October 17, 2020 was the last time Alex Saucedo stepped into the ring as a pro boxer and it could have been Saucedo’s last day on Earth.
For Saucedo to be sitting across Mark Kriegel in Tulsa, Oklahoma being interviewed on ESPN+ six months later is nothing short of a miracle, a blessing after Saucedo suffered two brain bleeds from a gruesome fight against Arnold Barboza Jr. The injuries suffered in the fight against Barboza ensured that Saucedo would never fight again. For someone to not only bounce back from those injuries but to also be speaking and doing interviews in front of a global audience is incredible.
Saucedo understands he is happy to be alive and able to spend time with his family, but it doesn’t make his new reality, one without fighting, any easier to process.
“To tell you the truth, it’s been difficult figuring out that I’m not fighting anymore. I’ve been fighting my whole life. It’s just been difficult. But at the same time, I have my kids. I have my beautiful daughter. I have my beautiful boy and they take all my energy. I’m full-time at home with them. I don’t have to spend 10 weeks in training camp. It’s a blessing to do that,” Saucedo told Kriegel.
Looking back on the fight, Saucedo still feels like it was all a dream, a blur that still borders on the surreal. Saucedo still can’t quite remember everything from that fight from memory, needing to go back and watch the fight on tape.
“It kind of feels like a dream to me. I go back and I don’t remember what happened in the first round and I just remembered it being like a dream. That was the headbutt round. I see the headbutt (on replay) and I can see why I don’t remember that first round. In that dream, I had a headache the whole fight. It was one of those dreams where you want to wake up and run but you’re stuck. That’s how that fight felt. I wanted to throw punches, but now I know. I had a subdural hemorrhage in my brain. I remember being mad at myself for not throwing punches and not throwing combinations. I felt like I was stuck. It’s the sport of boxing.”Alex Saucedo on his October 2020 fight against Arnold Barboza Jr.
The 26-year-old Saucedo has been able to keep himself busy, working with young fighters in the gym and undertaking some non-boxing projects. He says it takes his mind away from fighting, but looking at Saucedo, there is still that hint of regret in his voice, regret on how things ended.
“It’s hard. The process is hard. I started training some young fighters out of Oklahoma City. I got clients to help out. I bought a couple of homes that I’m remodeling. I’m keeping myself busy. Those things help keep my mind busy and not think about not being here anymore,” Saucedo said.
Throughout his career, Saucedo has been known to give fans memorable moments and fights. His seven-round war against Lenny Zappavigna from 2018 is still remembered fondly by many today, dubbing it one of the year’s best boxing fights. In his lone world title fight (later that year), Saucedo was perhaps moments away from capturing the WBO junior welterweight title after dropping then-champion Maurice Hooker to the canvas. Hooker would go on to score a seventh-round TKO win against Saucedo to retain the title.
Sadly, his dream of being on top of the mountain as a world champion was never reached. What’s worse is that he never got to end his career on his own terms. For an athlete to be forced to give up on his dream for circumstances beyond their control right as they were in their physical prime, it creates a void that is not easy to fill. It’s depressing at times and all one can do sometimes is to keep themselves busy so as to not think much about the past.
Sometimes, it becomes too hard to keep it together. Being so close to a ring where Joe Smith Jr. would end up winning the WBO light heavyweight title later that night, Saucedo couldn’t help but break down after the interview with Kriegel wrapped up and the cameras kept rolling on him.
Even during the interview, one can tell that his premature retirement is something he is still coming to terms with. One thing he is sure of is that he does not blame Barboza for what happened last year.
“Arnold Barboza called me a couple of days after I got out of the hospital and that he’s been receiving messages saying he was dirty, this and that. I told him, ‘This is boxing. You continue with your career.’ I wish him the best, same for him and all the boxers in the sport. This is a tough sport and I take my hat to every one of those fighters. Not just anyone is going to step in to do it,” Saucedo said.
However, as he comes to grips with his new life away from the ring, Saucedo understands that the support he’s received from the boxing community is immeasurable and he is forever grateful for what he’s been able to accomplish.
It’s going to be a long road for Saucedo, one that will have its ups and downs. One day, he’ll be excited about what life post-boxing will look like and on some days, he’ll think about “What ifs?” and the end of his boxing career.
But time heals all wounds and it will be the case for Saucedo. He’s been fighting throughout his whole life and has emerged victorious many times. He’ll no doubt emerge victorious in life by staying strong and fighting through it.
That’s the message he wants to impart on his seven-year-old daughter Nicole and his two-year-old son Thiago.
“[My message to them is] that life is tough. That life is a trip. Things like this happen a lot and you have to be strong and move forward. That’s life,” Saucedo said.