A SWIFT KICK IN THE CAREER : After Six Failed Attempts, Angat Wins a World Karate Title

Times Staff Writer

Bad luck, disappointment and defeat had dogged Oxnard resident Jorge Angat Jr. every time he fought for a world title. There were six failed attempts in all, yet Angat persevered and kept his feet flying.

An International Kickboxing Assn. featherweight title in 1983 was the lone bright spot in an otherwise numbing series of almosts. Angat could have been excused had he hauled off and kicked himself.

But June 23 in San Jose, he kicked and punched his way to the Fight Factory Karate Assn. (FFKA) world featherweight title.

Angat, 5-foot-4, 132 pounds and ranked No. 10 in the world at the time, finally won the vacant title he had so frustratingly pursued, taking a 12-round unanimous decision over third-ranked Juan Torres before an ESPN cable television audience.

Angat, a 1980 Channel Islands High graduate, has held his share of national titles, including the Professional Karate Assn. state featherweight title in 1982; the World Karate Assn. featherweight title in 1984; and the International Sports Karate Assn. lightweight title in 1987. But world titles were always elusive.

"Everything came easy for me as an amateur, but reality hit me when I got a world title fight in only my second professional fight, right out of high school," Angat said.

Angat received such an early career break because he had defeated Dave Johnston of Albuquerque, N. M., in his first pro fight. His second fight was also against Johnston, who by late 1980 held the world title. The results were different the second time around, and Angat's series of setbacks had begun.

"I was too young, too green, inexperienced, and it just wasn't my time, with the key word being inexperienced," Angat said.

Angat's training has been in the Kenfo style of traditional Chinese karate that Ed Parker brought to the U. S. in 1952. Former ISKA world featherweight champion Refugio Flores of Oxnard has been Angat's trainer and mentor for the past 16 years.

"I saw a hidden talent in him then," Flores said. "He didn't see it, but he was so explosive and aggressive back then that I started grooming him towards professional fighting."

With so much bad luck when it came to world title fights, Angat retired three times. But each time he'd recall the many hot summer nights of training and decide to come back to try and try again.

The roller coaster stopped Nov. 17, 1987, when he fought for the U. S. lightweight title after a one-year retirement. With Flores on one side and newly acquired manager Denis Doucette on the other side--and longtime friend Jim Panza providing moral support--Angat won the ISKA title.

Nonetheless, when it comes to world title fights, nothing comes easy for Angat. Witness the string of events leading up to his FFKA fight in June.

When the contract was signed, Angat had six weeks to train, which is adequate, except that a case of chicken pox sidelined him for the first three weeks. When he finally got back in the gym, he was 18 pounds overweight. And he had just three weeks to get ready.

Flores helped Angat get back in shape, but two days before the fight, Angat burned his right hand with a clothes iron.

And that's not all. When he arrived at San Jose Civic Auditorium, he found out Doucette would not make it back from an East Coast trip in time and that Flores had missed his flight from Burbank.

In addition, Angat's parents and fiancee could not get in the auditorium because Flores had their tickets with him.

Wait, there's more.

The California Athletic Commission had threatened to cancel the fight because Angat did not have an approved mouthpiece and, while warming-up on the stage, Angat rammed a half-inch splinter of wood into his left heel.

"When I got into the ring with everything that had gone wrong, I was waiting for an earthquake next," Angat said. "All of the injuries, the training and personal problems really made it hard to have the right frame of mind.

"Plus, after losing so many title chances before, I really questioned my confidence and abilities."

Angat, with two inexperienced cornermen, was timid until midway through the fight.

"I told myself the next round, if Torres is going to get the world title, he is going to have to win it from me," Angat said. "Using my experience, I started each round strong and ended each round strong in hopes of leading the judges to award the rounds to me."

His performance must have impressed the judges as they scored the fight unanimously for Angat, 119-111, 118-112, 118-113.

"When they were reading the scores, I was feeling like I had lost another title on a hometown decision," Angat said. "When they said my name, I felt like Thomas Hearns after the Sugar Ray Leonard fight. I finally got the monkey off my back."

Angat's goal now is to win three world titles in three weight divisions. First, though, is a scheduled title defense in November against John Ballantine in Amsterdam.

"Everyone that's been around me lately has a hard time believing or understanding the hard times I've been through," Angat said.

Perhaps a series of good times has begun now that Angat has that world title.

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