Austin Killeen Ringside Photo by Sid Ware
This was one main event that lived up to the prefight hype and probably the best bout I’ve covered since I started writing about the sport in New Mexico in 2011. On that particular evening Josh Torres and Cristian Cabral were both victorious by decisions on the undercard of the main event. I didn’t think for a moment that seven years later Torres and Cabral would provide one of the most visceral experiences I would witness at a prize fight. From the moment both men walked down the aisle into the ring, the crowd was mesmerized by what was about to happen. The drama surrounding this match was palpable; you could write a book about the events leading up to the contest. Ring announcer Mike Adams doubled fan anticipation with his commanding introductions. As the fight played out, I found myself ducking and rolling to avoid imagined punches coming my way. If any of the imagined combinations had actually hit me I wouldn’t be writing this story; I would be recovering in a hospital bed.
In the evening’s main event scheduled for 10 rounds, Josh “Pitbull” Torres 18-6-2 (10 KO’s) 144.6 lbs. of Albuquerque won by TKO over Cristian ”El Puma” Cabral 8-2-1, (4 KO’s) 146 lbs. for the New Mexico State welterweight title. In the opening round it didn’t take long for things to heat up. The action was toe-to-toe for three minutes, making it a difficult round to score. But it probably sealed Cabral’s fate, because instead of a hit and run offense he was standing right in front of Torres trading shots. Chants of “Pitbull, Pitbull” and” Puma, Puma” added to the atmosphere of the round. Encouraged by the opening round action Cabral continued to trade punches with Torres and seem to be winning the action. But at the two minute mark of round two, Torres exploded an overhand right on the head of his rival. Suddenly, ”El Puma” was in big trouble and being driven across the ring by a hungry “Pitbull.” Another right hand dropped Cabral to the canvas near his own corner. The bell rang before Torres could take advantage of his golden opportunity.
Torres opened the third round looking to end matter behind some viscous shots to the head and body. But instead of folding, Cabral staged his own rally scoring with clean punches. This would be the ebb and flow of the entire round. Most of Cabral’s punches seemed to be landing to the head of Torres. But Torres was switching his attack from head to body and back again. This would prove to be a brilliant tactic on the part of Torres as the fight worn on. Many of Torres’ punches to the head were the result of uppercuts splitting Cabral’s gloves. He was throwing uppercuts with both hands and Cabral appeared not to know how to block them. The fourth round was a repeat of the third with Torres scoring with uppercuts and body shots while Cabral was mostly head hunting.
In the fifth and sixth rounds both boxers continued to stand in front of each other, exchanging combinations. At the two minute mark of the fifth, I actually said into my mike “this would be over in the seventh.” Cabral might have been winning some rounds with his strategy, but Torres looked like the fox who had figured out how to enter the hen house. The sounds of the fans were deafening as everyone was into the fight. Chants of “Pitbull, Pitbull” and” Puma, Puma” continued to bounce off the walls. I have no idea how referee Velez could hear the bell at the end of each round. In the seventh round the brutal exchanges continued but Torres appeared to be winning the round. Left hooks to the head were keeping Cabral in the contest. In the final minute of the stanza Torres exploded a vicious left hook to the body of Cabral and that was the beginning of the end. Torres drove Cabral into the ropes and threw every punch in his arsenal at his damaged opponent. Referee Velez gave Cabral every opportunity to respond, before stopping the contest at 2:59 of round seven.
After the fight was over both Cabral and his trainer Ray Zamora wanted an immediate rematch. I think this would be a huge mistake, as the result would be the same but quicker. What Cabral needs is experience and a bout with Moris Rodriguez first would be a good way to get it. Rodriguez gave Torres an exciting fight earlier in the year and is familiar with the local fan base. Jose Luis Sanchez also asked Torres for a rematch. I feel Sanchez would also be making a big mistake for the same reason I stated about Cabral. Like Cabral, Sanchez needs a couple of tune ups to sharpen his skill level.
Torres on the other hand has come back from the dead. Between August of 2015 and September of 2016 “Pitbull had lost three of four bouts and looked to be at a dead end. Now he’s riding a three bout win streak and has a blueprint on how to rebuild a career. If Cabral and Sanchez ask nicely, perhaps Torres would lend it to them. Torres has time for two or three more fights before year’s end, how about Jose Marrufo in September, and if successful, a big name opponent in December. He might want to tighten up his defense a little, as in his last two wins he was more than willing to engage in a battle of attrition. But that approach can have a negative cumulative effect and be harmful in the long run. The fans love Torres and support him in his climb up the ladder of success.
In the evening’s co-main event scheduled for 10 rounds, featuring Mike Alderete 7-7-2 (3 KO’s) 181.2 lbs. of Albuquerque and Max Heyman 25-13-4, (14 KO’s) 183.6 lbs. of Albuquerque for the New Mexico State cruiserweight title was declared a No Contest. This also was a highly anticipated matchup between two veteran boxers who had made weight two weeks before the fight. In the opening round Heyman left his corner as a southpaw, but switched to orthodox about forty seconds into the round. Alderete was aggressive but wasn’t having much success finding an opening. With about twenty seconds remaining in the round, Heyman scored with a left hook to the body that seemed to hurt Alderete. He forced his rival to the ropes but wasn’t able to follow up his advantage before the bell sounded.
In the second round, Alderete appeared recovered from the left hook he had taken in the opening stanza. He quickly cut off the ring and forced his rival into the ropes. It appeared that he used his left hand to force Heyman’s over the top rope. Heyman felt it was his head not his left hand that forced him over the ropes, regardless when referee Rocky Burke separated the fighters he fell to the canvas in obvious pain. It was quickly apparent that Heyman was in no shape to continue and the fight was over. This left the audience wondering if Heyman would win by disqualification, Alderete by TKO, or the fight end in a No Contest. As it turned out, it was ruled a No Contest at 47 seconds of the second round. It was later revealed at the hospital that Heyman had torn his rhomboid muscle on the left side of his upper back. He received a shot of toradol that stopped the back spasms. Both boxers would love a rematch, but for Heyman this could take some time. Alderete looked to be in great shape and hopefully will continue to box while Heyman recovers.
The remaining bouts were all scheduled for four rounds.
In the evening’s fourth bout, Matthew “Papitas” Esquibel 10-0-1, (5 KO’s) 146.2 lbs., of Albuquerque fought to a draw with Tavorus Teague 5-20-4, (3 KO’s) 147.2 lbs., of Bakersfield, CA. There’s an old saying in boxing that styles make fights. After Saturday night you could add or don’t make fights. Both Esquibel and Teague appeared eager to exchange blows, but usually fell into clinches. Whether they were having trouble finding distance or their ability to slip punches, it was an awkward fight where neither boxer could gain an advantage. At the end of four rounds judges Anthony Romero, Joel Perez and Levi Martinez all had identical scores of 38-38 for a draw. Boxing writer Jorge Hernandez, who I respect, questioned if Esquibel had been dropped by an overhand right at the final bell. I watched the final sequence several times, but couldn’t hear the bell. Adding to the problem, the camera angle was switched just before Esquibel hit the floor.
In the evening’s third bout between “Duke City” fighters, Aaron “Angel Baby” Perez 3-0-0, (3 KO’s) 125.6 lbs., won by TKO over George Roybal 0-5-0, 125.8 lbs. This turned out to be an interesting fight as Roybal, who is a southpaw, threw some hard, accurate punches. This forced Perez to be patient and not walk in carelessly against his taller opponent. Roybal improves each time he fights, but the level of his competition seems to improve as well. Perez used feints in an effort to force Roybal into a mistake, but it wasn’t until the third round that he finally was able to score with some clean punches that hurt his rival. Referee Rocky Burke halted matters at 1:54 of the third round. I’d love to see Roybal in what I call a 50/50 matchup. He deserves a contest where he’s not an overwhelming underdog. Perez needs to step up to stiffer competition; his amateur background is too good to be facing opponents who haven’t won a fight.
In the evening’s second bout, debuting Isaac Luna 144.2 lbs., of El Paso, TX won by UD over Brandon Trujillo 0-2-0, 145.2 lbs., of Albuquerque. This was an interest bout in which Luna showed a great deal of poise in his first pro fight. It didn’t take him long to figure out how to box a southpaw opponent. He always had his lead foot outside that of Trujillo’s, allowing him to throw hooks over his opponent’s shoulder. Once he figured that out he started landing straight rights to the head and body of Trujillo. He looked impressive Saturday night and would be welcome back to Albuquerque anytime. The three judges all had identical scores of 39-36 in favor of Luna. Referee Velez deducted one point from Luna for low blows in the third round.
In the opening bout of the card, Agustin “el Chicano” Perez 2-0-0, (1 KO) of Roswell, NM won by TKO over Ernesto Hernandez 1-9-0 (1 KO) El Paso, TX. Perez is the uncle of Angel Perez and younger brother of Aaron and Jordan Perez, the promoters of the fight card. Perez may be thirty three years old, but he has the energy of a boxer ten years younger. From the opening bell he overwhelmed Hernandez with some hard shots to the body. When Hernandez dropped his guard, Perez starting landing to the head. After Perez scored two knockdowns, Referee Rocky Burke had seen enough and halted the bout at 1:24 of the first round.
Although the final attendance was not determined, Jordan Perez estimated the final count to be about 2,000 spectators. The Perez brothers have promoted about a dozen bouts over the last few years and this was there most successful show yet. They hope to promote their next show in September.
VOICES FROM THE CORNER: Jason “Alacransito” Sanchez’s fight against Danny Flores was canceled, when it was discovered the afternoon of the show that Flores was suspended by the Florida boxing commission for sixty days as a result of being KO’d a few weeks ago in the Sunshine State. Ring announcer Mike Adams interviewed Sanchez during intermission; the “Duke City” featherweight was disappointed as he had sold a large number of tickets to his fans and now wasn’t able to perform.
Adam Diehl and I who had called the fights from ringside, had the pleasure of interviewing welterweight prospect Ronnie “Mongoose” Baca and his co-manager Jacob Maes. Baca is 3-0-1, (2 KO’s) stands over 6’ tall and has power in both fists. He’s on the humble side, telling the viewing audience that he needs to improve. Tell that to the fighters he’s already knocked out. The surprising thing about Baca is his ability to fight on the inside for someone so tall. That’s a nice skill to have for someone so tall, although his trainer Sergio Chavez wishes he would spend more time boxing at long distance. In having Maes as his co-manager along with his father, creates more opportunities for Baca. Maes has been around boxing for a long time and is not afraid to invest some money in his prospects if it will advance their careers. Maes has worked with trainer Sergio Chavez for many years and has contacts in the business capable of opening doors for Baca if he can fight. Keep your eye on the “Mongoose” in the coming months as this likable young man has talent.