Uncanny coincidences for DeMarco
Story & photos by Felipe Leon
The coincidences are uncanny.
As the WBC No. 1 ranked lightweight Antonio DeMarco prepares himself for his first world title fight, when he faces Jose Alfaro on Saturday night at the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, for the interim WBC lightweight belt, the circumstances are eerily similar to when another fighter trained by Romulo Quirarte was crowned, Raul "Jibaro" Perez.
It just so happens that Perez is DeMarco's father-in-law.
"'Jibaro' won his first title on October 29th, 1988," explains DeMarco. "He had one loss, his fight was the semi main event, it was in Las Vegas, he was trained by Don Romulo and he had one young daughter at the time who now is my wife
"My fight is on Saturday, the 31st, I have one loss, my fight is in Las Vegas, it's the semi main event, Don Romulo trains me and I have a young daughter. It seems like a fairy tale. I hope God grants me what would be the biggest coincidence and that would be for me to be crowned as a world champion."
The southpaw DeMarco (22-1, 16KO) has experienced a relatively fast rise to the top as he began his professional career five years ago by stopping Antonio Valencia in two rounds in his adopted hometown of Tijuana, Mexico. Since then, DeMarco, originally of Los Mochis, has enjoyed a meteoric climb through the ranks. The 23-year-old made his TV debut by defeating the game Nick Casal and then continued to shine by stopping his biggest victim to date, Almazbek "Kid Diamond" Raiymkulov earlier this year with a ninth round TKO for the WBO NABO lightweight title. In his last bout, a WBC title eliminator, DeMarco also stopped his opponent Agnes Adjaho in nine rounds.
"I learned a lot from that fight. It was a tough fight because the styles did not mesh," DeMarco states after an extensive workout. "It was based on intelligence, he was a strong fighter with a solid punch. We knew that the first one that connected was going to win."
The "we" that DeMarco mentions is none other than the legendary Romulo Quirarte Sr. and his two sons, Bobby and Roberto. Don Romulo, as he is respectfully called by the many fighters of all ages that he trains out of the CREA Gym in Tijuana, MX, has trained former champions Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., Jorge "Maromero" Paez, Manuel "Mantecas" Medina, Jose Luis Castillo and the afore mentioned "Jibaro" Perez. Among his stable now are numerous up and coming fighters including Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
His son Bobby Quirarte is in charge of the corner of current WBC super featherweight champion Humberto "Zorrita" Soto.
"It is a privilege for them to be in my corner, I can't find the words to describe it. They will always be in my corner, they are part of my family, part of my life," DeMarco says introspectively. "They are the only ones that believed in me when I first started to box and they were the ones that told me that if I worked hard, I could make a name for myself in this sport. Sincerely, I don't think they get the respect they deserve in this sport. I can't put into words what Don Romulo means to me, he has done a lot for me."
One thing that Quirarte has done is to put DeMarco thru the toughest training camp the young warrior has experienced in preparation for this, his first world title shot.
"This has been the toughest camp I have ever been in and I can't compare it to the ones in the past. I started this camp thinking my next opponent was going to be Edwin Valero so I asked Don Romulo to push me," DeMarco states visible winded from his session. "I told him I was going to do anything he asked of me without talking back, without questioning it, without saying I can't or I won't. Now we are winding down the camp and it has been difficult but we know that we will see the fruits of our labor the day of the fight."
One that has seen first hand the hard work that DeMarco has endured is his chief sparring partner, journeyman Ernesto "Baby Face" Zepeda. Zepeda is a tough and rugged come forward fighter who has faced the likes of Julio Diaz, Steve Forbes, Demetrius Hopkins and Matthew Hatton in his thirteen year career.
"I have been working with him since the beginning of camp and right now he is very strong and quick, " Zepeda states. "He is very talented. More than anything, I think his talent is what is going to help him along with his strength and quickness and a brutal punch."
DeMarco undoubtively will need every ounce of toughness he possesses when he takes on the rugged Alfaro of Nicaragua. With an impressive record of 23-4, 20KO, Alfaro will be on paper, the hardest hitting opponent DeMarco has faced. Surprisingly, DeMarco is not worried about Alfaro's KO percentage.
"I don't really think about the record of my opponents. I think about my work and about I need to do," DeMarco says. "Sometimes when you think to much about those things, nothing good comes out of it."
But DeMarco has not gone as far as not learning anything about Alfaro as he as searched the internet for anything that might give him a slight edge over the Nicaraguan.
"I've seen the video of when he was crowned a world champion in Germany and when he lost in Japan," DeMarco adds. "He is a tough opponent, a hungry opponent. An opponent who knows what it feels to be a world champion. Like any other opponent, he is dangerous because you never know what can happen inside the ring. I respect him but inside the ring, we are going to win. The one that is the most prepared is the one that is going to win."
Alfaro won a split decision over Prawet Singwancha in 2007 to capture the vacant WBA lightweight title only to lose it in his first defense six months later in Japan. Never the less, DeMarco feels that once a fighter tastes the thrill of victory, he is all that much dangerous and quite possibly the toughest opponent of his career.
"I think so, because he is a former world champion. I don't think less of my past opponents, we have been taking big steps and facing tougher and tougher opponents," DeMarco states as he chooses his words carefully. "'Kid Diamond' was a difficult fighter, he tied with Joel Casamayor, lost to Nate Campbell in ten rounds, he was very experienced."
Quirarte Sr. agrees that the fact that Alfaro is a former world champion makes him all that more dangerous.
"He is very experienced and very strong. He already knows what it is to be a world champion so he knows what needs to be done but we are ready to nullify all those strenghts and come out victorious."
"He looks like a very solid fighter, this is for an interim title but we are treating as if it was a full fledged championship and it is going to be difficult fight," Quirarte adds. "I am very confident that he will be ready for this fight and he would look great."
The soft spoken DeMarco does not dare to offer a prediction on the outcome of the twelve round championship bout or how it ends.
"Once in the ring, you have to be ready for anything. One has to be careful and intelligent inside the ring," he continues. "At this level, it is about intelligence and who can execute their game plan."
As DeMarco finds himself on the doorstep of greatness, he does not forget who actually holds the full fledged key that would allow him to call himself a world champion.
"That is the fight that I want. I don't like to look ahead of my fights but if everything comes out like it should on October 31st, Edwin Valero sounds perfect," DeMarco says with a smile on his face. "I have heard a lot of talk coming from the Valero camp, talk that shouldn't come from a respected fighter, so if everything works out, I would be more than happy to fight Edwin Valero."