Quezada looking for 18th victory!
Story by David Robinett
Photo courtesy of Jan Sanders/Goossen Tutor Promotions
Through his first 15 fights, spanning just over four years, there was nothing remarkable about heavyweight Manuel “El Toro” Quezada.
Although an accomplished kickboxer, he had no amateur boxing experience and was well into a journeyman’s career, a few more wins than losses against mediocre opposition. A little bit of good fortune landed Quezada a regular-paying gig as one of the house fighters at the upstart Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, California, but there wasn’t anything to suggest that Quezada would make a name for himself beyond that dusty central California town.
Fast forward four more years and now the journeyman is a bona fide contender, ranked #5 by the WBC and coming off the biggest win of his career, a stunning first-round knockout of Travis Walker in July. Brimming with confidence, and having recently teamed up with respected trainer Joe Goossen, Quezada, (28-4, 18 KOs), looks to stretch his winning streak to 18 bouts as he defends his WBC Caribbean Heavyweight title against Nicolai “Stone Man” Firtha, (16-6-1, 7 KOs), this Thursday night in front of a partisan crowd at the Tachi Palace.
“The Tachi Palace is like my second home,” explained Quezada, who hails from nearby Wasco, California. “It definitely feels that way when I fight there. It’s fun, for sure, hearing my local fans cheering for me. I get really motivated fighting there. Everybody knows me there and the fans get ready when I come out. I know times are tough right now and I am thankful that they come out and support me and I won’t let them down.”
In July, Quezada was expected to be a bounce-back opponent for Walker, who had just lost a thrilling shootout with recent title challenger Chris Arreola. However, towards the end of an otherwise uneventful first-round against Walker, Quezada snuck in a devastating left-right combination that dropped Walker for the count and left him disoriented for several minutes.
“I couldn’t believe it, I was definitely expecting a tougher fight,” said Quezada. “But when I dropped him I was very excited. I honestly thought he was going to beat the count and get up, but I knew he was hurt because it felt like I hit him with a good shot. Even if he did get up I knew I was still going to be able to take him out.”
Much of the credit for Quezada’s success lies with his renewed commitment to training, something Quezada admits was missing early in his career.
“I got to the point where I realized this is for real, this is my life, and this is what I do for a living,” explained Quezada. “So I got to the point where I changed everything, my eating habits, the way I train, all of it. I feel like I’m in better shape now, I feel like I can go longer in the ring.”
Another change that Quezada credits for his more recent success was adding Joe Goossen as his primary trainer. In three fights since adding Goossen to his team, Quezada has three knockouts, two of them in the first round, including the win over Walker.
“Not a whole lot of changes to my style, we work on defense more and try not to get hit as much, but I think switching over [to Goossen] has helped me most with conditioning,” said Quezada. “Where before I was kind of a slow pace guy, working off my jab, now we try to push the pace a little more because we’re in better shape. I try to get off faster now and because of that I was able to catch these guys in the first round.”
Quezada will look to continue his winning streak Thursday against a decided underdog in Firtha, in what amounts to a stay-busy fight, though Quezada promises to avoid looking ahead to bigger fights in the future.
“Right now we just want to focus on Firtha,” stresses Quezada. “This is our opponent on the 22nd so this is who we’re going to prepare for and fight. After that I’ll let my team, Joe Goossen, Dan Goossen, and all them take care of that. They’ve done a good job for me so far and I’m going to trust them to keep it going. Firtha is a big, tough guy, he’s been in there with some good fighters, like Tye Fields, and I feel he’ll be ready to go.”
Despite the assurances not to look ahead, Quezada could not resist considering the ultimate challenge in the heavyweight division when asked who he would fight next if it were up to him.
“[Laughing] I haven’t really thought about it because we’re focusing on Firtha, but if it was up to me I would love to fight for the title, I would love to fight Vitali [Klitschko],” said Quezada. “I would love to get in there and see what I can do against this guy. I honestly believe I got what it takes to beat him.”
While it remains to be seen whether Quezada will continue to progress enough to capture the attention of either Klitschko brother, one thing is for certain, if Quezada takes care of business against Nicolai Firtha on Thursday night, he’s going to be a player in the heavyweight division.
Quezada vs. Firtha is a scheduled 10-round Heavyweight Attraction on the undercard of Tachi KO Night promoted by Goossen Tutor Promotions, headlined by Edison Miranda, (32-4, 28 KOs), taking on Francisco Sierra (20-2, 19 KOs) for the NABO Super Middleweight Championship.