JUAN LAZCANO believes the battles with adversity which have blighted his career will stand him in good stead when he faces Ricky Hatton in front of 55,000 fans at the City of Manchester Stadium on Saturday night.
The 33-year-old Mexican will start a major underdog for Hatton’s homecoming after losing his last fight to subsequent Junior Witter victim Vivian Harris in February last year.
But the respectful, God-fearing Lazcano has overcome greater obstacles, not least his first defeat to Jose Manjarrez in 1994 which was followed by almost two years out plagued by injury problems and self-doubt.
Lazcano said: “When I suffered my first defeat I ate plenty of humble pie and I had a lot of growing up to do. I broke my hand and I didn’t know how I was going to move on. But I did and I’m here today.
“You weather the storm and you come back a better fighter. First of all you prove the naysayers wrong. Prove you’ve still got that fight inside you. There are doubts but that is part of the journey.”
Unlike Lazcano, who did not return to the ring for 22 months after that first loss, Hatton is intent on bouncing back to the top level just five months after suffering his own first reversal at the hands of Floyd Mayweather.
Although Lazcano’s experienced trainer Ronnie Shields believes that loss showed Hatton is past his best, the fighter himself has nothing but praise for Hatton’s decision to take this fight so soon.
“I tip my hat to Ricky,” added Lazcano. “He’s stepping out so soon after his last fight and I really have to commend him for that. He’s not your ordinary fighter. He’s proved he’s got a lot of ‘cojones’ to do what he’s doing.”
Lazcano was no childhood boxing prodigy. Growing up in Sacramento where he emigrated at the age of three, he drifted into boxing out of necessity when, at the age of 16, his girlfriend became pregnant.
“I grew up learning how to work at a young age,” said Lazcano. “My father was a hard-working blue-collar man who worked long hours in a warehouse for 25 years.
“I had four sisters and we grew up with the staple necessities and nothing more than that. When my girlfriend became pregnant I didn’t know what I was going to do to provide for her. That’s when I consider boxing chose me.”
Lazcano’s early professional career suffered the setback of that first defeat in his ninth paid fight, and a second, to prospect Golden Johnson, via third-round stoppage four years later.
But successive wins over former champions Wilfredo Vazquez and Jesse James Leija in 2000 proved Lazcano could cut it at the top level.
And although Lazcano dropped a unanimous points verdict against Jose Luis Castillo in 2004, it was far from a landslide. Taking the chance to move up to light-welterweight, Lazcano had reeled off four straight wins before dropping a contested verdict to Harris.
“I believe I’ve got what it takes to win no matter who I fight — Ricky, Floyd Mayweather or Oscar De La Hoya,” added Lazcano. “I’ve had a great training camp and I’m ready.”
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