Antonio Nieves, who is one of the fastest rising prospects in the country, will be back in action Friday on the undercard of the Paul Spadofora vs Hector Velazquez card at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, PA.
Nieves (6-0, 3 Ko’s) will take on Angel Carvajal (2-3) in a slated six-round affair. The 25-year-old super bantamweight will be fighting in his first six-round bout, but being tested is no issue for the former Olympic Team Alternate.
His amateur background is very impressive, as he was the 2011 National Golden Glove Runner-up, but it is the way he handles himself that is so refreshing.
On “Q” Sports spoke to Nieves Thursday, while he was on the way to his weigh-in. We talked about his young career, his ability to believe in his team around him, his sparring session with Spadofora, and his nickname that might sound familiar to some.
Rich: Antonio thanks for the time and a couple of minutes today. How are you feeling?
Antonio: “Well, first off, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I am feeling very good, very confident and in shape as always. It is a six-rounder and we are ready for whatever comes our way. I know my opponent is from Chicago and I am not really worried about it. He fought Rau’shee Warren, but I am not worried, we are ready to go.”
Rich: You had such a storied amateur career. You were 2011 National Golden Glove Runner-up, you were a former Olympic Team alternate and you are a Six-time Cleveland Golden Glove Champ. Sometimes a young fighter can be more mature in the ring with only a hand full of fights because of his amateur background. Do you believe that as well?
Antonio: “I believe so, as an amateur I fought a lot of great guys who are on their way up and up and coming like me. I fought Joe Diaz Jr. in the Olympic trails and Warren in the amateurs and that was great experience for me. Because I feel like I am ready to compete with those guys now.”
Rich: You got in good sparring with Spadofora. Where you able to touch him up a bit?
Antonio: “Yeah, I sparred him and it went very well, we got in some good sparring. I was able to hit him flush and hit him with some great shots. But you know, he is a great defensive fighter and has great skill so the fact that I am smaller helped a bit because I was able to sneak in. I adjusted well, I was a little faster and was able to get in some good shots.”
Rich: For you, what has been the biggest adjustment or difference between being an amateur and now a pro? Most guys tell me it is the first time they get hit with no head gear.
Antonio: “Yeah, when I turned pro I was glad that the head gear came off. To me the head gear was a distraction and caused a lack of vision. For me that was a plus. In the amateurs they do not really count body shots like they do in the pro’s. And now I am more of a solid body puncher at the pro game. I can sit down more on my punches. I can attack the body more then in the amateurs. In the amateurs you can throw two or three good body shots, but they would not really count. One out of every three you land might count. Now in the pro’s I can attack the body more and that will pay up in dividends. Now I can really do some damage with those body shots.”
Rich: Young boxers tend to want to put on a show and go for the knockout. You buy into that?
Antonio: “I was always taught that you don’t go looking for the knockout, the knockout will come. My coach tells me the knockout will come. We stick to our game plan. If the knockout is there it will come. We never try to rush ourselves for the knockout, we make sure we box. We box our way to the knockout. We set it with our jab, we push the guy back, we do not go out there and try to knock him out. We plan to set up our knockout. We set him up with the jab, we set him up and try to get him to lean in, when he does that and he makes mistakes, we try to capitalize on that and there you go.”
Rich: Seems like there has been a resurgence with boxers coming out of Cleveland of late.
Antonio: “I always thought about it like this. I just stick to the game plan. My shot will come. When we get out shot, we are going to make sure we take it and keep rolling with it. People get distracted and we are focused on what we need and want and we know how we are going to go for it. We are going keep doing what we are doing and stay humble and not let things get in our way. We will just stay grounded and humble and keep going forward.”
Rich: Talk about the mental toughness game in boxing, especially being such a young fighter.
Antonio: “When you start out, you hear about the stories and you see and hear different things about guys other then you. But you get to see everything. It is just the fact knowing you have the ability to be something and you can actually convince yourself you have what it takes to get to the top with the skills that you have and the hard work that you put in. Mentality you have to tell yourself, do you really want to do this? And then you realize this is what you really want and you know it is what you always wanted. I just stay mentally prepared to try to get what I wanted and sometimes I did not get the victory but hey, it only made me want to push and go harder and make me better.”
Rich: What type of approach is your team taking with you as far as how active they want you to be?
Antonio: “All I do is get ready, when it is fight time I let them take care of what they need to take care of. We are going to be ready for whoever they put in the ring with me. It can be a guy who is 5-0 or a guy that is 0-5 it doesn’t matter. We train for whoever and it is always 100 percent all the time. Right now we have been fighting some guys with one win and one knockout, just like me. They have not been guys with 0-10 records but they are guys they know I can beat. But they want me to fight guys where I can learn from every fight. That is why they have been matching me with guys that are good enough but they know that I can beat. We are taking our time and when it comes time for the next fight we will be ready.”
Rich: Tell me about the nickname “Carita”, which means face in spanish.
Antonio: “Well there was a boxer named Jose “Carita” Lopez. You ever hear of him?
Rich: Sure he fought for the WBO flyweight title and once for the WBO Latino super flyweight title. He had about 50 or so fights in his career.
Antonio: “Yes, right, so everybody even my coach told me I look like him and our fighting styles are similar. But it was not until his wife wrote me on facebook and told me she could not believe how much identical I looked like him at my age. It was nice”
Rich: Do you emulate any of the boxers from the islands, or you trying to just come up and develop your own style?
Antonio: “I just like them all, we do train like original Puerto Rican fighters. We go to the body a lot like our roots. I do like (Miguel) Cotto because he is a devastating body puncher. I try to incorporate a little from everyone, but I never compare myself to those guys, I just try to be me.”
Rich: Anything thing you like to add or anyone you like to thank, please go ahead.
Antonio: “Thanks, just really my family, friends and my coach and my whole team. Thanks for all the support and everyone from Cleveland who is going be there and help me try to get to the top.”
Rich: I know you want to plug social media?
Antonio: (Laughing) “Yeah, thanks. Everyone can follow me on twitter at @antonionieves10 and on IG at antonio_nieves_216.”
Rich Quiñones is an award winning broadcaster and journalist. He is the lead blow-by-blow Boxing voice for GFL.tv and Go Fight Live’s Boxing on Comcast. He has sat ringside calling the action with Monte Barrett, Brian Adams, Amir Mansour, Danny Garcia, James Kirkland, Mark Breland, Ronnie Shields, Teddy Atlas and Lou DiBella, while broadcasting over 125 bouts for GFL in 2013-2014.
Rich is also a contributor to Ringnews24.com and he has also handled calling the action for Muay Thai and is exclusive lead blow-by-blow voice for CFFC MMA.