Boxing sensation Diego Pacheco will put his mental and physical preparation to the ultimate test for the first time in England when he takes on Jack Cullen in Liverpool on Saturday night for the vacant WBO international super middleweight title.
M&F was fortunate enough to catch the Los Angeles native up close and personal on his 22nd birthday, just 48 hours before bell time, and soon discovered that light training didn't get you to 17-0-0.
The Mexican-American sensation has donned the gloves since she was 10 and has won eight national championships over the course of her amateur career. During this time, the Pacheco was at the top of the list in both the United States and Mexico.
Then, at just 17, he turned pro by signing with Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Boxing Promotion. The rising star won his pro debut by quickly knocking out Luis Carlos Gonzalez in the first round and now sits on a 17-game winning streak - a staggering 14 of those wins have come by knockout, including his last one that earned him the super- WBC United States middleweight belt.
Still, the man they call "Little Lever's Meat Cleaver" Jack Cullen is also dangerous. The Englishman set his own record of 25-3-1, knocking out nine opponents in the process. Cullen is the IBF International Super Middleweight Champion and shares the same hopes of doubling his gold. For Pacheco to take home the WBO title on Saturday night, it will take everything he can.
Diego Pacheco is looking for the best trainers for hard sparring
Standing at 6ft 4in tall, Pacheco is known for his long range, maneuverability and timing. He also packs tremendous power into his punches. After seeing the fighter take part in an open ring training session on Wednesday, there is little doubt that Pacheco traveled overseas for the sole reason of winning. But to better understand his methods, we have to go back a little.
After turning pro, Pacheco found that tougher opponents forced him into longer games, so he decided to keep pushing himself in practice to reflect the increased competition in the pro division, and that meant finding tougher task masters . Eager to develop superior skills, he joined famed team Benavidez to train with the championship family. Since then, Pacheco has been spotted working out his hip with a resistance parachute on the San Diego beach, but alongside innovative training methods, the hot contender has also kept practicing the basics of hitting and footwork back at his combat camp in Seattle, WA.
"Just hard sparring," Pacheco tells M&F, explaining that with 12 rounds on the clock, there's nothing more important than logging vital information from the best partners. "It's a very different atmosphere and a very different state," he explains of the move to Seattle, where he's had the opportunity to train with the likes of two-time super middleweight champion David Benavidez. " friends up there, you know? family up there, it's just boxing," he continues, explaining that his focus is on getting up the mountain with no distractions. In sparring, Pacheco has undoubtedly worked with more experienced opponents, but he's also been taught to increase the volume of his strokes and has built lightning speed after working closely with world-renowned trainer Jose Benavidez Sr., who saw the potential in him from their first session.
Diego Pacheco combines tradition with innovative training methods
While Pacheco has used the aforementioned resistance slide for running, he also uses old-school methods to work on his neck and shoulder strength, with exercises like biting down on a rag tied to a weight plate to perform old-fashioned neck raises. Pacheco moved into a shared apartment with other boxers on the team to literally live and breathe the sport. And there he not only works out in the on-site gym, but is also provided with the right nutrition for his workout and even taken care of with an on-site massage for recovery.
w, thousands of miles from home or base camp, in the city of Liverpool, Pacheco's undeniable focus on boxing will be put to the test against the worthy Cullen, who also has long reach and is 6ft 3in tall. Still, Pacheco says it stimulates him the most when there's something to prove and he's even hoping to win over some fans in the UK. Pacheco is aiming to make this his best birthday weekend ever. "I was a bit busy, but I enjoyed every moment of it," he says. "I don't take a moment for granted."