By: Michael Parente
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (June 30, 2011) – Elvin Ayala – known affectionately as “The Pride of New Haven” – plans on beating crosstown rival Israel “Pito” Cardona of Hartford, Conn., so convincingly that Cardona’s fans might reconsider their allegiance.
“People from Hartford are going to want to move to New Haven,” Ayala quipped.
Truth is, there’s more than just hometown pride on the line when Ayala and Cardona lock horns Friday, July 29th, 2011 in the co-main event of “Heat Wave,” presented by Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville; the two are fighting for the vacant World Boxing Council U.S. National Boxing Council (WBC USNBC) middleweight title, a championship formerly held by some of boxing’s elite fighters in various divisions, most notably former two-time world champion Paul “The Punisher” Williams (39-2, 27 KOs), who won the WBC USNBC welterweight title in 2006 and went on to capture the World Boxing Organization’s welterweight and light middleweight titles in 2007 and 2008, respectively; and former WBO light welterweight champion Lamont Peterson (28-1-1, 14 KOs), who also won the WBC USNBC light welterweight title in ’06. The list of former and current WBC USNBC champions also includes Worcester, Mass., super middleweight Edwin Rodriguez (18-0, 13 KOs), Providence, R.I., light heavyweight Joey “K.O. Kid” Spina (26-1-2, 18 KOs), and current North American Boxing Organization (NABO) champion and No. 7-ranked lightweight John Molina Jr. (23-1, 19 KOs).
“I’m taking the belt home,” said Cardona, who hasn’t fought since losing to Hector Camacho Jr. in 2009.
“There’s no way he’s beating me. He’s going to have to kill me. I don’t talk [trash]. I don’t even know who he is. He could be a great guy, but when that bell rings it’s a different story.”
Neither fighter in next month’s co-main event is a stranger to boxing’s biggest stage; Ayala (23-5-1, 11 KOs) fought current World Boxing Association (WBA) super middleweight champion Arthur Abraham for a world title in 2008 while the 36-year-old Cardona (36-10, 28 KOs) is a former two-time world champion in the super featherweight and light welterweight divisions, winning the International Boxing Organization (IBO) super featherweight title in 1995 with a unanimous-decision victory over Jeff Mayweather, and then capturing the organization’s light welterweight belt two years later by knocking out Steve Larrimore in Connecticut.
“I feel like it’s, ‘Here we go again!’” Ayala said. “I’ve been in this position before, but now it’s time for me to prove myself. I know [Cardona] is an older guy, but he’s well experienced. He’s been a world champion, so I know he has a lot of experience. I don’t want to make any mistakes. I’ve been looking better with each fight so far, so I want to do even better this time.”
While Ayala, 30, is in the midst of what could be his final run at another world-title opportunity, Cardona is taking what will surely be his last shot at adding a fifth title to his own resume; in addition to the two world championships he won in the ‘90s, Cardona is also a former United States Boxing Association (USBA) and North American Boxing Federation (NABF) lightweight champion.
Though the records show Cardona lost a unanimous decision to Paul Spadafora in 1999 for the International Boxing Federation (IBF) middleweight title, Cardona maintains he’s never lost a world-title bout on a level playing field, pointing to Spadafora’s arrest in 2003 for shooting his pregnant girlfriend as proof that his opponent “was on something” at the time of the fight. Two years later, Spadafora plead guilty to drug use charges and served additional jail time, though no link has ever been made between his drug use outside of the ring and his career inside the squared circle.
“When you mess around with drugs … you do stupid [things],” Cardona said.
Cardona also questioned the integrity of the IBF, which absorbed a serious blow in 1999 when former president Bob Lee resigned in the wake of racketeering and bribery charges, and claims he was “robbed” of a potential third world title.
“That’s another story for another time,” Cardona said. “Right now, I’m getting another title shot and it’s made me 10 times more motivated. I don’t lose title fights. You want me to fight for a title? Hell yeah! I’m soaking wet right now; I just worked out. I’m very excited. This is going to be a war.
“Guess what? My experience is definitely going to be a factor. I’ve been there. I’ve been with the best. I’ve been where he hasn’t gone. Nothing he brings will be a surprise to me. It’s going to be a fight, and it’ll come down to whoever wants it more.”
These days, facing Ayala is no easy task regardless of age. Since signing a promotional contract with CES, Ayala is 3-0 in 2011, including back-to-back knockout wins over Joe Gardner (April 1) and George Armenta (May 6). Working with newly-hired trainer Peter Manfredo Sr. has had a positive impact on Ayala’s preparation for this upcoming bout as he looks to continue his climb to the top of the rankings in the middleweight division.
“Not only is he saying the right thing, but with the way I feel when he speaks to me, I absorb everything a lot better than if it were coming from the average Joe,” Ayala said. “I trust a lot of what he’s saying. I could literally go in there with a blindfold on and have him tell me what to do and I would still win the fight.”
Cardona’s recent record is somewhat deceiving; while he’s lost his last four fights, he’s done so against elite competition, including a knockout loss to red-hot welterweight prospect Mike Jones (25-0, 19 KOs) and a unanimous-decision loss to Camacho Jr. (53-4-1, 28 KOs) for the WBC Caribbean Boxing Federation title. Ayala is ignoring the numbers and heeding the advice of his peers.
“I few people I spoke to who have sparred against him say you can hit him with everything and he keeps coming forward,” Ayala said. “I’m not looking for a knockout; I’m just going to finesse it and put my skills on display. I’ve got OK pop, but my main thing is boxing. The goal is to hit him and not get hit.”
The undercard of “Heat Wave” features undefeated Polish heavyweight Mariusz Wach (24-0, 12 KOs) starring in the second half of the co-main event, along with Pawtucket, R.I., middleweight Thomas Falowo (3-0, 3 KOs) facing Russ Niggemyer (2-2, 2 KOs) of Hilliard, Ohio; New Haven welterweight Edwin Soto (6-0-1, 2 KOs) battling Jose Duran (6-5-2, 3 KOs) of Sarasota, Fla.; undefeated heavyweight Artur Spzilka of Poland (5-0, 3 KOs) facing Tobias Rice (3-3, 2 KOs) of Macon, Ga., and New Bedford, Mass., welterweight Johnathan Vazquez (4-0, 3 KOs) taking on Augustine Maurus of Lawrence, Mass., in Maurus’ debut. Cruiserweight Jose Torres of Worcester, Mass., will also make his debut, and super middleweight Keith Kozlin (6-2, 4 KOs) of Warwick, R.I., will face Woonsocket’s Reynaldo Rodriguez (5-2, 2 KOs) in a six-round intrastate showdown. All fights and fighters are subject to change.
Tickets for “Heat Wave,” priced at $40, $65 and $105, can be purchased by calling CES at 401.724.2253/2254 or calling Ticketmaster at 1.800.745.3000. Fans can also purchase tickets online at www.cesboxing.com, www.ticketmaster.com, or at the Mohegan Sun Box Office. For more information on “Heat Wave,” visit www.cesboxing.com or www.mohegansun.com. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with the first bout scheduled for 7:30 p.m.