Canfield student lives up to challenge for Pavlik’s challenger

By Todd Franko

The aspects of a big event can take weeks and months of planning and commitments.

Sometimes, they take just hours and minutes.

Take Canfield High School’s Adrian Labra.

He had a key role in the Pavlik-Rubio fight last week, and he didn’t know about it until that day.

His role actually started a Thursday before the fight when he unexpectedly got called out of school.

At the high school entrance was his dad, Armando, pacing back and forth in a worried state.

Injury? Illness? Accident?


Adrian had been asked to sing the Mexican national anthem in honor of Marco Antonio Rubio.

Adrian, of Mexican descent, has sung and played guitar since age 5. He sings in Spanish as well, and his performances have been at the Canfield Fair and at Peaberry’s coffee house.

One problem.

“Dad, you know that I don’t know the Mexican national anthem.”

To which dad, who was born in Mexico, said, “What do you think I’m getting you out of school early for?”

From Thursday on, it was an immersion education for Adrian.

Um, and one little white lie.

The father and son had two hours to learn the song before performing before Rubio’s staff. It was two hours of stress, yells, screams, nerves and mistakes.

“It was pretty bad, I’ll admit it,” said Adrian about his first attempt. Also in the family are mom, Christina, and brothers Christian, Victor, David and Antonio.

With just 90 minutes until their 4 p.m. appointment, Adrian set a goal of memorizing the first verse and the anthem’s chorus. Memorized, but not perfected.

“I sang it a few times for my dad in our kitchen, and messed up a lot. I can still see his face every time I messed up. It wasn’t pretty.”

At the hotel, he was asked several times if he knew the song. He said he knew it, but that it’d been 18 months since he sang it.

“I said it with a straight face.”

After singing the chorus and the first verse, he was about to get to the part where he stumbled.

Dad jumped in: “That’s good, Adrian.”

In jumping in, Armando explained that his son has learned songs within a day, so he knew he would learn it.

Rubio’s group asked Adrian again if he knew the whole song, and he said yes.

That was all Thursday. The next days did not get easier.

On the chance he’d get the gig, he practiced all Thursday night. He left school early Friday to practice.

Coming into play was the Canfield High School Sweetheart Dance, which also was Saturday. But his girlfriend, Kristen Ruchtie, gave her blessing to miss the dance if he got the chance to sing. (I should mention here that she sings the U.S. national anthem at various events.)

Friday closed with no call, and a frustrated Adrian made plans for the dance, albeit still practicing the anthem here and there.

But Saturday morning — fight day — brought the call he’d hoped for. He was in.

“My emotions quickly turned from excitement to fear and nervousness,” he said.

I thought Adrian did a good job. Hearing this back story — I think it was an awesome job.

He said the experience was a rush of emotions, then before he knew it, he was in the middle of the ring, and then it was over.

“I did my best just to not mess up the words, and it turned out to not be that bad at all,” he said.

Adrian’s next performance will be in the Canfield High School play at the end of March.

He will have one of the lead roles in “Children of Eden.”

No lie.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.