By Austin Killeen
Boxing returned to Hobbs, NM on Saturday night before a near sellout crowd at the Club La Sierra. Promoter Isidro Castillo was forced to make some last minute changes, but that’s just another day in the life of a boxing promoter. Hot middleweight prospect Joey Alday Jr. was the main attraction, and curious fight fans quickly discovered why he’s considered in such high regard. The Gene Perez/Gabriel Rodriguez bout figured to be the fight of the night, and nobody was complaining at the end of the evening. The opening bout on the card, between Rafael Gonzalez and Eduardo Silva was non-stop action; leaving fans hoarse by the final bell. In conclusion, Promoter Castillo had done what he’s always done; put on an entertaining show.
In the main event Joey Alday Jr. (6-0-0, 6 KO’s) 164 lbs., Odessa, TX won by KO over debuting Michael Sanchez 166 lbs., Midland, TX. Sanchez took the fight on 24 hours notice, when Chris Leyva (1-0-1, 0 KO’s) of Albuquerque weighed in 14 pounds over the limit. It was obvious from the opening bell that the Midland fighter was in over his head. He bull rushed Alday into the ropes, but couldn’t land a clean punch. Alday used an excellent defense to block his opponent’s offense. Moving to the center of the ring, Alday started landing left jabs to the head of Sanchez. A left hook to the head dropped Sanchez for an eight count. A second left hook to the head dropped Sanchez for good at 62 seconds of the round.
Alday proved to be a class act when he asked the audience to give his rival a hand for taking the bout on short notice. I’ve watched several of Alday’s fights and he’s an excellent boxer/puncher. He’s a likeable personality with talent to spare. Alday’s next fight will be on the undercard of Jennifer Han’s IBF world title defense in El Paso, Texas on December 1st. If you get the chance, check this young man out.
In the semi-final between debuting boxers, Ruben Sanchez, 219.6 lbs., of Hobbs, TX won by TKO over Gabriel Vejar 272.4 lbs., of Lovington, NM. Sanchez had none of the jitters associated with a boxer in his first fight. In the opening round Sanchez used his height advantage to quickly establish a left jab, which allowed him to control the action from long range. The shorter Vejar had some power but was unable to land a clean punch. Instead of crowding his rival, Vejar made the mistake of backing away. There was no way he could land a punch against Sanchez using that strategy. In the second round Sanchez started landing overhand rights off his jab. Vejar started lying on the ropes, hoping to catch Sanchez coming in. The crafty Sanchez had no intention of letting that happen. Vejar’s corner had seen enough and would not allow their fighter to come out for the third round. I’d like to see Sanchez fight again, as it obvious he is very coachable. If Vejar would learn how to slip a jab while moving inside, he would find a home for his power shots.
In the evening’s third bout, Gabriel Rodriguez (3-0-0) 132 lbs., of El Paso, Texas won a UD over Gene Perez (2-10-1) 132 lbs., Belen, NM. This figured to be the fight of the night and it was. Both fighters are southpaws, so it was like watching two orthodox boxers, but from the opposite side. In the first round Perez started fast behind an excellent right jab, which caused Rodriguez problems throughout the fight. But Rodriguez had the faster hands and always seemed to land the last punch of every exchange. The second was a repeat of the first. Both rounds were very close but I gave the edge to Rodriguez. The third round was Rodriguez’s best round of the fight. Using lateral movement, he was able to land overhand lefts off his right jabs. Perez continued to land his jabs but lack of lateral movement made him a stationary target. In the final round Perez started fast, backing Rodriguez up and scoring with 1-2’s. But when the Texas fighter started moving side to side he was able to regain control of the bout.
Judge Ester Lopez scored the fight 39-37 for Rodriguez while judges Mark Sanchez and Chris Tellez both scored the fight 40-36 for the El Paso native. Rodriguez is trained by Louie Burke and his improvement is noticeable each time I see him in the ring. I think he’ll start scoring some KO’s due to his ability to penetrate an opponent’s defense. Perez is very tough, but does not have a trainer. Until he does his career will be stuck in park. When I say trainer, I mean a real trainer. Holding mitts for someone, does not make you a trainer.
In the evening’s second bout, undefeated lightweight prospect Abel Navarrete (3-0-0, 1 KO) 130.4 lbs., of Amarillo TX won by TKO over Ernest Hernandez (1-7-0, 1 KO) 132.8 lbs., of El Paso, TX. This is the second time I’ve seen Navarrete in action and he’s impressive. Hernandez is a nice young man and should consider going into sales. Right hands to the head and body resulted in two knockdowns for Navarrete. Referee Stan Saavedra had seen enough and wisely halted matters at 89 seconds of the first. Navarrete against Rodriguez would make a very interesting bout.
In the first bout of the evening Rafael Gonzalez, 182.8 lbs., won by majority decision over Eduardo Silva, 185.8 lbs., of Belen, NM. What these young men lacked in skills, they more than made up in heart. It was all offense all the time; defense was a foreign word to both fighters. Tall and lean, both boxers fought to exhaustion refusing to quit. Both Gonzalez and Silva suffered point deductions for losing their mouth pieces multiple times. Gonzalez did his best work when trapping Silva on the ropes. Silva was most effective in center ring, but didn’t stay there enough. Ester Lopez scored the fight 37-37 but she was overruled by judges Mark Sanchez and Chris Tellez, who both scored the fight 38-36 for the Hobbs native.
During intermission, I awarded promoter Isidro Castillo a tee-shirt and an inaugural commemorative coin on behalf of the New Mexico Boxing Hall Fame. Because of Castillo’s efforts boxing is alive and well in Southeast, New Mexico.