By Marco Garcia
This Saturday February 23rd, Kathy Duva of Main Events and Joe DeGuardia of Star Boxing return to The Paramount along with NBC Sports Network to televise the next installment of Fight Night. Bringing a solid card headlined by “The Fighting Pride of Huntington, New York” Chris Algieri 15-0 (7 KO’s) against the always tough Jose “Mangu” Peralta 10-1 (6 KO’s); the chance to showcase the next wave of great New York boxers has everyone on the show looking to impress, not only the home audience in Long Island, but also nationally on NBC Sports Network. In what should be a night of action packed fights throughout, we focus now on two New York brawlers looking to get in the spotlight.
The story of the underdog has been played out over the course of boxing’s history many times. Sometimes the underdog scores the upset and changes what the supposed predetermined outcomes of a fight’s results are supposed to be. In just about a week’s time Jonathan “Lil Big Man” Cuba will step in to the ring against all odds as he takes on Cletis “The Hebrew Hammer” Seldin, who is coming in to this bout with a 10-0 record and 7 consecutive knockout wins. The plan is turning the results of this battle around and flipping the script one more time for boxing’s history.
Entering this fight with a record of 6-4-1 (4 KO’s) is Cuba who trains out of Universal Boxing Gym in Queens, NY; who is used to going against the tide and fighting out of the toughest situations. It’s the challenge that brought him to the gym and what will drive him to step in the ring next Saturday. Being the former New York State Lightweight champion and coming off of a tough loss, the Dominican bomber is seeking redemption not only from the sport but for his career. Just like many boxers who are trying to make it up the ranks, Jonathan is balancing out life, work, school, and being a father with the demands of training at an elite level; one battle for the ring and another outside of it. The added pressure to perform though, hasn’t deterred “Lil Big Man” off track for this fight, if anything it has further motivated him to put the first blemish on his opponent’s record. We sat down with Jonathan Cuba and his coach/advisor Moises Roman Jr. to discuss his upcoming bout and what the future holds for this very exciting fighter.
Q: Jonathan thank you for taking time away from camp to answer a few questions. How have preparations gone for your upcoming fight against the dangerous Cletus Seldin?
A: It’s been pretty good, with my school schedule and with work it’s been very hard. With my coach and the team we’ve met up late nights and had sparring sessions at 10pm at night because we always stick together. We have bled at midnight, we get it going with our sparring sessions we’re ready for war, that’s what we train for.
Q: Where do you train out of and who have you used for your preparations and for sparring?
A: I train out of Universal Boxing Gym in Queens, NY. We’ve had about 4 different sparring partners and we had the pleasure to actually spar with the man who beat me for my title Edward Valdez. Those who know us know that we don’t have any animosity towards our opponent; after the fights we can go celebrate, we can buy each other a beer whatever. In the ring it’s a different story but with that said Valdez did come help us out, he knew we had a big fight coming and he showed a lot of love and respect and came to spar. The main guy inside the ring sparring and who helped me outside of the gym is Danny Gonzalez 2-0 1KO. They call him “El Gallo”, he’s one of the original members of the team we have seen him grow up from a little fat kid and now he’s a pro fighter doing his thing. He’ll come here at 9:30 at night and wait for me as I run to the gym from school to give us 6-8 rounds of hardcore sparring. Danny is definitely the main guy but we had an up and coming MMA fighter in Mike Prokop, who comes forward and uses a lot of pressure to mimic my opponent.
Q: How much do you know about your opponent and what sticks out the most about him as a fighter?
A: Nothing really sticks out, he’s 10-0 with 8 KO’s I guess that sticks out, but as far as I know he’s like a bull. He comes forwards and supposedly hits hard, supposedly he’s in great shape but we’ll find out.
Q: Coming off a tough loss and losing your New York State Lightweight title, How important is it for you to score the upset? What is motivating you to win?
A: I can say that my kids motivate me, my brother Cabito, my coach, the team. Really this is for me, I love this kind of stuff, I love war, I want to get in there and let the best man win I want the crowd to be cheering my name at some point during the fight. I live for this kind of stuff I just love the thrill of the battle.
Q: What do you feel is your greatest asset that you bring in to the ring?
A: My balls, can I say that? They say I supposedly hit hard, I’m always in good shape. I just don’t fear anything; that might be stupid; it might be good but I’m not afraid of anybody.
Q: A lot of Latino fighters have Spanish nicknames, what is the story behind the nickname “Lil Big Man”?
A: My coach gave me that name, it’s a long story but I’ll try to keep it short. A few people know my story; I have literally been defined as handicapped, by NY State or whoever. I am handicap and I’ve battled out of it, I’m supposed to be big looking at my family members I would probably be 6’2” or 6’3”. I’ve had surgeries that unfortunately have stopped my growth, I’m supposed to be big but I’m little so “Lil Big Man” that’s it.
Q: Going into this fight on the undercard of an event headlined by local favorite Chris Algieri on a card televised by NBC Sports Network, What’s next for you win or lose? Where do you go after this fight?
A: I mean I’m always going to be boxing, I love boxing. If I win I’m sure a lot of people are going to call me with fights. But I’m really right now focused on school I already talked to my coach and we’ll fight again in the summer when I can really just focus on boxing; and then whoever calls me out we will fight. Anybody who fights me at 100% I feel sorry for them.
Q: Is there anything you would like to say to your supporters and to the fight fans that are coming to see the card February 23rd?
A: To the supporters thank you! You know that’s my fuel, the fans. I’ve always been known to entertain and I’m going to keep trying to entertain, hopefully me entertaining the fans also gives me the win, I Just really want to say Thank you and it’s going to be a war.
Q: Coach Moises Roman Jr., as Jonathan’s trainer how has he been doing and what have you been specifically working on with him?
A: With the timing that we’ve have it’s been a 4-5 week camp; usually it would be up to 8 weeks. But we’ve been basically focusing on staying in the pocket, not spreading himself out too wide, staying inside, blocking shots, hitting off of contact, uppercuts and hooks, and not throwing too wide. I want him to throw a lot of jabs to the chest, a little bit more upper body but just staying in the pocket.
Q: What, if anything; can you tell us about the game plan going into this fight?
A: The strategy is all going to be about body shots, breaking the body down. We’re not trying to head hunt, this kid Seldin; I know him from the amateurs. We have fought with the same amateur team at the Empire Games, he was fighting out of Long Island and we were fighting out of New York City, we have followed him as an amateur and he has been at our gym to spar with my guys a bunch of times. What we’re looking at is applying pressure, to keep him on his back leg, give him fits, and keep him uncomfortable. The plan is to just keep digging to the body, no head shots! He’s stubborn and can take head shots so we look to break his body down.
Q: Thank you again for your time.
A: Thank you; we’ll be ready fight night!