Interview with Héctor Javier Velazco, “El Artillero”

By Gabriel Leão on January 25, 2018
Interview with Héctor Javier Velazco, “El Artillero”
“They didn’t like it much as we are asking for our rights so they aren’t down with us.”

“In boxing they took away from us the social work, the syndicate, the image rights and even our honor as we have kids to feed…”

With his take no prisoners style Argentine Héctor Javier Velazco, 44, became part of his country’s pantheon of world champions when he forced Hungarian Andras Galfi to quit after the 8th round of their 2003 slugfest. When they met the interim World Boxing Organization Middleweight was on the line. It was the greatest night of “El Artillero’s” storied career and it was made even sweeter by the fact that his interim status was erased after injuries prevented then champion Harry Simon from making his mandatory title defense.

After winning the title, Velazco was pressed to fight Germany’s Felix Sturm. The match up, on Sturm’s home turf, was orchestrated by Velazco’s manager, the man who was supposed to take care of his interests! It was the first of many contests that “El Artillero” was compelled to take for small paydays and big risks. A situation that he saw and still sees happening to many of his compatriots. Recently his former promoter Oscar Rivero was determined by Argentine Justice to pay 5 years Velazco boxed for him and wasn’t paid.

Having walked through a path of injustice Velazco decided to create A.De.Bo.Ar (Asociación Defensa de Boxeadores Argentinos—Argentine Association the Defend Argentine Boxers). In this interview for Héctor Velazco (37-9-1, 16 KO’s) doesn’t pull his punches and tells the ordeal his compatriots are facing and why Argentina isn’t even bigger than it already is in the boxing world.

Which situation hurt you the most in boxing?

I felt very disappointed when on a Wednesday in 2003 during a press conference within three days for my first world middleweight WBO title defense—the most rentable alongside the heavyweights in the card—they changed my rival and offered me US$40 thousand. I didn’t accept it but the pressure put on me by promoter Osvaldo Rivero and the president of the World Boxing Organization made me step up or they would take away my belt. That was a very saddening passage for me knowing that there was the possibility to face (Oscar) de la Hoya.

After the match the judges stuck with Sturm and the only judge from the American continent, a Mexican, gave the match to me by two points. I thought that it was everything but then I had four more matches in Germany for European titles and I’ve was always been economically taken advantage of.

In 2008, back in Argentina as I was a sparring partner for Hernán “Pigu” Garay who would fight at the traditional Luna Park I got told in the nick of time that I would be boxing in the same card. A journalist who came to watch our sessions to write a story on Garay told me that I was on the program. Tuesday night Osvaldo Rivera called me inquiring why I said I wasn’t fighting so I told him that I wasn’t going to fight and then he said to me that I was going to face Venezuelan Gusmyr Perdomo. That was how I knew I was going into the ring. I was weighing 83kg—as one needs to be around this size to share the ring with Garay.

I had to drop 6kg in short notice to get into the super middleweight division. Definitely I wasn’t at my peak. Just before I got in the ring I was informed that the match was for an international belt. I took many shots in the first round and fell twice. The bell rang and we got into the second and last round. I went for the kill. I jumped with everything I had delivering a straight punch but it didn’t connect and I felt to the canvas. I got back—this time the referee didn’t make the count—but the Venezuelan came very quickly to finish the job with powerful strikes to the side of my head and the doctors got in there and stopped the bout without much glory or honor.

I was ashamed of my performance while my manager Rivero left the scene laughing. My lawyer and friend Miriam Peral insulted him because she was the one housing me and knew the sacrifice I went through and also the liar that he is. Peral was very angry that night and told me that we had to go to the court. So that was how we started to work on Adeboar.

How did it propel you to create Adeboar?

Peral started to write a law project while I assembled many of the more known boxers like (Juan Martin) “Látigo” Coggi, (Sergio Víctor) Palma, (Jorge) Castro, (Carolina) Duer, (“Nacho”) Artime Vazquez and many from the amateur ranks. We went to the congress but politicians started to use us.

Do Argentine politicians show any interest? Do they try to help you?

We lived during 12 years under the Kirchner family presidency that promised us a law that would regulate the activity so we could have social work, image rights, worthy purses, retirement and other stuff but they didn’t kept their word and I suspect the government also had ties with FAB and the promoters.

Since Adeboar’s creation until now was there any real change?

We are not only raising awareness among boxers about being abused but our numbers are growing. In the other hand sometimes people let us down and go to the other side where lies the power and the boxers syndicate which is not here for us.

How do the bad conditions in sport influence the success of Argentine boxers, be it the amateurs or the elite professionals?

In boxing they took away from us the social work, the syndicate, the image rights and even our honor as we have kids to feed.

How have managers and promoters reacted?

They didn’t like it much as we are asking for our rights so they aren’t down with us. This is what makes me fight for Justice. I started a judicial battle with television that I’m winning and I’ve also started another battle with my former promoter to pay me what he owns me and according to Justice he must do it. (Editor’s note: the Argentine Justice system decided that Rivero owned him for 5 years of boxing.)

Today I realized that there is a syndicate that must take care of the boxers but they are sided with FAB (Federación Argentina de Box—Argentine Boxing Federation). Sadly the syndicate named BAA (Boxeadores Agremiados Argentinos—United Argentine Boxers) is a pigsty and they have ties with the State and the FAB. Politicians and managers are stealing and we the boxers come from underprivileged households without Education so they make us sign draconian contracts knowing that many boxers are illiterate and many others don’t understand about Laws. This is the pigsty! This is my anger and this is my struggle to get back what has always been ours but today is just a millionaire business between FAB, BAA, politicians, managers and promoters.

Gabriel Leão is currently writing a biography of Eder Jofre.

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  1. gordon marino 07:45am, 01/26/2018

    A window in boxing in Argentina. Good piece. Thanks

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