MANILA, Philippines - Fighting on hostile territory, Iloilo pride Denver Cuello vowed to emulate Manny Pacquiao and go all out to finish off Juan Hernandez within the 12-round distance in their WBC interim minimumweight title bout at the Salon Plaza Condesa in Mexico City this morning (Manila time).
Both Cuello and Hernandez scaled the limit of 105 pounds during the weigh-in at the Mexican Boxing Commission office yesterday.
After making the weight, Cuello was examined and cleared by a doctor. He then boarded a taxi with manager Aljoe Jaro to feast on beef steak and “nilagang baka” in their room at the Ramada Reporma Hotel.
“Denver is happy that he made the weight after all the hard work,” said Jaro. “He wants to make sure the fight doesn’t go 12 rounds because he’s afraid of losing by hometown decision. Denver is slightly taller than Hernandez but they’re about the same in build. Both are hard hitters so anything can happen.”
Jaro said the factors that will decide the outcome are intelligence and style.
“If they neutralize each other’s strength, the fighter who is smarter will win,” he added. “The fighter who is able to impose his style will also have a big advantage. I know Denver will do what it takes to win.”
Cuello and Jaro left Manila for Los Angeles last May 15. They stayed in Los Angeles until last Monday then flew to Mexico City.
“Denver jogged at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, the same route that Manny takes, last Sunday morning,” said Jaro. “We wanted to work out at the Wild Card Gym but it was closed. So we did six rounds of mitts at the Park in the afternoon. Denver skipped rope for about 15 minutes and did four rounds of shadow-boxing.” In all, Cuello completed 130 rounds of sparring with fighters like superbantamweight Alan Tanada, superflyweight Aldrin Diale and bantamweight Richard Olisa.
Cuello and Jaro were accompanied at the Park by Bonifacio (Bunny) Lopez who hosted the traveling party in his home. Lopez’ wife cooked “tinolang manok” with “ampalaya” and fried fish for the guests. They spent the rest of the day touring Hollywood Boulevard and taking photographs.
Jaro said when Cuello landed in Mexico City, he was greeted at the airports by fans chanting, “Pacquiao, Pacquiao.”
“Mexican fans have a lot of respect for Filipino fighters because of Manny,” said Jaro. “They think every Filipino fighter is Pacquiao. We were brought to our hotel and later, we went to the gym owned by Erik Morales’ partner Aquilles Torres Cabrera.”
Jaro bought a rice cooker so he could prepare Filipino-style dishes for Cuello in their hotel room.
“Denver is very focused for this fight, very cool,” said Jaro. “He’s confident of winning because he prepared long and hard for this fight. His inspiration is Manny. How Manny trains is how Denver trained for Hernandez. Denver never chooses his sparmates. He spars with anybody we bring in, big or small. He’s brave, hard-working, kind, humble and God-fearing. You couldn’t ask anything more from a fighter.”
Jaro said Cuello reminds him of how Pacquiao is when psyching himself up for a fight.
“Denver is like Manny in many ways,” said Jaro. “He fights for his country, family and religion. He doesn’t back down. It doesn’t matter where he fights. He knows Hernandez is tough but he believes God is on his side. He has a very strong faith.”
Cuello, 23, is ranked No. 1 by the WBC and holds the WBC International belt. Hernandez, 23, is the No. 2 contender and the North American Boxing Federation champion. They will dispute the WBC interim title with the winner to be named the mandatory challenger of WBC champion Oleydong Sithsanerchai of Thailand.
Oleydong has been given up to October to stake the crown against the mandatory challenger.
The fight against Hernandez was originally scheduled last March 27 but was postponed when the Mexican reportedly collapsed while training in the gym due to dehydration.
Cuello has a 19-2-5 record, with 10 KOs. He is unbeaten in his last 14 fights. Hernandez boasts a 16-1 mark, with 13 KOs. His only loss was an eighth round knockout to Oscar Martinez in 2006 and he has rebounded to score nine straight wins, four by KO in the first round.
To underscore their punching ability, both Cuello and Hernandez are coming off first round knockout victories. Cuello disposed of Samuel Aputa last January and Hernandez took out Armando Vasquez a month later.
“I don’t think Hernandez will be a problem,” said Jaro. “He’s a fighter who comes forward so Denver will be waiting for him. As soon as he moves in, Denver will meet him head-on. Denver has never been stronger and I know he’s got the power to put Hernandez away.”