Ivan Calderon vs. Giovanni Segura: Science vs. Violence

This Saturday’s junior flyweight unification bout in Puerto Rico goes beyond a simple Champion vs. Champion battle for two of the four recognized divisional titles. And it even goes beyond the legendary Mexico vs. Puerto Rico boxing rivalry.

The contest, simply labeled, “Unification,” will be the type of battle that can only take place when two polar opposites, both in style and temperament, are forced to meet one another in the middle of the ring.

Giovanni Segura (24-1-1, 20 KOs), “The Aztec Warrior,” was one of seven children raised on the unforgivingly hot and dusty streets of Ciudad Altamirano, Guerrero, Mexico. Like many young, able-bodied Mexicans looking for a way out of the chaotic poverty, Segura made the dangerous trek into the United States via Mexicali, Baja California.

Segura would eventually win his first world title against Colombian, Cesar Canchila in the same city of Mexicali where, years earlier, he trudged through abandoned sewage tunnels en route to a better life in the United States.

In the time between his arrival in the US and his first title, Segura worked a series of odd jobs, making ends meet while training at the Azteca Gym in Bell, California. The idea of being a full-time fighter was only a pipe dream for the 5’4″ brawler until he was signed to a promotional deal by Top Rank Promotions.

Segura’s raw aggression and flailing style reveal a fighter with very little amateur experience. (His official bio says that he had 40 amateur bouts, but he has since confessed to exaggerating his experience to Top Rank scouts and that the actual number was 12.)

With only one blemish on his record, a 2008 decision loss to Cesar Canchila that was avenged via 4th round TKO eight months later, Segura overwhelms his opponents with pure, unrelenting aggression and has three blow-out title defenses to prove his dominance since winning the WBA junior flyweight belt.

He makes no apologies for his lack of technique, but more than makes up for an absence of finesse and precision with a primal drive to attack from bell-to-bell and handcuff an opponent with relentless pressure.

Segura also makes no apologies for his co-trainer, the now infamous Javier Capetillo, former trainer of Antonio Margarito and key figure in the hand wrap scandal that saw Capetillo and his fighter get their licenses revoked by the California State Athletic Commission in February, 2009.

Regardless of his trainer’s presence and regardless of the difficulty presented by fighting in Calderon’s own back yard, Segura approaches this unification with the same careless savagery that characterizes his in-ring style.

“I don’t care if the fight is in his house, in front of his people. In the ring, there’s only him and me. The people don’t intimidate me. They can scream and support him all they want…I’ve heard that Calderon has said that I’m only a ‘rock thrower.’ Well, I’m also a world champion. Watch out if one of those rocks hits their mark.”

Ivan Calderon, in sharp contrast to Segura’s raw brutality, is a paragon of technical excellence. He is regarded by fight experts as one of the sport’s very best technical boxers and his defensive prowess has been mentioned alongside Hall of Fame stylists like Pernell Whitaker and Willie Pep.

Also coming from humble beginnings, the native of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, was educated in the art of boxing and seasoned on the international amateur circuit.

The former 2000 Olympian compiled an amateur record of 110-20 before turning pro in 2001 with a mature, polished style that garnered praise and attention from many in the media.

With an undefeated record of 34-0-1 (6 KOs), Calderon has been a world champion since 2003. He held the WBO minimumweight title from 2003 to 2007, making eleven successful defenses before moving up to junior flyweight where he captured the WBO version of that title by beating Mexican slugger, Hugo Cazares. This Saturday’s unification bout with Segura will be Calderon’s seventh defense of his belt.

Calderon prides himself on his hit-and-move style and his ability to make his opponents miss. He’s definitely cut from a different cloth than Segura, working with speed and precision to befuddle and confuse his rivals while scoring with sharp counter punches to win rounds.

He hasn’t scored a knockout in over four years, but that’s not what Calderon is all about. Calderon is about style, technique and the bonafide art of hitting while not getting hit.

History suggests that the technician usually has the advantage in these brawn vs. brains contests, but this could very well be a bout that defies general convention.

Calderon is 35 years of age and has been showing signs of slowing down in recent fights. Segura, on the other hand, has been looking stronger and sharper with each fight, stopping his last five opponents (and eight of his last nine) within the distance.

Segura’s unorthodox style will also be a key factor in this matchup. Switching from orthodox to southpaw and throwing at strange angles, Segura is the type of dynamo that often confuses and frustrates well-schooled, polished professionals, even those on the fringe of most pound-for-pound lists like his opponent for this much-anticipated showdown.

Calderon, however, is as calm and collected as always, categorizing Segura as “disorganized, but strong.”

Calderon has seen it all before and will definitely be bolstered by fighting in front of a mega-partisan hometown crowd at the Coliseo Mario ‘Quijote’ Morales in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. To Calderon, guys like Segura are open books.

But “The Aztec Warrior,” who has gone from sewage tunnels to a world title makes for a tough read and just may produce an unpredictable ending this Saturday.

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