This Saturday night, Top Rank returns to Las Vegas, NV, to host a premier welterweight battle on ESPN+ PPV. Undefeated WBO Welterweight Champion Terrence “Bud” Crawford (37-0) will be defending his title against “Showtime” Shawn Porter (31-3-1).
The entire card is full of young fighters all looking to make an impression on an event that will undoubtedly be viewed by fans and casuals alike.
One of those young fighters is twenty-five-year-old Super Featherweight prospect Karlos Balderas (10-1). It seemed like yesterday he was competing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, at the 2016 Summer Olympics. After signing to RingStar Promotions post-Olympics, it seemed as if his career would take off instantaneously. He enjoyed having a solid regional buzz in Southern California, now it was time for him to hit the national stage, and he was put on as an opening bout for the Jermall Charlo vs. Tony Harrison II card in Ontario, Ca.
The fight didn't go in his favor and was stopped after Balderas suffered some knockdowns.
Although he had a wide range of things going on both physically and mentally, Balderas knew that his day would come to redeem himself.
He admitted to NY FIGHTS that the loss was the hardest thing he had to deal with but said he was ready for the more significant comeback.
After having surgery on his hand, which he broke before the loss, Balderas used 2020 to switch things up on his team. He went from being trained and managed by his father Zenon and his Uncle David to signing with Sam Katkovski (Churchill Management) and and training with Buddy McGirt at the Blue Moon Boxing Club in Los Angeles, CA.
Karlos started to feel things were falling into place and he was scheduled to fight in December 2020, which was about a year removed from his first loss as a pro. Before the fight, I checked in with him, and he was just excited to return to the ring and prove his loss was just a bump on the road.
A few days before the weigh-in, Balderas was told that his opponent could not obtain his Visa, and a replacement was unlikely since it was close to fight night.
“I was sad because the time and work had been put in, and it was my first camp out here in L.A with Buddy (McGirt). Things happen for a reason. After the cancellation, I went back to the gym with Buddy, and things were flowing better going into my last fight (Aug 14th),” said Balderas about the situation from December 2020.
The fireworks went off, introducing 2021 and Karlos found himself leaving the promotion company that signed him from the Olympics and becoming a free agent. It wasn't long before he found an interested company that would take a chance on him. That company was Top Rank, and on July 1st, a press release was sent out announcing he was signed to Bob Arum’s outfit. Karlos said, “To be honest, it didn't take long for me to get a deal. I was eager to fight again, and Top Rank opened the doors to me. This is exactly what I wanted, and that is to be active.”
If Balderas was looking for activity, he signed with the right company as Top Rank has the ESPN deal, which provides many dates throughout the year. I asked about the difference he sees between Top Rank and his former promotion company.
Balderas said, “I really like Top Rank and no disrespect to anyone, but this is where I should have gone when I turned pro. Top Rank had originally come out to Santa Maria, but I was too loyal to Richard Schaefer. He had sent someone to take care of us when I was at the Olympics, and I trusted in his plan, but it didn't work out. I like Top Rank as they know how to build a fighter. I know I made the right decision to sign with Top Rank. I'm looking forward to my next fight to show them that they made the right decision in signing me. ”
After the “new car feel” wore off and Balderas was scheduled to fight on Aug 14th, it was time to prove that his signing was all worth it. Karlos blew out Fidel Cervantes (9-1-1) in two rounds and impressed those in attendance.
“Honestly, it felt like it all happened too fast. I remember being geared up and thinking I'm here already. It felt like I was in a place I had never been before. As soon as I stepped into the ring, everything felt normal again. I knew mentally things would feel a little off because I hadn't fought in a while. I couldn't believe the fight went down like that. Everything happened so fast,” said the twenty-five-year-old from Santa Maria.
After the fight, Karlos went right back to the gym with Buddy McGirt to continue to build on the foundation they had already established. Just like anything else, change is received in many ways. This change of trainers going from his father and Uncle to Buddy wasn't an easy one. Karlos said, “I really like Buddy and the relationship I have with him. Something I like about him is that I can talk to him about things in and out of the ring. I know he cares about me.”
Karlos continued, “Truthfully, at first, I hated coming to this gym (Blue Moon Boxing Club). I wasn't used to him yelling so much and someone being on my ass like he was. I hated the repetition and even skipped a few sessions in the beginning. As time went on, things started to pay off, and I started to see things outside of the box. Looking back, I appreciate him being on my ass a lot. It's what I needed, and maybe my father and uncle got a little soft on me.”
When Karlos mentioned that about his father and uncle, he admitted that they made things comfortable for him, which wasn't what he needed at the time. Karlos comes from a tight family dynamic. That strong bond can be a recipe for disaster as natural emotions can get involved leading to a less disciplined lifestyle. Shortcuts don’t get you a title so Karlos making the switch was the right move at the right time.
Now Karlos is scheduled to appear on the Crawford vs. Porter card and is excited to put on another performance like that one back in August. His opponent is thirty-three-year-old Julio Cortez (15-3) from Ecuador. Cortez fought on Balderas's card in August and lost a unanimous decision to the undefeated Albert Bell (18-0).
Karlos knows it will be a challenge and said, “I think it is going to be a good fight, and I'll get my rounds in. Cortez is going to be in shape, and I'm expecting him to be tough and come forward.”
The fight will be his last six-rounder before he moves up to eight-rounders starting next year. The goal for Balderas is to finish next year with a ten-round fight for a regional belt.
Karlos knows that many counted him out after the loss and question whether he can make a serious run in the Super Featherweight division. Karlos said, “They were going to hate regardless as people always have something to say. I know they want to push me to the side because of that L, but I'm coming.”
Balderas continued, “I just have to stay focused in the gym and not get caught up with anything outside of it. I'm going to be a world champion, and that's a fact! One loss is not going to define my career!”
My Three Cents:
Karlos Balderas 2.0 is in full effect, and I believe the timing is set up perfectly for him. Suppose Karlos can continue to build his buzz well into next year. In that case, he can become part of the new crop of contenders within the Super Featherweight division when those belts are available after the current champions move up. But first, Karlos needs to handle his business on Saturday night so make sure you tune into the ESPN+ portion of the card to see this young prospect perform.