2012 has provided a slower pace for the 23-year-old from Indio, CA but has also offered a productive year that was at once restful and a display of all he has learned in his 89 rounds in 19 pro fights.
“I don’t know. I ask myself the same question but I like the way Golden Boy is using us,” said Caballero when asked about the lack of activity this year, compared to those prior. “But I’m fine with it. I feel good. My body feels good. I had a good year. I had more stoppages. I was working on some things in the ring that we worked on in the gym. My body feels stronger and they are talking about a world title pretty soon here. Everything happens for a reason.”
With the recent rash of ring injuries and fatalities, the subject of rest and recovery has rarely been more at the forefront of boxing. Caballero turned pro in 2010 and rattled off 13 fights in his first two years. After a long amateur career, decelerating his furious pace before heading toward a title challenge campaign next year was likely necessary.
“Oh yeah, my body got a lot of rest. That’s one thing I was able to do,” said Caballero, who has used the time to work on technique in the gym. “From beginning to now, my style has changed. I can see it. That’s how I feel. I feel more comfortable in the ring. That rest, I probably needed it for my body though.”
At 23, Caballero feels very comfortable making the 118-pound limit. With an eye on how his body reacts each time he makes the fight week-long descent in weight, Caballero says for now, he is a fit and ready bantamweight.
“I feel really comfortable at 118. The week of the fight, my body feels good. I don’t feel drained,” said Caballero. “We’re at a stage where we want to win a world title, probably defend a few times and probably jump up to 122. I definitely know we are going to have to move up sooner or later. My body is not going to grow that much more. I do feel comfortable at 118. I don’t struggle to make weight. We’re still good. I feel strong. I’m sparring guys that are 140 and they are not really doing much to me. I feel good. I feel strong. We will know once my body can’t take it no more and we’ll move up. Right now I feel good and strong and I’m able to make [weight] easy, so we’re good.”
Golden Boy has capitalized on the charming Caballero’s local popularity, placing him on cards at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, CA or in nearby Ontario. Whether he is headlining or in support, the girls go wild and the crowd cheers as if it’s a pay-per-view fight when Caballero walks to the ring. For this fight, however, he is in Florida supporting native son Antonio Tarver.
“I’m excited. I remember going to Florida when I was a little kid. Now I get to go back doing what I love to do, which is being inside that ring. It will be interesting, especially being on Antonio Tarver’s card,” said Caballero. “Should be fun. I’m ready to go out and put on a good show for all the people out there. Hopefully we come out with that win and an impressive win is what I want to come out with.”
Caballero has certainly begun to improve. His feet are now at the proper distance and he knows a few different ways to approach an opponent. The punches are straighter and his punching frame tighter. His head doesn’t move quite as much as it should and there is still a tendency to come back low with his hands while not pivoting after landing a clean punch or series of punches. But overall, Caballero, who is trained by his father and managed by Cameron Dunkin, is coming along nicely.
“The strength is coming as the rounds go on. [I feel] mentally strong, just breaking them down little by little. The punches will land sooner or later as they die out. So we are trying to put more pressure and just finish them out as the rounds go on,” said Caballero of his 2-0 (2) 2013. He’s maturing into a fighter who can execute his father/trainer Marcos’ overall game plan while adjusting midway through. In his last fight versus Luis Maldonado in July, Marcos told Caballero to go out and finish off Miguel Robles, who went down in the first but rose and challenged Caballero until the seventh. Caballero went out and finished him with a left to the solar plexus that finished things immediately.
So how would Caballero describe himself now that he’s about to go 20 fights into his pro career?
“I don’t know. Good question,” he laughed, buying time to assess himself. “I think I am able to adjust to everything. Because different fighters step in the ring with, they tend to change your style. You can’t fight the same way every single fight because you get guys that start to run, come in and put pressure. I’m the kind of person, I think, who gets stronger as the fight goes on, I counterpunch and able to put pressure on. I wouldn’t be able to describe it as just one style of myself.”
Through this process, he and Marcos have weathered some tough ring moments as well as the age-old criticism of a father/son team in boxing. But Caballero looks at this mutual maiden voyage from the amateurs to the pros as an opening for his brothers, Ryan and Rommel, also fighters.
“Oh, definitely. Every fight leading up to this, we’ve been through a lot. I’m glad it’s with my dad,” said Caballero. “I came into this sport with my dad and I’m not leaving without him. People ask me if I am going to get another trainer. I don’t feel like I have to. My dad has been with me for so long. He’s worked with pros. He’s worked with amateurs. He knows the difference between them both and how to work with both of the [types] of fighters. We’re going to make mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes in the sport. I’m glad we’re going to go through them first, so we learn from those mistakes and help out my brothers so they don’t make the same mistakes. I came into this sport with my dad and I am going to leave with him. We’re going to go all the way as far as we can together.”
As for his opponent, Cruz, he’s a southpaw who has never been stopped. At 5’4” to Caballero’s 5’6”, “The Little Barber” is likely going to get a little off the top after a lot to the ribs early on from Caballero.
“He comes strong the first couple of rounds. Once you start digging that body, this guy starts sneaking off and running around the whole ring. He’s a lefty. Swings likes crazy but we know, we’re ready. We’ve been sparring lefties. We’re definitely 100% ready for this guy,” assessed Caballero.
Despite the fight on Tuesday, the sense is that 2013 has definitely been the calm before Caballero’s world title-run storm. Not looking past his opponent but understanding what victory over means, Caballero is poised and ready to take his chances at the next level should he win tonight.
“I think so. Like I said, they’re talking about a world title now, maybe early next year,” said Caballero. “I’m excited. I can’t wait. But I’m not looking past [Cruz]. We’re going to take care of business on Tuesday and then after that, let’s get ready for a world title because that’s something that I’ve been dreaming about. I’m hoping, definitely ready. This is a dream come true. This is all what I’ve wanted and I am going to make sure that happens and I will get that world title.”
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