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Dominican prospect Alejandro Paulino faces first step-up opponent against D’Angelo Keyes

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by Francisco Salazar | 

Carlos Adames, Alberto Puello, Hector Garcia, and Luis Rosa are all fighters from the Dominican Republic who have found success in boxing.

Alejandro Paulino wants to add his name to that list.

The unbeaten junior lightweight will face D’Angelo Keyes tonight at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The eight-round bout will precede the main event bout between fringe junior middleweight contender Chordale Booker and Greg Vendetti.

Both fights will stream live on Swerve Combat (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).

Paulino (15-0, 13 knockouts), who was born in the Dominican Republic and now resides in New London, Connecticut, last fought on August 12, knocking out Julian Evaristo Aristule in the opening round. The victory over Aristule took place almost three months after Paulino stopped journeyman Jonathan Perez in the sixth round.

The 25-year-old will face his first serious test, on paper, against Keyes, who was stopped by Oscar Duarte in his last fight on May 27. Paulino believes he is ready to face the likes or Keyes to move forward in his career. 

“I’m very motivated to get the win,” Paulino told The Ring Thursday afternoon. “(Keyes) has a good resume and a good record, but I don’t think he’s on my level. That’s what I get from him. I need to impress (tonight) and do what I have to do. He does have experience, but this is a good fight for me (at this stage in my career).”

Paulino fought four times in 2023 against modest opposition at 130 and 135 pounds. He is committed to campaigning as a junior lightweight and facing opposition who will challenge him inside the ring.

“I want to keep fighting those who will put me in a position to one day fight for a world title belt,” said Paulino, who is promoted by CES Boxing’s Jimmy Burchfield. “I want to push myself and face the best. After my fight (tonight), I want to face unbeaten guys or those who are close to my level.”

Paulino made his pro debut in May 2021 at the age of 22. Prior to fully committing to boxing, Paulino was a high school state wrestling champion in Connecticut. 

Since making the transition from wrestling to boxing, and not having a lengthy amateur career, manager Roland Estrada has been impressed with Paulino’s ability to learn in the gym and gain experience and exposure.

“(Alejandro) is one of the most dedicated fighters I’ve had the pleasure to train,” Estrada told The Ring. “This kid drives from Connecticut to Providence (Rhode Island), 90 minutes, four days a week, to train. Probably drives past 30 boxing gyms along the way. That’s dedication. (He’s a) quick learner, asks a lot of questions and is constantly trying to implement that knowledge into his sparring. The sky is the limit for this kid. Hard work and a little bit of luck is all we need.”

Paulino believes in activity and learning as much as possible.

“It’s important to me to be active,” said Paulino. “I started late in boxing and I didn’t have a lot of amateur experience. Every fight, I feel like I improve and get better. I’m learning on the job. I hope to fight again in March. I’m going to see how well I do. I want to fight four-five times this year.”

The Dominican fight scene has excelled in recent years. Carlos Adames is on the verge of a world title shot at 160 pounds. Alberto Puello and Hector Garcia recently held titles at 140 and 130 pounds, respectively.

Paulino is glad to be a part of this movement, acknowledging the talent at the moment in the amateurs and prospects in the pro game.

“There’s a new wave of fighters from the Dominican Republic. There’s a talented group that was part of the Olympic team. Throughout the island, there is a lot of talent. I’m very proud to represent them as well.”

As he continues down a path toward contender status, Paulino stays grounded, thanks to his family. He also hopes to continue to improve his skill-set as he hopes to face the upper echelon of the 130-pound division.

“I’m not one to talk a lot. I want to prove myself in the ring. I have a lot of confidence, but my family doesn’t like showboating. I do my work in the ring and let my fists do the talking.

“I want to get in a position to fight for a world title at 130 pounds. I’m big for my weight, so I want to see how well I do until I move up to lightweight. I would like to win a world title belt and then move up to 140 pounds. Those are my goals.”

Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]

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