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Quintero ready for next level

Story & photos by Felipe Leon

The customary hustle and bustle of the CREA Gym, located in the heart of Tijuana, Mexico, is nonexistent as the usually packed and busy space is near empty.

“It’s another victim of the swine flu scare,” says Romulo Quirarte Jr. who, with his brother, Bobby, and father, Romulo, run the famed training center.

"We closed it in conjunction with the schools here in Mexico. Only the professionals who have a fight coming up are allowed in. All the kids will have to wait for when classes start again, hopefully May 6th."

One who cannot afford to take a break, pending epidemic or not, is lightweight southpaw Marvin "Cachorro" Quintero who, this Friday night, steps into the ring against his biggest challenge to date, Wes Ferguson on the semi main event bout of ShoBox: The Next Generation on the Showtime channel. Luis Abregu of Argentina will take on Puerto Rico's Irving Garcia in the ten-round welterweight main.

Quintero, originally of Culiacan, Mexico, but calling Tijuana home since the age of three, remembers his interest in boxing began at an early age.

"From very small, I was about eight or nine years old, I would always ask my dad to take me to a gym,” says Quintero. “But it never happened because of school or my dad's work. When I turned thirteen and I was able to ride public transportation by myself is when I began to really train."

Romulo Quirarte Sr., the head trainer of the CREA gym is known to have developed the careers of former champions Raul "Jibaro" Perez and Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. Now, along with his sons train a stable of fighters including WBC super featherweight champion Humberto "Zorrita" Soto and NABO lightweight champ Antonio DeMarco.

Don Romulo as he is affectionately known by all who enters the cramped area of the gym, remembers the young Quintero.

"I remember a young boy who wanted to better himself, like all those who walk in here who wanted to learn how to box,” he recalls.

Although Marvin's father tried his hand at the sweet science, it was Marvin's uncle who had the better luck.

"My father trained and had about three amateur fights,” says Quintero. “My uncle, Benjamin 'Toro' Quintero was a professional and quite successful in the national circuit. he fought 'Carita' Sandoval among others but he retired fairly young.

“I never saw him fight, but his sons invited me here to the gym. They stopped training but I never did."

Quintero, who is a junior at a local private university studying industrial engineering, amassed 42 fights as an amateur, only losing seven. He was a Mexican national champion twice in 2002 and 2004 and captured the bronze medal in 2003. He also won the silver medal in the Pan American games in 2004. Later that year, Quintero made his pro debut but not before making a very important decision.

"My father wanted me to have a nickname when I began to fight but I didn't like it. I was embarrassed to have one," Quintero remarks quite self-consciously. "He has always called me his cachorro (puppy in Spanish) and he mentioned to me that I should use it but I didn't want to. I think I hurt his feelings so when I actually did my debut, in honor of him, I used it.

"I was very motivated and anxious to debut as a pro. I fought Eduardo Gutierrez and I won in two rounds. I went into the ring very confident, very sure of myself.

"I remember after the first round telling my corner that it was much better than amateur fighting. I felt lighter with no shirt on and no head gear. It was another type of experience. I was nervous because I wanted to feel a professional type of punch but I was happy with my result."

As he felt the thrill of victory, "Cachorro" soon felt the agony of defeat as he suffered his only professional loss a year later almost to the day.

"It was my fifth professional fight. I remember that since the weigh in I didn't feel right. I had a lot of trouble making the weight. After the weigh in, I ate seafood and it didn't sit well. I was sick the rest of the night. He hit me with a great punch, a huge right hand. I wasn't able to recuperate. After the fight, I went to the doctor and he found that I had an infection. I might have been able to resist the punch if I wasn't sick."

But no loss goes without a lesson learned and Quintero's case is no exception.

"I learned not to keep my mouth shut if I feel ill. I was reprimanded by Don Romulo for not telling him because above all, its our health that is most important for him."

Since then, Quintero has rattled off 11 wins with eight of them within the distance giving him a 15-1 (12 KOs) ledger, including his first bout on national television, a fourth round stoppage of the tough Nick Casal earlier this year on ShoBox following the foot steps of his gym mate, NABO lightweight champion Antonio DeMarco.

"It was a great experience,” says Quintero. “He is a very tough fighter, a fighter that we had seen before against Tony DeMarco who went ten tough rounds against him. I don't consider myself a fighter that can end a fight with one punch like DeMarco. I felt that we were going to go ten rounds and we got prepared very well and we were expecting a long fight.

“As the fight went on, I began to get more confident because I started to notice that his punches weren't having any effect on me. I was able to score easily. When he didn't come out for the fourth round, I couldn't believe it. To beat Nick Casal inside three rounds was a great accomplishment for me. Thanks to the pressure that we displayed is what I think did the trick. I don't think it was just one punch. I think it was the pressure and the rhythm of the fight that we were able to impose that made the difference."

Along with the experience he has acquired in 48 professional rounds, Quintero has been in demand with elite fighters who need to work with a quick and strong southpaw.

Last March, Quintero traveled to Coachella, CA, to help former lightweight champion Julio Diaz prepare for his bout against wily veteran lefty Joel Casamayor.

"Julio Diaz was doing very well for his fight against Casamayor but they changed his opponent ten days before and he decided to go through with it. He was doing very well against southpaws and he looked ready both mentally and physically," Quintero stated, choosing his words carefully.

"When he was told that he had another opponent, he began to lose motivation and his brothers and even us, his sparring partners, tried to motivate him. He had trouble adjusting to the orthodox style quickly and I think that was it, it was a right hand that knocked him out."

Soon after returning home to Tijuana, Quintero was on his way to help junior welterweight Ricky Hatton as he prepares for the biggest fight of the year against the pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao on May 2nd.

"Ricky Hatton is a very strong fighter and he gets stronger as the fight goes on. His punches hurt even if you cover your body, his power comes through. You begin to wonder how an older fighter like that can have that much power," he says laughing. "I think that it served us a lot in experience and confidence because I was able to get my punches in too. You start to think that if you can hit Ricky Hatton, then why can't we hit somebody of our level? I think that Pacquiao is a great fighter but I have confidence in Hatton's power and his motivation."

It must be intimidating for a young fighter to get in the ring with established former world champions but Quintero takes it all in stride and again displays trust in his team.

"The first time I got in the ring with Diaz or Hatton I did feel nerves but not because I was intimidated but I would wonder if I was going to be of use to them. I think that if Don Romulo sends me out there, it’s because he knows that I can help that fighter out."

But now, Quintero is sure that not only a great working relationship has developed but a friendship as well.

"I have gained a lot of experience, confidence and motivation. I also have made friends with them and I feel confident that if they need work with another southpaw, I am sure they will call me to join their camp. The Diaz brothers are going to my next fight."

The next fight is this Friday night when he faces Wes Ferguson of Las Vegas, NV, by way of Flint, MI. The 23 year old Ferguson holds a respectable 20-3-1, 6KO record and is a highly decorated amateur who was the 2002 National Junior Olympics amateur champion, the 2002 National Silver Gloves champion and the 2001 Pan Am Cadet amateur champ. He has the unique distinction to be promoted by Floyd Mayweather Jr. and has won three in a row.

"I know that he is a tough fighter. I have never seen him fight although I know that he has two losses against the same fighter, Edner Cherry. I have been told that he can't handle the pressure, that he is a typical African-American fighter who moves a lot inside the ring. My trainer Don Romulo has studied him and it is just a matter of following his instructions inside the ring."

His trainer, Don Romulo seconds that thought.

"It's a very tough fight and a big challenge for us that we are taking but it is a step we need to take to get to the next level."

Ferguson's edge in experience does not faze the self-assured Quintero.

"Maybe his experience is an advantage for him since he can have the confidence in saying that he has fought good fighters. I feel that I have one of the best trainers in the world so if he tells me that I can fight him, then I know that I can fight him. If he feels that we can beat him then I know that we can beat him and all we need to do is follow his instructions."

Now as he gets ready to measure his mettle once again, Quintero doesn't lose sight why he laces them up since a young age.

"I fight for myself and my family's. I want my father to be proud of his son and I always dedicate my fights to him. I also would never would like to fail my gym, or my trainer and I fight to put the name of Tijuana at the highest level."

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