MANILA, Philippines - WBC International minimumweight champion Denver Cuello of Cabatuan, Iloilo, can’t afford to take grizzled warrior Muhammad Rachman of Indonesia lightly in their 12-round bout at the Mindanao State University gym in Iligan City tonight.
A loss will seriously impair Cuello’s chances for a crack at the WBC 105-pound crown held by Thailand’s Oleydong Sithsanerchai and his manager Aljoe Jaro’s bargaining position in negotiating a title shot during the WBC’s 48th convention in Cancun, Mexico, on Oct. 31-Nov. 6.
Cuello, 23, was once the WBC’s No. 1 contender but dropped to No. 4 after losing to Juan Hernandez on a third round disqualification in Mexico City last May. It should’ve been a knockout win for Cuello but he was disqualified by referee Guadalupe Garcia for striking a kneeling Hernandez who fell flat on his back and wouldn’t continue. A split second earlier, Hernandez had gone down from a left uppercut to the side of the body.
Cuello has bounced back to score knockouts over Nelson Llanos and Arnel Tadena but suffered a demotion in the ratings. He is also ranked No. 10 by the IBF.
Jaro said if he’s not able to get an assurance of a title crack from WBC secretary-general Mauricio Sulaiman in Cancun, he will explore the possibility of challenging WBA and WBO unified lightflyweight champion Giovanni Segura of Mexico. There is also the option of facing WBC lightflyweight titleholder Omar Niño Romero whose victims include Filipinos Brian Viloria, Juanito Rubillar and Rodel Mayol.
But Cuello’s future hinges on a convincing win over Rachman who reigned as IBF minimumweight titleholder from 2004 to 2007. Rachman, 38, is no pushover with a 62-8-5 record, including 31 KOs. He lost the IBF crown to Filipino Florante Condes by a split decision in 2007. Among his Filipino victims were Noel Tunacao, Ernest Rubillar, Bert Batawang, Jerry Phayahay, Roger Mananquil, Steve Dimaisip, Jun Arlos and Benjie Sorolla twice.
“May asim pa si Rachman,” said Jaro. “Let’s see kung mayroon pa siyang ibubuga. This guy’s tough. He’s never been knocked out in 75 fights since 1993. Denver wants to be the first to knock him out.”
Last year, Rachman lost to Filipino prospect Milan Melindo and Oleydong but neither could stop him. Rachman’s durability poses a clear threat to Cuello. What could make things difficult for Rachman is ring rust as he hasn’t fought in 16 months. Cuello, in contrast, has been active, logging four fights so far this year and is ready to battle in the trenches with 136 rounds of sparring under his belt. He wrapped up his training last Saturday, weighing 110 pounds and Jaro said trimming down to 105 for the WBC International title defense against Rachman won’t be a problem.
Jaro said if Cuello disposes of Rachman handily, he will push for a Dec. 7 duel with Thailand’s No. 5 contender Wanheng Menayothin either in Manila or Bangkok.
Working Cuello’s corner for the Rachman fight are trainer George Sol and Jaro’s brother Francisco, his conditioning coach.
The second youngest of six children, Cuello is determined to become a world champion. The bachelor finished only up to high school to concentrate on boxing, much to the disappointment of his parents. His father works in a university and his mother is a school principal. His siblings are all college-educated. Cuello, however, takes pride in his calling and wants to bring honor to his family and country through boxing.
Cuello is the prized jewel in Jaro’s stable of 12 fighters. “With God’s blessing, Denver could go all the way,” said Jaro. “He’s a good kid. Obedient, respectful. That’s why I’m giving him my full support. He’s kind and he knows how to acknowledge a debt of gratitude. He could be our next world champion.”
Jaro said the first international fight to be staged in Iligan wouldn’t be possible without the backing of city Mayor Lawrence Cruz, sports coordinator Lorna Mata and Maigo, Lanao del Norte, Mayor Rafael Rizalda.
Joaquin Henson, Philippine Star