The Velasquez Twins: Boxing's Double Trouble Prospects
By Ryan Songalia
Sibling tandems have had mixed success in the sport of boxing. Some, like the Klitschko brothers Wladimir and Vitali, as well Rafael and Juan Manuel Marquez have seen both siblings achieve an equal amount of success. Other pairs like the Baers and Pacquiaos were less even in their distribution of talent and fortune.
The Velasquez twins Juan Carlos and Carlos Ivan aren't too concerned with the recent history of boxing brothers. Both are accomplished athletes in their own rights, and through their first bushel of fights have carried their success over to the professional ranks.
Carlos, who is considered the harder puncher between the two, has a record of 8-0 (7 KO). Juan Carlos, the more calculating technician, has a record of 9-0 (5 KO).
Both are rangy for their weights. Carlos is listed as being 5'10, which affords him a terrific height advantage for the featherweight class. Juan Carlos is a 122 pound fighter, though he has fought as high as 132, has a good vantage point for jabs at 5'9.
The only discernible difference between the two appears to be in their approach to the task.
"I'm a little more aggressive than my brother," Carlos says. "My brother is more of a technician who tries to out-think you. He doesn't try to take you out with one shot, but I do.
"Juan is just a guy who will pick on you, pick on you and break you down through accumulation," says Luis De Cubas Jr., who manages the twins.
"But you can't compare the one punch power of Carlos to Juan."
Together they made their debut the same night last February in New York City, with Carlos knocking his opponent out in the opening round and Juan Carlos winning a four round decision.
They had concluded their amateur careers simultaneously as well at the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games in Cartagena, Colombia. Their fortunes would be different; Carlos would win featherweight gold by defeating highly touted prospect Yuriorkis Gamboa, while Juan Carlos would drop a decision to two-time Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux at bantamweight.
With only a short time between then and the next Olympics in '08, they had the option of waiting to qualify for the Beijing games. Instead they decided to make the leap to the pros, a decision neither has any regrets about.
"My style has been like a pro since I was 15," says Carlos, who competed in the 2004 Games, losing a close decision in the opening round. "I wasn't that type of amateur who went out there and slapped."
The spotlight that they find themselves under as prized prospects is just the latest stage in the lives of the twenty-three year olds, a considerable improvement from what they were exposed to as youngsters. Raised in the tough Puerto Rican city of Catano, the twins had to fend for themselves from a young age. Street fights were not uncommon occurrences for them.
"There was lots of poverty," Carlos Velasquez says of their "hood" growing up. "There was danger but it wasn't just with fists, it was with firearms and knives too. We saw all of that growing up."
"All around us people were making money doing illegal things," Juan Carlos remembers. "It was hard to not get sucked into that lifestyle."
Their father had left home when they were young, leaving their mother Kathy to raise them and their sisters alone. To this day the twins are not in contact with their father. Their surname Velasquez is the name of their father, but they had fought for a long time under their mother's maiden name of Pires.
"They were known as Velasquez to start off, and they wanted to switch it back but the names had already stuck," says De Cubas Jr."
To better equip themselves for the street battles they frequently were a part of, the twins began to study boxing at 12 years old. Initially boxing was just a hobby, but before long they began to excel.
For two young men faced with the bleak reality of their surroundings, the opportunity to travel was a welcome incentive for displaying their talents.
"I was a world class amateur and world class amateurs fight all over the world," says Carlos. "I never thought I would go to Europe but through my talent I achieved that."
Juan Carlos, who has taken an interest in tourism, notes his 2006 trip to Cuba for an amateur tournament as his favorite travel destination.
"It was an amazing experience. What I liked is that it reminded me of Puerto Rico, only more old school. It has a great history there and it shows."
Now as professionals they hope to use boxing as a means to provide a better life for their family.
"The reason I fight is to get my family out of the bad life," Juan Carlos says. "I want to make it so they don't have to work another day in their lives."
"Our mother is our focus, our key," says Carlos. "Our mother is very very happy because she raised us alone from the beginnings and now we are becoming successful."
They were signed out of the amateurs by Luis DeCubas Sr., moving their base of operations to Miami, FL. Since then, they've also inked a deal with Golden Boy Promotions.
By the end of their first year as pros, managerial issues had sidelined them briefly. That's when Luis De Cubas Jr., who lists Joel Casamayor among his clients, stepped in and helped extricate the twins from that situation.
"Their managers started treating them like s**t for no reason," De Cubas Jr. says. "They couldn't even get in touch with their manager. They're doing their jobs, theres no reason for a manager to hold them back. He held them back a couple months when they should have been active. I felt like it was my duty to help them out."
Shelly Finkel, the high-profile manager who has guided the careers of Mike Tyson and the Klitschko brothers, has also climbed aboard to help them out.
"When a guy like Shelly Finkel gets involved," De Cubas Jr. says, "you know that these guys are the real deal."
In the time since they first became acquainted, De Cubas Jr. says they have matured greatly right before his eyes.
"They're a lot more calm now. In the amateurs and their first few fights they used to jump around a lot more. I can see with their experience that they're starting to sit down more. Especially Carlos, when he starts working off the jab he's very difficult to beat because of his size. They're gaining experience with every fight.
"There is something weird about these guys. Most fighters are crazy at this stage, but they're ready to make it to the top. Fast. They don't play around."
Their work ethic in the gym has taken on an equally serious demeanor, earning them a rough reputation for the way they train.
"In sparring sessions," De Cubas boasts, "a lot of guys go in there and think that it's a game. Then they get the living s**t beat out of them. Sometimes they need to hold back because it's hard to find sparring for them."
The timetable for a step up in competition is not too far off, De Cubas Jr. says. In a year or so, when their records are in the area of 16-0, they will be matched in tougher, more meaningful fights.
"I think they'll be ready to fight for world titles within a year. There's no reason to protect these kids, because then we'd just be holding them back."
To the twins, that's too long to wait.
"Right after ten fights I'm ready to step up," Carlos says. "After that I'll be ready for anyone in the world."
The twins have already fought on some significant cards, including last week's Wednesday Night Fights on ESPN2 at the Morongo Casino and Spa in California. For time constraint reasons only Carlos' fight made it to TV. Their next appearance is slated for September 13 on the undercard of the Joel Casamayor-Juan Manuel Marquez HBO PPV.
But through it all, from the ghetto to televised boxing cards, the twins have stuck together. Their bond, which has been tested many times during the course of their boxing careers, has seen them through all currents and obstacles.
"I get more nervous watching him fight than when I fight," Juan Carlos admits.
"We both know what it takes to be good boxers. We both work towards the same goals so we understand each other."
"Whenever either of us triumph, we win together," says Carlos. "Regardless of whatever anyone thinks, we're closer than any brothers can get."
To them, brotherhood is more valuable than any pugilistic laurel.