Determination, drive, focus and for a professional boxer, sheer grit are among the crucial traits necessary to succeed in a business that is rough in more ways than one hundred. There perhaps is no true reason to wonder just why a boxer will choose to live and train close to their childhood home. Their roots are planted and the love of family and friends is nearby. Seclusion from all things familiar is not the the conventional archetype for every pugilist. Such is the world of the humble and wise young fighter that is Hugo Centeno, Jr.
Southern California has long been a hotbed of not only up and coming fighters, but world champions as well. Hugo's step into the now familiar role of ring warrior began and continues to take place in Oxnard. He professes without any confusion that he has always been in the right place.
"There was always lots of talent growing up. As a child, you look up to these guys and they become idols to you. I grew up in Colonia, which has the gym made famous by Fernando Vargas and Robert Garcia."
"I was there until I was about nine years old and then we moved to the north side of Oxnard. These days, there's probably about five or six boxing gyms now. If you don't box or play soccer here, there's not much else to do."
Centeno, 14-0, 8 KO, is fortunate to have the full support of his father, Hugo, Sr., who also serves as his primary trainer. As is seen so often in the sporting world, the athletic exploits of the dad serves to inspire the son to reach for the same stars. The Oxnard fighter understands the importance of the lessons received from his father and how he can apply them to his ever growing knowledge of not only the ring, but the great game of life as well.
Photo by Juan Carlo/Staff Photographer
"My dad was an amateur boxer, but he was involved in a motorcycle accident which prevented him from going any further or becoming a pro. Watching the fights together just got my adrenaline going and I would always ask him to take me to the gym and when he finally did, I just fell in love with the sport and I haven't stopped."
"My dad and I can communicate without speaking to each other. When I'm in the ring, regardless of how many are watching I can only hear those in my corner."
The free spirit within a young person which at times can be shackled by the everyday demands of work, school and the like can often be more cumbersome for some than for others. The sacrifice needed to maintain a promise of hope in the sweet science is one that Hugo has taken in stride. At the age of 21, he knows full well of what it takes to get there and stay there as well.
"It's tough. We have to make weight and cut weight while we are training. Sometimes, you'll have to starve yourself to do this because you never want to receive a fine or look bad. The whole process of making weight can actually kill you and many don't realize that."
Not every athlete understands that their stroke of good luck which helped them establish the sometimes lucrative vocation they are granted is able to see the business side of the project. Time off is not something that "The Boss" Centeno partakes of with any regularity.
"I love to stay active and it's a full time job. Some only train for a fight, but that's not the way I do it. This is my life and I have to stay prepared. We don't always have that backup plan or Plan "B". I'll eat right. If you're a high performance athlete, then you must take the job seriously and eating right is a big part of it."
America will get a chance to see Hugo Centeno fight this Saturday night as he takes part in the undercard of the WBC Welterweight championship to be contested between Robert Guerrero and Selcuk Aydin. The bouts will take place from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California and broadcast via Showtime Extreme at 8PM ET. His opponent is Ayi Bruce, 22-7, 14 KO, of Ghana and the fighter's record could lead to suggest that he is not to be taken lightly.
Although the Ghanaian has seven losses, he could be the type to come forward and push the action.
"He's a strong fighter with a tough guard. He's a lot shorter than I am (Centeno is 6"1 1/2" with a 78" reach while Bruce is 5'9" alongside a 71" reach). He started off 14-0 (all of these fights took place in Bruce's native Ghana), but then he came out here and things didn't really go his way. He's an active fighter, though. I'm an aggressive technician and I'm able to fight on the inside."
Hugo Centeno's height, talent and range were too much for the overmatched Prieto who had no answer for Hugo's budding talent. The budding prospect is a staple at Golden Boy shows and now improves his record to 13-0, 7KOs.
Hugo admits that he feels a kinship of sorts to fighters who are of the same bodily makeup as himself. The ability to utilize height, reach and movement when combined with power is a skill which he believes to possess.
"I can relate to the tall, lanky guys. A lot of fighters have underestimated me and thought that I was just a tall and skinny guy. Sure enough, I have been able to use my leverage. I admired the fighters who could perform this way in the ring. Boxers such as Tommy Hearns, Diego Corrales, Oscar de la Hoya and Erik Morales. A fighter who I really like but is way before my time is Salvador Sanchez. These are all guys who learned how to use their distance very well."
Hugo Centeno, Jr. will hopefully keep his distance in the ring and make his opponent keep their distance. He's always listening and looking to grow as a fighter.
"In this sport, you can never know it all. There are always new things to learn every single day."