|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - April 24, 2019|
Hard Hitting Promotions’ franchise player, Branden Pizarro, 14-1, 7 KOs, takes on perhaps his toughest opponent to date, Friday night at The Met, on North Broad Street. Pizarro, a 19-year old junior welterweight faces spoiler Tre’Sean Wiggins, 11-4-1, 6 KOs, in the 8-round co-feature bout, with the PA state 140-pound title on the line. Seven other fights are scheduled on this, the second boxing show at the newly refurbished and re-opened former Metropolitan Opera House.
The promotional firm has an excellent roster of boxers, but Pizarro is the cornerstone of their operation. His future is a major part of their future.
“I’m the face of Hard Hitting,” Pizarro said. “It feels amazing to know that I’m so young - I signed pro at 17; I’m 19 now. Just to know that I have such a big task on my back. I love challenges. I’ve been taking challenges my whole life. So just to know that I have Hard Hitting on my back, it only makes me work harder every day.”
Local fight fans know that Pizarro is a talented teen with big potential, but they have also gotten used to him being fed mostly overmatched foes during his two-plus years as a pro. However, when the pairing between Pizarro and Wiggins was announced, all ears perked up in Philly, given that the match up figures to be a good opportunity for Pizarro to show everyone what he’s capable of.
“I like this fight because I’m the underdog,” Pizarro said. “Everybody’s overlooking the fight. Everybody thinks it’s going to be a walk in the park for this guy. He, himself, thinks it’s a walk in the park. But he never fought Branden Pizarro. So come Friday night, he’s going to ask himself why he took this fight.”
Although Wiggins has a modest 73% winning percentage, he has a few eye-openers on his record. In his last fight – at The Met’s recent boxing premiere – he confounded tough Samuel Teah over eight rounds to win the vacant PA championship. In previous bouts, Wiggins stopped Philly’s Naim Nelson in five rounds (2017), and ages ago, halted Jason Sosa in the first (2010).
“I take nothing away from the guy,” Pizarro said of Wiggins. “He’s real big-headed because he beat Sam. But me and Sam are two completely different fighters. Sam is on his way out. He’s thirty-some years old already. I don’t take nothing from Sam either, but I’m young, I’m hungry, and I live my life by no risk, no reward. I’m young. I’m 19 years old. I’m doing what these grown men can’t do.”
That Hard Hitting Promotions took the step to match their top commodity against such a solid opponent right now is a good indication that they believe Pizarro is ready to begin stretching his legs as a prospect.
“I get in the ring with anybody they put in front of me,” Pizarro said. “I’ve never turned anyone down. I live my own life and do my own thing. That’s it. Come Friday night, a lot of people are going to see who Branden Pizarro really is.”
Pizarro’s movement thus far has been careful. Given that he turned pro as a seventeen year old high school student, special handling was not only expected but necessary. And Hard Hitting did exactly that. After each assignment, Pizarro was led to his next one with caution.
When he struggled ever-so-slightly in his second start, against Jesus Lule, a rock-hard, full-grown journeyman with 29 fights on his record, Hard Hitting let out sign of relief and brought him right back with a more reasonable 1-0 fighter in his next go.
“I think the toughest guy I ever fought was Jesus Lule,” Pizarro said. “I always say that’s the toughest guy so far.”
After Lule, Pizarro waded through a series of moderate tests over the next year. He stayed quite active, fighting eight times in his first eleven months as a pro. In that eighth bout, Pizarro easily handled the capable Tyrone Luckey, the Neptune, NJ fighter who is far better than his lumpy record suggests. Pizarro dropped him twice in the third and again in the fourth, en route to a TKO victory. It was a good win for the rising star.
The fight led to a 6-rounder against undefeated (6-0, 5 KOs) Christian Rivera of Puerto Rico, to close out 2017. However, instead of stretching his record to 9-0 as expected, Pizarro tasted defeat for the first time. Rivera floored and out-pointed Pizarro for the upset win.
“It hurt,” Pizarro said about losing the fight. “It motivated me, but it didn’t break me. I’m still young. I was 18 years old when I took my first loss and my only loss. It motivated me more than it hurt me. So I just went back to the drawing board. I’ve been dying to get that man back ever since. I’ve been focused. I’ve been moving forward, knocking these guys out. Every person they put in front of me, I just put HIS face on them, and I destroy them. That guy hasn’t been back in the ring since. I’ve been chanting his name. I don’t know what else to do to get him.”
The word is that Pizarro was not 100% on that night. Of course he was in shape, but numerous personal family issues might have distracted him. His father / trainer Angel Pizarro wanted to pull out of the fight, but his son refused.
“He said, ‘No. Dad we have a contract. I will be okay’,” Angel recalled.
The defeat sent a shockwave through the local boxing community. However, this was only because of the assumption that young Branden would cruise straight up the rankings and into title contention without a hitch. But this is the common misconception of the modern boxing fan. Great fighters are made through hard work. Very few boxers are born untouchable.
It is the difficult assignments that help a fighter develop into a true title threat. A loss is not the end of the world. In fact, losses and tough tests offer developing fighters far more than the easy nights do. So when Pizarro lost his first fight, my thoughts were all positive.
I don’t wish defeat on any fighter. But when it happens, I usually feel the experience will make a young fighter better in the long run. It gets that undefeated monkey off his back. That is exactly how I felt with Branden.
Despite his talent, Pizarro needed exposure to adversity. Against Rivera he got it, and that experience has added incentive and grit to the good-natured kid who has received the star treatment since before he turned professional.
“It made me much better,” Branden said. “I’ve been 110% motivated since then. Losing is probably the worst pain in the world, and I never want to go through it again. That’s why I put his face on everybody put in front of me, and I just take care of them. I take my losses how I take my wins, and I just keep moving forward onto the next one.”
Pizarro returned three months after his first loss, and resumed his winning ways. This second chapter included good wins against experienced – but safe – Justin Johnson (TKO2) and Jerome Rodriguez (W6). Pizarro’s win over Rodriguez was particularly impressive, given the southpaw’s solid reputation as a gatekeeper.
“Rodriguez, that’s my main man to this day now,” Pizarro said. “It was a great fight. He pushed me to my limits. I wasn’t 100% that night, and I still boxed.”
Rodriguez has tested a number of rising prospects, including Jeremy Cuevas, Naim Nelson, Raymond Serrano, Hasan Young, Avery Sparrow, and among others, Tre’Sean Wiggins. Rodriguez (3-0-1) stopped Wiggins (3-0) in two rounds back in 2013, when both were unbeaten newbies.
I’m not sure if much can be applied to Friday’s fight from this stat. But it is the type of footnote that gets bounced around a lot among fight fans – and even the fighters.
“This is how I look at it,” Pizarro said. “My opponent for this Friday night, Jerome Rodriguez knocked him out in the second round. No one in the boxing world talks about that. I fought Justin Johnson, and I knocked Justin Johnson out in two rounds. He (Wiggins) went to a decision, and it was a majority decision, when he fought Justin Johnson. No one talks about that.”
“So, when you really look at paper stats,” Pizarro continued. “You really can’t say that this guy is someone that I’m scratching my head over, or my team is so worried about. Look at our match ups. Look at who he fought and look at who I fought, and look at what I did to them and what he did to them.”
At usual, it is likely that this fight will play out based on where each fighter is sitting on fight night. Talent is obviously a key factor in boxing, but timing can be the trump card on many nights.
“A lot of writers are like why did his kid take this fight?,” Pizarro said. “It might be the toughest fight on paper, but come Friday night, the tables will be turned.”
Although Wiggins is coming off a very impressive win, arguably his career-best, he’ll need to be on point against Pizarro. Branden appears to have a surplus of talent and many advantages in this fight. Further, he has been looking for an opportunity to prove himself. He needs a challenge like Wiggins for that. So, the timing of this one might favor Pizarro.
Although the one or two tough fights he's had seem to have seasoned Pizarro, I still worry that his supreme self-confidence could tip-toe into the realm of overconfidence. There I said it (but I truly hope it is not the case). Confidence is key, but it can also be a slippery slope.
“Oh, no, no, not at all,” said Angel Pizarro. “That’s one thing that we never do. Especially in boxing, you can’t be overconfident with no one. Branden is young. He’s a young bull. All he does is eat gym. No matter if he just fought, he’s back in the gym. If he fights on Saturday and you walk in the gym on Monday, you’re going to see Branden. We don’t get overconfident.”
His son agrees.
“I’ve learned that you can never get comfortable,” Branden said. “Even when you’re up there, you can never get comfortable. Step outside your comfort zone. Do the extra mile. Do the extra round.”
Assuming he beats Wiggins on Friday, Pizarro has a plan for the rest of 2019.
“After this one, I just want to move outside of Philly for a while,” Pizarro said. “This will be my last fight in Philly for maybe the rest of this year (He’s only fought out of town twice in 15 bouts). I just want to go expand my fan base, and show the rest of the world who Branden Pizarro is.”
And beyond this road trip, what is the general timetable for his career?
“Honestly we’re in no rush,” Pizarro said. “I’m 19 years old. But I want to have a title by 21, or 22, at the latest. And I most definitely I need to be a millionaire by 22, 23 years old. That’s where my timetable is at. I don’t really care too much for fame. I just want to make sure that I can put my family in a better position in the next two, three, four years. God willing. My time is going to come. Am I in a rush? Of course not, but I am waiting for it.”
If Pizarro can turn back Wiggins with a dominate performance, Branden’s timetable will remain on track. That’s the excitement of Friday’s match. We all know that Pizarro is good, but we’re all eager to see exactly what he’s capable of. Against Wiggins, he’ll get a chance to show us.
Seven additional bouts fill out Friday’s card. In the ho-hum main event, Baltimore’s Malik Hawkins, 14-0, 9 KOs, faces Andre Byrd, 7-6-2, 1 KO, in an 8-round welterweight fight. Also in action will be junior lightweight Gadwin Rosa, 10-0, 8 KOs, local heavyweight Darmani Rock, 14-0, 9 KOs, junior lightweight Christian Tapia, 8-0, 7 KOs, Philly welterweight southpaw, Thyler Williams, 1-0, 1 KO, Philadelphia bantamweight Josue Rosa, 1-0, 1 KO, and South Philly light heavyweight crowd-pleaser Benny Sinakin, 3-0, 2 KOs.
The first bell rings at 7:00 PM.