The Puerto Rican Day parade is this Sunday in Manhattan. But before that, a parade of Puerto Rican fighters will be on display in Times Square.
Promoters Lou DiBella, Gary Shaw and Javier Bustillo have assembled Team Puerto Rico and they will be showcasing a host of young Puerto Rican fighters this weekend. In an unprecendented move, Roseland Ballroom will host a pair of fight cards on consecutive nights. Both cards will be televised nationally. The promoters are calling it, Boricua Invasion I & II.
"The island of Puerto Rico is filled with talent," said DiBella. "With the Puerto Rican community in New York, it's a natural for us to showcase that talent. I think out of this group of fighters there are going to be a few world champions and the next Puerto Rican superstar."
On Friday, June 10, ESPN2's Friday Night Fights will televise Kenny Galarza (14-1, 14 KOs) against Irving Garcia (17-6-3, 8 KOs) in a battle of welterweight contenders. In the co-feature, welterweight terror Thomas Dulorme (11-0, 10 KOs) faces former world champion DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley (37-17-1, 22 KOs).
Other Puerto Rican fighters featured will be 2008 Puerto Rican Olympian Jose Pedraza (2-0, 2 KOs) in a junior lightweight contest, junior welterweight prospect and Bronx native Steven Martinez (9-0, 7 KOs), Newark resident Alex Perez (13-0, 7 KOs) in a welterweight contest and New York junior lightweight Emanuel Gonzalez (8-0, 7 KOs). (Martinez is managed by New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs, who will be at the card.)
"Dulorme is a huge knockout puncher," said DiBella. "He has tremendous power. He's exciting. He's fighting Chop Chop, that's going to be explosive."
On Saturday, June 11, Showtime’s ShoBox: The New Generation will televise Boricua Invasion II when featherweights Luis Del Valle (12-0, 10 KOs) and Dat Nguyen (17-1, 6 KOs) battle for the NABA title.
"The main event of Luis Del Valle-Dat Nguyen is a very good one for a few reasons," said Showtime boxing analyst Steve Farhood. "Firstly, both were top amateurs, and as pros, they have only one loss between them. And their styles should mesh well; Del Valle will be the boxer and Nguyen the pressure fighter. Both are capable of throwing 100 punches per round. And most importantly, it's the toughest matchup for both to date."
In the co-feature, the NABO and WBA Fedelatin super welterweight titles will be on the line when Jonathan Gonzalez (13-0, 13 KOs) battles veteran Richard Gutierrez (26-6-1, 16 KOs). Also on the show is popular junior welterweight Gabriel Bracero (15-0, 1 KO), female super featherweight from Brooklyn Amanda Serrano (9-0-1, 5 KOs), and junior welterweight Jorge Maysonet, Jr. (3-0, 2 KOs).
While they are fighting in New York, all the fighters but Del Valle, still live and train in Puerto Rico.
"I've always believed in the Puerto Rican and Mexican fighters," said Shaw. "With the success of Felix Trinidad and Miguel Cotto and JuanMa (Juan Manuel Lopez), I just knew what a hotbed of talent the island is. While everyone was thinking about Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, I feel like I was able to sneak in and sign all these great young fighters."
As a print and broadcast journalist, Farhood has been around the New York fight scene since the heyday of Wilfred Benitez. Boxing on the weekend of the Puerto Rican Day Parade is familiar territory.
"As for boxing in Puerto Rico, at the top of the show, I'll be showing a graphic of my top 10 Puerto Rican boxers of all-time," said Farhood. "What they have in common, other than being from Puerto Rico, is that they all fought in New York City. It's sort of a rite of passage for all top Puerto Rican fighters."
There have been numerous occasions when ESPN has promoted fights in the same city during the weekend of a major fight card. But no one could recall two cards at the same venue on consecutive nights.
"Doing two fight cards in two nights, at the same venue, is a very risky investment," said DiBella. "But this is the biggest weekend of the year for Puerto Ricans. It's a risk, but a calculated one. We have the talent on the cards. These cards are stacked and some of these matches are just going to be wars. There will be a lot of fireworks."
Tickets for Boricua Invasion I and II are available through Ticketmaster.com, charge-by-phone, or at any Ticketmaster outlet.