If Alejandro Luna wasn’t making a living from punching guys, he might be out on the range punching dogies.
In addition to being an undefeated 135-pound prospect who is working his way toward a potential title shot, Alejandro Luna is a horseman at heart.
The 25-year-old Southern California native grew up in a family of cowboys and has even competed in rodeos since he was a child. “El Charro” also began boxing at the age of 8, and with his ring career on the rise, his time in the saddle is limited these days.
Luna (21-0, 15 KOs) has been especially busy of late as he prepares to take on former 130-pound title challenger Andrey Klimov (19-3, 9 KOs) in a 10-round bout Sunday night that will be part of a Premier Boxing Champions event at The Novo in Los Angeles (FS1, 9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT).
Taking time out recently from his training schedule, Luna discussed his equestrian interests, his thoughts on fighting Klimov and the boxers he wishes he could’ve watched prepare.
Can you explain the origin behind your nickname?
They call me “El Charro,” which means Mexican cowboy. I actually ride horses. I grew up with my dad, Jose, and my uncles and my grandfather being Mexican cowboys.
I grew up with my dad competing in Mexican rodeos, and with horses literally in my backyard. We have an equestrian community where you’re allowed to have horses in your backyard.
I have three horses. I have two quarter horses, which are stocky work horses, and an Appaloosa. The Appaloosa is like a quarter horse but with a [spotted coat] that differentiates it and makes it have its own breed.
During camp there’s not much time, but there are riding trails where I live, so every weekend or on some afternoons I usually go out there and ride. It’s very relaxing and takes your mind off of everything.
How would you describe your style?
I think I’m a boxer-puncher who likes to adapt to the other guy’s style and give the fans their money’s worth. We box when we have to and fight smart, or we can go in and brawl if we have to.
Your most accomplished opponent thus far has been former 126-pound champion Cristobal Cruz, who you nearly swept on the scorecards in June 2015 to earn an eight-round unanimous decision. What did you learn from that bout?
Cristobal Cruz was a former champion who knew a lot of tricks. He might not have been at his best when we fought, but you learn to be patient and not to get frustrated, to work behind your jab and not lose your head.
What did you take away from your 10-round unanimous decision over Naim Nelson in your last fight in August?
I was originally scheduled to fight Stephen Ormond from Ireland, but we got there and weighed in at 135 and Ormond came in five pounds heavier at 140. He tried to go and lose the weight, but he came back and was still overweight.
At that point, we didn’t think there was going to be a fight. Naim Nelson was scheduled to fight on that card, but something happened a day or two before and his fight fell through. He was ready to go, so we were able to make a matchup with him.
Naim was a tough guy who was way heavier than me that night. Taking nothing away from him, but we ended up fighting at 144 pounds after rehydrating from 135. Still, were able to break him down even though we didn’t prepare for him. It was a great experience to beat him without necessarily having a game plan.
Andrey Klimov has never been stopped and has only lost to Terence Crawford, Jose Pedraza and Liam Walsh, who were all unbeaten at the time of those fights. That said, how confident are you in your ability to beat him?
This is definitely my biggest fight so far against Klimov, who has been in with guys who are at the top of the food chain like Terence Crawford, a top pound-for-pound fighter and a world champion.
Klimov’s a big step up for us and he’s a seasoned fighter because he’s been in there with a former world champion in Jorge Pedraza and he’s fought guys like Liam Walsh.
A victory over someone like Klimov will have us ready for the next level and puts us in position to get a world title shot. I’ve studied him from the past, like his victory over John Molina Jr. [in June 2013].
He has a great jab and he’s aggressive. He likes to put on a great show, so I think that our styles will mesh and that the fans are going to be the ones who are going to benefit that night.
“ There are [horseback] riding trails where I live, so every weekend or on some afternoons I usually go out there and ride. It’s very relaxing and takes your mind off of everything. ” Alejandro Luna, unbeaten 135-pound prospect
Not including yourself, who do you rank atop the 135-pound division?
The lightweight division is packed, but I would have to start with Mikey Garcia as the top guy, then Robert Easter Jr., who is a tall, lanky guy for this weight class.
Next would be Jorge Linares and Terry Flanagan, and then Anthony Crolla. There are a lot of guys in the lightweight division who are very tough, but God willing, we’ll soon be ready to challenge any of the champions.
If you could pick the brain of any fighter, living or dead, who would it be and what would you ask?
That’s a very tough question, but I would definitely want to sit down and have a conversation with Floyd Mayweather Jr. because he’s the best fighter of our time, if not among the top five fighters of all time in my book.
Two other guys would be Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. and Sugar Ray Leonard. I would not only want to talk to them, but I also would just like to sit down and observe the way that they trained for certain championship fights during their careers.
Which specific fights would you have liked to watch them train for?
I would like to see Floyd train for his second fight with Jose Luis Castillo, because the first one was a very tough, close fight due to Floyd’s hand injuries. But the second time, he adjusted and knew what to do to make it a totally different fight. Castillo had no clue what to do.
With Leonard, it would be his fight with Marvin Hagler, or for his second fight with Roberto Duran, because in each of those situations, he wanted to prove a point. The second time with Roberto Duran, he knew exactly what to do to adjust and to make Duran look silly and make him quit.
With Chavez, I would have to go with the [first] Meldrick Taylor fight. Even though it was a controversial fight where Taylor was outboxing him, Chavez didn’t give up and it was in the last round when he caught him with that straight right hand. Taylor went down, and they’re still saying it was a controversial stoppage, but it was a great fight.
What is your favorite punch to throw?
I think it would be the left hook to the body. I can’t say which fight specifically that I’ve landed it for the most effect because I’m always working the body because the head will follow, but that’s probably my favorite punch.
Finish this sentence: If not for boxing, I would be …
… One of the other sports besides boxing that I love is baseball. I’m a huge fan of that sport and that’s probably something I would have tried to do if not for boxing.
If you had the ability to change your body type, what’s the one weight class you’d want to compete in and who would you fight?
If I had the ability to do that, I would add some height and reach to fight at welterweight. But I would also maybe like to have fought at lightweight or junior welterweight against Arturo Gatti, who was a warrior. The goal would be to win, but more importantly, to give the fans another Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward type of a fight.
What fighter in history would you have liked to have fought, and what would be the result?
Diego Corrales was a warrior and a tough guy who always came to fight, so he would be one that I would like to have fought and to give the fans a fight they would talk about for many years down the line. You know who would win is the fans.
What is the toughest thing to give up while training for a fight?
For me, it would have to be soda or, more specifically, Coca-Cola. During training camp, I start off drinking it little by little, and I do it less and less as the fight gets closer.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Poverty and world hunger. I believe that nobody should have to go without eating, which is how we survive. There’s a lot of poverty in certain countries. There should always be food on the table.
If you could have dinner with any four people in the history of the world, who would be on your guest list?
One would have to be John D. Rockefeller and No. 2 would be J.P. Morgan because of their business savvy. No. 3 would be Floyd Mayweather, because he knows how to fight and how to conduct himself business-wise. No. 4 would be my dad, Jose Luna, who has been a big influence on me.
“12 Rounds With …” is published Wednesdays at PremierBoxingChampions.com. Next week: former 147-pound world champion Shawn Porter.