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.

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 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.

 

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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!

 

Boxing: Daniel Calzada weighs in at 147.6 for fight at Madison Square Garden (December 7, 2018)

The Finger Post Boxing (December 7, 2018)

New Mexico fight fans will be pleased to know that one of our own is fighting on the undercard of the ESPN televised Lomachenko-Pedraza fight in New York City on December 8th.  At the weigh in Denver based Daniel Calzada (16-19-3, 2 KOs) weighed in at a ready 147.6 for his four round welterweight fight against undefeated Brian Ceballo (5-0, 3 KOs).  Ceballo weighed in at 147.8.  Although Calzada lives and fights out of Colorado he was originally from New Mexico and was born in Dona Ana.

 

 

The Finger Post Boxing: Josh Torres wins big in Albuquerque (December 2, 2018)

The Finger Post Boxing (December 2, 2018)

 

Albuquerque New Mexico’s Josh Torres made short work of last minute sub Jesus Alvarez Rodriguez, stopping him in the opening round after just 1:16 of action last night.  The fight, which took place at the Manuel Lujan Exhibition Hall at Expo New Mexico, was widely expected to be a difficult one for the New Mexican before the opening bell.  And when Rodriguez came in at 155.4 (8.4 pounds over the contracted weight) many wondered if the size advantage might be a substantial factor in the fight.  But Torres ultimately had little trouble with the former Mexican prospect.  With the win Torres improves to 19-6-2, 11 KOs while Rodriguez drops to 15-6, 11 KOs.

Undercard results from Albuquerque:

Joe Gomez Ws6 Moris Rodriguez

Jose Luis Sanchez Wu6 Anthony Hill

Lorenzo Benavidez Wm4 Michael Sanchez

Matthew Esquibel Wu6 Ricardo Alan Fernandez

Jaime Aguilera TKO1 Levi Lucero

The Finger Post Boxing: Josh Torres (18-6-2, 10 KOs) returns to ring tonight in Albuquerque (December 1, 2018)

The Finger Post Boxing: December 1, 2018

 

One of New Mexico’s most popular boxers will return to the ring today (December 1st) at the Manuel Lujan Jr. Exhibit Complex at the Expo New Mexico in Albuquerque as local boy Josh Torres (18-6-2, 10 KOs) looks to extend his three fight win streak against last minute sub Jesus Alvarez Rodriguez (15-5, 11 KOs) of Los Mochis, Mexico.

 

For Torres there is a recognition that it is now or never for the notoriously streaky boxer.  Torres is a former WBC USNBC junior welterweight champion, having won the belt against Ranee Ganoy (a fighter who at one point in his career fought in an IBF world title fight eliminator).  And Torres is perhaps best remembered for giving former WBO junior welterweight champion Mike Alvarado all he could handle back in 2016, losing a close majority decision to Alvarado in Texas.  But his record is also peppered with inexplicable losses to fighters like Rufino Flores (2-5, 0 KOs), Cameron Krael (14-13-3, 3 KOs), Jose Marrufo (11-8-2, 1 KO) as well as a four round draw with Joel Vargas (4-16-2, 4 KOs).  Nonetheless, despite these setbacks there is recognition by many boxing fans in New Mexico that when he is on point he can compete with many world class fighters in the welterweight division and can still make one more serious run for contention.

 

However, Torres can ill afford another setback and after his original opponent, Texan Mohamed Rodriguez (11-6-1, 4 KOs), was forced to drop out of the fight earlier this week due to a shoulder injury he may actually be in with a considerably more dangerous opponent.  Torres’s new opponent, Jesus Alvarez Rodriguez, is a former undefeated prospect who is best remembered for his fight with Ruslan Provodnikov in 2015.  Rodriguez entered that fight with an impressive 15-0 record, but he was ultimately dominated by the former WBO world champion, getting stopped in four rounds.

 

And unfortunately for Rodriguez he has had little opportunity to right the ship since then.  Rodriguez was thrown in with the wolves, fighting (and losing to) four undefeated world class prospects since his loss to Provodnikov.  His fight with Torres is widely recognized as a considerably more reasonable matchup for a young boxer looking to rebuild his career and much like Torres, he has his back to the wall.  A loss to Torres would undoubtedly end his dreams of contention, something that is not lost on either fighter.  Although Torres and Rodriguez is seen as an even matchup, many boxing insiders nonetheless recognize that it is hard to gauge exactly what sort of test Rodriguez would provide for the New Mexican.  His losses were ultimately to undefeated world class prospects and one former world champion whereas his wins tended to come against little known journeymen.  Whereas his first fifteen fights saw him defeat opponents with a combined record of 27-108-11 his last four fights saw him lose to fighters with a combined record of 49-0-1.  It is this mystery surrounding Rodriguez that makes the Torres-Rodriguez match so interesting, and why many boxing fans regard Rodriguez as a much more dangerous opponent that his original foe.

 

The Torres-Rodriguez fight is scheduled for eight rounds in the welterweight division.

 

In the co-main event Aztec, New Mexico’s Joe Gomez (21-7-1, 10 KOs) looks to extend his three fight win streak as he takes on Moris Rodriguez (7-11-1, 5 KOs) of Sacramento in a six round junior middleweight fight.  Gomez has once fought Alfredo Angulo in a WBC Continental Americas super welterweight title back in 2011 (losing in the opening round).  However, he has seen limited action in the ring since then, fighting only six times in the last seven years.  However Gomez has picked up the pace slightly in 2018, with his fight against Rodriguez being his second this year.   Rodriguez was stopped in six rounds by main event fighter Josh Torres in his last fight in March of this year.

 

Rounding off the undefeated Matthew Esquibel (10-0-1, 5 KOs) of Albuquerque takes on journeyman Ricardo Fernandez (3-10-4, 0 KOs) of Juarez, Mexico in a six round junior middleweight fight.  Although the fight doesn’t appear to be much of a contest on paper, with Fernandez coming in on the heels of an eight fight losing streak, the conventional wisdom is that the Mexican may still surprise some people.  Esquibel struggled in his last fight, being held to a draw by lightly regarded Tavorus Teague back in June and if the same Esquibel that showed up against Teague were to show up tonight fans may be treated to a more competitive fight than expected.

 

Albuquerque’s Lorenzo Benavidez (0-1) looks for his first win against Michael Sanchez (2-2, 2 KOs) in a four round cruiserweight fight. Jose Luis Sanchez (7-1, 3 KOs) of Albuquerque takes on Oklahoma’s Anthony Hill (1-25, 0 KOs) in a six round junior middleweight fight.   And in the opening fight of the night Las Cruces New Mexico’s Jamie Aguilera makes his professional debut against Levi Lucero (0-2) in a four round lightweight fight.  Tickets for the event, billed “Expo Explosion II,” start at $25 for general admission and $80 for front row seating.

 

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The Finger Post Boxing: Remembering the day Floyd Mayweather Jr. fought in Albuquerque

The Finger Post Boxing (November 30, 2018)

 

I’ve covered fights all across the globe and have sat ringside for some of the biggest fights in boxing history…but I think every boxing writer laments the one that got away.  And for me that was the night of May 26, 2001.

I was just kicking off my career as a freelance boxing writer in Michigan.  I had submitted some material to a few smaller boxing websites and was 11 days away from covering my first fight card for Fightnews.com: a club show in a VFW hall in Durand, Michigan. (for the record, Fightnews didn’t end up posting it, my first published fight report was from a show in Washington D.C.).

But even if I wasn’t a boxing writer at that point I was still a fight fan, which makes May 26, 2001 inexcusable.

That was the day that “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather Jr. defended his WBC Super Featherweight title in Grand Rapids, Michigan against Carlos Hernandez of Argentina.  I don’t know why I didn’t make the drive out from Flint to Grand Rapids to see that fight.  Floyd was already established as one of boxing’s best champions and although he would dominate Hernandez it would prove to be a historic night: the only knockdown of Mayweather’s career (for the record it wasn’t much of a knockdown).

I would go on to see Mayweather in action in the future…April 8, 2006, when he won a decision over Zab Judah in Las Vegas.  But by then Mayweather was a superstar.  In Grand Rapids he wasn’t the most recognizable fighter on the planet yet.  Hell, he wasn’t even the most recognizable fighter in Michigan yet.  He was talented…we all saw it.  But somehow that talent wasn’t enough to motivate me to drive one and a half hours to see him in action live.

I guess I just didn’t appreciate how close to greatness I was back on May 26, 2001.  And I guess that is why I often pay special attention to those four round fights on the undercard.  You never know if that 3-0 kid on the undercard might just be something special.  Admittedly they are usually in against a softer touch…but how many of you would say you wouldn’t drive up to Albuquerque to have seen a young Floyd Mayweather Jr. in action, even if it was against a journeyman?  Sure the fight featuring that young prospect ends up being pretty lopsided, but you still get to see a young prospect in action…and sometimes that young prospect turns out to be something really, really special.  You see the flashes of brilliance…and sometimes you even get to see the rough edges that you know will be polished out before he fights for his first world title.

Yeah, I may have May 26, 2001 as my missed opportunity to see greatness rising…but I am not alone.  Just about every fight fan in New Mexico has a date they also have to carry with them: November 30, 1996.  22-years ago to the day.

Because on that day Floyd Mayweather came to Albuquerque.

In an ESPN televised fight card featuring then WBO Super Flyweight champion Johnny Tapia in a title defense, Floyd Mayweather Jr. stopped by for a four round clash with a little know journeyman from Indiana named Reggie Sanders.  And if you are a fight fans from New Mexico who for whatever reason didn’t go to the Tingley Coliseum on November 30, 1996 then watching the fight now on YouTube will be painful.  You will see hundreds of empty seats all around the ring.  Sure we didn’t know that Floyd would become “Money” but it doesn’t change the fact that you missed this golden opportunity.  You missed a chance to see an all time great in his only fight in New Mexico.

Empty seats…as far as the eye can see.

And interestingly enough, even though the matchup wasn’t exactly a major test for Mayweather, history was made that night at the Tingley Coliseum.  Floyd Mayweather Jr. was taken the distance for the first time.  Reggie Sanders was able to last the four-round distance with Mayweather and although judges Levi Martinez and William Gantt had Mayweather winning 40-36, one judge (Sandy Pino, a familiar face to fight fans in New Mexico) actually had Sanders winning one round and scored the fight 39-37.   So another bit of boxing history occurred in Albuquerque 22-years ago today and New Mexico fight fans in attendance were able to witness it.

Albuquerque saw the first round Floyd Mayweather Jr. would lose as a professional.

Admittedly a lot of fans were probably not paying much attention to the then young boxer from Grand Rapids who was fighting as a professional for only the second time in his career.  But those who did…well, they witnessed history in the making.  They saw the Beatles with Pete Best on the drums.  They saw Michael Jordan playing basketball in college.  They saw a young Floyd Mayweather Jr. go the distance for the first time ever.  And who knows, maybe they even realized they were watching something special.

There is a fight coming up this weekend in Albuquerque, and although I won’t claim that any of the fighters on that card will become the next Floyd Mayweather Jr. I have to admit…back in 2001 I didn’t think Floyd Mayweather Jr. would become the next Floyd Mayweather Jr.   So what do I know?  Maybe you shouldn’t take my word for it and you should head down to the Manuel Lujan Building in Albuquerque Saturday night just to make sure you don’t miss something special.  A week after that show boxing will head to to Odessa, Texas where a pair of undefeated fighters in Desmond Hill and Abel Mendoza are slated to fight in two separate fights at the Ector County Coliseum.  Are either of them the next Canelo Alvarez or Manny Pacquiao?  Most people would say no.  But those are the same people who didn’t buy these five empty ringside seats for Canelo Alvarez fight agaist Raul Pinzon in Miami back in 2008.  Don’t be the five guys not sitting in those seats on Saturday in Albuquerque or on December 8 in Odessa.

If you are still not sure if you want to go to the fights this weekend just take a long, hard look at those five empty chairs and think about all the money you’ve spent on Canelo PPVs

 

And for those of you who missed Albuquerque’s brush with greatness on November 30th, 1996…for those fight fans in New Mexico who were old enough to have gone to that fight card at the Tingley Coliseum and for whatever reason didn’t…

Well, all I can say is I feel your pain.

 

 

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The Finger Post Boxing: Albuquerque’s Jason Sanchez enters WBO world ranking (November 27, 2018)

The Finger Post Boxing: November 27, 2018

 

New Mexico’s had no shortage of attractive prospects in boxing since the era of Danny Romero and Johnny Tapia…and for boxing fans in the Land of Enchantment Albuquerque’s undefeated featherweight Jason Sanchez (13-0, 6 KOs) was one of the best prospects the state had ever produced.

Well, it’s time to stop calling him a prospect.

Because now that the World Boxing Organization has released it’s November ratings earlier this week Sanchez graduated to something bigger.

Contender.

After stunning fellow undefeated prospect Jean Carlos Rivera on October 31 in Panama City, there was little doubt that Sanchez was going to make some noise in boxing.  After all, he had just beat one of the best featherweight prospects in the world in front of some of boxing’s biggest power brokers (the WBO annual Convention was taking place that week in Panama City at the same hotel where the fight card was held).  He also captured the WBO Youth belt in the process, a belt that often is a precursor to a world ranking.

Sanchez’s hard work and dominant title victory was more than enough in the eyes of the WBO to propel the Albuquerque native into the world rankings at #15.

So where does Sanchez go from here?  Well, he needs to continue to win if he is going to move into the top ten, but looking at some of the fighters ranked above him I have to admit, I like his chances against a few of them.  I for one think that a fight with California’s Erick Ituarte (20-1-1, 3 KOs) would be a very good match up for Sanchez.   Ituarte, the #5 ranked contender, struggled to beat Alberto Torres (11-1-3, 4 KOs) in an NABF Junior title fight back in August of 2017 (Ituarte won a split decision).  He also struggled to defeat Isaac Zarate (16-4-3, 2 KOs) by split decision in his only other NABF Junior title fight in May of 2017.  Sanchez may not be seen as a puncher but it was obvious that his had enough pop in his punches to give Jean Carlos Rivera a lot of trouble in Panama.  And I think he could find similar success against Ituarte, who only has three knockouts in his 22 fights.  In fact, one of the most impressive things about Sanchez’s performance in Panama was his relentless attack on Rivera…never letting up and never getting deterred.   Against the light punching Ituarte I could see Sanchez duplicate his winning strategy from Panama: walking through Ituarte and manhandling him with relentless pressure.  Ituarte was dropped by Zarate in their fight with a counter left cross in the third round, and although it was something of a flash knockdown it was clear after round three that the pressure of Zarate was giving Ituarte a lot of problems.  But the underdog simply couldn’t keep the pressure up.  By round five Ituarte was in control as the badly winded Zarate began to backpedal.

The thing is…I don’t think Sanchez would fade.  He certainly didn’t in Panama, where his relentless pressure was a thing of beauty.  Rivera tried to weather the storm but Sanchez never took his foot on the accelerator.  Ituarte simply lacks the power to frustrate a determined Sanchez in my opinion.  And unlike Zarate, who faded down the stretch, Sanchez will be in Ituarte’s face for all ten rounds.  If the same Jason Sanchez who who went to Panama were to head to California for a fight against Ituarte I believe that the New Mexican would come home with the win.

And that could propel Sanchez into a world title fight in 2019…something every fight fan in New Mexico would be excited to see.

Read more Finger Post Boxing news here!

 

 

The Finger Post Boxing: Sanchez Stuns Rivera in Panama City (October 31, 2018)

The Finger Post Boxing (November 18, 2018)

 

For boxing fans in Panama City, Panama there was little question that they were watching a pugilistic surgeon in the ring last night in undefeated Puerto Rican Jean Carlos Rivera. The only problem was that the surgeon was standing in front of a New Mexican freight train in Albuquerque’s Jason Sanchez. Sanchez, the prohibitive underdog going into the fight, refused to ever take a backward step against the undefeated prospect and never let Rivera derail his unrelenting pressure. Rivera seemed to have an effective strategy in the opening round, letting Sanchez come on strong but making him pay for his aggression with hard overhand rights. In round two it appeared that Rivera had even rattled the New Mexican when he landed a hard left that appeared to affect Sanchez’s balance. But even as he landed hard counter punches, Rivera could never get the New Mexican to ease up off of him, and soon the relentless pressure of Sanchez began to take its toll. Rivera began to wilt from the pressure by round four and by round six there was no question that Sanchez was now in control. Rivera, who was never able to keep up with Sanchez’s punch output even in the early rounds, continued to slowly fade in the late rounds as his picture perfect counter right became less pronounced and his punch output, always lagging Sanchez’s, began to drop off as well.

By round ten it appeared that Sanchez was ahead, but the Albuquerque fighter wisely elected to fight it out and not leave anything to chance. His aggression and perseverance paid off when he badly rattled Rivera with a left hook that sent the Puerto Rican stumbling into the corner where referee Ken Chevalier correctly ruled a knockdown, noting that the corner and ropes was the only thing that prevented Rivera from hitting the canvas.

But the freight train was not about to let up, even with the decision all but in the bag. Sanchez pressed forward for the knockout against his foe, winning over the Panamanian fight fans and closing the round in dominant fashion, All three judges has Sanchez the winner by scores of 96-93, 97-92, and 97-92. With the win Sanchez captures the WBO Youth Featherweight title, while also improving his record to 13-0, 6 KOs. For Sanchez, it was a perfect night that ended in a perfect victory. With the World Boxing Organization hosting their annual convention in Panama City, Sanchez’s fight was attended by some of the most important power brokers in the sport including Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran, Panama’s most famous citizen. Also, as the original main event fight fell through at the last minute, Jason Sanchez found himself now fighting for a WBO title in the main event.

The acquisition of the Youth title is expected to propel Sanchez into the WBO world rankings as well. Currently there are seven Youth Champions ranked by the WBO, with the highest Youth Champion being ranked #1 in the mini-flyweight division.

“This is a dream come true,” Sanchez said after the fight. “I’ve been waiting for this opportunity my whole life. I worked hard for it and thank God everything went good.”