By Austin Killeen December 3, 2016
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It’s the classic matchup between the grizzled veteran and the undefeated hotshot, a story line that has played out thousands of times since the dawn of boxing. The veteran has been pushed around more times than a revolving door, but responds with tenacity at each challenge. The newbie has a shinny record built on the bodies of one time stars, which no longer shines in the evening skies. Tony Valdez shocked the boxing community when he launched a successful comeback after a six year layoff. Like the parable of Lazarus, Valdez seemingly rose from the dead to resurrect his career. In the process Valdez did it the hard way facing nothing but tough opposition on his road to legitimacy. The fleet footed Banegas with the impregnable defense, has walked through, over and around every obstacle placed in front of him. All the more amazing, most of his wins have taken place on the road.
In the eight round main event, undefeated bantamweight Augustine Banegas (9-0-0, 2 KO’s) 116 lbs. of Las Cruces, NM would have to be considered the favorite over veteran Tony Valdez (8-5-6, 7 KO’s) 116 lbs. of Espanola, NM. Due to the scarcity of bantamweights in the area; both men have had to face bigger opponents on a regular bases. For once they get to compete in their own weight class. Banegas has a left jab that flicks out like the tongue of a snake and like the tongue of a snake is very accurate. Combine this with the footwork reminiscent of the famous dance team of “Hines, Hines and Dad” and you get a boxer who frustrates opponents every time he enters the ring. Punching power clearly favors the boxer from Espanola and Valdez will have to land with power if he hopes to win. Valdez has to turn this into a street fight to take Banegas out of his comfort zone. The fans will be cheering for Valdez, but fans don’t fill out score cards. This should be an interesting bout between the matador and the bull, with the matador entering hostile territory. There is no love lost between these two bantamweights, as there dislike for each other is for real.
In the six round semi-final, featherweight Jason Sanchez (8-0-0, 4 KO’s) 124.4 lbs. of Albuquerque, NM faces Sergio Najera (12-27-2, 6 KO’s) 120 lbs. Tijuana, Mexico. This has been a great year for Sanchez and he hopes to continue it at the expense of Najera. In February he stopped John Herrera in 74 seconds of the first round, the only time in twenty two bouts the Roswell fighter has failed to go the distance. Jason won a lopsided decision over Raymond Chacon who previously upset Tony Valdez and knocked out Juan Carlos Guillen. This was the first time Guillen was KO’d in thirteen bouts. The one time I saw Najera in action, he looked professional in losing a competitive fight. On that evening he liked to work on the inside a dangerous place to hang out when facing El Alacrancito. In English that means “The Scorpion” a name that is appropriate for the deadly fists of Sanchez. If Sanchez wins the pressure will build for a Sanchez vs Brandon Holmes matchup.
In the evenings sixth bout scheduled for six rounds middleweight Joaquin Zamora (20-4-1, 12 KO’s) 159.6 lbs. of Santa Fe, NM faces Larry Smith (10-30-1, 7 KO’s) 159.8 lbs. of Dallas, TX. This will be Zamora’s first bout in three years which could be risky against Smith who has had 16 matches during that time period. I’ve seen Zamora perform on several occasions and he makes me think of the cartoon character Gumby. He contorts his body into the strange positions, but lands clean punches to his surprised opponents. Zamora is a solid pro and if he performs at all like in his previous bouts it could be a long night for Smith. Smith has the moniker of “SlowMotion” which is not the recommend speed for fighting a veteran like Zamora. Smith said his nickname is the result of his days playing high school football. He was a half back and would slow down when approaching the line of scrimmage, but turn on the speed if he saw a hole open up.
In the evenings fifth bout scheduled for six rounds, middleweight Jose Luis Sanchez (6-1-0, 2 KO’s) 153.8 lbs. of Albuquerque, NM faces Tavorus Teague (3-15-2, 2 KO’s) Bakersfield, CA. Like his little brother Jason, Jose has also won three bouts this year. In training for this bout I saw Sanchez drop a 250 pound heavyweight with a body punch. So don’t be fooled by his knockout record, he has serious power. In his last fight he won a unanimous decision in a brutal foul filled brawl. Although he has been fighting above the welterweight limit he has expressed a desire to fight at that weight He would like to avenge his only lost in a rematch with Josh “Pitbull” Torres. I saw Teague fight once and he looked to be much better than his record would indicate. Tall and lean he has nice moves and appears to have some pop in his punch. If he can deal with the power of Sanchez’s body attack this could be an interesting fight.
In the evenings fourth bout scheduled for six rounds featherweight Jesus Xavier Pacheco (6-5-0) 125.2 lbs. of Albuquerque, NM faces Gene Perez (1-6-1) 126 lbs. of Belen, NM. With nineteen bouts between them, neither combatant has won a contest by stoppage. But don’t be fooled by that statistic as both boxers are volume punchers. The featherweight division is the deepest one in New Mexico but none of the contenders seem eager to fight each other; with one exception Gene Perez. Perez has fought every fighter in the division who has been willing to face him, losing some very close decisions. Perez likes to work on the inside and is capable of breaking an opponent down. Losing four of his first five fights, Pacheco has rebounded winning five of his last six matches. Unlike his opponent the “Duke City” boxer likes to work off an excellent left jab, throwing short rights and uppercuts if an opponent tries to get inside. This is a contest of contrasting styles and might turn out to be the fight of the night.
In the evenings third bout scheduled for six rounds featherweight Jose Osorio (6-3-1, 3 KO’s) 128 lbs. of Albuquerque, NM faces John Herrera (4-16-2, 2 KO’s) 125.8 lbs. of Roswell, NM. Osorio likes to throw punches in bunches and has decent power in both hands. He uses his left jab to create openings and likes to fight for three minutes of every round. Herrera is a good boxer with a solid defense and a strong chin. But unlike Osorio doesn’t throw as many punches a round as his opponent. This has resulted in Herrera dropping decisions in the other guy’s back yard most of his career. The Roswell fighter has to pick up his punch volume if he hopes to enter the winners circle on Saturday night. For his part Osorio has been able to build a winning record against difficult competition and would like to face bigger challenges.
The remaining bouts are scheduled for four rounds.
In a contest between debuting boxers lightweight Cristian Castillo 138.4 lbs. of Albuquerque, NM faces Angel Avila El Paso, TX. I’ve seen Castillo work out at the gym on several occasions but never in the amateurs. He’s in good shape and hopes to use his jab to create opportunities this weekend. It’s hard to say what kind of hitting power Castillo posses, but he thinks he can land with some force. He is confident in his ability, in large part due to sparring with Jesus Xavier Pacheco for the past month. All I know about Avila is that he won one of the regional competitions in the golden gloves in Texas. I.n talking to him yesterday, he seemed like a nice young man who is focused on to nights fight. I have a feeling that this bout could provide some action between to well conditioned boxers.
In the opening fight of the evening, welterweight Isidro Castillo Jr. (1-0-0) of Hobbs, NM faces Justin Flores (0-1-0) 154.4 lbs. of El Paso, TX. I witnessed the pro debuts of both boxers, one was evenly matched and one was in a mismatch. In his debut Isidro Castillo showed a lot of poise, working behind and excellent left jab that keep his opponent off balance the entire contest. The Hobbs’ boxer has speed of both hand and foot, as well as being a good judge of distance. Castillo reminds me of Johnny Bratton, former welterweight champ of the fifties. Bratton was a cutie and if Castillo can learn some of his moves like looking at the audience while landing a blind left hook he’ll give his father Isidro Castillo Sr. an ulcer. Castillo’s dad was an excellent boxer in his own right with over 200 amateur bouts. In his pro debut Flores was matched up with hard punching Antonio Martinez. The veteran Martinez landed an overhand right to the head of Flores causing him to strike his head on the canvas when he was knocked down. He didn’t move for some time, while being administered by the doctor in attendance. Hopefully his second pro bout will prove to be more evenly matched.
This eight bout card is being promoted by Legacy Promotions and if all the bouts go the distance will provide forty six rounds of action. This will be the final boxing card of the year in New Mexico and I’ll be posting my year end ratings after Christmas.
Voices from the Corner: Fidel Maldonado Jr. 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. If successful this will put Maldonado in line for a shot at Terence Crawford’s Super Lightweight Championship. Maldonado has a big punch and is P4P one of the top boxers in the state. Most of his fights have taken place on the road, with many having occurred on TV. Orozco will be a difficult matchup who applies relentless pressure which has resulted in his scoring many KO’s.