Boxing is not a sport known for just outcomes and happy endings. A young fighter suffering an undeserved defeat, whether through poorly timed injury, baffling decision, or any other reason beyond their own control, may never get a chance to reset the trajectory of their career.
When Edward Vazquez talked to Bad Left Hook 18 months ago, he’d just taken a tough split decision loss to Raymond Ford. Eddie Hearn, Ford’s own promoter, said immediately afterwards that he thought Vazquez had won, and one of the judges who scored eight rounds for Ford was “watching a different fight.”
Hearn’s candid assessment, though refreshing, could easily have wound up as something Vazquez’s grandchildren would recite from memory after hearing the umpteenth repetition of Grandpa Eddie’s hard luck story. Plenty of other boxers in similar situations spent the rest of their careers getting lots of sympathy, but little opportunity. Too dangerous to get another crack at a golden road prospect, but stuck with a tarnished record and no clear path up the rankings ladder to force a mandatory fight.
But, after the Ford fight, Vazquez’s management felt his stock had risen, and that even with the loss, doors were opening up for him. That proved true a few months later, when Vazquez booked a spot on the undercard for Sebastian Fundora and Carlos Ocampo, where he earned an upset victory over Viktor Slavinskyi. That led to a ShoBox opportunity in February of this year, and another win, this time over Misael Lopez.
Then, last month brought official news of the biggest opportunity yet: A November 4th fight in Monte Carlo against IBF junior lightweight champion Joe Cordina.
Bad Left Hook spoke with Vazquez to discuss the path from his first professional defeat to his first world title opportunity, his journey to a Top 10 ranking, and how this world championship fight in a Monaco casino compares to his early days fighting in rodeo arenas and airplane hangars.
Our full conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity, follows.
BAD LEFT HOOK: Every kid who does any sport or competition dreams of being a champion, and anybody who wins a boxing match dreams of wearing a world title belt. In a month, you actually have that opportunity. How is that feeling for you right now?
EDWARD VAZQUEZ: Man, every day I wake up and sometimes I have to pinch myself, like, “Is this real?” It’s a great feeling.
I’ve been boxing now for 21 years. Last week was my ‘boxing birthday,’ and this is everything I’ve ever dreamed of. It feels great. It feels amazing. Especially coming from where I come from. You don’t see a lot of fighters, a lot of athletes make it to this level. It just feels great, and I’m very motivated to go out and actually capture the title. It’s not just fighting for the title, I want to go out and win the title.
It’s just a great feeling. And I’m super motivated, and ready to go out and seize that opportunity.
Last time we talked, you had just taken the bad end of a decision that even the other guy’s promoter said was wrong. A lot of fighters have never gotten back on track from situations like that, but here you are just a year and a half later in the biggest fight of your pro career. Do you feel relieved? Satisfied? Vindicated?
I didn’t really harp on that too much. I didn’t let it hold me down. I was literally back in the gym a few days after that decision, trying to keep the ball rolling. I’m the kind of guy that really loves this life. I love being a fighter. So, it doesn’t matter what kind of decision comes out. I’m always going to be a fighter, I’m always going to be working in the gym, and I’m always going to be in shape and ready.
So, I look at all of this as a blessing. Where I come from, opportunities like what I have don’t just come about, so I’m blessed to be here now. I’m gonna work my ass off to capture that title.
Let’s talk a bit about the road from that Ford decision to this title fight. 8 months later, you were fighting on a Showtime PPV prelim, then you got a ShoBox TV slot. You had a few smaller shows mixed in there, too, but it seems like your team was right when they said the setback might not hurt your profile or prospects at all.
Oh, absolutely. My management at DKO Boxing kept my spirits up, and they kept me busy since that bullshit decision versus Ray Ford. They always told me that, if anything, it made [my] stock go up. And they were right about that – The phone’s been ringing ever since. And here we are going for a world title, so they were definitely right all along.
How did this fight against Joe Cordina pop up? How did you get this opportunity?
I signed with Lou DiBella, and then we got ranked Top 10 in the world [at 126 pounds] in the IBF. We went on to fight Brayan De Gracia, actually for the IBF intercontinental featherweight title, and I actually came in overweight for that fight. I lost my right to win that title.
I was planning on moving up to 130 after that fight anyway, but a few days after my manager got the call from Matchroom’s team to offer me a fight against Cordina at 130. I just thought it was a great move, because I was moving up there anyway, plus I was in the IBF’s Top 10 at 126 already.
I felt like I’d be getting a shot soon either way, either at 126 or 130, so it was just like all the stars aligned. And I was just coming off of a fight, so I just hopped right back into camp the next day and started getting ready.
A lot of fights get discussed, rumored, whatever, but just dissolve. I’m sure you’ve had it happen to you before. So, when did you feel confident it was going to be signed and official?
Man, even when it was signed, I still had my doubts! I’m pretty sure my managers were just like, “Man, this guy is just bugging us!” Because I kept asking: “When are they going to announce it? When are they going to announce it? When are they going to announce it?”
Because I’ve been in situations plenty of times when I have the feeling it’s all talk. Even when the contract came by and we signed it, still they hadn’t announced [this fight]. They were announcing fights all around our date, a week or two before, another a week after November 4th. And I was just like, “Oh man… Why are they skipping us?”
But, I guess there were promo reasons, they were waiting on getting videos done, stuff like that. When they finally announced it, and I saw Matchroom had put it on their social media, I finally felt like it was really official. But, even with that signed contract, a part of me still didn’t really believe it before that.
Cordina is a respectful guy, not really a trash talker or someone to throw stuff out there to mess with opponents or hype a fight. I’m assuming this has been a pretty professional sort of build up between the two of you?
Oh, absolutely. We haven’t really been in contact with each other, no talking at each other over social media. And I like it that way. I would rather let our hands do the talking rather than talking shit in front of the fans. But, if he wants to get down that way, I can get down with that, too.
Well, you talked to me before about how you like to try and rile up opponents who you know are emotional or insecure people. I’m assuming that’s not really a factor with Joe Cordina, is it?
No, I know he’s a mature fighter. He’s got his fan base on his side of the world. I think he’s pretty comfortable, very confident. Doesn’t feel like he needs to do any trash talking [to get attention], which is great with me. If he wants to keep it that way, that’s cool.
But, who knows? Maybe when we get out to Monaco and do face-offs, press conferences, and all that, we’ll start talking shit. If he does want to do that, I can be here for that, too. I’m definitely not one to let anyone talk shit to me and just cower down.
I don’t expect he’s the sort of guy to start anything like that… But, I will tell you that one of the things that has me excited for this matchup is that, even though you’re not a high knockout rate guy, you are an aggressive, attacking sort of fighter.
And, as you surely know, Cordina is someone who loves to fight forehead-to-forehead and mix it up, too. It seems like all the ingredients are there for a very active fight, like what we’ve seen from both of you guys already.
Absolutely, man. I think Cordina is expecting me to perform like I did in my last fight [with Brayan De Gracia]. I will bring some of that, but we’ll also mix it up. I feel like we have the right game plan for him.
I’ve seen him box, and I’ve seen him brawl like he did in his last fight [with Shavkhat Rakhimov]. Cordina’s been in there, he came out of the amateurs as a big prospect, straight from the Olympic team, and Eddie Hearn has been backing him massively. I think anyone that’s been in there with him has been tailor-made for him. I’m just not that kind of guy. I’m not that easy to hit, and I know I have a lot more boxing IQ than some of those guys.
Between the two of you, he’s the power puncher, and we’ve seen him knock down Shavkhat Rakhimov and knock out Kenichi Ogawa in a high action, heavy exchange sort of fights. Are you and your team working on some things like what gave you success against Ray Ford, to allow you to fight your fight, without necessarily giving Cordina his type of fight, too?
Yeah. A little bit of that. Right now, we’re out here in Las Vegas at Salas Boxing Academy. They have a lot of great guys, we’re getting in some world class sparring there. Changing things up a little bit, working on a few different things. I don’t want to let him get comfortable with anything. It’s a 12 round fight, and I don’t want to let him get comfortable with one look. I plan to give him a bunch of looks, a bunch of speeds, different range and power, so he never gets comfortable.
Also, so that we can adapt to whatever game plan he brings to the table. Like you said, he’s a boxer, but we’ve also seen him stand toe-to-toe. So, we can’t be sure what he’s going to bring to the table. But, whatever he brings, I think we can adapt based on what we’ve been working on.
Cordina can get hit, and he does get hit, but he also sets a lot of traps. It can be tough sometimes to tell what’s an opening and what’s just bait from him. Are you watching a lot of tape? How are you preparing for some of the more deceptive things he does that help him beat guys?
Oh, yes. I’m a big tape guy. I’ve watched all of his fights, day in and day out, whether I’m in the gym or out on the road. That’s what I do. I study tape all day, write a lot of notes down, go over it with my coach. And he goes over his notes and observations. Some of the other brains around us share their input, and we exchange thoughts. Whatever he wants to bring, whatever traps he tries to set, I think we’ll be ready for it.
And I think we’re here to pull the upset. He might be overlooking me. I’ve heard Eddie Hearn say things about what’s happening next. Him going against Emanuel Navarrete, stuff like that. I’m here to ruin those plans, man. That’s what I do. I like to call myself “The B-Side Killer.” It’s not my first time here, that’s for sure. It may be my first time in for a world title, but coming in on the B-side is nothing new for me.
One thing that surprised me a little was the fact that this is a Matchroom fight. Even they thought you should have gotten a decision that would have upset one of their big prospect guys on one of their shows.
So, the fact that they would bring you in again seems pretty brave given what they saw about what you can do, and how hard you’ll go after someone. Have you heard anything about why they decided to give you this opportunity given how you arguably should have beaten one of their golden prospect guys?
No, I haven’t really heard anything about that. The only thing I can think of is my management. They do their job, they make calls, they negotiate, they work their connections. Could be that. Or, maybe Eddie Hearn has something up his sleeve where he knows that me beating Cordina lets him run it back between me and Ray Ford at 130 pounds. Why not?
Let’s talk a little more about fighting at the 130 lbs. limit. I know you’ve fought there or close to it before. But, until you said something about it a little earlier, I thought you can still get to 126 comfortably. Is this a permanent move up in weight for you?
No, I can still get down to 126. But, now, I need at least an eight week notice. At this stage of my career, a lot of times they only give you four or six weeks. And I’m the kind of guy, I like to stick to a system. I don’t like to rush anything. So, if I am going to have a 126 pound fight, I will ask my management to make sure there’s an 8 week notice.
Last time we talked, you said you aren’t going to derail your career because you jumped on the wrong fight on too short of notice. I think you said it was a five week minimum, but now for a cut to 126, the minimum is eight? I’m just making sure it’s out there and updated. Unofficially co-promoting you here, so everyone knows what it takes to book you for a fight.
[Laughs] Yeah, and I am getting older. It’s not that [making weight is] getting harder, it’s just that these fights are getting tougher and it’s all demanding more out of me. So, for me to be comfortable, I think that eight week notice is very helpful so I feel strong and healthy, not just showing up.
But, when I fought Viktor Slavinskyi, I got that fight on three weeks notice, and I felt like complete shit. But, hey… We pulled it off. And for my last fight [against Brayan De Gracia], we had four or five weeks. I was cool with that, too. And I felt great all the way up to the last two days, but then I hit a wall. My body was saying, “Hell no, we’re not losing any more weight.” And so I came in about two pounds over. It’s a learning process, and that showed why we’re not going for five weeks anymore. We need eight weeks to avoid compromising our health and performance.
Well, one of the fights I would have liked to see at 126 pounds was between you and Isaac Dogboe. Sounds like even with the move up to 130, that’s not completely out of the question?
Oh, no. Absolutely not. I’m sure a fight like that would give us the right amount of notice. And for this camp, I’ve brought on some great dieticians. That will help keep me on point all year long. No longer just hopping into camp and starting dieting, it’s an all-year thing. I know these guys are going to make sure I’m right on point.
You have fought once in Mexico in your third pro fight… But, a 4 rounder in Obregon is not the same thing as a main event title fight in Monte Carlo…
[Laughs] Hell no!
… so, do you have any thoughts on the venue, or are you trying to just stay focused on what happens within the ropes, wherever they happen to be?
Oh, I’m big on visualization. I’m looking at the venue, at the surrounding area, I’m looking at pictures and videos, and I’m trying to picture myself there as much as I can. That way, when I get there, I’m not shocked by anything.
I’m excited, man. I know it’s a very small show. I think it’s 300 fans, and it’s a bunch of really rich people. Millionaires and billionaires, and really high class people there. I’m excited, man. I’m sure there will be a lot of people there for Joe Cordina, but I think a lot of the people there are not actual boxing fans. As crazy as it sounds, they’re just there for the violence. And so, I think I can win those guys over. Because that’s the kind of guy I am. I’m there for the violence, too.
Just going back through the venues you’ve seen in your career, you’ve fought in a bar, a nightclub, a spa, a rodeo arena, an airplane museum… It has to be pretty cool to get your big main event title shot in one of the swankiest places on Earth, right?
Yeah, man. It’s amazing. Actually, the past few days, my parents finally said they were coming. They got their passports taken care of, and they’re coming to the fight. It’s huge, because my parents haven’t left the country since I was born, pretty much. I’m just so excited to be able to take them with me to Monaco and give them this experience.
We’ve always talked about me fighting for a world title… I just turned 28 years old, and it’s finally happening for us. I’ve been at this since I was seven years old, so for my family to come with me to Monaco, for this to be at a Monte Carlo casino, around all these high class people… It’s amazing. It’s an amazing feeling, and I am ready for it. I’ve been visualizing it, and I can see my hand being raised, my mom and dad crying tears of joy, and bringing it back home.
Well, whatever your purse is for this fight, keep it in your pocket until you get out of that casino, okay?
[Laughs] Yes, sir.
Cordina already had to win this belt twice, without ever losing it in a fight. I can’t imagine he’s going to give it up easily, just like I’m sure you’re not going to let him keep it without a hell of a fight. On that note, any final thoughts to share about the fight, or other closing words you want to say before we wrap up?
I’m just grateful for the opportunity from Matchroom, Eddie Hearn, and I’m grateful my management was able to make this happen for me. I’m out here in Vegas for training camp, leaving no stone unturned, working my ass off. Joe Cordina better be ready. The fans have yet to see the best version of “The Kid,” and this is going to be the best version of me. I’m going to be primed and ready to go.