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Charly Suarez’s path to title shot takes detour with replacement foe Luis Coria

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Charly Suarez (L) lands a jab on Yohan Vasquez during their bout in August of 2023. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

After three decades in boxing, Charly Suarez has learned to roll with the punches outside the ring as well.

For the past several months, Suarez had been expecting to fight fellow unbeaten contender Henry Lebron on April 13 at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Tex. Those plans changed a couple weeks ago when Lebron withdrew, leaving Suarez to face replacement foe Luis Coria in an eight-round junior lightweight bout on the Top Rank promoted card, which is headlined by the ring return of heavyweight prospect Jared Anderson against Ryad Merhy.

Switching from Lebron, a counterpunching southpaw, to an aggressive orthodox fighter required a significant adjustment to training. Fortunately for Suarez and team, there are plenty of right-handed boxers at the Top Rank gym in Las Vegas, where they have been training for the past three months.

“That’s the way it is in boxing, there are situations like that…so I’m always ready,” said the 35-year-old Suarez (16-0, 9 knockouts) of San Isidro in Davao del Norte province, Philippines.

Trainer/manager Delfin Boholst says that Suarez’s extensive amateur experience, which culminated in a spot at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, is why he can adjust easily to a change in opponent.

Charly Suarez celebrates after defeating Yohan Vasquez. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

Coria (15-6, 7 KOs) may have more losses on his record, but the 25-year-old from the southern California town of Perris has shown himself to be a tough out since turning pro in 2016. The Robert Garcia-trained fighter has never been stopped, having knocked down junior lightweight contender Robson Conceicao in a close decision loss in 2020, and narrowly losing to favored boxers Enrique Vivas and Adam Lopez.

Coria’s last bout was in December, when he lost a decision to once beaten fighter Omar Salcido, also in Texas. Suarez is fighting for the second straight time in the U.S., having defeated Yohan Vasquez last August in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“He’s young and a fighting boxer. I’ve seen his fights, he is good,” said Suarez, who is assisted in the corner by his cousin and fellow ex-Olympian Mark Anthony Barriga.

“I can’t say that I will knock him out but I will do my best to win the fight.”

“Luis Coria is a very durable fighter. He has a Mexican heart,” said Boholst.

“I’ve seen his movements and Charly can handle this guy as long as he’s in great shape. Coria has losses but he’s a very durable fighter. We don’t want to give him any type of chance. This is boxing, if we make a mistake you’re done.”

Despite the switch in opponent, the fight brings high stakes for Suarez, who is rated no. 5 by the IBF and no. 11 by the WBO. Suarez says he has been told by Top Rank matchmakers that a win over Coria is likely to lead to a fight against Andres Cortes (21-0, 12 KOs), a hard-hitting contender from Las Vegas who is coming off stoppages over Bryan Chevalier and Xavier Martinez in his last two fights.

Suarez, who is fighting for the second straight time in the U.S., hopes that keeping his winning streak will lead to a title fight against IBF junior lightweight titleholder Joe Cordina, who defeated Suarez by split decision in their bout at the 2016 Olympics.

“For now I need to win this fight,” said Suarez. “One step at the time.”

Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the New York Daily News, Rappler and The Guardian, and is part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected].

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