Alex Saucedo: Lessons learned from Hooker loss and why he split with Abel Sanchez

Junior welterweight Alex Saucedo feels he has come a long way since his only loss to Maurice Hooker. He has a new team behind him and feels the difference.

Alex Saucedo is steadily marching up the junior welterweight rankings. He has battled adversity in the ring and is trying to regain a spot as a top challenger since his only loss in 2018.

Saucedo (30-1, 19 KOs) made a name for himself after a grueling battle against Lenny Zappavigna in June of 2018. He stopped Zappavigna in the seventh round but was almost stopped himself in round 4. FanSided viewed it as the 2018 Round of the Year, but it exposed Saucedo’s defensive deficiencies.

He never addressed his defensive liabilities from that fight, and it came back to haunt him.

Later in 2018, Saucedo challenged Maurice Hooker for his WBO junior welterweight title. Saucedo got off to a good start. He’s an action fighter with powerful hands, but Hooker chipped away at his chin little by little. In round 7, Hooker hurt Saucedo with a straight right hand. The ropes kept him up, so it was called a knockdown.

Saucedo’s legs betrayed him and he continued to absorb Hooker’s shots until the referee stopped the fight. It would be a year before Saucedo would fight again. He realized that something had to change.

“I learned from my mistakes, and not just my mistakes, but I mean the training situation I was in,” Saucedo told FanSided. “After the loss came, I really woke up and saw what my career really needed, the kind of training that I needed.”

Saucedo was trained by Abel Sanchez, who famously worked with Gennadiy Golovkin and currently trains Murat Gassiev and Cecilia Braekhus. Sanchez’s fighters are known for their aggressive styles in the ring, but that’s where Saucedo spotted weaknesses in his own game. Saucedo’s training emphasized attacking but little defense, according to Saucedo.

“I was there for two years, and there was not a time that we worked on defense, not a time that we worked on other things,” Saucedo said about his time with Sanchez. “I was just like going forward and use your power.”

Alex Saucedo has shown improvement since his loss to Maurice Hooker, but will it be enough to defeat  Arnold Barboza Jr.?

Beyond a lack of focus on defense, Saucedo revealed a lack of personal attention on Sanchez’s part.

“I tell people like in the two years that I was there, we have four rounds of one-on-one time of doing mitts. Four rounds in two years,” said Saucedo. “It just tells you how much time he was there.

“Going into the Maurice Hooker fight, he had three other world championship fights. He missed out on three weeks of camp by traveling with the other fighters. After that loss, I felt like I needed a team that was there for me more.”

It took some time, but Saucedo leaned on trainers Pedro Neme Jr. and Eddie Autry to make up his new team. Since joining forces, Saucedo has seen growth in his defense. Saucedo believes he’s a much better technical boxer today than when he fought Hooker. He displayed those improvements during the first half of his last bout against Sonny Fredrickson but reverted to more of his action style down the stretch.

“You know, I worked on moving to the sides, a little more. Moving my head a little more,” said Saucedo. “I mean, there was a lot of things that we still got to adjust and that we have been working on this camp.”

Saucedo fights undefeated Arnold Barboza Jr. (24-0, 10 KOs) on Saturday, Oct. 17, in chief support of the Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Teofimo Lopez main event. Saucedo has seen Barboza fight and isn’t terribly impressed.

“He didn’t impress me much,” declared Saucedo.

Saucedo added, “I feel like I have a stronger punch. A faster jab, better jab. A better jaw. It’s just a little bit of everything.”

Saucedo gets a chance to show the world his improved boxing skills on ESPN. If he wins, Saucedo will likely move back into contender status.

Next: Lomachenko-Lopez the next Mayweather-Alvarez?

Watch Alex Saucedo fight Arnold Barboza Jr. on the undercard of Lomachenko vs. Lopez, on Saturday, Oct. 17, on ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN+. Undercard coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET. The main billing, including Saucedo vs. Barboza, will air closer to 10 p.m. ET.