“I fought him once in a national tournament. I believe it was about 2006. I beat him by points,” said Caballero. “He is a tough kid. He comes forward. He is a little wild. He can get dirty sometimes. He does hit low blows and he throws elbows but you know what? People change and get better as they go on, you know? I’m not taking anything from him. He was a tough fighter. I saw one of his pro fights. He is a tough guy. He is 8-0. He has no losses so he must have done something good in the sport. I’m not underestimating him at all but I believe I’m real strong now. I feel real strong at this weight class. I’m going to make sure I come out with this win.”
While Caballero has not faced the usual upper echelon suspects, he has faced a bevy of journeymen of younger fighters without winning records. In Santiago, he will have a fighter who won’t lose his “0” quietly. Coupled with his wild style, Santiago should make for an interesting fight.
“I think it is a lot easier with guys that have been in the sport longer,” said Caballero of the challenge of beating something with a loss vs. one without. “You get guys that are just wild; those are the harder guys to fight. You get a guy that has been in the sport longer; they are more cautious in the ring. He has the winning record. He does not have a loss so he is not going to jump in there and try to throw wild punches with a counterpuncher and get dropped. He’s not going to risk something like that and I’m not going to risk anything like that. It will be more of a calm fight and I like those. I feel better in those kinds of fights but like I said, I’m ready to fight whomever they put in front of me and take them out.”
Caballero said he is not looking around the division for a name to beat but instead he is taking this phase of his career in stride. He is enjoying the moment and most importantly focusing on what he needs to do to be successful.
“Right now that is what I am focused on,” said Caballero. “I am focused on myself. Whatever they put in front of me, I’m ready for. When the time is right for me to step up, I will be ready. There are some guys at the top right now that by the time I get ready for them, they might not be there anymore. So what is the point of calling them out now? If they are still there, then I will call them out.”
While the Fantasy Springs Casino may not seem like the biggest or most glamorous place in the world, it’s important to Caballero’s growth. His fan base comes out in droves and they are always the loudest people cheering. No matter if Randy is the main event or an undercard fighter, the way the crowd cheers for him says it all.
“It doesn’t get jam-packed but you know what? My name is getting out there,” said Caballero. “I know this one is going pack them in really big. There are people from Nicaragua, San Francisco, L.A. We’re getting a lot of people out there who know who I am and I thank them for their support. I just feel good that my name is getting out there. Every time I fight here and I am walking down the street and someone will say, ‘Oh, you’re Randy Caballero,’ it feels good. It motivates me to work harder. Get my name even bigger out there.”
Caballero and Santiago are fighting for the WBC Youth Intercontinental super bantamweight title. It will mean a higher ranking as well as a benchmark for the progress the winner has made as a pro. Caballero is signed with Golden Boy Promotions and managed by Cameron Dunkin, who is known for having one of the more discerning eyes for talent in the sport. That Caballero has made it to this point amongst a sea of prospects and would-be contenders in both GBP and Dunkin’s stables says a lot of about him.
“It means a lot to me. It is something big, I know,” said Randy. “I am making progress in the sport. Golden Boy sees something in me. Cameron Dunkin sees something in me and I know it is a big step for me. My dad told me through this whole training camp that ‘You win this one and doors open for you.’ I think the same way and I can’t wait to see what’s next for me. Hopefully, I come out with the win in this one.”
With his sixth fight in as many months and regional titles, should he emerge victorious, Caballero hopes to take a little break as his handlers decide how to proceed from his potential success this weekend. With five wins already, his last three by stoppage, Caballero is on his way to being a “Prospect of the Year” candidate and the year is only half over.
“I am taking a break after this,” said Caballero. “I won’t be fighting in August. I’m going to take a break. How long the break is going to be I don’t know. I don’t think I’m going to stay on break too long. My body needs it. I can’t fight every month but we’ll see what happens. We’ll take a little break and see what they have for me after this.”
The talk turned back to Santiago and his wild-swinging ways. I asked if he was “Mayorga-wild or what?” Caballero began to explain but then conceded that it does not matter. Who he has been training with in the gym, who he is surrounded by, those are the things which are most important right now. Preparing the way he does, Caballero should be ready for any fighter at this stage.
“There are times when he gets those wild swinging punches but you know what? Every fight is dangerous. Any punch lands on the right spot, it could hurt you and put you out,” said Caballero, “but I’ve been training hard. I feel ready. I always put it in my head, ‘Look at the guys I’ve been sparring, Nonito Donaire, Abner Mares.’ Guys on the top of their game. What does it say for these up-and-coming fighters if I am in there sparring Nonito and Abner? What could happen? But anything can happen in this sport. That’s the way I put it and I keep it in my head like that.”
Caballero travelled to nearby Riverside to get some prime sparring for this match.
“We’ve been working with different guys. We went to Riverside and got some sparring with a kid who just turned pro, Saul,” explained Caballero, who primarily trained back at his home gym in Coachella. “Santiago has that kind of still amateur style. So that is why we were using him because he still has that amateur style and he does hit a lot harder than Santiago. We spar at a gym that has guys all heavier than I am. So you know I feel strong.”
Caballero has a way to go before he becomes a bona fide contender in this sport but he is on his way. A win tonight will open doors. Being prepared to walk though them will be yet another step on his journey up boxing’s ladder.
“I feel ready,” declared Caballero. “These punches are not going to hurt me. I am ready to get in the ring already.”
You can email Gabriel at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him on each Monday’s episode of “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST. Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.