Since six foot tall bantamweight great Panama Al Brown delivered Latin America its first boxing world champion way back in 1929, the volatile Central American republic of Panama – population just 3.6 million - has made a rich contribution to ring history.
Subsequently, Colon slickster Ismael ‘Tigre’ Laguna twice captured the world lightweight strap between 1965-70, whilst the incomparable Roberto Duran, from the slums of Panama City, utilised his stone hands to snare five world titles, across four weight classes.
In the early 1980s zippy flyweight Hilario Zapata, also from the capital, claimed world title belts in the two lightest divisions whilst another from PC, featherweight Eusebio Pedroza, made a record 19 defences of his world (WBA) crown between 1978-85. All were inducted into the sport’s Hall of Fame at Canastota.
More recently, savage super-feather Vicente ‘El Loco’ Mosquera from Panama City reigned on the WBA throne before his best years were lost to incarceration for a crime for which he was later acquitted. Spidery Colon super bantam -come-feather Celestino Caballero garnered three world titles between 2006-12 while slippery San Miguelito southpaw Anselmo ‘Phantom’ Moreno – still active - remains the longest reigning bantamweight champion in boxing history.
This Saturday, BoxNation subscribers get a chance to scrutinize the latest product from Panama’s prizefighting production line when the Channel of Champions screen slashing super-featherweight sensation Jezreel Corrales, as he makes his US debut and a second defence of his WBA strap from the fabled Inglewood Forum in California.
The 25 year old southpaw from San Miguelito announced himself to the boxing world in spectacular mode 15 months ago by decimating long reigning and previously undefeated WBA boss Takashi Uchiyama inside six minutes at his Tokyo homestead.
With 20 stoppage wins and 11 successive world title defences on his 24-0-1 CV, vicious Uchiyama was loitering on the periphery of the sport’s P4P listings when Corrales sent him crashing. However, eight months after, the Panamanian pearl verified that victory by returning to Japan, and exhibiting alternative attributes, to outscore the home hero in a sequel.
Known as ‘El Invisible’, the 5ft 6in portsider is an evasive threshing machine, blessed with quick feet and even quicker fists. And don’t be fooled by a 35% career stoppage ratio. Joltin’ Jez was just 17 years old when he started punching for pesos in Panama City eight years ago and he logged just two early wins (plus a DQ) in his opening 16 gigs.
Thereafter, he stopped six straight, prompting Mexican toughie Juan Antonio Rodriguez to surrender on his stool after 11, in a WBA interim spat in December 2015, prior to pummelling Uchiyama with potent southpaw lefts four months after.
The solitary stain on Corrales’ 22 fight slate came when he conceded a four round decision in his second start, whilst still in his mid teens. A comprehensive shutout win over Columbia’s Jonathan Perez in August 2013 was later downgraded to a ‘no contest’ when Corrales flunked a post fight drugs test (cannabis).
Managed by Mrs Lesbia de Moss, the rising star recently inked a multi-year deal with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions and his US bow will air live on HBO. All is in place for the wonderfully athletic Corrales to evolve into a global phenom, if he continues to deliver between the ropes.
His advance is unlikely to be inconvenienced unduly by Saturday’s challenger Robinson Caballeros, a 12 times beaten, seven times stopped, 35 year old from Celayo, Mexico. However, Corrales shares top billing with WBC counterpart Miguel Berchelt, allowing press and punters alike to compare and contrast the Hispanic champions who are mooted for a tasty looking unifier later this year, provided both emerge unscathed as expected.
And with luminaries such as Vasyl Lomachenko, Gervonta Davis, Orlando Salido, Francisco Vargas and now Carl Frampton strutting around the white hot 130lb playground, Corrales could yet join his aforementioned compatriots in Canastota, if he manages to master one or more of those masters.