By Austin Killeen Ringside Photos by Lori Pina
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Most weigh-ins have face to face stare downs but in reality the boxers have no bad feelings towards their opponents. Friday afternoon at the Camel Rock Casino, the main event faceoff was the real thing. Problems started about ten days earlier when Augustine Banegas arrived in Santa Fe to complete his training at Pat Holmes Sr. gym. He wanted to train at the higher altitude of Santa Fe, which is 3,000 feet higher than Las Cruces, NM. This is the same gym that Tony Valdez had trained at since launching his comeback in 2011. About a year ago Valdez and Holmes Sr. had a falling out and Tony has been training with Sergio Chavez in Albuquerque since that time. When the fighters were called to the scales Banegas was wearing a Holmes Gym tee shirt and spewing trash talk at Valdez. This did not go over well with a crowd that treats Tony like a rock star. Security quickly closed in but it didn’t stop the fighters from coming nose to nose. At that point Valdez, who is a very good speaker, asked for the microphone. Minus profanity, Valdez talked about being disrespected and feeling betrayed. The crowd showed their support for their hero and couldn’t wait for the following night.
In the eight round main event, undefeated bantamweight Augustine Banegas (10-0-0, 3 KO’s) 116 lbs. of Las Cruces, NM won by KO over Tony Valdez (8-6-6, 7 KO’s) 116 lbs. of Española, NM. Entering the ring to a chorus of boos, Banegas acknowledged his new found detractors with waves and kisses. When Valdez entered the ring, the near sellout crowd appeared almost unanimous in support for him. When referee Robert Valez called the fighters to mid ring for his fight instructions he didn’t have to ask twice; you could cut the tension with a knife. Banegas and Valdez looked like they might start the contest during the referee’s instructions. A few seconds later the sound of the time keeper’s bell officially started the much anticipated bout. I can’t remember the last time that two men so small were creating excitement so large.
I expected the hard hitting Valdez to tear into Banegas, but it was the Las Cruces boxer who was doing the stalking. I’ve seen most of his fights and never seen any indication that he had any kind of a punch. For his part Valdez seemed comfortable fighting out of a crouch and would fire back each time he felt the ropes touching his back. The first two rounds were mirror images of each other with Banegas scoring with left hooks off his jab and Valdez answering with left hooks to the body. I gave both rounds to the visiting fighter but the rounds were close and the fan favorite appeared to have opportunities to counter with powerful punches of his own.
In the third round Banegas added a straight right to his arsenal and it seemed to throw Valdez off his game. About half way through the round Valdez was trapped on the ropes and the crowd villain unloaded. Steeping to the middle of the ring, Valdez lost his balance and took a seat on the canvas. Referee Valez correctly waved off the count, ruling it a slip. But Valdez was in trouble and soon found himself trapped near his rival’s corner. Banegas unloaded a brutal left hook to his opponent’s head and followed it with a seven punch combination. Sitting on the lower strand of the ropes Valdez was defenseless and Referee Valez halted the contest at 2:30 of the round. The defeated little warrior with the big heart pitched forward on his knees, while Louie Burke entered the ring and hoisted his charge in the air in victory.
The ending of the fight did not play well with Valdez supporters on my side of the square circle, some of whom appeared ready to enter the ring. Security acted fast and any possible trouble was averted. Ring announcer Dennis Chavez alertly used his microphone to ask the crowd to control their emotions. His actions certainly aided security in calming things down.Trainer Louie Burke put his arms around Valdez, acknowledging his game effort when crowd emotions started settling down. But Valdez had no interest in accepting conciliatory handshakes from Banegas or his former promoter Pat Holmes Sr. Valdez supporters made it clear that they shared his reaction to any peace offerings. It appears it will take some time before that particular bridge is mended. Obviously I don’t have all the facts regarding these fractured relations, but I’m friendly with all three personalities involved. They say “time heals all wounds”, only time will tell. When I expressed my surprise at Banegas’ hitting power to trainer Louie Burke he responded; “Augustine has been giving up ten pounds to featherweights his entire career. I never had any doubt about his power if he could just fight at junior bantamweight. “Fighting below 118 pounds, I’d have to agree with Burke’s assessment; this young man can punch. I’ve seen virtually all of Valdez’s comeback fights and he has always provided fans with great action bouts. When I asked him if this was it he responded; “I’m not sure, but I want to spend more time with my kids.” Tony reminds me of the little train that could, he just keeps chugging along. If I had to walk down a dark alley, I’d feel a lot safer knowing Tony was at my side. All you can ask of a person is to give you his/her best. Based on that motto Tony Valdez is a CHAMPION!
In the six round semi-final, featherweight Jason Sanchez (9-0-0, 5 KO’s) 124.4 lbs. of Albuquerque, NM won by TKO over Sergio Najera (12-28-2, 6 KO’s) 120 lbs. Tijuana, Mexico. The opening round had plenty of action as neither fighter showed much interest in backing up. Najera fought out of a bob-n-weave and scored with some hooks to his opponent’s body. Sanchez was successful landing left hooks and overhand rights off his excellent jab. The round clearly belonged to Sanchez, but Najera came to fight. Having successfully established his ability to land his jab, his power punches started breaking the game Najera down. Sanchez exploded a brutal left hook to the body followed by a right to the head, sending Najera to the canvas. Referee Rocky Burke could see that Najera was in no condition to continue and halted the contest at 1:34 of the round. Bangers could learn a lot by watching Sanchez fight. You don’t run across the ring throwing bombs until you establish your jab first. This was an impressive performance by Sanchez and immediately started talk of when Sanchez will face undefeated (9-0-0, 6 KO’s) Brandon Holmes. I know one thing, if and when it does happens it will sell out the day tickets go on sale.
In the evenings sixth bout scheduled for six rounds come backing middleweight Joaquin Zamora (20-4-1, 12 KO’s) 159.6 lbs. of Santa Fe, NM won by UD over Larry Smith (10-30-1, 7 KO’s) 159.8 lbs. of Dallas, TX. This was a contest by two veteran smoothies who had plenty of tricks up their sleeves. Smith entered the ring to the sound of Gospel music and soon had the crowd singing and swaying along to the music. That’s one way for an out of town fighter to win the crowd over. Then it was Zamora’s turn, entering the ring to an upbeat Mexican sound. Once again the crowd was swaying to the sounds of captivating music. The crowd loved it and figured they already got their money’s worth from the musical arrangements. That probably would not have played well with the boxing commission as they had scheduled a contest calling for six round of boxing.
It proved to be an entertaining fight with both boxers having their moments, but the southpaw Zamora had more of them. In the third round Zamora noticed that the referee was on his right side. He immediately grabbed the ropes with his left hand and used it for leverage to pin Smith on the ropes, while pounding away with his free right hand. Suspicious of Zamora’s actions the referee moved to his left side to see what was going on. Zamora immediately switched hands and started hitting Smith with his free left hand. The ref had had enough of Zamora’s tricks and ordered the fighters to break. Scores of 60-54 twice and 59-55 resulted in Zamora having his hand raised in victory. Considering he hadn’t been in the ring for three years, it was a solid performance. By the end of the evening there was talk of having Zamora facing hard punching Gerardo Quintana (5-1-1, 3 KO’s) in his next fight. This would be an interesting matchup because the much younger Quintana would test Zamora’s stamina with his aggressive, hard punching offense.
In the evenings fifth bout scheduled for six rounds featherweight Jesus Xavier Pacheco (7-5-0, 1 KO) 125.2 lbs. of Albuquerque, NM won by TKO over Gene Perez (1-7-1) 126 lbs. of Belen, NM. With twenty one bouts between them, neither combatant has won a contest by stoppage. I didn’t expect anything to change on this evening. Perez is a southpaw and his style seemed to confuse Pacheco in the first round, who was having difficulty landing his left jab. Suddenly Perez exploded a left hook off the head of Pacheco, stopping him in his tracks. Pacheco, who is very honest, told me later he knew he had lost to opening round. The second round stated off like the first with Perez controlling the action. Suddenly Pacheco exploded and overhand right off the head of his rival and Perez found himself on the floor. Perez seemed to be ok when he got up, but quickly walked into another overhand right and found himself once again resting on the canvas. Beating the eight count, he was determined not to make the same mistake again. One problem; Pacheco fired a left hook to the head, dropping his rival for the third time. The referee had seen enough and Pacheco had his first stoppage win. Having lost four of his first five fights, Pacheco is now on fire with six wins in his last seven bouts. I’ve seen the well conditioned Perez in action on many occasions and he has one problem; no head movement. If he could correct this one deficiency he could turn his career around.
In the evenings fourth bout scheduled for six rounds featherweight Jose Osorio (7-3-1, 3 KO’s) 128 lbs. of Albuquerque, NM won by UD over John Herrera (4-17-2, 2 KO’s) 125.8 lbs. of Roswell, NM. Osorio a volume puncher started the fight as he always does throwing a great many punches off his left jab. What surprised me was the defensive minded Herrera who was matching his rival punch for punch. A few years back I thought that Herrera had some potential, but it never happened. By the end of the round, I thought I might be looking at the fight of the night. The opening round turned out to be a mirage as Herrera went back to his old style of defense all the time. After six rounds of one sided action there was no doubt who would win the decision. All three judges had identical scores of 60-54. Osorio is one tough customer, who possesses a decent punch. Add to that his excellent conditioning and you have a boxer who opponents had better not overlook. When I asked Herrera what happened after the opening round, he was very candid; “I was out of shape and didn’t train hard. I have nobody to blame but myself. I have to go to the gym and stay there, no days off.” I’ve always like Herrera and hope for his sake, he does what he says.
In the evenings third bout scheduled for six rounds, middleweight Jose Luis Sanchez (7-1-0, 3 KO’s) 153.8 lbs. of Albuquerque, NM stopped Tavorus Teague (3-16-2, 2 KO’s) Bakersfield, CA. Like his little brother Jason, Jose has some serious power. But unlike his little brother, he left his jab in the dressing room. For the first two rounds he tossed bombs at Teague, but his well conditioned opponent was up to the challenge. I gave both rounds to Sanchez on aggression, but wasn’t particularly impressed. Somebody must have been sent back to his dressing room to find his jab because in the third round Sanchez was a different man. Suddenly he was snapping hooks and uppercuts off his new found jab with a high degree of accuracy. After five rounds of being on the wrong side of some heavy hitting, Teague had had enough and retired for the evening. Teague was in excellent shape and would see greater success if he worked on his offense. Sanchez would like to avenge his only loss, a stoppage at the hands of Josh “Pitbull’ Torres. He is a much improved fighter, and some promoter might want to put them on the same fight card a couple of times to build up interest.
The remaining bouts are scheduled for four rounds.
In a contest between debuting boxers lightweight Cristian Castillo 138.4 lbs. of Albuquerque, NM won by KO over Angel Avila El Paso, TX. I’ve seen Castillo work out at the gym on several occasions but had no idea what he would be like in a real contest. In the opening round, I could see both boxers had good left jabs. Castillo had one additional skill; good head movement. As the round developed Avila never followed up on his jab, but Castillo always did. Forty six seconds into the second round Avila walked into a right hand and the contest was over. You can’t place too much value on a single fight, but based on Saturday nights fight, Castillo appears to have a decent punch and some potential. He is tentatively scheduled to appear on the Legacy promotion scheduled for February of next year. An worthy opponent will be named at a latter date.
In the opening fight of the evening, welterweight Isidro Castillo Jr. (2-0-0, 1 KO) of Hobbs, NM scored a first round TKO over Justin Flores (0-2-0) 154.4 lbs. of El Paso, TX. At the opening bell both boxers came out throwing leather, but Castillo Jr. probably was the better student at math. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and that’s how Castillo threw his punches. The bigger Flores was aggressive, but it only served to add to the power if his rivals punch. I’ve seen both of Castillo’s fights and so far he looks like he has some ring savvy. Instead of backing up, he stepped inside his rival’s power and was always in position to throw a punch. I’ve also seen both of Flores’s fights and he showed improvement over his debut. If he’s willing to work on correcting his mistakes he could change the outcome of his next bout.
This eight bout card was promoted by Legacy Promotions and had some entertaining bouts. I loved the drama of the main event and hope that my write up was fair and balanced for all parties involved. The audience was clearly involved in the action, even if most of those in attendance didn’t like the outcome of the main event. It was nice to see some of our other pros at ringside supporting the card. Fidel Maldonado Jr. who will be facing undefeated Antonio Orozco of Mexico for the vacant WBC International super lightweight title on December 12th at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio California was in attendance. Also three undefeated boxers welterweight Brian Mendoza, flyweight Mathew Griego and heavyweight Elijo Sena where at ringside. Legacy promotions plan to have their next show in February. At this time there are no matchups to announce, but it safe to say many of Saturday night’s winners will be on the show.