By Robert Coster
If you ask Dominican boxing fans who is the most popular boxer on the island, they will tell you without hesitation that it is Norberto “Meneito” Jimenez. The young super flyweight boxer from the populous sector of Villa Duarte in Santo Domingo has yet to win a world title but fans flock to see him fight and love to chant his nickname “Meneito” – the one who wiggles.
Jimenez (28-8-4, 16 KOs) is presently ranked #2 by the WBA and #8 by the WBC. There are many reasons why Jimenez is so popular. First, his colorful personality, jumping into the ring with his signature sunglasses and delighting his fans with nifty merengue and bachata dancing steps. Then there is his personal history, from being a perennial loser to, you guessed it, a winner.
Norberto hasn’t lost a fight in 6 years (racking up a 26-0-2 record) and finally, there is his unorthodox style which delights his fan base. His herky-jerky movements that befuddle his opponents, his dodging and his his feints, the way he parries his opponents’ offense rolling his shoulders Mayweather-like and the punches he throws from unusual angles and postures.
Fightnews.com® sat down with Norberto Jimenez to talk about his endearing and unusual personal journey-from loser to winner- and his hopes for the coming year.
Norberto, let’s talk about the days when you were “Norberto nobody,” before you became “Meneito.”
Boxing was just a way to make some quick money. Then I would party with the homeboys. I would take a fight on 2 or 3 day’s notice. My trainer couldn’t give a damn about me. You want a loser? Get Norberto. My record in my first 2 years as a boxer was 1-7. I didn’t give a damn, I had no ambition. I was a bum.
How did things turn around?
I was brought in to pad the record of Puerto Rican prospect Luis Cosme. I get in the ring and who do I see? My FATHER!!! It was the first time he came to see me fight. For the first time I understood what was self-respect. I wasn’t going to lose with my father there. No way. That night I fought to win. The judges gave the Puerto Rican kid a draw but I know that I won hands down. I cried after that fight.
What happened after that?
Belgica Pena of Shuan Boxing, young promoters who were starting out, came up to me and said ‘You’ve got talent–you just have to believe in yourself.’ They signed me up. I got a new trainer, one that cared about my career, Angel “Chicho” Castillo.
I started training. I gave up my old crowd, the guys I used to hang out with. I started winning and it’s a great feeling to win.
An important moment in your career?
I beat Julio Escudero of Panama to win the WBA Fedelatin title in June 2014. It got me ranked.
Then, you got the big break?
WBA jr bantamweight Champion Kohei Kono wanted a “tune-up,” an easy defense. They picked me. I said to my manager ‘I’ll show him what kind of tune-up I am.’ So we went to Japan.
Tell us about the fight.
It was on December 31st 2014. I really won the fight but I didn’t win the world title. One judge voted for me. Some Asian voted for Kono and the third judge voted a draw. Now, referee Rafael Ramos TOOK A POINT AWAY from me. But for this, this one point, I would have won the world title. I won but I didn’t get the decision. I felt sick in my stomach. Anyway, It’s been 3 years and we have been waiting to fight again for title. I’m number #2 in the WBA but I’m really number one. The number one is Chocolatito Gonzalez but he just got knocked out.
What do you think of the WBA Champion?
Good boxer, OK power. I watch videos of his fights every week.
And the WBC Champ?
The Thai who beat Chocolatito? Big puncher but my style will drive him crazy. I won’t be there to be hit.
Your favorite boxer, someone you fashion yourself after?
Floyd Mayweather. I keep watching him over and over again. I like boxers who think in the ring, who outstyle their opponents–that’s my natural way of fighting.
So, how do you see 2018?
I want to win that title. Not only for me. For my country, for manager Belgica Pena, my great trainer Chicho Castillo and my father. I’m going back to my neighborhood Villa Duarte with that belt. I want to be a role model for the kids there.