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Spring Hill boxer has a fighting chance

Jose Alonzo returns to the ring tonight for the first time in more than a year to begin removing some "jagged edges.''

By BRANT JAMES

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 2, 2001


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Jose Alonzo knows the vagaries of his game.

He knows the things whispered in a young boxer's ears don't necessarily hold any truth. He knows everything can change as much with a phone call as with a right cross.

But working out in a gym cobbled from an upholstery shop, about to fight professionally for the first time in more than a year, Alonzo seems strangely at peace.

Surrounded by a new trainer, new promoter and most importantly, he says, his step-father, Nelson Saldana, the Spring Hill boxer is ready to reclaim his future when he fights for the sixth time as a pro tonight at Robart's Arena in Sarasota.

"With these people, I am happy, especially with my dad," said Alonzo, stretching over a chair in the office adjacent the gym. "Because I know they won't let anything go wrong.

"Now everything is more legit," Alonzo said. "You never know about the boxing business."

Alonzo's new camp is whispering things in his ear, too, that in two years or 20 more bouts he will be ready to battle for the super middleweight championship of the world.

It is counsel he trusts, words he believes, and anyone who thinks otherwise will have to prove it with their fists.

"I want to be champion of the world," said Alonzo, 5-0 with two knockouts. "I want to make a great decent amount of money. I want my kids (Jose Jr., Nyasia Brianna, and Xzavier) and my little sister (Nahiomi) to have everything in the world.

"I could win a championship and be broke in 10 years, but as long as I have that title in my hand and my kids have everything they ever need, I'm the happiest man in the world."

For now, as trainer Angel Rosa says, there are "jagged edges" to remove.

Alonzo, 23, a golf course maintenance worker at GlenLakes, went nearly a year without professional training when Don Khan decided to move back to Miami and become a matchmaker.

Khan, whose past proteges included champions Alexis Arguello and Wilfredo Benitez, had moved to Spring Hill from Tampa and trained out of Island Gym in Brooksville.

"Don Khan didn't have the time to really refine him," Rosa said of Alonzo. "He left him kind of jagged. There were a lot of things I've seen in the fighter that I didn't really like that you have to pull out of him and modify.

"The good thing about the year away was it almost offsets what that other trainer did before," Rosa said. "It's like any empty cup again, and you have to fill it back up."

Rosa doesn't spare the details, mainly because he said Alonzo has made marked improvement in their eight weeks together.

"His stance was bad, no head movement, no defense, all offense," Rosa said. "He didn't set anything up, went right up to you, really more of a brawler than a boxer."

Alonzo, a Golden Gloves-winner in 1993, doesn't deny his bare-knuckle past.

"I was more "You hit me, I'm going to hit you harder,' " he said. "Now I'm a boxer."

There was enough potential from the beginning to make Rosa, a slip- and counterpunch specialist, think the brawler was worth ending his recent six-month retirement.

"He has a natural ability to punch with both hands, which is very hard," Rosa said. "Some guys have to develop one or the other and he has both. He has a keen eye for slipping punches.

"He thinks in the ring and there aren't too many of those. He's a (Marvin) Hagler-type in that he looks like a brawler, but now he isn't one. That's very hard to find."

Khan, who keeps in contact with Alonzo, helped guide his career from afar by recommending him to Rosa -- a third-generation trainer who helped groom three champions.

"Don called me and said maybe I would want to take a look at this guy," Rosa said. "Originally, I didn't want to do it. But when I saw him I fell in love with him."

That didn't mean he got the job by default. First, Saldana scouted Rosa at an Ybor City gym.

The verdict was obvious.

"He's good. He's very good," Saldana said.

Finding Rosa, and allying with adviser Steven Canton's SJC Professional Boxing Team, helped Saldana complete his son's camp.

Two months earlier, Saldana had learned fellow boxing enthusiast Freddie Vazquez had opened a gym in his upholstery shop so his son, Anthony, would have a place to train.

Vazquez, an ex-pro fighter who worked with former WBC featherweight champ Juan LaPorte, had plenty of room for Alonzo. Vazquez serves as Alonzo's co-trainer and promoter, and as a true believer.

"In less than two years we will be fighting for a title," Vazquez said. "He'll be No. 1 or No. 2 and fighting for a belt. Big-time."

Alonzo's fight tonight will not be big-time.

He will earn $400 for four rounds against little-known Cincinnati, Ohio, import Scott Sala. Alonzo's entire camp is supposed to earn a percentage of the purse, but Vazquez said he will take none.

"Whatever he makes is for him," Vazquez said. "I want him to keep all he makes. I am taking care of (expenses). I don't think it is fair for me to take a percentage. I mean, the guy is taking all the punches for $400.

"When he makes his millions, then he can remember me."

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