ORANGE, Calif.: Featherweight Erick Ituarte (20-1-1, 3 KOs), intent on working himself into world title contention, headlines “Locked n’ Loaded” this Friday, April 19, from the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, Calif.
Ituarte, who lives in Santa Ana, Calif., faces veteran Jose Estrella (20-15-1, 14 KOs) of Mexico in the 10-round main event.
Ituarte, a former Junior NABF featherweight champion, elaborates on his main event match up, his world title aspirations, and why Friday’s fight is one of the most pivotal of his young career.
Your last win came nearly a year ago against former world title challenger Carlos Carlson. Why the long layoff and do you anticipate any ring rust?
“I had a lower back injury going into the Carlson fight, but I didn’t want to back out because I knew I could beat him. After the fight, I started to feel more pain so I got an MRI and it revealed some problems. Thankfully I didn’t have to have surgery, but I was tied up with rest and physical therapy last year. Basically I had to re-strengthen the muscles in my lower back. I feel great now. I’m completely healthy with no issues. I don’t see ring rust being an issue because I got some pretty good sparring in for this training camp.”
How did your training camp unfold for this fight?
“I feel strong and ready to fight. I sparred twelve rounds for this fight so I know my conditioning is going to hold up. I feel comfortable and just anxious to get in the ring.”
What do you expect to see from Jose Estrella on Friday night?
“We know he’s a tough fighter. He’s shorter than me so I think he’ll want to fight on the inside and try to lock me up. I’ll feel him out the first few rounds and go from there. I like to pick up the pace as soon as possible so fans won’t have to wait too long to see some fireworks.”
Do you feel you’re ready to challenge for a world title?
“I hope this is my year. I’m obviously focused on Estrella because that’s a tough fight, but I feel I’m ready to compete for a world title. Oscar Valdez comes to mind because he’s a guy I have tremendous respect for, but we’ll have to see what develops there. The plan is to let everyone know on Friday that I can challenge for a world title very soon.”
You turned professional in 2011 when you were just 17. Now 24, is there any piece of advice you’d like to pass on to those that are about to turn pro?
“The best piece of advice I can give to those starting out is to be very careful with your body. What you put in and how you train. When you’re young, you feel like you can bounce back from anything, but the reality is how you treat your body in your late teens and early 20s does impact you as you get older. So I would recommend to all the young guys about to turn professional to really focus on creating good habits early on because you are more likely to stick to it if you make it part of your daily routine from an early age.”