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My Night: When Michael Carbajal fulfilled a promise to his dad

Michael Carbajal
Michael Carbajal wins his first world title against Muangchai Kittikasem

IT was a long time ago – when I was five years old and I said to my dad, “Dad, I’m going to be a world champion.” He said, “Amigo, if you become a world champion always be the same, don’t ever change. Stay down to earth.” I see a bunch of athletes and they get all big-headed, they think they’re better than everyone else. Me, I’m just like everyone else.

Back then I was in the front porch with my dad and he showed me the basics. After a while, he told me, “You know what? There’s one thing, you’re going to be a champion.” And when I heard him say that I said to him, “I will, and I will retire a champion, too. Dad.”

So my best fight when I look back is the first time I ever won a world championship and that was against Muangchai Kittikasem. That boy right there could hit. I didn’t study him. When I was fighting, I never studied any of my opponents. I just did what I had to do.

That was my first world title fight and it was one of my hardest fights, right up there with the first “Chiquita” Gonzalez fight when he knocked me down two times. But I had so much dedication I thought, ‘What the hell am I doing on the ground?’ I came back and said, ‘I’m going to knock him out.’ And that’s what I did.

Even though it was my first shot, I wasn’t nervous against Kittikasem. Do you know why? It was because I was too confident in my ability to be nervous. Nerves are what scare people. Nervousness scares people.

I had trained hard and when you have confidence, you relax and you can fight. When you relax, you will tear anybody and everybody up. It is not easy to relax but you can learn.

I still cry when I think about that day, July 29, 1990, against Muangchai Kittikasem in the Coliseum [in Phoenix, where Carbajal is from]. Don’t make me cry talking about it. The atmosphere was amazing.

It was electric. My dad never shows emotion, but that day he was on his feet and screaming. I loved it.

My dad’s gone now. He died in 1994 and he wrote a lot. What I’m going to say makes me cry. Before he died he started writing and after he died I read the things he wrote. One of them said: “I’ve become the happiest man in the world right now because my son just became world champion.” I knew how proud he was of me.

Although that night with Kittikasem was the best, the fight I always wanted was with Ricardo [Lopez].

I never realised I would be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

In 2006 they called me and said, ‘You’re being inducted.’ I started crying right then, too.

I still don’t believe what I have done. Everyone says, “You were a great guy” and people say, “You have a great heart” but do you know where I get that from? My parents. My mom and dad showed me how to respect. I’m not better than anybody else.

I’m not big-headed. I hate athletes that think they’re too good. I’m just like you.

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