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Paez Thinks He's Ready for Another Title Shot

April 21, 1996|STEVE SPRINGER

Junior-lightweight Jorge Paez wants to be taken seriously. At age 30, the former two-time world champion says he's done with the heavy drinking, done with the flashy cars, done with life in the fast lane.

Instead, he's now driving himself toward a shot at another title. He's gotten rid of his trainers, pruned his bloated entourage to a precious few and whipped his body into shape.

The general reaction? Often a yawn or a snicker. Some people just don't take Paez seriously. Could it be because he once entered the ring wearing a wedding dress?

Not to mention the Batman costume he wore for one pre-fight introduction. Or the gorilla mask. Or the time he kissed a ring card girl in the middle of a match. Or the various messages he has cut into his hair, from the promotion of safe sex to support for NAFTA.

OK, so the guy is a bit of a clown. He can't help it. He was born that way.

Paez comes from a circus family in Mexico. As far back as he can remember, he was toddling around the animals and the daredevils and the clowns, mimicking all that he saw. And as soon as he was old enough, Paez took his place under the big top, as everything from an acrobat to a bicyclist to a trapeze artist to a juggler to a clown.

At 18, Paez started boxing professionally. But he could never quite get the circus out of his blood.

Nor did he see any reason to. For most boxers, a victory is all that matters. But for Paez, it goes beyond that.

"If I win . . . but I don't put on a good show, I don't feel I did my job," he said.

By even his own standards, there were plenty of days when Paez (55-10-4, 36 knockouts) more than did his job. He took the International Boxing Federation featherweight title from Calvin Grove in 1988 and successfully defended it eight times in a year and a half before voluntarily surrendering it in 1990 when he could no longer maintain a weight of 126 pounds.

Paez moved up to the 135-pound lightweight division and took on Pernell Whitaker, a world-class fighter, but Whitaker proved to be too much for Paez, who lost a 12-round decision.

Paez took one more shot at a major title, but again lost a 12-round decision, this time to IBF lightweight champion Freddie Pendleton.

Paez's high living threatened to end his career altogether. Beginning in 1994, he lost a career-high four consecutive fights, which included opponents Oscar De La Hoya and Genaro Hernandez, before defeating journeymen Anthony Johnson and Paris Alexander. Next up for Paez is former IBF junior-featherweight champion Jose Sanabria (22-13-3, 12 knockouts), whom Paez will face May 4 at the Pond of Anaheim on the undercard of the Marco Antonio Barrera-Jesse Benavides match.

"I'm more mature now," said Paez, standing before a reporter with his sunglasses on backward. "I just went with the flow of life. But now, I've made a commitment. Not one beer until I quit boxing."

Paez hasn't cleaned up his act merely to face Sanabria. Paez would like one more shot at a major title before he hangs up his gloves.

And his dress.


Switching Ruelases: Gabriel Ruelas has dropped out of his April 30 fight against Tomas Barientos in Dallas because of a broken finger.

Ruelas' brother, Rafael (43-3, 34 knockouts), scheduled to fight Wayne Boudreaux on that same card, will now fight Barientos (17-2, 12 knockouts).

Rafael, a former IBF lightweight champion, dropped out of his last scheduled match, at the Olympic Auditorium last month, because of a hand injury.


Weighting game: The scene is always familiar. After months of denial and starvation, the fighter finally steps onto the scale and gets a nod of approval from an official of the state athletic commission. Through sweat and pain and a diet that would cause a model to wince, the fighter has gotten down to the required weight 24 hours before his scheduled bout.

Then what?

Free to replenish his body, the fighter will enjoy a meal of pasta and whatever else he feels won't hurt him in the upcoming fight.

How many pounds does that put back on? The answer, of course, is rarely known to anyone other than the boxer and perhaps a few close to him, but unusual circumstances in a bout several weeks ago at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio proved revealing.

Light-heavyweight Frank Tate was scheduled to fight Mike McCallum in a 175-pound bout Friday night. At the weigh-in Thursday night, Tate was approved at 174 1/2 pounds.

When McCallum bowed out at the last minute because of a sprained ankle, officials found a replacement in Everardo Armenta. Even though it was no longer a light-heavyweight bout, a new weigh-in with the new opponent was required.

When Tate stepped back on the scale Friday night, a little over an hour before the fight and 24 hours after the first weigh-in, he was at 188 pounds, a gain of nearly 14 pounds.

So much for weight classifications.


Just wondering: Whitaker has been called one of the greatest fighters, pound for pound, in the world.

After watching him struggle to beat Wilfredo Rivera last week, one has to wonder if Whitaker is even the best fighter in his own division.

Whitaker, the World Boxing Council welterweight champion, had better take one of those much-anticipated fights against either World Boxing Assn. champion Ike Quartey or IBF titleholder Felix Trinidad while Whitaker still has something left.

Boxing Notes

All the fighters on the May 4 pay-for-view card at the Pond of Anaheim will take part in a workout open free to the public next Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. at the Pond.

Calendar: Thursday--Johnny Vasquez vs. Martin Solorio, bantamweights, Irvine Marriott, 7:30 p.m.

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