Philippines, 24 May 2018
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Cuello in make-or-break fight

MANILA, Philippines - WBC No. 1 minimumweight contender Denver Cuello of Iloilo is a win away from sealing a title shot and battles Mexico’s Juan Hernandez in a make-or-break eliminator to decide Thai champion Oleydong Sithsanerchai’s next challenger in Mexico City on May 22.

Cuello and manager Aljoe Jaro left Manila Saturday morning via Delta Airlines to fly to Los Angeles where the fighter will taper off at the Wild Card Gym before moving to Mexico City on Monday.

Last Friday, Cuello wrapped up his sparring grind, going eight rounds with Alan Tañada and Richard Olisa in Jaro’s sweat shop in Binangonan. He scaled 112 pounds but Jaro said it won’t be a problem making the minimumweight limit of 105 the eve of the fight.

“Denver is ready for Hernandez,” said Jaro. “I don’t think it will be difficult making 105 since he hasn’t even started to diet. Denver completed 130 rounds of sparring against bigger guys like Tañada who’s a superbantamweight, Aldrin Diale who’s a superflyweight and Olisa who’s a bantamweight. He’ll still do a little training at Wild Card so he’s on track.”

The fight against Hernandez was originally scheduled in Monterrey last March 27 but was postponed after the Mexican reportedly collapsed while training in the gym. The bout would’ve been in the undercard of Erik Morales’ comeback win over Jose Alfaro for the vacant WBC International welterweight crown. Jaro said he was told that Hernandez fainted because of dehydration and was hospitalized.

Cuello, 23, was promised a mandatory crack at the WBC belt after capturing the WBC International title on a fourth round stoppage of Japan’s Hiroshi Matsumoto at the Araneta Coliseum last year. But Oleydong has delayed facing the Filipino southpaw.

Jaro said the WBC has ordered Oleydong to make a mandatory defense against the No. 1 contender by October. If Cuello beats Hernandez, who is ranked No. 2, Oleydong won’t be able to duck the Filipino any longer.

“Oleydong will have no choice,” said Jaro. “I’ve offered him several times to defend against Denver. Oleydong has been avoiding Denver. But once Denver beats Hernandez, the WBC will order a title fight and Oleydong has only up to October to make the mandatory defense. Oleydong won’t be able to escape Denver anymore.”

But Cuello’s title hopes hinge on a win over Hernandez. Jaro said Cuello is confident of knocking out the Mexican right-hander.

“Denver will put Hernandez to sleep for sure,” said Jaro.” Denver himself thinks he can score a knockout because of his long training. He’s more than ready for Hernandez. We don’t know exactly what is Hernandez’ style. I saw him spar once in Mexico and I don’t think he’ll be a problem for Denver. He’s a fighter who comes forward so Denver will be waiting for him. As soon as Hernandez moves in, Denver will meet him head-on. Hernandez will be an easy target. Denver has never been stronger and I know he’s got the power to put Hernandez away.”

Jaro, Francisco George Sol and Las Vegas-based retired US Army soldier Carlito Vasquez will work Cuello’s corner. Vasquez is a former boxer and trainer who now works with amateurs in Las Vegas.

Cuello started training for Hernandez right after halting Samuel Apuya in the first round at the Cuneta Astrodome last Jan. 23.

Hernandez, 23, is no patsy and Cuello shouldn’t take him lightly. He has a 16-1 record, with 13 KOs. His only loss was an eighth round knockout to Oscar Martinez in 2006. Hernandez has rebounded to score nine straight wins, four by knockout in the first round, since the defeat. He holds two knockout wins over world-rated Ivan Meneses and is coming off a first round disposal of Armando Vasquez last February. Curiously, Cuello’s last fight also ended in the first round.

Cuello, 23, has a 19-2-5 record, with 10 KOs. His losses were dealt by Tommy Terado on a six-round decision in 2005 and Rey Megrino on a second round technical knockout due to a cut a year later. He has not lost in his last 14 outings.

Oleydong, 24, has repulsed five straight challengers since wresting the WBC crown from Thailand’s Eagle Kyowa in 2007. Last March, he outpointed Yasutaka Kuroki to retain his title in Tokyo with Angeles City-based Bruce McTavish of New Zealand as referee and Filipino Rey Danseco one of the three judges. Danseco scored it, 113-112, Predrag Aleksio, 114-112, and Jae Bong Kim, 114-113, all for Oleydong.

Top photo: Denver Cuello (R) with his manager Aljoe Jaro.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.

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