Photo: Lina Baker/IG @seeyouringside
Coachella native and former IBF bantamweight champion Randy “El Matador” Caballero will be the first to tell you “Thank God 2015 is over”.
It was a hard year for the undefeated former champ, after going from undefeated champion on the road to bigger and better fights and paydays to – well, nothing.
Following his victory over the UK’s Stuart Hall, Caballero’s promoter Golden Boy held a press conference at its headquarters in down town Los Angeles to announce the homecoming of its newest champion and his next bout against Alberto Guevara – that seems like ages ago.
A cyst in his heel bone forced the postponement, then cancellation of the fight, putting the young hungry American of Nicaraguan descent on ice for nearly a year.
The opportunity to enter the ring again came up after healing, on the undercard of the huge Cotto versus Canelo pay-per-view against the UK’s Lee Haskins- who had won the IBF interim title in Caballero’s absence.
Caballero, whom we visited in camp on multiple occasions, appeared fit and strong for his return. I had dinner with members of his team the night before the weigh-in and talks of high spirits coupled with photos of the scale showing 119lbs made for a good night filled with hopes of a good fight in the upcoming days.
The following day the smiling faces I saw the night prior suddenly had a look of dread and worry. Randy Caballero stepped onto the scale weighing 123.5lbs to the gasp of the audience and writers – looking gaunt and dejected, Caballero surrendered his championship to Haskins without ever throwing a punch.
That was then, and this is now.
Promoter Golden Boy announced the return of “El Matador”- a crowd favorite and sure fire seat filler of the Fantasy Springs Casino in his home town of Indio, California for February 5th.
A move up to 122 pounds was in order against unknown and once beaten Mexican Ruben Garcia. Caballero knows nothing about his opponent – he doesn’t care. “There’s no video on this guy, its his big opportunity to come in and try to take me out. I don’t care, my last fight didn’t happen and I’m so anxious to get back in the ring.” said Caballero as we spoke over the phone.
“I’m tired of talking, I promoted and talked so much for my last fight and before that for nothing, for a whole year. I just want to fight so bad right now.” Understandable, going from world champion with positive signs for the future to ex-champion and out of work for the year is a tough pill to swallow.
On losing his title Caballero said, “I lost everything, my title, fans, the press was bad it felt like everything turned on me.”
The inevitable happens to lots of fighters in the lower weight classes and in this case it happened to the young champion from Coachella – Caballero outgrew the bantamweight division after a long period of inactivity. “Before I went to bed on the 19th I weighed 119, I didn’t eat, drink nothing. I felt strong. When I woke up I was 123.5”, said Caballero recounting the night before losing his title on the scale.
“I was scared and remember thinking what the hell is wrong? I tried to cut the weight and went running and to the sauna but my body just stopped. I couldn’t sweat, I had no saliva to spit, I was shaking like crazy – my body was shutting down.”
Caballero took it on the chin without physically taking it on the chin as he was crucified on social media and by the boxing press. “I didn’t make an excuses, I did the walk of shame and handed my belt over like a man, it hurt and I was embarrassed but it was the right thing to do.” Its not uncommon for a fighter off weight to skip the weigh-in and cite “illness” or some other brand of excuse.
At a time when promoter Golden Boy could have cut ties with Caballero, they instead doubled down on his talent and scheduled him to fight a few months later, in a New Year and new weight class. “Robert Diaz from Golden Boy talked to me and said they supported me, it was good to hear because at the time they could have said forget this guy, you know?”.
“122 is a good division there are bigger names here, bigger fights here, and more opportunity. I feel strong and have had a really good camp. Hell, I’ve been in camp for a whole year it feels like”.
Yes it does Mr. Caballero, 2015 is now over welcome to 2016, boxing has missed you for a year. Welcome back.