The Finger Post Travel: Looking for the quintessential Los Angeles sandwich (April 15-18, 2019)


The Finger Post Travel (May 24, 2019)

 

If you’ve never watched Mark Wiens YouTube channel you are really missing out on something special. This guy is living the life: he just travels the world and posts videos of him eating food. Nothing else, but damn if he isn’t the culinary version of cat videos: you don’t know why, but you can’t help but enjoy the simplicity of it. Although he seems like a really down to earth guy, the biggest appeal of his videos is that he really, really loves food. I mean, when he bites into something you can tell it is truly a magical experience with him. Sure, I love good food but after watching Mark Wiens bite into a BBQ rib in Phoenix I realized that he takes food love to another’s level.  He’s the quirky guy from the romantic comedy who overcomes his fear of heights to get on an airplane and profess his love for Sandra Bullock before she marries Billy Zane. I’m Homer Simpson buying Marge a bowling ball for her birthday.

But I digress, this isn’t about YouTube food videos, it’s about the City of Angels.  After watching Wiens go on a food tour of Los Angeles I realized that I had never really appreciated the culinary scene of LA. I mean, I lived in Los Angeles County, but with a vibrant Korean culinary scene in Rowland Heights (where I lived) I was seldom tempted to go outside my comfort zone and usually elected to eat at one of the exceptional Korean or Chinese restaurants in that city.

But after watching Wiens take a bite out of a pastrami sandwich at Langer’s Delicatessen I realized I had been missing a lot the city had to offer…

and I was determined not to make the same mistake again.

So when I visited LA last month I knew that Langer’s was at the top of my list of places I had to try.  The more I researched it the more I realized how much I had to try the #19.  Some foodies said it was the second best pastrami sandwich in America (next to Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City , which I also overlooked when I was in New York City in December of last year, another mistake I sorely regret).

But there was also Philippe The Original, birthplace of the French dip sandwich  (or so they claim). The French dip was born much like many legendary sandwiches were: by accident. Legend has it that in 1918 the original owner, Philippe Mathieu, dropped a  French roll into a roasting pan full of juices from a roast. It seemed to be a common theme in the early part of the 20th century: legendary sandwiches being born when some restaurant owner dropped something and then went ahead and sold it. Some might have some suspicion over the origin story of the French dip, after all, about the same time that the French dip was born Mexicans would be introduced to another similar accidental sandwich with an identical origin story in: the torta ahogada.  But although it may be difficult to separate truth from myth with the French dip, I tend to embrace the John Ford school of thought when it comes to culinary history: when the legend becomes fact, print the legend

Nothing is too good for the man who dropped the sandwich in the roasting pan.

So after a late drop off at LAX I decided to give the original French dip sandwich a try. After all, even if it was the first that doesn’t mean it was the best. Hell, there might be a Wrath of Khan French dip somewhere in America that has blown Philippe’s out of the water.

But after having tried the Original French dip sandwich I have a hard time believing I’d find a better one anywhere else. No,  The was the original Jaws, and I had been living my whole life on a steady diet of Jaws the Revenge.  I came in right before closing and was blown away by the atmosphere of the place…but above all by the sandwich itself. The bread was perfectly flaky and the hot mustard there might just be the best condiment I ever had at a restaurant.

I have to hand it to Mark Wiens, his enthusiasm for this establishment was well placed.

But the best was yet to come.

The following day was going to be my opportunity to try another LA institution in Langer’s Delicatessen, home of what was called back best hot pastrami sandwich on the west coast (and to some, the best on the planet).  Outside of Katz’s in New York, this was suppose to be the best.

Well, all I can say is that Katz’s will have to bring its A-game when I visit New York again because I really have a hard time envisioning I will ever have a better sandwich than the pastrami sandwich I got there.

Seriously, this wasn’t just the best pastrami sandwich I ever had  this might have been the best sandwich I ever had period.

At $18.95 the sandwich wasn’t what I would call cheap (although I heard you can easily drop $30 for a pastrami sandwich at Katz’s in New York) but it is still very much worth every penny. That first bite isn’t something everyone should experience at least once in their life, it’s that amazing of an experience.

But there was one more stop I had to make…one more sandwich I needed to try.  Watching food videos on YouTube can easily lead you down the culinary rabbit hole.  One click leads to a recommendation of another.  And then another  and before long you are convinced you need to try a steak cooked with a sous-vide, ribs cooked in a insta-pot, something sweet for the kids, and to try and make the Armenian version of pastrami: basturma.

I watched a few videos of different people making basturma and it looked very much like a labor of love.  Soaking the beef in salt water for over a week, putting a rock on it to drain it of the remaining water, and then after several days letting it cure for another week meant that I needed to commit to almost a month before I couldn’t try this dish (that I never ate before and had no idea if I would like).  But the YouTube videos made it seem like something I should try and I began prepping.  My homemade basturma would be ready the week I returned…but I wanted some authentic basturma to compare.  As I say and looked at my basturma in cheesecloth curing in my kitchen I just didn’t have faith that I hadn’t mess it up and I wanted my first taste of basturma to be legit.

And was going to be just a few miles away from Little Armenia in Los Angeles.

Yeah, this was an opportunity I wasn’t about to pass up.

So I made my way to Sahag’s Basturma, which was the only place I could find in America that had Basturma in its name.  I was about to try basturma for the first time.  In fact, I was going to try Armenian food for the first time, and although Sahag’s was more of a grocery store than a restaurant, it still seemed a great way to start off.

The staff at Sahag’s seemed reserved and polite, but not even remotely interested in this American’s story of trying basturma for the first time.  After giving me a free sample I realized that basturma is…an acquired taste.  It was a bit salty and the seasoning (called chaman) was a bit overpowering (something I realized since my house smelled like chaman.)

I ordered a pound of basturma for $18 to take home and figured I’d try it cooked.  It was advised to fry it with scrambled eggs and I was not willing to close the book on basturma just yet.  And it was a good thing I did because basturma really, really compliments scrambled eggs nicely.  It was an excellent breakfast and with some Bulgarian cheese it made for a decent sandwich with some lavesh bread as well.

And I also discovered something else by getting some LA basturma:

I really suck at making basturma.

Read more Finger Post travel stories here!

 

 

Boxing History will be made in Las Cruces on April 27

The Finger Post Boxing (February 9, 2019)

 

It’s a story as old and as common as boxing itself.  The heavyweight champion on the comeback trail stopping off in some smaller venue far from the lights of Vegas as he tries to build up some momentum for one more world title fight or at the very least one more big payday.  Sometimes he’s in the top ten and his promoter just pays a local promoter to put him on a small show as a tune-up.  Sometimes he is forced to fight for pocket change just to keep active and hopefully build some momentum.  Michael Dokes, a former WBA world champion, once fought a guy named John Morton and was only paid $500 for that fight.  But it led to a world title fight against Riddick Bowe so it was a good investment in the long run.

Over the course of boxing history these former heavyweight champions ended up in every imaginable venue all across the country.  Larry Holmes was a regular in Bay St. Louis Mississippi in the 1990s but also fought in Hawaii during his comeback.  Riddick Bowe started his comeback in Shawnee, Oklahoma in 2004.  Evander Holyfield stopped by El Paso in 2007 and George Foreman once made a pit stop in Edmonton Alberta in 1990 to fight a guy named Ken Lakusta.  And these are the more well known champions…it is even more prolific and common with the lesser known ex-champs.

Yeah, a former heavyweight champion fighting in your hometown is a story as old as boxing: it’s like seeing the 90s one hit wonder perform at your county fair.

But it’s never happened in New Mexico.

That’s right, there has never been a former heavyweight champion on the comeback trail who stopped off in New Mexico as part of his comeback tour.

Never.

In fact, our history with heavyweight champions is limited at best.  We had two future heavyweight champions come to New Mexico on the way up.  On August 7, 1982 a young undefeated heavyweight prospect named Tony Tubbs won a ten round decision over fellow undefeated prospect Clarence Hill in Albuquerque.  Tubbs would go on to win a decision over Greg Page two year later to win the WBA title, holding onto it for seven months before dropping a decision to Tim Witherspoon in January of 1985.  On April 1, 1995 future WBO heavyweight champion Corrie Sanders would crush former cruiserweight contender James Pritchard in the opening round at the Lujan Building in Albuquerque in a fight that was little more than a tune up.

Of course on July 4, 1912 we actually hosted a world title fight in Las Vegas, New Mexico which is a lot more than Bay St. Louis or Shawnee, Oklahoma can say. Jack Johnson defeated “Fireman” Jim Flynn in a fight that would give Johnson fans some ammunition in the “who was the greater champion” argument with Jack Dempsey fans.  Flynn would be best remembered for destroying Jack Dempsey in the opening round five years after his fight with Johnson.

But despite hosting one world title fight in 1912 and witnessing two future champions on the way up, we never saw a former heavyweight champion in New Mexico…the closest we came was then Frans Botha stopped Steve Pannell in the opening round in Albuquerque on January 8, 2000.  Botha initially won the IBF heavyweight title by way of split decision over German Axel Shultz on December 9, 1995.  But that fight was later declared a no-contest and the title declared vacant after Both tested positive for steroids.  So, yeah that doesn’t count.

But on April 27, 2019, the drought comes to an end.  Former heavyweight champion Oliver “The Atomic Bull” McCall (58-14, 37 KOs) will be fighting on a School of Hard Knocks Boxing Promotions show scheduled to be held in Las Cruces at a venue to be announced at a later date.

Oliver McCall in 1994. Holly Stein /Allsport. Courtesy of Getty Images (photo hosted on Boxrec.com)

This is really a rare opportunity for boxing fan in New Mexico and West Texas and I say this with all seriousness: we will get the chance to see the fighter with greatest chin in boxing history. That is correct, the best chin in boxing history will be in Las Cruces and he will be in the ring, even if it is at the tail end of his career. McCall turned pro in 1985 (yes, you read that correctly) and in a 72-fight career that saw him fight some of the greatest fighters of his generation he never hit the deck or even really was hurt. In the 1980s and 1990s he earned a reputation as Mike Tyson’s most trusted sparring partner because of his ability to stand in there with Iron Mike and never get dropped. I’ve heard tales of those legendary sparring sessions and the one thing everyone agreed upon was that McCall was so highly regarded by Tyson because of his ability to stand his ground and take the best Tyson had to offer without getting hurt.

Let that sink in for a minute. Oliver McCall sparred hundreds of rounds with a young Mike Tyson and never was hurt.

Now don’t get me wrong, the 53-year old McCall is well past his prime and I can’t see any scenario where he makes another run for a world title.

But although he may not be a world class fighter but he is still a competent fighter despite his advance age. He has only one fight in the last four years (a decision over a journeyman named Larry Knight) and really has never been in serious discussion for a world title fight after his historic meltdown against Lennox Lewis in 1997, when he stopped punching or even protecting himself as he openly cried in the ring.

But even with that bizarre performance in 1997 boxing fans were left in awe…

How many fighters could just drop their hands and let Lennox Lewis unload on them and not end up on the canvas?

McCall’s run as a contender ended in 2004 when he lost a decision to DaVarryl Williamson but he nonetheless remained one of the toughest gatekeepers in the heavyweight division in the 2000s. From 2010 to 2014 he amassed 17-6 record (with one no decision) which included decision wins over an undefeated prospect named Marcin Rekowski (12-0) in 2014, a win over a borderline contender named Damien Wills (30-2-1) in 2011, a win over Fres “next in line for a WBA heavyweight title fight” Oquendo in 2010, former contender Lance “Mount” Whittaker in 2009, former world ranked contender Frank Lawrence in 2009, former EBU Heavyweight champion and WBC International Champion Sinan Samil Sam (27-3) in 2007, and a win over Shannon Briggs conqueror Darroll Wilson in 2006 for the WBC FECARBOX heavyweight title. Even though all of these wins are quite a few years old, they were part of an interesting trend in the early part of the 21st century: boxing insiders waiting to see if Oliver McCall would finally show his age and if his legendary chin would finally show signs of cracking…and then left waiting.

And of course, there is also the fact that Oliver McCall was the former WBC heavyweight champion, having handed Hall of Famer Lennox Lewis his first loss in 1994 in London. Yes, that was almost 25-years ago…but he still remains one of only two men to defeat Lennox Lewis.

 

Even if we don’t see a prime Oliver McCall, this is still a fight worth checking out.

Will Oliver McCall finally show his age on April 27th? Will New Mexico fans be the first to see that iron chin finally crack? Hard to say, McCall has proved everyone who assumed he was washed up wrong in the past. But how long can he keep pushing this envelope? Although the opponent has not yet been formally announced, the names I heard being considered by promoter Isidro Castillo are of some very solid opponents. I can see any of these fighters giving McCall, and boxing fans, a tremendous fight on April 27th. Mark your calendars boxing fans…April 27th in Las Cruces will be a show you don’t want to miss.

Richard Commey may have injured right hand “I felt something pop!”

The Finger Post Boxing (February 3, 2019)

Richard Commey might have put himself at the front of every fight fans list of dream match ups for WBA and WBO lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko after his brutal stoppage of Isa Chaniev in Frisco, Texas tonight but those dreams may have to be put on hold. Commey admitted to reporters at ringside that he may have injured his right hand in the first round.

“When I hit him I felt my right hand moved. I’m going to have to look at it.”

When asked if he would be able to fight Lomachenko in April Commey couldn’t confirm that he would be available to fight The Matrix that quickly.

“I won’t know until I see a doctor.”

Commey added that his hand wasn’t swollen but that he “felt something pop” in his hand.

 

The Finger Post Boxing: Keep an eye on Janibek Alimkhanuly…he’s something special (February 2, 2019)

The Finger Post Boxing (February 2, 2019)

Frisco, TX- Texas fight fans may not remember everything that happened at the Star in Frisco tonight, but something tells me that February 2, 2019 may be remembered by boxing insiders as the day they first saw just how special Kazak middleweight Janibek Alimkhanuly is.

This kid is an amazing prospect, and I think it won’t be long before he explodes on the scene.  After watching his demolition of New York’s Steven Martinez I was left speechless.  This kid is the total package.  An amazing jab, great counterpunching, and the size and speed to dominate a lot of good middleweights.

My report for Fightnews from ringside in Frisco, Texas:

In the fifth fight of the night boxing fans in Texas we treated to a first taste of what may very well be one of boxing’s next superstars and undefeated Janibek Alimkhanuly, 162, of Kazakhstan dominated the seasoned Steven Martinez, 160.4, of the Bronx. Martinez came into the fight with a reputation as something of a borderline contender, having lost close decision to then undefeated Terrell Gausha in 2016 and then another decision he dropped to undefeated Christopher Pearson in 2014. Although Martinez had come up short when he stepped in with top level opponents in the past he had never been stopped and always gave a solid performance. But against the talented southpaw from Almaty Martinez was dominated from the opening bell. Alimkhanuly cruised in round one and continued to box beautifully in the second, teeing off on the New Yorker in the closing seconds of the round. The Kazak wisely incorporated the body attack in round three and dropped Martinez to a knee with a perfectly times counterpunch in the opening minute of the round. By round four Alimkhanuly began to toy with Martinez, trapping him on the ropes before stepping back to wave his opponent in. A vicious left uppercut snapped the head of Martinez back in the closing minute of round four and the Kazak continued to dominate at the start of round five. Seconds into the round another left uppercut snapped the head of the New Yorker back, prompting his corner to throw in the towel. Referee Neal Young waved the fight off at 0:21 of the fifth round. With the win Alimkhanuly improved to 5-0, 2 KOs while Martinez slips to 18-5, 13 KOs.

The Finger Post Boxing: New Mexico’s Jason Sanchez crushes foe in Frisco (February 2, 2019)

The Finger Post Boxing (February 2, 2019)

New Mexico’s undefeated world ranked contender Jason Sanchez, 125.4, had his first taste of the big stage as he stepped in the ring with Ixtapa Zihuatanejo Mexico’s Daniel Olea, 125.5, in the third fight of the night. Sanchez boxed well early on but the aggression he showed in Panama City in his last fight quickly emerged when he rattled Olea with a well times overhand right that sent the Mexican back into the corner a minute into the fight. Olea covered up and quickly moved out of the corner but he was unable to keep the Albuquerque native off of him. Sanchez turned into a hunter, stalking his prey, and showed a dazzling array of punches as he mixed up heavy punches upstairs with a solid body attack that had the Mexican doubling over at times. In round two Jason boxed well early on and continued his effective counterpunching as Olea tried to lunge in with looping punches. Although Sanchez did lose his mouthpiece in the second round he maintained complete control of the fight and timed a pictutre perfect overhand right that sent Olea crashing to the canvas. Although Olea rose on wobbly legs referee Gregorio Alvarez waved the fight off at 1:35 of round two. With the win Sanchez improves to 14-0, 7 KOs while Olea drops to 13-7-2, 5 KOs.

The Finger Post Travel: Ollantaytambo, Peru (November 5, 2018)

The Finger Post Travel (February 2, 2019)

 

You sometimes can’t help but wonder if Ollantaytambo has a Laughlin, Nevada problem.  It is an amazing archaeological site.  In any other country in Latin America it would be the highlight of any tourist’s visit and probably featured prominently on their currency.   Just like if you threw Laughlin in any other State other than Nevada it probably would be a pretty cool town that would be a favorite weekend getaway for locals and maybe even a bit of a tourist draw.  At the very least it wouldn’t be the butt of jokes.  But when your just a (sort of) cool little casino town less than 100 miles from Las Vegas you just never get a fair shake.  You just can’t ever get out of your big brother’s shadow.

Yeah, Ollantaytambo is sort of like that.

Almost always ignored by the thousands of tourists making their way to Machu Picchu, the town of Ollantaytambo seldom gets more than a cursory glance as the tourists make their way to the train station where their Peru Rain train to Machu Picchu Pueblo (aka Aguas Calientes) departs.

I know on my first visit to Peru I spent just enough time in Ollantaytambo to get to the train station and didn’t spend any time touring the only remaining inhabited Incan town…or the Archeological Ruins of Ollantaytambo (a former military, agricultural, and religious center). The city of Ollantaytambo was the scene of fierce fighting between the Spanish and the Incans in 1537 and much of the complex (and town) was subsequently damaged. But even if not as well preserved as Machu Picchu it was of considerably more importance and considerably more important historically.  And considering my father and I both planned to visit some of the sites in Cusco, we knew that the 130 sols (or about $40 USD) for a “”Boleto Turistico del Cusco” (tourist ticket of Cusco) would be a good investment. The toursit ticket of Cusco is a ticket that allows you to enter sixteen different toursit sites in the greater Cusco area, with Ollantaytambo being the most notable. What was most promising was that the tourist tickets of Cusco were available for sale at the entrance of the ruins, something that didn’t seem to be always the case according to other bloggers (although they only took cash payment). We purchased our tickets at the front and soon made our way up the stairs to the Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun), which remains one of the most impressive sites in the Sacred Valley despite the fact that much of the Temple was destroyed in 1537.



From the top of the stairs the views of the town (and the terraces along the stairs) were amazing, and it was enough to prompt me to expand my visit to include Inka Watana.

 

Inka Watana was a, well, I’m not sure what it was but it was the highest point at Ollantaytmbo and included a 45-minute hike up the side of the mountain on a narrow dirt path.  Although time was a concern once I reached the top I was happy with our decision.  It was quiet, peaceful, and well worth it just for the view.



Our return down the path included a pass through the Military Zone and Qolqas before we took a tour of the Inka Misana near the entrance.

The whole tour look less than three hours and that was taking our time to admire the site.  Again, I can’t help but think this would have been the highlight in any other country…but it Peru it was just a side trip folks did on their way to Machu Picchu.  But if you do find yourself at the train station at Ollantaytambo waiting for your Peru Rail train to Machu Picchu Pueblo someday, take a few minutes to tour where the Incan Empire made it’s final stand against the Spanish…and admire what will be the second most breathtaking place you’ll visit in Peru.

 

Read more Finger Post Travel stories here!

The Finger Post Boxing: New Mexico’s Aaron Perez, Rico Urquizo win in Amarillo (January 26, 2019)

The Finger Post Boxing (January 27, 2019)

 

New Mexico fighters had a mixed night last night in front of a near capacity crowd in Amarillo, going 2-3 overall in an action packed card featuring a handful of talented Texans.  Over 3,000 fight fans crammed into the Azteca Music Hall in Amarillo, proving that promoters Isidro Castillo and Eric Gutierrez have indeed struck oil in Amarillo with this latest card.

In the most anticipated fight of the night (for New Mexico fans) undefeated junior lightweight Aaron Perez pitched a shutout, dominating the durable Raymond Chacon over four rounds. Perez was simply more active, more accurate, and clearly had a huge advantage in talent over the Los Angeles native. But Chacon, who had only been stopped twice in a 43-fight career, had more than enough veteran tricks up his sleeve to ensure that he avoided the knockout. Chacon at times resorted to pure survival tactics, but also would occasionally excite the crowd with the occasional right hand that kept Perez honest. In round four Perez decided to swing for the fences and push for a knockout against the durable Chacon, but although he bullied Chacon with vicious flurries and did land a hard left hook in the opening minute, he simply wasn’t able to crack the tricky defense of the Californian. Chacon finished the fight on his bicycle, robbing Perez of any chance of scoring the knockout. With the win Perez improves to 6-0, 4 KO’s while Chacon slipped to 7-36-1, 0 KOs. All three judges (Felix Rios, James Moreno, and Kerry Hatley) scored the fight 40-36. The referee was Neal Young.

With the exception of Clovis New Mexico’s Richard “Rico” Urquizo, the other New Mexicans on the card didn’t fare as well. Urquizo dominated fellow New Mexican Michael Sanchez in a four round cruiserweight fight. It was a rematch of a fight from last year and whereas Urquizo struggled early against Sanchez the first time, he dominated the Hobbs boxer last night in Amarillo. Urquizo dropped Sanchez in round one with a picture perfect left hook/right cross combination and finished the job in round two, dropping him a second time with a left hook to the chin halfway through the second round. A devastating overhand right sent Sanchez to the canvas moments later as referee John Schorle waved the fight off at 1:43 of the round. With the win Urquizo improves to 5-6-2, 3 KOs while Sanchez falls to 2-4, 2 KOs.

Albuquerque’s Levi Lucero lost his fourth straight fight by way of first round KO after getting stopped by Amarillo’s Rudy Montenegro at 1:42 of the opening round in a junior welterweight fight. Montenegro improves to 1-0-1, 1 KO while Lucero, who might want to consider hanging it up, falls to 0-4.

In the first fight after intermission Clovis New Mexico’s Michael Petersen was destroyed by debuting Mobley Villegas of Amarillo in a four round junior lightweight fight. Vilegas, who fights under the nickname “Freight Train,” certainly looked the part as he jumped all over Petersen early and dropped him seconds into the fight with a combination upstairs. After Petersen rose he visibly disregarded referee Neal Young’s instructions and could be seen waving “no” when asked to step to the left. Referee Young was left no choice but to wave the fight off at 0:29 of the opening round. Petersen, like Lucero, may need to consider looking for another line of work. With the loss he falls to 0-3 with all three losses coming by way of first round KO.Amarillo’s John King, 224, crushed Midland’s Mark Sanchez, 210, in the opening round, stopping him at 1:40. Sanchez falls to 0-2 while King wins his professional debut.

In the main event local boy Abel Navarette Jr., 131, dominated debuting David Waters, 131.8, of Corpus Cristi, scoring a stoppage in the opening round Waters, a fighter with a solid MMA background, struggled with the talented Amarillo native from the opening bell. Waters tried to jab and force his way inside but Navarette easily picked him apart and dropped him half way through the opening round with a vicious right hand to the body followed by a short hook to the head. Waters gamely tried to fight through the danger after rising, but although he won points for courage he was simply unable to turn the tide. A hard right to the face followed by an uppercut hurt him and sent him backpedaling into the corner where another flurry and body shot sent him back to the canvas a second time. Waters rose again but was quickly felled a third time with a left hook to the temple, prompting referee Jon Schorle to wave the fight off at 2:47 of the opening round. With the win Navarette improve to 4-0, 2 KOs and seems poised to take a major step up in class in his next fight. Undefeated Abel Mendoza (13-0, 9 KOs), who fought on Isidro Castillo’s last card back in December, entered the ring and the two fighters agreed to give Amarillo fight fans a dream matchup for the next Amarillo fight card: Abel versus Abel in Amarillo.

In the co-main event Isaac Luna won a four round unanimous decision over Amarillo’s Ben Vasquez in a welterweight fight. Luna boxed well early on, using his speed advantage to pump the jab while sidestepping Vasquez’s predictable offense which primarily consisted of stalking the El Paso native while looking for the wild overhand right. But by round two Vasquez started to feel more confident in the proposition that Luna wouldn’t be able to hurt him and he began to box with even more reckless abandon. The local crowd cheered as Vasquez landed a pair of overhand rights and although they did little damage it did seem that Luna might have trouble keeping the determined Amarillo native off of him and he soon began standing and trading with Vasquez. Although Luna was winning the exchanges, he still seemed to be fighting Vasquez’s fight. By round three it looked like the wheels might have come off for Luna when, midway through the round, referee Neal Young stopped the action after a cut was opened up over the right eye of Luna. Luna was allowed to continue but he suddenly found himself in danger of losing a fight he was dominating due to that cut. However the cut proved to be a pyrrhic victory for Vasquez as he walked into a picture perfect counterpunch in the closing seconds of the round. The shot sent Vasquez to the canvas and robbed him of any momentum he had going into the final round. Luna easily dominated the final round, coming out aggressively and going for the stoppage early and trading willingly with Vasquez for the remainder of the round. Luna won comfortably on all three scorecard (judges James Moreno and Kerry Hatley scored the fight while Judge Felix Rios scored the fight 39-36). With the win Luna improves to 4-1, 0 KOs while Vasquez drops to 3-5-1, 3 KOs.

In a battle of debuting heavyweights Midland’s Nick Tipton destroyed Longview’s Amil Ramos, scoring a stoppage at 0:30 of the opening round after landing a vicious uppercut that nearly decapitated Ramos. The referee was Jon Schorle.

Amarillo’s Dylan Nicholson showed a knack for showmanship in stopping Midland’s Larry Sanchez at 1:31 of round two. Despite his showboating, or perhaps because of it, Nicholson ultimately made the fight more difficult that it should have been. He fought much like a young Naseem Hamed…only without Hamed’s one punch power or speed. Despite his obvious talent, it is hard to see him competing with the top fighters in the middleweight division with his habit of coming in with his hands down and his chin out. With the loss Sanchez falls to 0-2 while Nicholson improves to 1-0, 1 KO.

 

Read more Finger Post Boxing news here!

The Finger Post Boxing: New Mexico’s Austin Trout and Jason Sanchez move up in NABF rankings

The Finger Post Boxing (December 29, 2018)

 

The North American Boxing Federation released their December rankings last week and boxing fans in New Mexico will be pleased to see two of the state’s best fighters ranked by the regional sanctioning body.

In the Super Welterweight division Las Cruces’ Austin Trout (31-5, 17 KOs) moves up to #2 in the NABF rankings.

The current champion, Carlos Adames (15-0, 12 KOs), is currently scheduled to fight next month against Juan Ruiz.   Although it is doubtful that Adames’s management would let him step in the ring against the more seasoned Trout at this stage of his career, it is not out of the question either.  For Trout a world title is clearly his first priority, but a NABF title could be just the thing that propels him into a match with newly crowned WBC world champion Tony Harrison.

In the featherweight division undefeated Jason Sanchez (13-0, 6 KOs) moves into the NABF rankings at #19.  It’s not as noteworthy as the #15 world ranking Sanchez has with the WBO but it is still an impressive distinction. After all, Sanchez never fought for a WBC belt and in fact is the current WBO Youth champion.  The fact that he is moving into the NABF rankings despite not fighting for any WBC regional belts means he is attracting attention from a lot of movers and shakers in the sport.

Interestingly enough, at #17 in the NABF 126-pound rankings is Phoenix Arizona’s Francisco De Vaca (19-0, 6 KOs).  It goes without saying that Southwest boxing fans would love to see the two undefeated prospects square off in 2019.  The current NABF champion is undefeated Manny Robles III (17-0, 12 KOs) out of Los Angeles.

Our neighbors up north in Colorado also were excited to see undefeated Juaquin Trinidad Camarena (8-0, 8 KOs) of Denver move into the NABF rankings at #20 in the super bantamweight division.   Trinidad is the son of Donald Camarena, a talented former contender who once held the WBC Continental America’s Super Lightweight title in 2005.  However although Trinidad’s competition hasn’t been particularly outstanding, from what we’ve seen so far Trinidad has a lot of his dad’s boxing skills coupled with some serious punching power.  He is certainly a prospect worth keeping an eye on in 2019.

Read more Finger Post Boxing News from New Mexico here!

 

The Finger Post Travel: Vicksburg Mississippi (May 27, 2018)

The Finger Post Travel (December 28, 2018)

With the long Martin Luther King Jr. weekend coming up I wanted to revisit one of the many “weekend road trips” I’ve taken over the past few years and in particular my trip last year to Vicksburg, Mississippi.

Right off the bat, Vicksburg is a must for any Civil War history buff (which I classify myself as).  But it also is a great location to get your first taste of Mississippi.  Vicksburg seems to find that perfect balance of Southern charm, living history, and a moderately hip night life.  And let’s be honest, Mississippi takes it’s lumps in the important game of public perception, and Vicksburg will help you revisit any preconceived notions about the state that reportedly earned a dubious reputation for finishing last in every survey of American states.  I’m not sure how true that is but I reckon there is a reason Wikipedia added a page on the phrase “Thank God for Mississippi“.   Sure there were some supporters yelling against the storm (Johnny Cash and June Carter did make me want to go to Jackson after one particularly depressing break up) and The Charlie Daniels Band did strategically place a lyrical homage to the state right after “Devil Went Down to Georgia” on their Million Mile Reflections album.  But Charlie Daniels and Johnny Cash aside, there isn’t a lot of praise heaped on Mississippi.  Although I drove through Mississippi once before I didn’t spend enough time to challenge that preconception.

Which made Vicksburg so refreshing.

I won’t say it felt like a college town, but the young people wandering the streets of Downtown Vicksburg certainly was proof that this was a vibrant town for young Mississippians.  Cool and hip but with a bluesy undertone that we northerners simply could never duplicate (well, maybe Chicago, but nobody else).  Vicksburg was quite simply a fun little town.

But then again, I didn’t see much of the town so maybe I should add that caveat.  I arrived somewhat late and decided to stop off for a quick snack and drink at the Cottonwood Public House.  It was a quite place, and I had just missed the live show from Randy Cohen, a blues musician from New Orleans.  But I grabbed one of his CDs and I will say this, if you’re ever in New Orleans and he’s playing somewhere…you’d be wise to stop there and check it out.

But my friend and I didn’t drive across Texas and Louisiana to hear blues music…we came to see the battlefield.

The following day we made our way to the Vicksburg National Military Park, a 1800 acre national park where a bloody 47-day battle that saw Union General Ulysses S. Grant capture the city from Confederate defenders in 1863.

Actually, battle isn’t a good way to describe it.  It was a siege.  And if you are someone who enjoys visiting Civil War Battlefields then Vicksburg should be at the top of your list.  Because it is really unlike any other Civil War Battlefield.  When visiting Gettysburg or Bull Run or Fredricksburg you can’t help but feel the battle for what it was…two armies throwing everything they had at each other in an attempt to destroy the enemy.  When you visit the Vicksburg National Military Park you can’t help but feel something different.  This was a battlefield that felt disjointed and confusing and spread out.  It felt like a powerful army bogged down by a determined, but outgunned, adversary.  It felt like the battle lines owed more to chance than to strategy.

It felt like modern war.

Unlike other battlefields Vicksburg is seen from the car, where 16 miles of road snake across the old Union and Confederate front lines. Much of the battlefield is also peppered with numerous monuments (over 1,300 in total) from all of the states that took part in the battle.


 

Two antebellum homes are also on the tour, as well as the U.S.S. Cairo, one of the first Ironclad warships that was sunk on December 12, 1862 in the Yazoo River.  The Cairo, having been raised in October of 1964 and been opened officially to the public in 1980 the Cairo is a fascinating snapshot of naval warfare in the Civil War. But since being raised the Cairo has suffered from the elements…and one can’t help but wonder how much longer she will be able to hang on as a living museum.

In the end Vicksburg was an amazing and powerful way to spend a Memorial Day…and it remains one of the most powerful Civil War battlefields you can visit.

 

Read more Finger Post Travel stories here!

 

The Finger Post Boxing: Denver’s Daniel Calzada comes up short in clash with undefeated Brian Ceballo (December 8, 2018)

The Finger Post Boxing (December 8, 2018)

Denver based welterweight Daniel Calzada ultimately came up short in his clash with the talented and undefeated Brian Ceballo tonight at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Calzada showed Ceballo early on why the New Mexican was widely regarded as one of the cagiest fighters in Colorado. Although Ceballo was winning the round with activity he still seemed to have trouble with the defense of Calzada. At times Calzada would successfully move his head to such effect that he had Ceballo throwing three-punch combinations that would hit nothing but air. But in the end the speed and strength of Ceballo was too much for Calzada. By round two Ceballo began to find a home for his right hand, although Calzada showed his toughness in standing his ground. By round three Ceballo was in total control and seemed to snap Calzada’s head back with right hands and left hooks. Still, the New Mexico born brawler refused to take a backward step and certainly impressed the capacity crowd with his grit and toughness. After four rounds of action all theee judges scored the fight 40-36. With the win Ceballo improves to 6-0, 3 KOs while Calzada slips to 16-20-3, 2 KOs. Calzada has only been stopped twice in his 39-fight career.