Rivera relishes grand stage
to fight hot dog Simms
World Boxing Association light middleweight champion "El Gallo" Jose Antonio Rivera hopes to eliminate the phrase "boxing's best-kept secret" from his portfolio with an impressive performance January 6 on Showtime live from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
Rivera (38-4-1, 24 KOs), a three-time world champion in two divisions, defends his WBA 154-pound title belt against the WBA "champion in recess" Travis Simms (24-0, 18 KOs) in the 12-round co-feature on the Samuel Peter-James Toney II card.
"This is a great opportunity for me, especially on the Peter-Toney rematch card in the first major show of 2006, on Showtime," Rivera said. "It's not competing with another big card so the public will tune in and see what I bring to the table -- a fighter who always comes in top condition and gives everything he has. There is no running, no boring fight with me; I'm all about action and giving fans what they want and deserve. I'm a boxer-puncher who likes to be aggressive. I'm going to keep putting pressure on my opponent and make him fight a full 12-rounds. If he's still there after 12, I'll win by decision; if he can't take it, I'll put him to sleep."
Rivera's last three bouts easily could have been "Fight of the Year" candidates if only the public had watched. "El Gallo" captured the vacant WBA welterweight title on September 13, 2003, winning a 12-round majority decision in Berlin against previously unbeaten Michel Trabant (38-0). Rivera-Trabant, though, was not televised outside of Europe.
After a series of injuries and opponent pullouts, Rivera unsuccessfully defended his belt on April 2, 2005, against Luis Collazo (24-1) in a toe-to-toe battle that ended in a split decision. Despite being the co-feature, Rivera-Colazzo was not aired on Showtime, only the main event between cruiserweights Jean Marc Mormeck and Wayne Braithwaite.
Last May, Rivera moved up to light middleweight and challenged WBA title-holder Alejandro Garcia (25-1), who Jose floored five times en route to a unanimous 12-round decision. Unfortunately, Rivera-Garcia went head-to-head on television that night with Oscar De La Hoya-Ricardo Mayorga.
On Jan. 6 fans will watch Rivera-Simms, pitting a pair of tough New Englanders with deep roots and familiarity -- Rivera is from Worcester, Massachusetts, Simms hails from Norwalk, Connecticut. "As amateurs we fought on the same Golden Gloves cards a few times, but never against each other," Rivera explained. "That's the only history we have together. We rooted each other on. I obviously respect him and think he's a tough fighter. I'm going to bring the fight to him and earn his respect in the ring. Having the same trainer as Colazzo (Nirmal Lorrick) may be a big deal to them, but I could care less who trains him. When it all comes down, it's just going to be me and him in the ring."
At 33, Rivera is much more comfortable fighting at 154 pounds, evident by his fight against Garcia, bringing all of his power (if not more) up from welterweight. "I should have been fighting at 154 pounds a long time ago," Jose noted. "I weakened myself making weight at 147. After the Mayorga fight I was going up to 154, but that fight didn't materialize, and I wanted to make one title defense (at welterweight). I was supposed to fight (Thomas) Damgaard but he pulled out and win, lose or draw I was going up to 154 after fighting Colazzo. Those last seven pounds (difference between welterweight and light middleweight) are huge, physically and mentally."
Now the boxing world that doesn't really know him will get a chance to watch "El Gallo" strut his stuff on Showtime. No longer will he be boxing's best-kept secret. It's Showtime for Jose Antonio Rivera.