Escalante's wait and weight game
Story & photos by Chris Cozzone
Antonio Escalante, the border’s biggest hope for a world champion, is playing the waiting game.
Ranked No. 1 by the WBA, No. 2 by the WBO and No. 9 by the IBF, the Golden Boy-promoted super bantamweight is on the verge of big things. If all goes as planned, he just may become the first world champion El Paso has ever had.
“The pressure is on,” says Escalante. “Well, actually the pressure has always been on, from our first fight, to now, but I’ve learned to deal with it so well that’s it’s no longer really pressure.
“I’m just excited. It got closer with every fight and now it’s just about here.”
Others have come close, the most recent being challenger Juan Lazcano, who lost out to former WBC lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo, back in 2004.
“Right now there is nothing in the works,” says Escalante. “I was told that after my last win, I’d get a date, but right now it’s been quiet.”
Last time out, in July, Escalante returned home for the first time in three years to win a dominating decision over Cornelius Lock – who just recently bounced back from the loss to score an upset TKO win over formerly undefeated Orlando Cruz in September.
“I’m more than ready for the title,” says Escalante. “The only thing I need is a date.”
Escalante is now the mandatory challenger for multiple WBA champs Celestino Caballero and Poonsawat Kratingdaeng (Caballero holds the “super” version of the strap while the “unsuper” or “normal” world title sits with Kratingdaeng, who just unbelted Bernard Dunne) though his No. 2 and No. 9 ratings with the WBO and IBF, respectively, does not rule out a match against Juan Manuel Lopez (Caballero is also the IBF champ.)
In the meantime, the would-be challenger does not plan on getting rusty while the papers are shuffled and deals are made. On Oct. 30, Escalante will fight the co-main event on the “Latin Invasion 2” card headlining Hector Camacho Jr. vs. Yory Boy Campas.
Escalante, 21-2, 13 KOs, will be taking on Dominican Carlos Fulgencio, 11-3-1, 7 KOs, in a ten-rounder.
Fulgencio is 3-3 in his last six bouts, all three losses coming by way of knockout. In his last bout, Fulgencio, fighting at bantamweight, was KO’d in six by Abner Mares.
“These are the dangerous fights,” says Escalante. “Fulgencio reminds me of the guys I fought coming up. I know he’s hungry and that makes him dangerous, so I’m gonna come in with everything.
“At this point, every man is standing in my way of a world title fight. They all want to beat me and make a name – and that’s not gonna happen.”
Until a deal is solidified for a title fight, Escalante, recently having inked a managerial deal with Lester Bedford, of Jesse James Leija fame, says he is moving up to featherweight.
“If we get a title fight at 122, we’re definitely taking it,” says Escalante. “But, in the meantime, we’re moving up to featherweight. I’ve been a super bantamweight my entire career and dropping weight is not getting any easier.”
Officially, Escalante will still campaign at 122 so he doesn’t lose out at a world title opportunity, but if something opens up 126, he’ll grab it.
“I’m just more than ready, either way,” says Escalante. “Until something happens, I’m in the gym and training hard for Oct. 30.”