Ivan Calderon remains hopeful of 2021 serving as the year where he finally makes it into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
He also believes it is a year where he will make his way back into a boxing ring.
The long-retired former two-division titlist insists that a comeback is in store for later this year. Calderon dropped the news while serving as part of the broadcast team for the most recent edition of NBC Sports Network’s Ring City USA in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. In his sights is a renewed rivalry with fellow islander and former strawweight titlist Alex ‘Nene’ Sanchez with a targeted date of December 4 in Bayamon.
Calderon (35-3-1, 6KOs), 46, has not fought since 2012, while Sanchez—who turns 48 in June—last stepped foot in the ring in 2011. Pending commission approval, however, the 2000 Puerto Rican Olympian and former strawweight titlist and junior flyweight king is ready to do it at least one more time.
“We’re going to fight in Bayamon, on the (18-year) anniversary of our fight,” Calderon revealed during last Thursday’s broadcast.
It remains unclear whether such a fight will be an exhibition match or if they will seek full sanctioning from the Puerto Rico Boxing Commission.
Guaynabo’s Calderon is often referred to as one of the best pure boxers to ever come out of Puerto Rico, with many in the industry campaigning for his call to the Hall of Fame. The 5’0” southpaw enjoyed a lengthy WBO strawweight title reign, making 10 successful defenses before moving up to unseat Hugo Cazares in claiming the lineal junior flyweight championship (and WBO 108-pound belt) in 2007.
Another six successful defenses followed—including a repeat win over Cazares in 2008—before suffering a pair of knockout losses to Giovani Segura in 2010 and 2011. The latter two setbacks marked the twilight of Calderon’s career, suffering three defeats in his final four fights. His last bout came in Oct. 2012, when he was stopped inside of five rounds by Moises Fuentes in a failed bid to regain the WBO junior flyweight title.
Among his 10 strawweight title defenses, Calderon earned a 12-round unanimous decision win over Sanchez in their well-received Dec. 2003 title fight at Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez in Bayamon. The same venue would conceivably host a fight, marking its first boxing event since 2015.
Sanchez (31-8-1, 21KOs) held the WBO strawweight title for nearly four years, along with being involved in a watershed moment for the division.
The Ponce native won the belt in 1993, though his reign was hardly decorated aside from a 12-round win over Jose Victor Burgos in March 1997. It was enough to get him to a WBC/WBO strawweight title unification bout with lineal champion Ricardo Lopez, widely regarded as the best strawweight in boxing history. Their Aug. 1997 clash at Madison Square Garden marked the first-ever unification bout in the 105-pound division, with Lopez enjoying a one-sided 5th round stoppage to end Sanchez’s reign.
Sanchez came up well short in four subsequent title bids, including the aforementioned defeat to Calderon. His career ended with four straight knockout losses, wrapped up with an 8th round stoppage at the hands of Glenn Donaire in Dec. 2011.
Whether the pair of middle-aged Boricuas are able to follow through with this vision remains contingent upon the blessing of Puerto Rico’s commission. If greenlighted, it will mark the continuation of a recent trend of former champions returning to the ring, with the Nov. 2021 exhibition match between ring legends Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. planting the seed.
“I was inspired by watching Mike Tyson, watching Roy Jones Jr,” confesses Calderon, whose Iron Boy nickname is a tribute to Tyson’s “Iron Mike” ring moniker during his Hall of Fame career.
Calderon has spent much of retirement working as a trainer out of his Guaynabo hometown. He remains on the International Boxing Hall of Fame ballot, first becoming eligible in 2017 although thus far failing to gain enshrinement.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox