It’s easy for a young guy like Alexis Rocha, who avoids hype and big talk, to get overshadowed by a vocal opponent. Especially when he’s booked to fight an attention magnet and non-stop quote factory like Blair Cobbs as the co-main event for next week’s Vergil Ortiz Jr vs Michael McKinson card.
Fortunately for Rocha (18-1, 12 KO), boxing champions don’t earn belts standing at a podium or holding a microphone. Fights are won and lost in the ring, and that’s where the 24 year old welterweight does his best work.
Rocha suffered a setback in October 2020, taking his first pro loss to Rashidi Ellis by decision. Since then, he’s bounced back with a pair of knockout wins in 2021, and he’s hoping that next weekend’s fight against Cobbs will bring him one step closer to the welterweight rankings and a future title shot.
Rocha spoke with Bad Left Hook in advance of next week’s show on DAZN about getting and giving respect during all the pre-fight talk, his relationship with trainer Hector Lopez, and the importance of not looking past his next fight.
Our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows.
BAD LEFT HOOK: A lot of young guys don’t handle it well when they run into adversity. You’ve moved on from your only professional loss with grace and humility, and you come across as a very likable guy.
ALEXIS ROCHA: Thank you.
Where does that maturity come from?
I think maturity comes from your upbringing; whatever obstacles life has for you. I faced a lot of obstacles when I was younger. That just really matured me to the person that I am today.
You’re still only 24 years old, and you’ve followed up your only loss with a pair of knockouts. You said after the Ellis fight that the learning experience was worth it, and that it’s easier to get back on track if you take a loss when you’re young rather than later in your career. From the outside, it certainly doesn’t look like it lost you any respect or opportunities.
I’ve just gotta keep working hard and trusting my ability to go in and do what I do. That’s it. I don’t look back, I move forward.
It would have been different if I had won [against Rashidi Ellis], but I don’t hold myself in the past. Just keep moving forward, and learn from whatever I can take from it.
I have a few questions about your early days. You’ve said before that you started boxing to get in shape because kids teased you about your weight, right?
Yeah. It’s definitely hard when you’re growing up, and you’re in an environment with kids who are athletic, physical, and moving around. And I was none of that. I was just a lazy kid, just eating and playing video games. I didn’t really go play with friends, I would just stay home.
When I hung out with friends, I was tired, I didn’t want to run. And all my friends were skinnier than me. They’d be calling me names, and it hurts. You’re a little kid, and you don’t know what’s going on. When they tell you: “Oh, you’re fat.” “You’re out of shape, you need to lose weight.” It gets to you.
You first signed with Golden Boy as a teenager. What was the reaction among the people who knew you as a kid that ate too much junk food when you officially became a legitimate pro athlete?
It was a very surreal feeling at the time. You work your whole childhood for it, and then you get signed. And then people are like “Oh damn! I remember when you were just a little kid. A little gordito, a little fatty.” Pretty much earns you respect, and that’s what happened.
You’ve had some minor issues with your hands in the past. Any trouble recently? And, what adjustments have you made to avoid repeat problems?
No, thank God. Haven’t had any hand injuries. I’ve just been taking care of my hands, doing a lot of recovery. That’s been my thing for the last year now. Doing cryo, doing massage therapy, icing my hands down.
I put a lot into my body. All the pounding, the sparring, hitting the bag. I have to be just as proactive to my body as well.
Have you ever worked as a pro with any trainer other than Hector Lopez?
Hector Lopez has been my main coach. The whole way, for years now.
He’s spoken this week about his confidence that you can knock out Blair Cobbs. He also drew a lot of attention for absolutely lighting you up before the last round of the Brad Solomon fight.
Trainer: "You're gonna f***ing hate yourself in the morning!"— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) February 15, 2020
Alexis Rocha: *okay, watch this* pic.twitter.com/jJVGEFyN2x
People have turned having someone “in your corner” into a cliche. But, what does it mean when you literally have someone that believes in you so much, but also is willing to push you to your potential?
Hector is not the type of person to just say “Good job today, good job.” He tells you how it is. If you’re doing bad, he’s not going to sugarcoat it. He actually beats you down. He’ll tell you, “Hey, you’re messing up. What are you doing? Don’t be doing that. Don’t make those dumb errors.”
It’s a blessing having Hector. He’s a tough guy, but I know it’s tough love. Because he wants the best for me. He’s not gonna be in there to hold me back. He wants to show everyone my true potential.
I think it says a lot about you that you can actually take that feedback like that, especially on TV, and put it to work in the fight. That you don’t take it personally or change corners because of it.
Definitely. The main objective is to win. I want to win. He wants to win. And we click like that.
We talked to Blair Cobbs earlier this week, and he had a lot of nice things to say about you. “Good fighter, always great performances, damn near undefeated,” just to quote a few. For a guy with his reputation for talking, it seems like he has a lot of respect for you.
Wow. That’s weird. Just yesterday, he was ripping me a new one. Me and my coach, who he called my father.
I understand Blair Cobbs. I’ve seen him develop. He’s an entertainer! He’s the entertainment side of the sport, and I do my talking inside of the ring.
You said yourself, I’m a mature young man and I’m humble. I don’t bash anyone, I don’t talk bad about anyone. I give my respects, because it’s a very hard sport. But I let all my talking happen in the ring. And I know Blair is an entertainer, so he’s gonna say whatever he wants to say.
A while back, before this fight was booked, you said that you don’t really go for “flamboyant stuff.” And Blair Cobbs is about as flamboyant as boxers get. Even if it’s not your style, has it at least helped? Is it nice to be across from a guy who can generate that heat and attention for your fight?
Definitely. It’s something new to me. With Rashidi Ellis, it wasn’t necessarily him that was talking smack. He did talk a little here and there, but it was more from his team.
And that, to me, was something I haven’t been in with, with someone that talks this much and brings this attention. Now, like I said, it’s a big learning experience with Blair Cobbs. Whatever he says, I’m just gonna take it in. If he disrespects me, and I really hope he doesn’t disrespect me, then I’m going to say something back.
What are your thoughts on him as a fighter? You’ve been on cards together a few times before, you’ve both fought Brad Solomon. Any impressions you had of Blair Cobbs before booking this fight against each other?
He’s real. He’s a good boxer, don’t get me wrong. He’s a good boxer. He’s unorthodox, he moves around. He’s a little awkward at first. And the guy has heart. I’ll give him that. He does have heart. I’ve seen him hit the deck, then get back and win by knockout. So, my hat is off to him for that.
I respect him as a fighter. Like I’ve said, I respect anyone who steps in that ring.
How do you rank him? Does he present anything you’re concerned about, and what do you think you’ll need to do to earn the victory?
I’m just preparing myself. I take no precautions with him, I just have to be smart. I really have to focus on myself. Yes, he’s going to be awkward, he’s going to do his stuff. But, I’m more focused on what I have to do. My strengths, what I can improve on. I really just focus on myself.
Not talking about 10 years from now, but what do you see in your future? Let’s assume it goes your way next week against Blair Cobbs. Next year or two, where do you see yourself going?
Well, my first objective is beating Blair Cobbs. I have to focus on him. Afterwards, I do want to rise up the rankings. Make myself a contender, possibly a mandatory, and hopefully that’s the case.
Any final thoughts to share?
Just tune in on March 19th. It’s gonna be an electrifying night! Fireworks for sure. Tune in to see Alexis Rocha live.