Calderon: 'I always fight like challenger'

Ivan Calderon rarely fights away from home (or without his belt), but he says neither is a problem. PR Best Boxing/Joel Colon

When Mexico's Giovani Segura and Ivan Calderon met in the ring to unify their 108-pound titles last year in Calderon's native Puerto Rico, all signs pointed towards business as usual for the local favorite. The stage was set for another masterful performance by a pure boxer against a hard-charging brawler, before a loyal local crowd. Instead, Segura (26-1-1, 22 KOs) shook up the junior flyweight division with an eighth-round upset of Calderon (34-1-1, 6 KOs). With the rematch of that exciting fight set to take place Saturday in Mexicali, Mexico, we caught up with Ivan Calderon to ask his thoughts about the matchup.

What can you tell us about your training for this fight?
I came very well-prepared because I know this is going to be a tough fight, just as the first one was, and so I came in the best possible shape. I'm finishing my training here in Mexico, and we're being treated very well. I'm within weight already, and yesterday I did an open training session for the public. My main training camp took place in Puerto Rico; I simply came here earlier to get acclimated and stay in shape while I put the finishing touches on my training.

What sort of adjustments will you make for the rematch?
My legwork, the way I dodge punches; and carrying the fight as I have always done it, in order to bring my opponent into my fight plan without falling into his plan. I have to be wiser in my movements inside the ring, and be back to being the Ivan everyone knows, waiting for the right moment to be aggressive -- as I already know -- and to be more careful and block his body punches more effectively.

This will be the first fight in eight years in which you won't be the titleholder. How does that affect your mindset and your strategy for the fight?
I don't think it does affect it. Whether I have my title or not, I always fight as if I were the challenger. I come to do the same type of work whether I defend or conquer for a title, because no matter if I'm the champion or not, the job has to be done, and I fight as if I were the challenger just to keep my title. The advantage of being a champ doesn't really count, because once you lose, you lose. You need to do the same great job whether you are or are not the champion at the moment.

Is your propensity to get cut and injuries a deciding factor in your strategy for the fight?
This is something that always concerns me, because it can happen at any time. It's something inevitable, to receive a head-butt or an elbow. As an athlete, I have to be prepared for whatever happens and try to win the rounds from the beginning in case I get butted in the head or get injured. At this point in my career, if I get a big wound, I count it like a defeat in itself.

Did you show us your best in the first fight, or were you unable to tap into your full potential for some reason?
No, absolutely not! I didn't even show a quarter of what I can really do! Everyone who knows me knows that I wasn't the Ivan everybody knows -- the one who beat Hugo Cazares, Alex Sanchez and so many others. No way I was the same guy in this last fight. From the first round on, people saw that I couldn't put my plan into action, and when I started falling into his game plan the fight started to get closer and more difficult for me.

What adjustments do you think Segura will have to make in this rematch?
The adjustment that he can make is to have more wind than the first time, because in the first fight he was running out of gas -- but he got a second wind and recovered once he saw I was hurt. But maybe he will be in better condition because he knows he'll have to throw many more punches in order to carry the fight this time.

Do you think Segura's work to the body will be a key factor again? How do you plan to neutralize that?
I know this is the job he'll have to do in order to beat me: Go to the body and try to apply the same pressure. But if he tries to find me and fight inside round by round with me, he'll have a difficult time.

Segura seemed fine fighting on your home turf. Do you anticipate any problems being the visitor in this fight, accustomed as you are to fighting in front of your own fans?
Well, he didn't feel the pressure because he didn't fight the Ivan Calderon that everyone knows. But if he had been fighting the real version of Ivan Calderon, as I am getting ready for this fight, maybe you wouldn't be making the same comment. But I don't suffer fighting in the house of the champion, because I got quite used to this as an amateur. I've already gone through the experience by fighting in countries such as Colombia, Canada and all over the United States, and many other places against different opponents. I've fought mostly in Puerto Rico because that's where I get paid better ... not because I don't want to fight elsewhere or for fear of some opponent. It's simply not a good business decision for me.

What other fighters of your era would you have wanted to fight professionally? Do you regret not having faced Brian Viloria, Omar Narvaez and other big names in their primes?

Brian Viloria was from my era as an amateur, and he beat me a couple of times there, but he retired and he didn't do too well in his professional career. But right now I don't have too many big names on my hit list because they have all retired or moved up in weight, and I don't keep them in mind anymore. I always wanted to fight [Ulises] Solis back when he was a champion, but he isn't on the same level anymore.

What importance do you believe your age has in this fight and your career strategy for the future?
The only thing that it inspires in me is a desire to train harder and make a better effort in the ring, because when you get older you have to train double or triple in order to perform the way you want to perform.

How do you envision the fight developing in your mind?
The main thing will be to study the fight from the very first round, find out the right time to apply pressure and how to follow our game plan. If we're winning comfortably by boxing a lot, then that's how we'll stay. If we are pressured to fight inside and we have to change our game plan, then that's what we'll do. We are going to be ready for whatever needs to be done.

Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.