004 when longtime Cordoba supporter, Celso Chavez Sr. passed away. Chavez Sr. was a ubiquitous presensce around the rickety Papi Mendes Gym in San Miguelito, and a calming influence over Cordoba.
To this day, he is dearly missed within the Panama boxing family.
While Sidorenko (18-0, 6 KOs) can use to his adopted hometown to his advantage, Cordoba must acclimate to the cold weather. Cordoba is not prone to pre-fight hype and has noted in local media that he values this second chance. However, he is facing another hungry young fighter and his people.
It will be interesting to see how he reacts to the hostile crowd.
"My opinion is that Ricardo Cordoba has a great chance to win the world title on Saturday," said Panamanian manager Rogelio Esino. "He is a very tough and skillful boxer. And he is a southpaw. I've heard that Sidorenko has a lot of problems with left-handed boxers. If Ricardo Cordoba uses his reach and style of boxing, he will win big. The problem for him could be if he fights Sidorenko like he did in Thailand. Ricardo Cordoba has to remember that he is not a big puncher and he has to win the fight round by round. If he does so, he will become champion."
Ever since Cordoba started his 200-fight amateur career, he heard the rumors about his potential. To this point, he has not lived up to the billing, and everyone in Panama realizes that this might be his final chance. With several fine boxers giving the country a new boxing rep, Cordoba has received mounds of praise for his style, presence outside of the ring, and his ability to stay calm in moments of chaos. While other prospects have quicker hands and better one-punch knockout power, Cordoba thrives on patience, never wasting a punch. It is such thriftiness that has helped and hurt him in the past.
I was a little kid of the streets, Cordoba once said."I was attracted to the sport to be famous, but it is my livelihood for a future for my family, my (future) wife, my children. I like to buy nice things for my mother. She can listen to all my fights on the radio.
After every fight, Cordoba has brought back his purse money to his mother in Santa Marta. Now, maybe, this time, he can bring his belt along with him.
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