Julaton aims for the top with Salazar bout

For three-time junior featherweight champion Ana Julaton, competing on a stage like the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas next month will be a dream come true.

If things go her way this weekend, her dream could become reality.

The 33-year-old Julaton (12-3-1, 2 KOs) is scheduled to fight Celina Salazar in a 10-round bout Saturday night from Cancun, Mexico.

Should she walk away victorious, the Daly City native could propel herself towards a rumored bout with women’s bantamweight champion Yazmin Rivas on the televised undercard of the highly-anticipated megafight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez on Sept. 14.

While the fight has yet to be confirmed or denied, Julaton told SFBay she is primarily focused on taking care of business with Salazar inside the ring:

“It will be a great fight (with Salazar) and a great opportunity to showcase women’s boxing. I’ve always said women’s boxing is a highly competitive sport and I am so thankful that Golden Boy Promotions and Orion Sports Management were able to put this fight together for me.”

The fight, which will air on Fox Deportes in the United States, will be Julaton’s third consecutive – and fourth overall – in Mexico. In her last outing, she disposed of Abigail Ramos in just 19 seconds of the first round.

Julaton told SFBay she loves fighting south of the border and believes she has a home field advantage because her previous bouts have taken place in the Yucatan Peninsula:

“The support I’ve received there has been amazing and the people there have always made me feel at home.”

Despite having only fought seven bouts professionally, Salazar’s record of 4-1-2 with 1 knockout should not convince anyone that she’s easy work for Julaton.

In her last outing this past September, the San Antonio, Texas, native showed a strong effort in losing a six-round majority decision to Melinda Cooper in Las Vegas on the undercard of interim WBC super lightweight champion Lucas Matthysse’s 10th-round technical knockout of Olusegun Ajose.

Though Cooper boxed well from a distance throughout the fight, Salazar never stopped coming forward and landed her fair share of punches. Her best round came in the fourth, where she constantly landed her right hand and punctuated the round with a crisp left hook.

Despite Salazar’s efforts, judge Duane Ford surprisingly scored the bout 60-54 in Cooper’s favor, while judge Lisa Giampa had Cooper winning 59-55. Judge Robert Bennett, however, scored the bout even 57-57.

Julaton completed training camp in Vegas on Monday. She has held her previous training camps there since 2011 and says the heat helps her prepare for fighting outdoors in Mexico.

She told SFBay that she also loves Vegas’ fight culture, which has been beneficial during those previous camps:

“Although there are no professional sports teams in Las Vegas, the fight events schedule is active – and I love it! Attending live fights is another great preparation activity I incorporate in my training … I love using opportunities like this to feed off of the energy of great champions and legends of the sport.”

Nicknamed “The Hurricane,” the San Francisco-born Julaton made her professional debut in November 2007, defeating Margherita Valentini via four-round unanimous decision on the undercard of Saul Roman’s split decision win over former junior middleweight champion Kassim Ouma.

Julaton was all game from the opening bell, dropping Valentini with a sharp overhand right just 10 seconds into the first round. She told SFBay she did not expect to knock Valentini down so quickly and acknowledged her opponent’s durability and world class experience:

“I knew Valentini was a tough fighter given the experience she had in the sport, so even after I knocked her down again in the fourth, time was running out. If it was a six-rounder, it may have been a different story.”

Julaton made history in 2009 by becoming the first Filipino-American boxer to win the IBA and WBO women’s junior featherweight championships.

She defeated Kelsey Jeffries – who had 41 professional victories at the time – that September via majority decision to win the vacant IBA championship. She then beat Donna Biggers via unanimous decision to win the vacant WBO world title almost three months later.

After losing a unanimous decision to Lisa Brown in March 2010, Julaton regained the WBO title that June with a split decision win over Maria Villalobos.

She successfully defended it twice in 2011 before losing it to Yesica Patricia Marcos last March via unanimous decision. Julaton’s only other loss came via split decision to Dominga Olivo in August 2008.

Prior to becoming a professional boxer, Julaton studied martial arts for 20 years and also served as a full-time instructor. But a lecture on martial arts and boxing from Angelo Reyes – her current trainer and manager – ultimately inspired her to pursue fighting professionally:

“Reyes is an effective coach and he was able to give me a lot of perspective about boxing and the business of it. There’s more to boxing than punching – and I appreciated that.”

Julaton, who has also been trained by Nonito Donaire Sr. and Hall-of-Famer Freddie Roach, told SFBay that she’s lucky to have such a passionate trainer like Reyes who not only cares about his fighters, but also takes it upon himself to understand what exactly makes a great trainer:

“I believe every great fighter had that other person with them who understood who they are more than anyone else. For (Mike) Tyson, it was Cus D’Amato; for (Manny) Pacquiao, that was Freddie Roach and Buboy Fernandez … so I can best describe Angelo as my Cus D’Amato.”

As a proud Bay Area native, Julaton is grateful for all the support she has received from her family and peers, especially those who have supported her cause to change the image of women’s boxing – and women’s sports, in general.

The Salazar bout will be another opportunity for Julaton to not only further enhance her reputation as one of the sport’s hottest female fighters, but also continue fighting as an ambassador for her fellow female athletes.

Though boxing is a male-dominated sport, Julaton told SFBay respect is all she wants out of it and that she hopes to be recognized as a fighter who learned the rules of boxing — and broke all of them:

“The late (Pro Football Hall-of-Famer) Al Davis once said, ‘Don’t take what people are willing to give you – take what you want!’ I refuse to believe that I can’t have what I want in boxing because I am a woman. I will get everything I want in boxing because I am a woman.”