Ivan Calderon Gets Canastota Call; PR Ace Recalls Highlights



Ivan Calderon Gets Canastota Call; PR Ace Recalls Highlights

Puerto Rican boxing fans are some of the world's most passionate fans, and they have very good reason to be. The small U.S. territory has produced more boxing champions per capita than any other country in the world.

Additionally, it currently has eleven boxers inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

That’s third in the world, right behind Mexico and the United States.

This June, Puerto Rican boxing fans will celebrate the induction of another great boxer from their beloved island: Ivan Calderon (35-3-1, 6 KOs) will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame class of 2024.

Bob arum and Ivan Calderon

Bob Arum’s Top Rank helped bring Calderon to prominence

Ivan Calderon was one of his era's greatest boxers.

He captivated audiences and puzzled his opponents with blinding hand speed, swift work, and his near-perfect application of the sweet science. He is arguably one the greatest technicians in boxing history.

As an amateur, Calderon's record was impressive: 110- 20, which included victories over Brian Viloria and Miguel Cotto.

The Puerto Rican native made his pro debut on February 2nd, 2001, and two short years later, he won the WBO world minimumweight title.

“Iron Boy” successfully defended his 105 and 108 lbs. titles eighteen times, the most of any Puerto Rican boxer, surpassing legends like Wilfredo Gomez and Felix Trinidad.

In all, he fought in twenty-two world title fights.

Ring Magazine considers him the second greatest strawweight ever behind Finito Lopez.

NYFights caught up with the 49-year-old Hall of Famer to be, talked to him about his career and how he felt when he heard the news that he he’d finally been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Ivan Calderon Has Been Waiting A Bit

It took eight years since his retirement for Ivan to receive the call that he was being inducted into the IBHOF. I asked him to describe the emotions he felt upon hearing the news.

“I said to myself, ‘I know. I got a feeling that this year is going to be the year.’ So, I invited my wife, stepmother, and all my corners with me in my career. When they told me, I just started crying. I looked up and thanked God for this opportunity and my father because he wasn't with me this year. I said, ‘We made it.’ Especially me because it's so difficult at 105 lbs and 108 lbs (to be inducted). I wasn’t a big puncher,” said Ivan.

Ivan Calderon continued: “I think I'm the third or fourth to be inducted. There is Finito Lopez, Michael Carbajal, Chiquita Gonzalez, and me, one of the smallest guys in Puerto Rico to be one of the first ones to go into the Hall of Fame.”

For Calderon, being inducted into the IBHOF gave him the feeling of being a world champion again.

Calderon has been retired for twelve years and has been eligible for induction for the last eight.

His family and friends shared this momentous occasion with him. “Por fin (finally). Thank God! You made it, and you're still alive to enjoy it,” his family and friends expressed.

From Trashman To All Time Great

Early in his career, Ivan worked as a trash collector in the streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico, to make ends meet.

Now, the southpaw known as Iron Boy is enjoying the fruits of years of hard work and dedication to his craft.

Since the announcement, Ivan Calderon has been busy answering interview requests and making television appearances.

He also trains fighters and works as a an administrator for Felix Pagan Pintor Gymnasium in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.

Calderon passes on the knowledge to rising prospects

Calderon made his pro debut on February 17th, 2001, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on the undercards of Guty Espadas vs Erik Morales championship fight.

Fighting at the MGM Grand is a dream for most boxers. Iron Boy started his career there!

If that wasn’t a foreshadowing of the greatness that was to come for the humbled San Juan trash collector, I don’t know what is. Ivan Calderon knew he had to seize the opportunity.

“Right now, I have goosebumps,” said Calderon as he recalled what he felt going into his first professional fight. “It was a dream come true. I always dreamed about being picked up in a limousine if I ever fought in Vegas. And they picked me up in a limousine! This was an opportunity to show my talent. Especially to Top Rank. I also showed the people that Ivan Calderon is not only a boxer, I can also knock out people too,”

Ivan Calderon knocked out Sergio Diaz in the first round of this match. Ivan continued, “I did everything on my debut. I won the fight. I won by knockout. And I placed everyone that wanted to fight to let’s get busy.” In other words, he put everyone in his division on notice.

And busy he was. Over the next two years Calderon fought sixteen times and earned the opportunity to fight for a world title against Eduardo Ray Marquez on May 3rd, 2003.

“I said it’s my time. I came to show the people of Puerto Rico and everybody what I’m made from and what I’m here for,” Calderon told NYF, recalling what he felt when he was told he was fighting for a world title.

Ivan Calderon continued, “I was looking at my opponent. I was looking at the belt. And I said, ‘Right now, the place is empty, but it will be so different when I become the world champion. Because next time I look outside the ring, this place will be packed!’

The fam

“And it was when I defended my title against Hugo Cazares. They had to close the doors because it was packed, and people were still trying to get in.”

Calderon considers winning his first world title the most memorable career moment.

However, he credits his fight against Hugo Cazares with earning him international recognition. “That fight took my career to another level. That was the fight that got me to another level internationally. That's when everybody started knowing who Ivan Calderon is,” said Calderon to NYF.

The 49-year-old Hall of Famer is the longest reigning title holder in Puerto Rican history.

Most champions lose their titles shortly after winning them.

However, Iron Boy held on to his titles for seven years through an astonishing eighteen fights.

He credits wanting to provide a better way of life for his family as the motivation that fueled those eighteen successful title defenses.

As we continued to chat about his career, Ivan Calderon remembered that his fight against Roberto “Mako” Leyva was the most challenging of his career. Ivan thought it would be easy because Leyva was coming off a knockout loss.

“I was at that fight. And, I said, ‘ Bring that guy. I'm going to knock him out in the second round,” said Calderon boastfully.

However, Leyva had other plans when he and Calderon squared off.

Ivan remembers: “he was tall, a southpaw, an ex-world champion, and he knew how to work. He went twelve rounds with me. He trained for his life and did what he had to do. I thought it was going to be my first loss.”

If Ivan Calderon could have one fight to do all over again, it would be his first fight against Giovani Segura.

“Giovani Segura,” blurted Calderon immediately after I asked the question.

The champ

He didn't have to think about it. Calderon would return and redo his first fight with Segura if he could.

It was the first time the “Iron Boy” had tasted defeat. It was also the first time he no longer held his titles after reigning as a champion for nearly a decade.

“I knew what happened that day. I'm not making any excuses. But I know if I were in my best condition, the way I was when I fought Hugo Cazares, believe me, he wouldn't be the first guy to beat me,” said Ivan Calderon nostalgically.

“Lo hicimos puñeta! We fucking did it! You don’t have to be a puncher. You don’t have to be a tall guy. You don’t have to be a heavyweight. You can do everything you feel like you can do. You can do it,” Calderon told his fans as we closed the interview.

My Take:

I asked Ivan Calderon how he wanted to be remembered as a boxer.

He humbly said, “As one of the best and most technical champions at 105 and 108 lbs. I'm satisfied with that.”

I believe Ivan Calderon is that and much more. Not only was he a technically grounded boxer, he was also outstanding defensively.

Calderon was elusive and made his opponents pay when they missed. And when necessary, Puerto Rico's Iron Boy knew how to bite down and trade punches with his rivals.

No wonder he is ranked as The Ring Magazine's number two greatest strawweight champion.

Each time Calderon stepped into the ring he embodied what it meant to be a hall of fame boxer from Puerto Rico.

He was skilled, tenacious, and proudly represented Puerto Rico every time he stepped into the ring.

And this June, he will take his rightful place alongside his Puerto Rican brethren and among boxing's best.