On a national level, Oklahoma City isn’t known for much. Ask a random non-Oklahoman on the street about the city of about 650,000 and they’ll likely start talking about Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder or Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing. But if Alex Saucedo can take Maurice Hooker’s WBO Super Lightweight Title in OKC on Nov. 16, the capital of Oklahoma will have another thing to be famous for and a hometown hero to be even prouder of.
Saucedo qualified for the Mexican Olympic boxing team, but didn’t want to fight against the United States, electing to turn pro rather than compete in the 2012 Summer Games. Because of that decision, Saucedo does not enjoy the same level of name recognition as many fighters who had memorable moments on the Olympic stage, despite his sterling 28-0 professional record with 18 knockouts. Though he doesn’t regret it, Saucedo admits that in some moments of reflection he thinks about how his career would have turned out if he had competed in London.
“I believe that things happen for a reason, but I do think about it here and there, what would have been if I had gone to the Olympics and how it would have been different,” Saucedo told Sherdog.com. “But I’m happy with the way things have worked out as a professional. I’m about to be a world champion before the guys that were in the Olympics the year I was supposed to go. It would have been a great opportunity for myself and my career, but I really do believe things happen for a reason.”
Even though he’s not a huge star in boxing yet, there is one place in America where Saucedo is known and beloved: the city where he grew up, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. How beloved is the 24-year-old in OKC? Despite not having won a title yet, the mayor of Oklahoma City declared Aug. 28, 2018 “Alex Saucedo Day.” The young boxer was wowed, to say the least.
“That was great from the Mayor of Oklahoma City to make Aug. 28 ‘Alex Saucedo Day,’” Saucedo said. “It was incredible. I couldn’t believe it, it was amazing to see how much the city is backing me up.”
But every big city in America has a boxer working their way up the ranks. What does Alex Saucedo have on his side that’s making him such a big star in Oklahoma City? Hollywood star power and a fan-friendly style that has been working for him since Day 1.
Alex Saucedo isn’t managed by a traditional boxing name or a company well-established in the boxing world. Saucedo is managed by Churchill Management, a company headed by Hollywood bigwigs Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg. But as anyone who saw the box-office results of “Mile 22” will tell you; Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg can only get you so far. The truth is, Alexander Saucedo has become a star in Oklahoma City because of his exciting, aggressive style, best exemplified by his fight against Leonardo Zappavigna which featured a fourth round many considered the round of the year. So, does Saucedo feel any pressure to make the fight with Hooker exciting for his hometown fans? No, but he thinks it will be anyway.
“No not at all,” Saucedo said. “I mean it’s a very big opportunity and I’m very excited to go back home, But, over the course of my 28 past fights, people have seen what I bring to the ring, so there’s no pressure. It’s just, that’s the way I fight and people know what I bring to the ring, so everybody is excited to go and see me.”
Why do Oklahoma City and its fans matter so much in this fight? Because despite Dallas native Maurice Hooker holding the WBO Super Lightweight Title, he is the fighter who has to travel. He is the fighter who has to fight in his opponent’s hometown. If Saucedo’s fans are concerned that a feeling of disrespect will motivate Maurice Hooker to train harder and to fight with a renewed purpose, Saucedo is not.
“I really don’t see or care what he thinks or says,” Saucedo said. “I’m just happy that Top Rank was able to win the purse bid and take it home. If the fight was to happen in Dallas, I would’ve gone over there into his backyard. Wherever the fight would have been, would have been the same to me. But I’m happy that it’s going to be at home, that it’s going to be in Oklahoma City. I’m happy that Top Rank backs me up like that, but I’m a fighter and I was ready to fight him anywhere.”
Saucedo knows what Hooker brings to the table. They sparred together in Dallas a few years ago after Saucedo’s former manager signed Hooker to replace him. Though Saucedo downplays these sparring sessions -- “We did a couple rounds down at the Maple Gym but I was 16, 17 years old at the time so it’s been like seven years. I’m a whole different fighter now” -- that doesn’t mean he is downplaying the skills Hooker brings to the table.
“He has a long reach and he has power in both hands,” Saucedo said. “I mean, he’s a good fighter that’s why he’s the champion. He looked good against [Terry] Flanagan, but I’m not Flanagan, and Flanagan is done to me. When you look at his fights with Maurice Hooker and Regis Prograis it’s clear it’s not the same Flanagan that was at 135. But with his reach and his power in both hands, I know we’ll have to be 100-percent ready for the fight.”
Alex Saucedo knows how dangerous Maurice Hooker is and how hard he needs to work to beat him. He also knows that with a win in his hometown, he will go from local hero to nationwide star. The question is if that knowledge, combined with the adoration of the people of Oklahoma City on fight night, will be enough.
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