David Hopper of 8CN caught up with junior middleweight prospect Hugo “The Boss” Centeno Jr. (19-0, 10 KOs). The 22-year-old from Oxnard, California stands 6-feet-2 and has a 78-inch reach. Centeno is signed with Golden Boy Promotions and managed by Joel De La Hoya, the older brother of Oscar De La Hoya. He will fight undefeated prospect Julian Williams (13-0-1) on Sept. 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The scheduled 10-round bout will be part of a tripleheader that includes a welterweight rematch between Shawn Porter and Julio Diaz and a Badou Jack-Marco Antonio Periban super middleweight showdown. The action will be televised live on Fox Sports 2.
DH: How are you doing?
HC: I’m doing well.
DH: I heard you just got done with training for the day.
HC: Yeah, I just got done with some intense physical training right now.
DH: How’s camp been going?
HC: It’s been going great. We’re training extremely hard, harder than ever before actually, picking it up a notch.
DH: Are you training in Oxnard, California?
HC: Yeah, I was actually born and raised here in Oxnard, California. It’s where I also train. A few days out of the week I’ll head over to the Wild Card Boxing Gym [in Los Angeles] and get sparring there.
DH: Have you been sparring with some well-known boxers?
HC: Yeah, I’ve been sparring with Wale Omotoso. His nickname is “Lucky Boy.” His last fight was with Jesse Vargas. It’s some great work. He’s teaching me a lot. He has a lot of experience as well.
DH: Your upcoming fight with Julian Williams will be your second scheduled 10-rounder. In your first 10-rounder this past March you won a unanimous decision over KeAndrae Leatherwood. How was your conditioning in that 10-round fight? Did you feel fatigued at all in the later rounds?
HC: No, believe it or not, I was still ready to go a couple more rounds. I felt great and my conditioning was great. I feel like my conditioning will be even better for this fight. Like I told you, the training has been phenomenal. I feel like the conditioning that I have right now is ready for a 10-round fight.
DH: Williams comes in to the fight undefeated as well. He is coming off an 8-round unanimous decision victory over veteran Joachim Alcine. What do you think of the boxing abilities of Williams? Have you got a chance to watch much film of him?
HC: I’ve only gotten to watch a couple fights of his. I haven’t watched his most recent fight. I do know he’s a smart fighter. He’s a straight up stand-up guy. He’s not in there to mess around or hug or fight dirty. He’s a straight up clean fighter and so am I. We’re going to go in there and give the crowd a great show. He comes to knock you out. He’s a power puncher. But I have a good game plan for him. Me and my team have come up with a good game plan, and I’m excited.
DH: Do you expect Williams to be the toughest challenge of your pro career so far?
HC: Most definitely, I don’t want to say it’s a big step up but it’s a step up. All my fights I train like it’s going to be for a world title. I don’t take no one easily or lightly. I train hard for every single fighter.
DH: Your fight will be held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas just two days before the biggest boxing event in years, Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Canelo Alvarez, takes place there. I would imagine there’s a good chance for a big turnout for your fight with all the fans in town. Talk about what it means to you to be fighting professionally at the MGM Grand for the first time.
HC: I’m excited. I’m extremely excited. I can’t thank my manager enough for giving me this great opportunity. I can’t wait. I know it’s going to be some great exposure. Like I said earlier, I’m extremely excited for this fight. I’m really looking forward to giving the crowd a great turnout.
DH: In your last fight you KO’d Isaac Mendez 46 seconds in to the first round. For the boxing fans who missed it, talk about your performance in that win.
HC: Yeah definitely, I came in and felt him out a little bit. He tried coming at me with some wild punches. I saw my openings to the body and I took it. He tried to fight the body shot and he just couldn’t take it and he went down. The ref counted him out and that was it.
DH: You have now been a professional boxer for about three and a half years. How do you feel like you have grown and improved as a pro?
HC: I’ve learned a lot of little things that make a big difference from when I first started. I first started coming out a little wild not having to worry about the later rounds. I feel like I learned how to develop and by conditioning well for the 10-round fights and 8-round fights, just a lot of little things that make a big difference. I’m sparring with all these world champions, such as Peter Quillin, [Saul] Alvarez when he was getting ready for his last fight with Austin Trout, Sergio Martinez, Alfredo Angulo. I’ve gotten to work with all these guys and it’s just awesome. It’s helped me a lot.
DH: With you and guys like Brandon Rios and Mikey Garcia fighting out of your hometown of Oxnard, the city has become a boxing hotbed. What’s it like being a part of that?
HC: It’s awesome being a part of this hotbed that’s going on right now in Oxnard. I take more honor in fighting in it to know that I’m from here. I was born and raised here in Oxnard. I’m not coming in from anywhere else. It’s an honor for me to be able to represent my hometown.
DH: Have you worked with trainer Robert Garcia at all?
HC: No, I haven’t worked with him at all. It’s just been me and my dad since Day 1. I started boxing when I was 7, and it’s been me and my dad the whole way. It’s worked. It’s been going great.
DH: You have a rangy, lanky build with a 78-inch wingspan, which is longer than most junior middleweights. Do you feel like your reach advantage makes a difference in your fights?
HC: I do. I’m also taller than most of my opponents and since I know how to use it to my advantage, once I find my distance against an opponent I feel it works to my advantage great.
DH: Other than the obvious goal of eventually winning a world title, what are your goals in boxing?
HC: That’s my main goal, but just to fight the best. I don’t feel like I’ll be able to call myself one of the top world pound-for-pound fighters if I don’t fight the best and beat the best. To call myself the best I want to beat the best. I want to fight whoever is a world champion when I get there.
DH: As I mentioned before, your fight will kick off the Mayweather-Alvarez weekend. Do you plan on attending the Mayweather-Alvarez fight?
HC: Yeah, I’ll give my manager a call and see if he can set something up, and I’ll go check it out and see if it’s still possible. I know the fight is sold out. Most definitely I’ll be sticking around for the weekend.
DH: What is your prediction for the fight?
HC: Like I was telling you earlier, I’ve gotten the chance to work with Alvarez and he’s an extremely strong fighter but I feel Mayweather is too quick on his toes, his boxing skills are too superior, and I feel like it’s going to be a long night for Alvarez.
DH: Do you see Mayweather taking another unanimous decision?
HC: Yeah, I feel like it will go to a unanimous decision for Floyd.
DH: Boxing seems to have a loyal fan base but its popularity is nowhere near that of more mainstream sports like football and basketball. From your observation and experience, what are some things you feel need to happen in order for boxing to become more popular?
HC: Honestly, I feel like this whole Top Rank-Golden Boy feud needs to come to an end because there are just fighters within Golden Boy fighting each other or fighters within Top Rank fighting one another. I feel like since they’re the two biggest promotional companies and they should fight one another like how it used to be. They keep all the world titles to themselves. All the titles stay within Golden Boy or whatever titles are with Top Rank stay with Top Rank. It’s not really calling themselves the pound-for-pound fighters if they’re not fighting the best.
DH: In order for the sport to really prosper the best have got to fight the best and the promotion companies really need to put their differences aside so that can happen.
HC: Most definitely, I feel like that would bring the sport a little more together. Like you were saying, with the loyal following that boxing has they see what’s going on.
DH: Anything you want to add or say to your fans?
HC: Yeah, I want to tell my fans thank you for all your support and all the people who have followed me from Day 1, I truly appreciate it. I want to thank my friends over at Crosscountry Mortgage. They’ve been helping me out a lot. I truly appreciate all the help my whole team has given me. My Twitter and Instagram is @HugoBoss805. My Facebook is Hugo Boss Centeno.