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Burgos follows family destiny

Story by Felipe Leon
Photos by 'Big' Joe Miranda

If there is such a thing as destiny, undefeated featherweight prospect Juan Carlos “Mini” Burgos (24-0, 14 KOs) may be just the man to embody it.

Twenty-one years ago, he was born into a fighting family.

“I started to box at the age of nine,” says Burgos. My father was an amateur fighter and one of my uncles from my mother's side was also a fighter, though he tragically died one week before his pro debut.

“As you know, my uncle, Victor Burgos, was a world champion and he used to bring me to the gym to train.

“I began to box. I dropped out of junior high to concentrate in my boxing career because it is what I like, so now I have to concentrate on boxing because it is all I have."

Now on Friday night, Burgos will take a step up in competition when he faces the hard-hitting Omar "Calilla" Lizarraga of Tijuana, in the main event of Thompson Boxing's "New Blood II" fight card taking place at the Double Tree Hotel in Ontario, Calif., for the vacant IBA featherweight title.

Once Burgos learned his trade, it did not take long for him to jump into the punch-for-bucks business. Although he enjoyed a successful amateur career, it was not a long one.

"I had 26 amateur fights,” recalls Burgos. “I was municipal champion and I also won the Golden Gloves. I began as a professional on December 10th, 2004.

“I didn't have a long amateur career. I wasn't going to have the opportunity to go to an Olympics so it didn't really make sense for me to fight for too long as an amateur."

Plying his profession in his hometown of Tijuana, Juan Carlos fought under the tutelage of well-respected local trainer Roberto Sandoval, who’d guided the championship careers of Juan Carlos' uncle, the former IBF minimumweight champ Victor Burgos, and former WBA super welterweight beltholder Alejandro "Terra" Garcia. Before long, Juan Carlos captured a title of his own, the interim WBC Continental Americas featherweight title—a title he has, neither, vacated nor defended.

"We are still the champion,” he says. “I don't know why we haven't defended the title but I am not concerned with that. I think it is more important to keep fighting, to keep winning and to protect my world rankings. Hopefully in the 2009 we can earn the opportunity to challenge for a world title."

Burgos is ranked in the top ten by the WBC (No. 6) and the WBA (No. 10), a fact he feels he owes to his team.

"I have had a good career so far and I have been brought along nicely.  My trainers Roberto Sandoval and Gerardo Espinoza are trainers that know a lot about boxing. I think it has been a successful career, so far."

Even though Burgos does not fail to mention Roberto Sandoval as part of his team, the reality is that Sandoval is no longer a hands-on trainer as he was with his uncle Victor. The reason behind the absence of the experienced handler is the tragic night of March 03, 2007 when Victor Burgos was stopped in the twelfth round by super flyweight undisputed champion Vic Darchinyan and sent to the hospital where he suffered an induced coma for over a month. Since then, Sandoval has not been a part of the day-to-day activities of his Azteca Gym in the Independencia neighborhood of Tijuana, leaving in charge, former bantamweight contender, Espinoza.

"I thank Robert Sandoval for leaving me in charge but he still goes to the gym sporadically,” says Juan Carlos. “He might go in and do some mitt work or check on my work and let me know what I need to work on with the fighters. He taught me all I know, so I thank him for the opportunity."

Although Burgos would love to have his original trainer Sandoval in his corner, he doesn't feel at a disadvantage in having the experienced in his own right Espinoza taking over the ringside duties.

"That is a key factor for us fighters since we have so much trust in our trainers.  But fortunately we have Gerardo Espinoza who was left in charge and it is as if Roberto Sandoval was still with us because we trust Gerardo as much as we do Roberto."

In late 2007, Burgos was picked up by the southern California promotional company Thompson Boxing of Ontario, who along with the promising featherweight, also count current WBC jr. welterweight champion Timothy Bradley and super featherweight prospect Dominic Salcido among their stable. It’s a factor that assures Burgos.

"I think it is a good company that has been doing a good job with my career,” he says. “They are a serious company that have some young fighters. The fights that I have fought with them have been good and I am glad that we have won them."

Ken Thompson, principal of Thompson Boxing, reciprocates about his young charge:

“We want to give the fans a great show,” says Thompson. “If all goes well, Burgos will campaign for a major title very soon. Interesting things are happening in the division and Juan Carlos should be ready for any challenge. The main one thus far, is coming out victorious over Lizarraga and then we will see.”

Despite that fact that the future of his career might be hanging in the balance of the result of this fight, Burgos is no way impressed or worried about his next opponent, Lizarraga.

"I don't think it is a tough fight, it is a fight that I have been wanting for two years,” says Burgos. “Finally, Thompson Boxing was able to make it happen. It is a good fight, but not hard, and we are going to face a good fighter. Just as Omar Lizarraga has some virtues he also has some disadvantages. Those disadvantages are the ones I need to concentrate on so I can earn the win."

The sentiment is shared with his trainer.

"I see a good fight and it is one that we have been hoping we would get for a couple of years,” says Espinoza. “I think it is going to be a good fight but Juan Carlos Burgos is going to win."

Lizarraga, 33, is a veteran of 20 fights with a ledger of 16 wins against 6 losses and 1 draw. Twelve of those wins have come by way of knockout. Lizarraga is coming off a loss to John John Molina by injury stoppage and a first KO loss to Monty Meza Clay. The fact that Lizarraga began his career in 1995 and might be considered a little long in the tooth is a view that is shared by both fighter and trainer.

"He is a tough fighter but I think his best moments are behind him,” says Espinoza. “He has been fighting since '97, '98 when I began to see him fight.

“It has been ten years since then, he must be about 32 years old. Burgos is young and too strong. I think that 'Mini' Burgos even knocks him out."

“He is fighter that is older so his reflexes and his mobility are not what they were,” says Burgos. “I also have some disadvantages but I also have some virtues. One of them is that I have a strong punch and I have good reach, and those abilities that I possess are the ones we are going to exploit at a maximum."

Burgos has been doing the best preparation of his career for this fight, employing the help of featherweight contender and Manny Pacquiao victim Hector Velazquez for sparring sessions. The experienced Velazquez is impressed by what he sees in the young prospect.

"He has learned a lot,” says Velazquez. “I put pressure on him and he knows how to deal with it. He has learned a lot in the three weeks that we have been sparring and now he is the last stage of his preparation. Everything is good, he is going to win."

"We have been doing some great sparring with some high quality fighters such as Cristobal Cruz who is a world champion and Hector Velazquez who is a good fighter, so we are ready for the fight," Burgos adds.

As far as for Lizarraga, he sees his first bout of '09 as an opportunity to turn a new leaf and get back in the win column after two disappointing losses against a world ranked fighter. Lizarraga has taken the challenge very seriously and has left his hometown for the thin air of Big Bear in hopes that the conditions might help his chances in achieving the upset.

“He is a great puncher, attacks the body very well, but I am ready to box him and not give him any angles,” said Lizarraga. “He thinks this will be an easy fight, but he will soon find out he has been wrong all along.”

But Burgos has his own opinion regarding his opponent's dedication and change of training venue.

"I am not interested where they go to train, he can go train in the moon. We are working hard in the gym and we preparing ourselves to the fullest, this is a fight that I have wanted for two years and for whatever reason we couldn't get it done until now."

Both fighters are well known and enjoy a healthy following in their hometown, a fact that does not escape Burgos.

"I would of loved for this fight to be in Tijuana because I think that the boxing audience here would of loved to have seen it but unfortunately it couldn't happen in Tijuana and we are going to face each other in California."

"I am just expecting a win. We want to give a good fight and a good show so that the attending audience leaves satisfied," Burgos concluded. But his trainer Gerardo Espinoza shared a much more bolder prediction.

"I am confident that he is going to knock him out and I think he is going to do it by the fourth or fifth round."

. . . .

“New Blood III” showcases a six-bout card of hard-hitting action presented by Thompson Boxing Promotions at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, CA (located at 222 N. Vineyard Avenue).  In the main event, rising featherweight star Juan Carlos “Mini” Burgos (20-0, 14 KOs) takes a step up when he battles Omar “Calilla” Lizarraga (16-6-1, 12 KOs) in a ten round battle for the vacant IBA featherweight crown.  Doors open at 6:30pm and the first bell is at 7:45pm.  For tickets, priced at $75, $45, and $30, please call 714-935-0900.

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