The truth be told, Jonathan Maicelo doesn’t need to be a boxer.
He’s already a hero, a full-fledged celebrity in his native Peru. He’s a professional model with stunning looks. He has appeared in popular commercials for Pepsi and Frito Lay. He owns his own line of clothing and sports apparel. He’s even appeared on the Peruvian television version of “Dancing with the Stars.”
“He’s an idol in Peru,” boasts Maicelo’s Hoboken-based trainer Butch Sanchez. “After his last fight, he had to dance the very next day. He’s a real character.”
“I’m appreciative of what I have in my native country, with the people of Peru,” said Maicelo, through interpretation of Sanchez. “It’s great to have all that, but I want to be a world champion. It’s been my dream to be a world champion. It’s more important to me than the money, than everything else. I want to be recognized as one of the best fighters in the world. That’s more important than being a celebrity in Peru.”
That’s why the North Bergen resident was working hard in the ring last Saturday, preparing for his biggest challenge to date as a professional boxer.
Maicelo was set to take on Wilfredo Acuna in a lightweight bout at the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa in Cabazon, California Friday night. The fight comes on the heels of Maicelo signing with respected promoter Gary Shaw.
Maicelo is undefeated as a professional, winning all 17 of his fights, 10 via knockouts. The fight in California will mark only the third time he has fought in the United States, with most of his bouts taking place in his native Peru.
Maicelo was part of the card that took place at Washington School in Union City in October of 2010.
“I feel so excited to get this chance,” Maicelo said. “I’m very emotional to know that I’m finally getting this big opportunity. This is what I’ve been working for. I thank the Lord and Gary Shaw for this shot. To be honest, I’ve had a good year and I’ve been waiting for this opportunity. I’m more motivated and happy to show what I have.”
Sanchez, has trained several champions over the years, including Carlos Tamara. A fellow North Bergen resident, Tamara became the IBF world light flyweight champion in 2010 and was North Bergen’s first world champ since the immortal James J. Braddock won the world heavyweight title in 1935.
“This is a big step,” Sanchez said. “Gary Shaw saw Carlos three weeks ago and said that he looked like a million dollars. He signed him to a three-year contract. I really believe that Maicelo is going to be a world champ. He’s ready for this and a lot more. From Day one, I knew that we had something special with Maicelo. Now, everyone is getting a chance to see it. He’s not only a special fighter, but he’s a special person.”
Maicelo also has another top flight boxing magnate in his corner, namely the CEO of Everlast, Neil Morton. Everlast is the world’s premier producer of boxing equipment.
“He’s very hungry and that’s his best trait,” Sanchez said. “We’re super excited for this.”
To get ready for the big bout, Maicelo went into the ring last week to spar with former world lightweight champion Paul Spadafora, who held the IBF lightweight title from 1999 through 2003. Spadafora is still undefeated with a 45-0-1 record.
That’s how much Sanchez knows his fighter is ready for the big time.
“He’s the real deal,” Sanchez said. “I said all along that he was going to be a world champion and now it looks like he’s going to get that chance.”
If Maicelo wins this fight, then he’s going to be part of the Showtime Boxing card Sept. 21 that will be televised nationally.
“I want to be recognized as one of the best fighters in the world,” Maicelo said.
He seems to be taking the same path in the ring – as a celebrity and public figure, as well as a fighter – like the “Golden Boy,” Oscar De La Hoya.
“I definitely like to be considered with De La Hoya,” Maicelo said. “He’s one of my favorites and someone I look up to. I’d love to be like him. I’m ready for my chance.” …
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Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.