Originally created 01/25/03

Forrest's foe plays, hits hard



TEMECULA, Calif. - Everything needed to know about Ricardo Mayorga's personality was on display after he won the biggest fight of his career.

With a fifth-round knockout of Andrew "Six Heads" Lewis in March 2002, Mayorga entered the post-fight press conference with few marks on his face and the WBA welterweight title around his waist.

In his hands, he cradled the substances of which champions are made ... a cigarette and a beer.

He is the antithesis of WBC welterweight champion Vernon Forrest.

While Forrest is celebrated for his squeaky-clean image and his charity work, Mayorga just likes to celebrate - usually with a can of a beer in his dangerous fists and a cigarette between his fingers.

His manager, Carl King, said it's simple: Mayorga doesn't pretend to be what he's not.

"A lot of guys put on airs or can put on an act," said King, the son of promoter Don King. "He's truly what you see is what you get. He likes beer. He smokes cigarettes. But when he comes to training camp, he stops."

The formula works.

Despite suffering a loss in his professional debut in 1993 - and two more defeats in 1998 - the 29-year-old Nicaraguan is 24-3-1 (22 knockouts) and one of the best welterweights in the world.

And he's not afraid to tell you so.

"Now, (Forrest) is finally going to fight someone," Mayorga said through his trainer/translator, Hector Perez. "That clown has probably forgot his mother's name, because he's so nervous."

Nervousness is barely in Mayorga's vocabulary. After growing up poor in Managua, he jabbed his way through adversity to escape a country that has one of the world's worst economies and is one of the most dangerous nations in the Western Hemisphere.

"I come from a country where everything is war," Mayorga has said. "Even the women are tough. In Nicaragua, the women give birth wherever, in the middle of the street, in the countryside, with no medical attention."

Is Mayorga afraid of Forrest, his 35-0 (26 KO) record or the Augustan's claims that he's the best fighter in the world?

The answer came during Friday's weigh-in and press conference, when he chattered at Forrest in Spanish then told the media he would knock him senseless.

"In the fight, I'm going to be in charge of the reins," said Mayorga, who wore mirrored sunglasses all day and utilized every media question as an opportunity to sling more barbs at Forrest. "What's Forrest going to do? Well, he's going to make me a millionaire."

Mayorga, though, is more than a mouth. Using a wildly unorthodox style, Mayorga has a powerful punch that can end any fight in an instant.

"The thing that gets me is his confidence," said Tom Moraetes, Forrest's former trainer and the director of the Augusta Boxing Club. "He's not talking about winning. He's talking about stopping Vernon. He's not going for a payday. He's going there to win."

After all, he's nearly as tough as the Nicaraguan women.

"I'm trying to remember the last time we had such a colorful champion who is brash, and confident," King said. "And he can fight too. I'm a big fan of Vernon. But Vernon picked the wrong guy to fight."

Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216. or josh.katzowitz@augustachronicle.com