One word sums up flyweight world title contender Ricardo Sandoval's chance at a world title.
Sandoval went overseas to stop Jay Harris last year, yet saw failed negations stall out a fight with current champion Sunny Edwards.
The 23-year-old, 112 lbs fighter has now amassed a record of 20-1, with 15 KOs, over the course of six years. Sandoval was an amateur boxer, who used to face fighters from famed San Francisco boxing coach Robert Fernandez when I first came on to the scene, and many felt he turned pro prematurely at the time. Sandoval pulled off an upset split-decision win over Brent Venegas III in a fight that shocked most and seemingly could have gone either way. Sandoval was dropped by Venegas in the first round of that bout as well. The bout solidified Sandoval as a formidable foe rather than a career opponent, as Sandoval lost to Alonso Ceja in his fourth fight.
Both Sandoval and Ceja were 4-0 at the time, with Ceja edging it. Ceja appears to have not fought since 2018 and might be one of those “what-if” fighters, as Sandoval went on to become a fighter who earned his accolades the hard way after a loss on his ledger. Sandoval would go back to Reno, Nevada, and fight local favorite, Oscar Vasquez, stopping him in the sixth round. Vasquez was famous for having horrible weight cuts, as he once lost out on a massive fight against Janiel Riveria when he could not make weight. His fight was canceled on the Miguel Marriaga versus Guy Robb fight card in Fallon, Nevada.
Sandoval would get signed by Golden Boy Promotions, a true credit to Robert Diaz, who looks at the caliber of the fighter, not the record, which I truly respect, as a flyweight with a loss on their record is often viewed as a liability in this sport instead of an asset. Still, Diaz saw the value in the tough volume fighter.
His first fight on a Golden Boy show in 2019 was yet another fight of the century against one-loss veteran Marco Sustaita as Sustaita was dropped twice in the first round, with Sandoval being dropped in rounds one and two. The fight would conclude with Sandoval stopping Sustaita in the fifth round. If the fight were at a higher weight class or overseas, this would've been a fight of the year-type bout, but sadly this performance went unnoticed outside of sanctioning bodies, boxing insiders, and nerds. It was the classic case of Sandoval having a bit more than Sustaita and that being the difference.
In June of last year, Sandoval would stop Jay Harris in Bolton, England, as this was supposed to make him the mandatory for the IBF flyweight title held by Sunny Edwards. Yet, the fight never came together. On top of this, Sandoval was a betting underdog, as Sandoval's journey is somewhat similar to the awkward spoiler Luis Alberto Lopez, coming in on the b-side and winning after a loss. Sandoval is set to fight on Ryan Garcia's summer event at the Crypto.com Arena, home to the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, California.
Sandoval and his team are going in another direction from the Sunny Edwards fight as they're targeting the WBA flyweight title against David Jimenez for the #1 contender spot in the WBA. The current champion is the awkward unbeaten Artem Dalakian, who is probably best known for beating Brian Viloria on a Super-Fly card at The Forum in Inglewood, California, four years ago.
So, who is Jimenez?
An undefeated fighter from Costa Rica, who will be making his US debut despite being 11-0, with 9 KOs. As an amateur, Jimenez was rather pedestrian, winning international tournaments in 2013 and competing at the world level for a decade but having trouble getting gold. So, Sandoval is once again in a career-defining fight, something he has a lot of in a fairly short career.
Sandoval is a true contender in the sense that he is more battle-tested than most but happens to be in a division, flyweight, in which few eyes are on it, as a mere three pounds heavier, nearly the whole fight world is engaged with the super flyweight. Over the past decade, flyweight has slowly become the cruiserweight division, as we eagerly await good flyweights to move up to the more relevant super flyweight division and fight the household names, sort of like what Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez did this year to become the breakout superstar of the year.
Sandoval is the type of guy you meet in the gyms, and you can't believe his accolades. His story is largely unwritten but more deserving to be written than many fighters above him. Sandoval has a lot against him: size-ism, a lack of a social media presence, and a willingness to fight anyone, which means he might lose everything he worked for on any given night. In this era, the optics outweigh the performance as just being an exciting fighter willing to fight the best won't always benefit you. You need some smoke and mirrors or something that get social media app algorithms working, and Sandoval has none of that. He shows up, puts his hand wraps on, and fights.
Sandoval will find his way on television, but now comes the test of can he emerges as a much-needed world title caliber fighter who could carry a Golden Boy Promotions card in the LA area?
I don't know, but what I do know is that I have a soft spot for no-nonsense fighters, blue-collar in nature, who put greatness over wealth, social media, and substance. Not unlike a great war general defined by medals, not dollars, Sandoval has a purity to his fighting that I know he wants to get the most out of the sport, and quite honestly, often in this era; we don't get that.
With Golden Boy Promotions' main fighters being Vergil Ortiz, Ryan Garcia, and Seniesa Estrada as Alexis Rocha is starting to enter the conversation. Sandoval, and his peer, Angel “Tito” Acosta, are the x-factors within the Golden Boy Promotions world. One can't help but think if Sandoval can get ahold of a world title, a bout against Acosta could be the fight raising one of the two fighters to the next tier as a Capital G Guy within the promotion.
This is a big week for Sandoval, as he is no longer on the road. Sandoval is fighting in the LA area as the Rialto, California native is looking to finally earn some respect and have his name mentioned amongst the fighters who are getting to headline big shows.