The 22-year-old undefeated lightweight prospect fights with a composure that belies his age and a skill-set that indicates world championship potential.
Caicedo Sports Training Center in Miami, Florida, houses eight dormitories. It allows fighters and their trainer and manager, German Caicedo, to know where they are and that the fighters are seriously training.
If they’re not, German can count on “Crazy Mike,” as he’s known, a round 60-year-old Cuban who lives there. Crazy Mike will snitch on the fighters who are not working hard.
It’s common for Michel Rivera to be the lone shadowy figure rattling the building rafters when he is knocking around the speedball at three in the morning.
Crazy Mike has never dimed out Rivera. He’s never had to.
It may explain why Rivera, a vivacious 22-year-old lightweight with an 18-0 record, including 12 knockouts, will be causing problems when the COVID-19 pandemic settles and he’s able to get his 6-foot frame back into the ring.
Rivera was scheduled to fight in a title eliminator before the pandemic paralyzed the country. Caicedo knows when the old normal returns, Rivera will be primed to make his mark in the lightweight division.
“Michel is buying into the disciplined, hard-working culture that can really do something at 135,” said Caicedo, who trains and has led Luis Ortiz to heavyweight prominence. “Michel fits in well with the ambience of the training facility. I have six fighters who are there and all are contenders who want to compete and want to be the best.
“They all push each other hard and they never let each other slack. They do more than just wanting to get paid—and that’s the attitude in that gym, and that’s what I want from all my fighters. Michel is listed at 5-8, but he’s actually closer to 6-foot and can fight in the future at junior welter or at welterweight.”
None of this was supposed to happen to Rivera.
His parents did not want their son boxing. The Riveras were God-fearing people. There was no way Miguel and Miguelina Rivera were about to let their son, Michel, box. It was too violent. Boxing meant hitting other people, which was against their Christian faith.
So, his parents thought baseball was a better outlet at a young age. There was just one problem. When Michel was 14, he was a rather plump kid who sat at the end of the bench. One other thing: Michel hated baseball.
What changed everything was watching kids throwing punches in the dusty streets of Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. Michel tried it and liked it. That was enough to convince his father to get him involved with boxing.
“ I believe in my talent and I’m ready. I believe I was born ready. ” Undefeated Lightweight Prospect - Michel Rivera
That was Michel’s inception to the sport. His passion has not wavered since.
“My mom and dad let me box now, and they’re at all my fights,” said Rivera, laughing. “Yes, you can say baseball’s loss is boxing’s gain. And, I hated baseball anyway. I love boxing. I work hard.
“I feel ready to fight for a world title. I believe in my talent and I’m ready. I believe I was born ready. I loved boxing ever since I had that first fight in the street.”
It just took some doing to convince his parents that boxing was his future. Miguel and Miguelina had a talk and found that their son was not happy when he played baseball. Being chubby and sitting at the end of the bench did not help, either.
Though he’s 22, he looks like he’s 15. Prior to last fight, against Fidel Maldonado Jr., at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, in Biloxi, Mississippi, Rivera was carded because of his baby face.
Caicedo warns that you should not let Rivera’s youthful looks fool you.
He found out about Rivera through Claudio Marrero, a fighter Caicedo previously managed who is also from the Dominican Republic.
Rivera developed quickly.
When they spar, Rivera often gets the better of Daniyar Yeleussinov, the 2016 Kazakh welterweight Olympic gold medalist who is two weight classes heavier than Rivera.
It’s why Caicedo feels Rivera is ready for the prime fighters at 135.
Rivera is an instinctive fighter whose maturity in the ring is beyond his years. The veterans sometimes stop what they’re doing during training to watch Rivera when he’s sparring.
Rivera reminds Caicedo of Felix “Tito” Trinidad, based on Rivera’s potent left hook. But, Caicedo feels, Rivera is more athletic and has faster hands than Trinidad. Caicedo thinks there is a little Michael Nunn in him, too.
“Michel is a throwback who is very calm in the ring, and I have no doubt he’ll be a world champion once he gets an opportunity,” Caicedo said. “Michel is a centered young man, who was raised right and his parents deserve credit for that.
“I think Michel is a good matchup for Teofimo Lopez. I’m sure Michel thinks very highly of Teofimo. I have no problem saying that. Michel has more skill than Teofimo. Teofimo is a good fighter, but Michel is a more overall fighter. Teofimo can’t hang with Michel.”
Mom and dad, however, still worry each time their son climbs through the ropes.
“What can I say, mothers will be mothers, and fathers will be fathers,” Rivera said. “We get text messages from German every day, and I make sure I do them. I feel ready to fight for a world title soon.”
With mom and dad sitting ringside.
- Michel Rivera