By Austin Killeen Ringside Photos by Lori Pina (click on photo to enlarge)
Once again Pat Holmes Sr. had a sellout card at Buffalo Thunder Resorts and Casino. This makes it twelve sellouts in a row, in an evening where some boxers had career defining bouts. You can match two fighters which appears to be a solid contest on paper. But that very same matchup in reality can lay an egg. The final three contests of the evening looked to be very intriguing on the fight poster and lived up to all the hype. This might have been the best card thus far since Buffalo Thunder started promoting the sport. That says a lot about Saturday’s fight card, because the last three years there have been some exciting shows. With Pat Jr. and his brother Brandon no longer fighting, could other boxers be capable of filling the void they left at retirement. Based on what I saw this weekend, I’d have to say yes. In the main event Antonio Martinez was the definition of the term boxer/puncher, raising his profile to the next level. If Pat Holmes Sr. wants to bring in some serious opposition, Martinez would welcome the challenge.
In the main event of the evening scheduled for six rounds, Antonio Martinez (8-2-4, 6 KO’s) 141 lbs. of Espanola, NM won by TKO over Ben Vasquez (3-4-1, 3 KO’s) 140.9 lbs. of Amarillo, TX. This was a rematch of a hotly contested draw they had last fall. In their first matchup the usually aggressive Martinez seemed to be hesitant to go toe-to-toe, but not on this evening. At the opening bell Martinez came forward behind an excellent left jab, which created openings for his other punches. On several occasions he was able to trap Vasquez on the ropes where he was able to unload some nice combinations. For his part Vasquez was dangerous firing back with some power shots. But Vasquez was reacting to Martinez’s offense and not setting up his own attack. It was a very entertaining round.
In round two Vasquez picked up the pace, forcing Martinez into the ropes where he unloaded combinations with bad intentions. You do not want to be standing in front of the Texas slugger when he’s unloading his heavy artillery. Martinez shocked me with his polished defensive moves, minimizing the incoming damage. Suddenly, he shoved Vasquez backwards terminating the assault. The action continued at mid-ring with both boxers firing at each other with heavy hands. Once again Vasquez was able to force his opponent to retreat when they both decided to throw right hands at the same moment. Vasquez’s right was a looping punch; Martinez’s right was on a straight line from point A to point B. As we were always told in school, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. To the delight of the fans, the hometown boy’s punch landed first with devastating power. Vasquez staggered across the ring and fell to the canvas. Rising on unsteady legs he fell back against the ropes. Referee Ray Chavez wisely halted the contest at Vasquez appeared to be defenseless.
I first saw Martinez fight back in 2011 and can’t believe how much he has improved since that time. Over the years he’s shown improvement, but he was little more than a brawler. Saturday evening he was a polished boxer/puncher with a tight defense. As for the right hand that dropped Vasquez, it was the punch of the year so far in 2017. As for Vasquez, he just got caught with a tremendous punch that would have dropped most fighters. The Amarillo boxer is a dangerous two handed puncher who is a high risk opponent for any fighter. Vasquez is also a class act outside the ring and has always been a gentleman when I’ve spoken with him.
In the semi-final also scheduled for six rounds, Ron Baca (9-3-2, 3 KO’s) 268 lbs of Gallup, NM won by TKO over Manuel Eastman (2-5-1, 1 KO) 235 lbs. of Los Lunas, NM. I’d have to go back to 2013 when Edgar Zubia fought Colbert Lozoya to find a bout with as many low blows. Baca carried the first round behind his left jab and nice footwork. He also landed some nice combinations and had surprising hand speed. Eastman seemed to be reacting, but did land some solid shots of his own. Eastman picked up the pace in the second round which I thought he won. But give both fighters credit for their body punching, if you consider low blows body punching. In the third round Referee Rocky Burke deducted a point from Eastman for hitting south of the Mason/Dixon line. In less than a minute Burke had to do the same to Baca. Apparently neither Baca nor Eastman’s library had a copy of The Marquis of Queensberry rule book which probably explains their behavior. Regarding punches that landed above the beltline, Baca had success when he created space to land clean shots. Eastman did well when his opponent tried to land combinations on the inside.
In round four Baca was scoring with a nice combination when Eastman threw a powerful wide right hand which collided with his opponent’s left glove. Eastman hit the deck in obvious pain but was able to beat the count. After the fight it was reviled that Eastman had damaged the muscles in his right arm when their gloves collided. Continuing to fight Eastman landed a powerful shot above the knees but well below the beltline. Baca looked sick and Eastman keep throwing, suddenly Baca was throwing but it wasn’t punches. Within seconds there were a large number of ringside seats available and sales of vegetable soup were in sharp decline. Baca managed to beat the count and finish the round. Officially both boxers had landed on the canvas, making it an interesting round to score.
In the fifth round a straight left to the face appeared to drop Eastman and he seemed to use his right arm to break his fall. He was in obvious pain and the contest was terminated at 30 seconds of the round. It was an entertaining bout in which I had Baca ahead. The winner has built up his record the hard way; out of state against good competition. If Baca could drop about thirty pounds he might have some potential at the national level. Eastman made it a competitive fight and has more punching power than his record indicates.
The remaining bouts were all scheduled for four rounds.
In the evenings fourth bout, Bryant McClain (4-0-1, 1 KO) 160.3 lbs. of Rio Rancho, NM drew with Frankie Quintana (1-0-2, 1 KO) 163.2 lbs. of Albuquerque, NM. This was the fight of the night, in which McClain needed distance and Quintana wanted to work in a phone booth. Do phone booths still exist? The first round featured toe-to-toe exchanges which favored Quintana’s brutal left hooks. The awkward but effective McClain landed some nice uppercuts and displayed a decent defense. The second round was all Quintana, who looked like he was hitting a heavy bag. McClain elected to lie on the ropes most of the round which didn’t appear to be a good career move. I never thought McClain would finish the fight.
In round three McClain did something he had never done in his entire career; throw a left jab and it was a good one. Quintana continued to try and get inside, but without using a bob-n-weave made it a difficult task. The fourth round was a repeat of the third and the fans loved it. Judge Chris Tellez scored the bout 40-36 in favor of Quintana, while judges Esther Lopez and Theresa Ortega had the bout even 38-38. This was an exciting contest and would make for an exciting rematch. This was the best McClain has ever looked, which was a good thing because Quintana would have destroyed the old style of McClain. Both boxers have a homework assignment; McClain perfect your jab and Quintana develop your bob-n-weave. Both young men are a nice addition to the talent pool of the “Land of Enchantment.”
In the evening’s third bout, Ivan Miranda (1-1-0, 1 KO) 143.8 lbs. of Santa Fe, NM won by TKO over debuting Rene Bustamante 146.3 lbs. of El Paso, TX. I saw Miranda’s pro debut and all I can say is – what an improvement. The opening round was close with Miranda landing a nice left hook and the stockier Bustamante using an effective two handed body attack. Round two was all Miranda who used jabs, hooks and uppercuts to take over the fight. By the end of the round Bustamante had a bloody nose. In the third round Miranda was landing at will causing Referee Burke to halt matters at 54 seconds of the round. Miranda spars with Antonio Martinez on a regular basis and it shows. There is a lot of upside to this young man.
In the evening’s second bout between debuting boxers, Ernesto Salvidrez 157.5 lbs. of Santa Fe, NM won by KO over Joseph Daniel Veloz 148.4 lbs. of El Paso, TX. Veloz was game but over matched, giving away to much size in this bout. Salvidrez knows how to use distance to his advantage and has a nice one-two which he used over and over again. He dropped Veloz for an eight count in the opening round and used a right hand to the head to score a knockout at 2:37 of the opening round. If Salvidrez can fight like this all the time, I want to buy stock in Salvidrez, Inc.
In the evening’s first bout between debuting boxers, Jordanne Garcia 157.4 lbs. of Albuquerque, NM won by UD over Ruby Diaz 152 lbs. of Las Vegas, NV. Garcia has a solid background in the amateurs and it showed in her debut. The first round was close as Garcia was a little anxious throwing too many right hand leads while Diaz used a nice jab. In the second round Garcia settled down and took over the fight. Employing a nice one-two she started cutting off the ring against the game Diaz. In the third round Diaz was bleeding from the nose and taking some hard shots. In the final round Garcia gave a clinic in the art of slipping punches against Diaz, who never stopped trying to turn the tide. Garcia was another boxer on the card who was very impressive and possesses a lot of upside. I see Garcia’s biggest problem as finding quality opponents to fight because of the lack of local female fighters.