Grudge Match

At the Fight CAPITAL Training Center in Las Vegas, former UNLV boxer Henry Namauu cultivates his split personality. He loves the skill and poetry of the sport, but when the bell rings he knows he needs to be a fighter: aggressive, driven and ready to finish off opponents. It’s a lesson he learned well during a bitter loss to former champ Victor Barragan two years ago.

Namauu (9-3, 5 KOs) hasn’t lost since. Six straight victories have earned the 26-year-old Las Vegas fighter his first title shot and another crack at Barragan (11-6, 3 KOs). The two will compete April 1 at the Rio Pavilion in a 10-round bout for the IBA Cruiserweight Championship of the Americas. A win for Namauu could be a step toward a major international belt and big-purse bouts in Germany, where the cruiserweight division enjoys wider popularity.

“It’s all mentality,” Namauu says. “I haven’t forgotten how I felt after that loss. It still hurts me. No excuses—he beat me unanimously—but all I did [to lose] was not fight. That’s the only change that needs to be made: Fight back.”

Barragan, 29, out of Oxnard, Calif., is ready to test that theory. “We’re going to go in and do what we did last time,” he says.

Namauu’s loss to Barragan two years ago dropped him to 3-3. He was knocked out in the first round of his professional debut. This time, Namauu has a chance to prove he’s a contender with world-class pop, though it will be tough against the rugged Barragan. In his last fight, Barragan stepped up against the undefeated Ran Nakash with little more than a week’s notice. He lost the decision, but hung in for 10 rounds after suffering a broken nose early in the fight.

“I like to brawl,” Barragan says. “I like to go forward all the time.”

Namauu, for his part, says he’s ready to meet his opponent with his full stopping power, including a crunching left hook to the body he’s been reluctant to throw.

“I think it’ll come together in this fight,” he says. “And I’m a creature of habit: If I do it once, I’ll do it again.”

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