(Editor’s note: The start time and broadcast details of the fight cited at the end of this article have been updated as of 10:54 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13.)
For Alex Saucedo, Friday night cannot come fast enough. The Mexico-born boxer now based out of Oklahoma City will get the chance to fulfill a “lifelong dream” and win a world title in front of his hometown fans at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“It’s been a good, hard training camp,” said Saucedo. “I can’t wait to get back to Oklahoma City and put on a show and win the title.”
The 24-year-old “Cholo” Saucedo is 28-0 (18 KOs) and will challenge Maurice “Mighty Mo” Hooker (24-0-3, 16 KOs) of Dallas for the WBO 140-pound title. Hooker, who is making his first defense of the title he lifted in June, is no stranger to going into hostile territory for a fight. Hooker won his belt via split decision in Manchester, England, over hometown hero Terry “Turbo” Flanagan.
Should Saucedo triumph in his hometown title shot, he will become Oklahoma City’s first boxing champion since Sean O’Grady held the lightweight belt in in 1981. He also would become the first Oklahoman to hold a major title since Tommy Morrison held the WBO heavyweight belt in 1993.
Saucedo: ‘I just need to do my thing’
Saucedo, who is coming off his fight-of-the-year-candidate knockout win over Leonardo Zappavigna in Oklahoma City in June, will face an entirely different opponent on Friday night. The multi-dimensional Hooker is more of a box-and-move fighter and will provide a different sort of challenge for Saucedo. Still, Cholo feels he is well-suited for the challenge.
“He’s a guy who moves around the ring, and I will need to go after him,” Saucedo said. “I watched his fight with Flanagan live and have studied him on film. I know what I can do in the ring and that I have trained hard. I just need to do my thing. I proved last time out I can win in a brawl, and I can box to victory as well if I need to.”
Saucedo said he and trainer Abel Sanchez have made adjustments for facing a different sort of boxer.
“We brought in some really good sparring partners, guys that are (Hooker’s) size, length and athletic ability,” said Sanchez. “Guys who can do the same things in the ring that he can.”
Intense training at high altitude
Saucedo believes that his preparation will provide him with the edge he needs to win the title. The drive to secure that edge prompted him to endure an eight-week training camp at Sanchez’s Summit Gym in Big Bear, California.
The high-altitude Big Bear has been a long-time favorite spot for championship-level fighters to prepare for bouts. The solitude and 24-7 training environment at the Summit Gym has drawn championship fighters such as Gennady “GGG” Golovkin and Murat “Iron” Gassiev in recent years. Preparing for fights in an environment like Big Bear alongside other high-level prizefighters appeals to Saucedo.
“This is the place to be to get mentally and physically ready for a big fight like this,” Saucedo said. “You can completely concentrate on preparing for the fight.”
Saucedo said this camp has been very intense, with six-day-a-week workouts for the last eight weeks. Every day begins early with road work: running miles through the mountainous Big Bear landscape. Then, after his warm-up, Saucedo moves on to the different aspects of his training. The workouts alternate from day to day in training camp. Some days are spent totally on conditioning and others in the boxing gym, sparring or doing other types of pad work.
“We like to change it up,” Saucedo said.
Saucedo believes training in the remote location among his peers gives him the best opportunity to be his best for this title shot.
“Training at home would be nice, to be around friends and family,” Saucedo said. “But being here really helps keep you on track. There are less distractions, you aren’t tempted to stay up late or not get enough rest in between workouts.”
The hardest training is complete, and Saucedo will spend the final week before the fight in Oklahoma City.
The 5′ 10″ orthodox fighter believes coming off of his war with Zappavigna and the Spartan training camp will give him the edge to prevail over Hooker.
“I learned a lot in that fight. I can bring different things to the ring. Different styles. I can box when I need to or I can slug,” he said. “I know for this fight I will have to go after him.
“Winning the title in Oklahoma City has been a lifelong dream for me.”
The action surrounding the WBO 140-pound title bout will begin 5:30 p.m. Friday night at the Chesapeake Arena. The title fight will be aired on ESPN, and the co-feature can be viewed on the ESPN+ app.