By Austin Killeen – Ringside – March 25, 2017 – (Click on picture to expand.)
Saturday evening at the Albuquerque Convention Center the finals of the 2017 Western Elite Qualifier & Regional Open Championships took place. This was a weeklong event with 360 boxers from twenty-three states and the District of Columbia participating. For many of the boxers from New Mexico this was their first time swimming in deep waters, but the experience was well worth it. One out of state boxer caught my eye simply because we share the same first name. His name is Austin Williams and he went on to win the Elite title at 165 pounds. All week long the bouts took place in two rings at the same time, requiring spectators to make some hard choices. I had no photographer and relied on the person taking photos for the tournament. This was a mistake as she was covering close to three hundred matches making it impossible for her to supply me with photos of the New Mexico boxers. This tournament was as much a learning experience for me as it was for the boxers.
In the title bout for the women’s Elite Division 125 pound title, Elyza Peralta of Los Lunas, NM won by decision over Brittany Sims of Salem, OR. Elite is the right word for this title as both ladies have skills and displayed them. The opening round was very close with both girl’s slipping punches and electing to fight at a distance. Peralta’s jab was very effective in controlling the second round, she also used space well. In the final round Sims trapped her rival on the ropes scoring with a nice combination. But Peralta used a spin move to escape and counter attack Sims. Both girls are very talented and the fans appreciated their skills. Although I was pulling for Peralta, it’s a shame that somebody had to lose.
In the title bout for the men’s junior 138 pound title, Elijah Martinez of Kirtland, NM won by TKO over Josue Reyes, of Albuquerque. This was a battle of southpaws in which Martinez dominated the contest. Watching Martinez dismantle his game opponent on Saturday, it’s hard to believe that he lost 15 of his first 18 bouts. He was economy in motion, turning defense into offense in a split second with beautiful timing. The stockier Reyes pressed the action, often pinning Martinez on the ropes only to be the victim of superb counter punching. I’m not discrediting Reyes as he would have beaten many opponents on this day; unfortunately his adversary is the complete package. Martinez scored two standing 8-counts before the contest was halted in the third round on the advice of the ring doctor.
In the title bout for the girls 101 pound junior title and bragging rights in Los Lunas, NM, Jolene Bottini won by UD over classmate Estrellita Iturralde. In the opening round Iturralde carried the action behind a strong left jab and nice defense. Bottini responded with ineffective arm punches. Round two the contest swung in the opposite direction. Bottini started sitting down on her punches, while Iturralde appeared hesitant to throw anything. Bottini controlled the final round behind a strong left jab, while Iturralde was unable to recapture the momentum she had in the opening stanza. In her previous match the other day Iturralde showed some heavy hands in scoring a TKO victory.
In the title bout for the women’s youth 152 pound title, Sharayha Moreu of Albuquerque, overwhelmed Nayrijah Yellowman of Shiprock, NM, scoring a stoppage at 1:56 of the opening round. This was a case of one boxer Moreu having two much experience against higher level competition facing an over matched opponent. Moreu seemingly scored at will with a basic one-two combination, which Yellowman had no answer for. The referee administered two standing 8-counts before halting the contest. I’ve seen Yellowman win in the past but most of her experience has been in state. Moreu has fought out of state for much of her career with good results.
In the title bout for the men’s Elite Division 165 pound title, Austin Williams was declared champion when his opponent failed to make weight. I took a liking to him early in the week when I realized we shared a first name. I wouldn’t recommend this method for picking winners but it worked in this tournament. He had to win two tough fights to get to the finals, so he earned his title. Although he lacked the experience of many of the fighters in the tournament, he never hesitated when he saw an opening. This forced his more experienced rivals to react. Too many young boxers hesitate, allowing veteran fighters to expose their shortcomings. I also got to meet Williams’ sister Amber who came to support her brother. They are two nice people and I wish them both the best in their future.
For more information about the week’s event, here is the link to USA boxing. www.usaboxing.org