A breakout moment in the career of Mateo Tapia could take place on a marquee night for Australian boxing.
With the wider mainstream public tuning in on Wednesday night to see a litmus test for Tim Tszyu on Main Event, the unbeaten Tapia could steal the show in his Australian title challenge against Renold Quinlan.
Just ten fights into his professional career, this is an opportunity that Tapia (10-0, 6 KOs) couldn’t turn down, according to head trainer Tony Del Vecchio.
“We had an idea that we were going to fight on this card roughly twelve weeks ago,” Del Vecchio told Aus-Boxing.
“There was talk that it was going to be a title and we knew it was going to be against someone good. Once we found out it was going to be Renold Quinlan, we said done.
“We spoke to MTK Global from the headquarters in Dubai as well as Mateo’s management and everyone wanted this fight.”
Despite being at the development stage of his career, the 21-year-old is seen by many as the best prospect in Australian boxing.
Boasting an abundance of natural ability and speed to burn, it’s easy to see why the Tijuana-born Tapia was swiftly secured by European boxing firm MTK Global.
The benefits of signing with a large-scale entity include the exposure of fighting aboard, which Tapia enjoyed in April, ousting durable Gaganpreet Sharma in eight thrilling rounds.
Having survived a shaky moment in the final round, Tapia rallied to score a career-best win, one that Del Vecchio believes will benefit him greatly against the hard-hitting Quinlan.
“Mateo has really matured with his boxing knowledge, especially for this fight,” he explained.
“During this camp, we’ve watched videos – we’ve broken it down – and it’s now all been put on paper. We’ve trained to a matrix and we’re not going to deter whatsoever. It’s like we know Renold Quinlan intimately now.
“Things happened in Dubai and the opponent was really tough. He had a chin of granite, it was short-notice fight and a shorter camp. We took some things from Dubai, with patience being one.
“Mateo did have him down, but he was tough and took us deep. What we learnt from Mateo’s win over Adam Copland, he came out like a bull at a gate, and it was the same thing here. We want him to calm down now because he has rounds.
“We didn’t think Sharma was a big puncher, but it was a heavy track and your heels would be touching the canvas. Adversity is for you and it is for your opponent as well.
“I think he now strives for that after getting through it. And when he got caught from a body shot, he covered up and withdrew and came together.”
Spending the majority of his camp sparring with Tim Tszyu, Del Vecchio believes their entertaining sessions will be mutually beneficial for all involved.
“The work has been absolutely brilliant for both,” he added.
“Mateo now knows he has the fitness because we’ve trained for so long. The fitness is there and he can go ten rounds having 60 rounds of sparring with Tim alone. He’s good for it.
“It’s been both backwards and forward. There are some days where Tim is exceptional, and the next day it’s Mateo. Even though there’s a weight difference for Mateo, there’s definitely a mutual respect of each others skill and power.
“I think with both Mateo and Tim, they’ve got pedigree that’s been shoved into them. We all know about Tim, forget about his dad, Tim has had the same sort of background.
“Even with the rounds they’ve had, people would’ve paid to see that sparring.”
Del Vecchio has worked with a plethora of talented fighters out of his esteemed Bondi Boxing Club, including former titleholder TJ Doheny, Ben McCulloch, Darragh Foley and Virgil Kalakoda among others.
For this reason, the respect tactician knows talent when he sees it, and is equally aware of the threat that Quinlan (12-4, 8 KOs) possesses over ten rounds.
“Renold has got a great jab with some speed behind it, I think we’ll need to get that range sorted pretty quickly,” he said.
“Especially with the oddities of boxing, Renold is good at throwing things from different angles. You know theres experience there, especially with who he’s fought.
“He beat Daniel Geale and has competitive losses to Chris Eubank and Damien Hooper. I know those two fights were losses, and the more recent one against Joshua Buatsi, but the experience he’s had in those big fights is crazy.
“If Mateo tries to go out and not box in a sense, and starts to try and brawl, it suits Renold who is a good brawler, whereas Mateo is your consummate boxer. It’s a hard fight, but a good fight.”
In the past, Del Vecchio has guided fighters who have chosen to bypass the Australian title. But with Tapia, Del Vecchio sees the benefit of capturing the coveted national strap.
“In terms of prestige, people have got to realise that the Aussie title is really important,” he said.
“I’ve been guilty of bypassing it in the past with other fighters. The national title used to carry some weight in many divisions, including super middleweight, wer’e looking to fix that now along with the ANBF.
“Make no mistake, we’re not here to rush. The Aussie title is something you can win and defend, and we want the prestige of the title.
“Even though people don[t realise sometimes that Mateo is Mexican and born in Tijuana, he’s a proud Australian and came here when he was four. He’s a classic Aussie kid that loves surfing and Australian culture.
“He wants to show how important the Aussie title is to him.”
The night looms as an important one for Del Vecchio and his Sydney-based gym, with Mickey Pengue opening the night against Isaac Buckley in an Australasian title fight.
“Mickey is my nephew, he didn’t have a big amateur career, but he’s very talented,” he concluded.
“Stylistically he’s in a good fight. He’s gaining experience in the gym, training alongside some of the best guys in the country. I have a guy that’s so hungry and has nothing to lose.”
Photo: Warren S Photography