In boxing, our attention as fans and writers is mainly captured by what the top level professionals and genuine up and coming talents are doing.
It is easy to forget that there is a tier of professional boxing below the elite, maybe several tiers below, which can occasionally produce a good story.
Thanks to Tim Boxeo (@TimBoxeo on Twitter) I was made aware of an amazing heavyweight tale that is unfolding far away from the spotlight.
The first part of today’s column will shine a light on Jesus Escalera – the man who only turned professional last year but now has a world title, albeit a barely known one, round his waist.
For the second half of this column young Spanish tennis star Carlos Alcaraz will be in focus.
It’s not boxing but Alcaraz’ ability and the way he connects with spectators will likely see him transcend his sport. He will carry men’s tennis for the next decade or so.
Does boxing have its own version of Carlos Alcaraz?
Does it need someone to carry the sport and bring new eyeballs to things, or can that workload be shared between a number of talented top boxers?
Meeting Jesus Escalera And Touring The Colombian Circuit
How much do you know about club shows in Colombia?
If the answer is a little bit, you have probably heard of 43-year-old Jesus “Tito” Escalera.
Puerto Rico born and residing in Florida, Jesus Escalera turned pro in October last year.
There might be a record there for being the oldest person to turn pro and have more than a token fight or two.
That’s because, just 10 months into his campaign, Escalera has fought an impressive 17 times.
His record is currently perfect – 17-0 with 17 KOs.
For his first 16 professional contests, Escalera boxed exclusively in Colombia.
He could be seen at various venues around the South American nation from Medellin to Tolima, Cartagena to Melgar and some other places in between.
Escalera’s tour of Colombia saw him face two Venezuelans and a Puerto Rican. The rest of his opponents were 100% Colombian.
The combined record of these opponents, who were all mowed down early, was 185-130-7 (thanks BoxRec).
This apprenticeship saw Jesus Escalera quickly move through the four, six, eight and ten-rounder stages of development.
As mentioned most of the bouts ended early – across the 16 Colombian fight nights, Escalera boxed 42 rounds – averaging out at 2.5 rounds per contest.
Our protagonist collected a few minor belts during his swift 10 month introduction to professional boxing.
He was crowned the heavyweight champion of Colombia in his seventh contest, stopping previously unbeaten Daniel Gonzalez in four rounds.
Other regional heavyweight titles were also hoovered up. Among them the WBC FECARBOX title and the WBA FEDEBOL strap.
This run of wins led Jesus Escalera to his first fight on American soil, which took place last night, August 19, in Biloxi, Mississippi.
47-year-old Brazilian Marcelo Leandro Da Silva, 23-5 going in, would be in the opposite corner.
Something called the Universal Boxing Organisation (UBO) heavyweight title was up for grabs. The title was vacant.
What Is The UBO?
Regular readers of this column will know I’m not a fan of the alphabet titles, and the last thing we need is another one popping up.
But in the interest of good reporting I’ll play along and be nice to the UBO.
According to its website, the UBO was founded in 2004 and currently has offices in Germany, Italy, USA, Tanzania, Indonesia and Brazil.
The governing body states that they will never introduce Super, Silver, Global or Diamond world champions, and that they are happy when lesser known boxers achieve their goal of winning a world title.
There is also a picture of Roy Jones Jr. on the homepage of their website, which my laptop informed me was not secure.
I assume Jones Jr. lifted a UBO title at some point during his glittering career.
It seems like they know their place within the sport.
Escalera KOs Da Silva In Opening Round
When I woke up this morning the first thing I checked on my phone was the result of the Escalera – Da Silva fight.
I wasn’t surprised to discover that “Tito” had won via first round stoppage.
The show took place at a venue called The Blind Tiger and was promoted by Tri-Star Boxing.
It was stolen by the new UBO heavyweight champion as he floored Da Silva twice – getting the job done with around 20 seconds remaining in the opening session.
Will Jesus Escalera continue to box at the frequency he has done since he joined the professional ranks last year, or has he now achieved his goal?
It might be worth checking in on his BoxRec page from time to time to find out.
Carlos Alcaraz In A Boxing Column?
From an old boxer achieving something worthwhile to a very young tennis player who looks like being the new man to beat in that sport.
20-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz already has two Grand Slam titles to his name (US Open 2022, Wimbledon 2023) so he’s far from an unknown quantity, even to casual viewers of tennis.
I’d place myself in the casual viewer category. I’ll watch a matchup if there is nothing else on or if it is a big tournament.
Saturday night that was the case and I found myself watching Alcaraz take on world number 20 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland in the semi-final of the Cincinnati Masters 1000 tournament.
Masters 1000 tournaments are the tier below Grand Slams in tennis so as well as being a warm-up tournament for the upcoming US Open, the Cincinnati Masters is a big event in its own right.
A packed stadium was on hand to enjoy the action.
A superb match unfolded as Alcaraz fought back from one set down to win 2-1.
He was in real trouble at 4-1 down in the second set tie-break, but somehow managed to win six points in a row against the huge serving Hurkacz to force the deciding set.
That six point run swung the momentum of the match the way of the current world number 1, and from there it seemed like he would take his place in today’s final.
With his opponent playing lights out tennis, Alcaraz was frustrated during the opening set which he lost 6-2.
The emotion he carries onto the court with him allows the spectators to connect with him. He doesn’t hide his feelings.
Carlos Alcaraz Is Magnificent
Along with being engaging and charismatic, Alcaraz’ athleticism has to be seen to be believed.
He is also a creative shot-maker, hitting many spectacular winners over the course of a match.
While last night’s opponent extended Alcaraz, I’m pretty sure that even a match he is winning comfortably would be worth watching just to see what outrageous shots he will come up with next.
The Spaniard will be the man to beat in tennis over the next decade or so I suspect.
I also think he will be the face of tennis over that period of time.
If that is the case, the post Federer/Nadal/Djokovic era could see men’s tennis regain the popularity those three immense players helped to cultivate.
If Alcaraz is playing at a venue near you, buy a ticket to watch him in person.
If you’re not busy later today, August 20, check out his Cincinnati Masters Final against Novak Djokovic.
It is slated to begin at 4:30pm ET/9:30pm BST. It should be quite a contest.
Does Boxing Have Or Need A Carlos Alcaraz?
With there being some similarities between boxing and tennis – one on one competition with the combatants having to figure things out for themselves pretty much as the contest is ongoing – it is interesting to compare the dynamics of the two sports in terms of then having or needing a figurehead athlete to drive viewership and interest.
Of course there are differences too.
Boxers can’t let emotion out during bouts as there are no pauses in the action.
Boxers can really only show their personalities in pre and post fight interviews and any other media appearances they make.
Boxers too aren’t able to perform on an almost daily basis as tennis players do during tournaments.
With these differences in mind, I think it is unrealistic to expect one boxer to put the sport on their back and lift it upwards.
What needs to happen is all the great fighters we have around the world need to stay busy and remain up for seeking out tough challenges.
This gets general sports fans interested.
What has been happening this year needs to continue. Great matchups, elite fighters challenging one another, and in the case of Canelo vs Charlo, a jump in weight classes to showcase two undisputed champions going head-to-head.
If men’s tennis is in a good place with Alcaraz at the top of its tree, boxing can be considered to be fairly healthy also with elite fighters like Terence Crawford, Naoya Inoue, Canelo Alvarez, Shakur Stevenson and Oleksandr Usyk among others leading the way.
These fighters need to stay active though, not as active as Jesus Escalera, but fighting compelling bouts twice a year will see boxing build on the successes of 2023.