It was the best Christmas ever for Rafael Espinoza, but despite the highlight of the year being his surprise win over Robeisy Ramirez last December, the WBO featherweight champion wants more.

“I hope there will be even better and more beautiful Christmases in the future,” Espinoza said through translator Gabe Rivas as he prepared for his first title defense against Sergio Chirino tonight (June 21).

A nice Fourth of July wouldn't be a bad thing, even if Espinoza is from Mexico and not the USA. But no matter what holiday it is, the 30-year-old is determined to take home his belt from the Fontainebleau Las Vegas and hopes to replicate the feeling he had when he defeated the highly touted Cuban in Florida.

“I could say that it was the best moment of my life, one that I will never forget, and I will continue trying to achieve those successes,” said Espinoza, who is well aware that to keep up this momentum he must avoid the syndrome that musicians constantly experience: they have their whole life to write their first album, but only six months to write the next one. Some can never recapture that magic. Espinoza, himself a singer and guitarist, intends to do just that.

“I would say both are very difficult because to get there you need many years of hard work,” he said. “And now as world champion it is tough. You are competing against the best in the world, but you are motivated because you have done it before and you have it in you that you want to defend. So there is even more motivation to keep working hard.”

Hard work is a given for any champion, but perhaps the Guadalajara product had to work even harder considering he only had 11 amateur fights before turning pro in 2013. That's a lot to grow up in the public eye, but with a perfect record of 24-0 (20 KOs), Espinoza seems to have learned his lessons well. And he would agree.

“Although I fought 11 (amateur) fights, I can tell you that I gained a lot of experience because as an amateur I always trained with professionals and that's where I learned a lot. As an amateur I didn't really compete because I wasn't part of the national team. I didn't represent Mexico, but I gained a lot of experience. I fought with professionals and that helped me a lot, I think more than if I had had a long amateur career.”

The proof of this is his undefeated record and the featherweight world title. Now comes the interesting part – the defense. And against a fellow Mexican, something that Espinoza really enjoys doing.

“This motivates me even more because we know that Mexicans have a strong will to fight and everyone knows that it is hard against Mexicans,” he said. “So I have to try twice or three times because we all know it will be a war. And apart from that, it also fills me with pride because we are both representing our country to the world, which is really nice.”

If you didn't like Espinoza after his outstanding performance under the lights against Ramirez, it's impossible not to now, as he's a likeable representative of a sport that can always use one, and hey, he's a Mexican fighter and we all know what that means. And if you don't know, Espinoza will tell you.

“For Mexican fighters, I think the main thing is to have the heart to give everything to win without thinking about the consequences, as long as you win and make people feel good,” he said. “People expect a lot from you and demand more from you. And as Mexicans, we know that we are a heavyweight group in boxing, so if you don't put that extra pressure, the fans demand more. So as a Mexican fighter, you have to do more, but I also think that comes from birth.”

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