By Austin Killeen June 4, 2019
In winning the National Golden Gloves title, Abraham Perez ended a twenty-three year drought for New Mexico boxers. In 1996 Baldo Ramirez won the national title in the bantamweight division and we had been shut out ever since. New Mexico’s other four qualifiers for the tournament also fought well. Sharahya Moreu won two bouts in the 151-pound woman’s division. Jorge Madrid scored a victory in the 141-pound men’s division and new comers Chris Okoa and Yvonne Gonzales performed well in the 201+ men’s and 106-pound woman’s division. Simply put it was a strong showing for the “Land of Enchantment” with New Mexico finishing third in the country in the team standings.
Meet the young men and women who fought for New Mexico in this year’s Golden Gloves national championships.
At 114 Pounds: Abraham Perez: I asked Abraham what it felt like when he heard the decision making him the national golden gloves champion. “It was really exciting to win the national title and it was the first big tournament I had ever won. I had been runner up in a couple of regional tournaments, so I knew I was getting better.” Abraham talked about the disappointment in losing those regional tournaments. “I was discouraged but it motivated me to work harder and I knew I was making progress. In my first fight of the tournament, I was five pounds overweight two days before my opening bout. I dropped the pounds but felt listless in that match; fortunately, I got the decision. Perez talked about the similarity between chess and boxing because both have a cerebral component to them. You’re trying to make your opponent move in a way that is detrimental to their chances of winning. In trying to determine how long it had been since New Mexico had won a national golden gloves title, there appeared to be some issues regarding the home base of some of the boxers. Siju Shabazz is listed as having won the national golden gloves title in 2007 in the light heavyweight division from Colorado. But when I moved to New Mexico he was living in Las Cruces and people from there say he never lived in Colorado.
As a result of his success in the golden gloves, Abraham will be going to Colorado Springs to train with the Olympic boxing hopefuls for a place on the 2020 Olympic Boxing Team. He will be training, eating, and sleeping in a beautiful complex with the best amateur boxers in the country. There is also the opportunity for some international competition against some of the best amateur boxers in the world. Abraham is now a live candidate for a place on the Olympic Boxing Team, but he’ll have to earn it. Every weight division is loaded with talent and they have the same goal as young Mister Perez; Gold in 2020.
At 151 Pounds: Sharahya Moreu: Although Sharahya came up short of her goal of winning a national title; she did win two bouts before being eliminated in the semi-final round. As a result, she will also be going to the Colorado Springs Olympic training facilities. I asked her about her experiences at the Nationals. She replied: “my first fight was against a girl from Iowa. She was game and landed a couple of good punches, but overall it was a good opening bout for me. I was relaxed and had a good offense, scoring well. My second bout I faced a girl from Indiana, she was the 155-pound champ from the Eastern Qualifiers. She was taller than me and I’m five feet, nine and a half inches. She was throwing jabs but only one at a time. I was doubling up on my jabs and backing her up. In the semi-finals, I faced a girl who had beaten me in the Western Qualifiers. I had also done some sparring with her in the past, so we were familiar with each other’s style.” I witnessed this contest and felt it was an excellent contest between two good boxers. Considering it was the third fight for each girl without a day off, the pace was fast and featured volume punching. The first two rounds were very close, but I felt that Sharahya clearly won the final round. When the verdict was announced, the judges disagreed with my vision of the fight.
I’ve followed Sharahya career since she was thirteen years old and her improvement over the past six years is impressive. USA boxing ranks her second in the nation. She has had over sixty amateur bouts, including international competition in three foreign countries. Like Abraham Perez she will be training later this month in Colorado Springs with other Olympic hopefuls.
Both Perez and Moreu showcase some high-end talent, know how to make adjustments under pressure and are in excellent shape. In their quest for Olympic Gold they are going to see some very talented opponents waiting for them in the opposite corner. However, the view from the opposite corner will be of two outstanding talents representing “The Land of Enchantment.” Perez and Moreu are the real deal and the next twelve months they plan to show the world why.
At 141 pounds: Jorge Madrid was a complete mystery to me, the first time I saw him he won the State GG’s Title in Albuquerque this past April. He won the contest with a blistering body attack against the defending champion. I also was impressed by Leo Hurd his trainer; they have a special relationship that makes the sum greater than its parts. The following links are of his two bouts from the nationals in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
If you go to the link below you will see a very moving video on Madrid.
If you include Madrid’s amateur bouts that took place in Mexico in addition to his bouts under USA boxing he has competed in approximately twenty-five bouts. He’s not a rookie, but he is not a polished final product either. In his first bout at the nationals, he was in a tough fight against an opponent of a similar background. His southpaw opponent was very aggressive and took charge early in the match. Madrid changed tactics by forcing his opponent to the ropes where he scored with some nice body punches. He impressed me by slipping many of his rival’s punches, something I didn’t see at the state championships. Round two both boxers elected to go toe-to-toe which played to Madrid’s superior infighting skills. The final round his opponent went back to his southpaw style to have his best round, but it was too little, too late.
In his second bout, Madrid ran into a skilled tactician who used excellent lateral movement to keep him off balance much of the contest. Madrid had his moments but he didn’t know how to take his rival out of his comfort zone. In the few bouts that I’ve witnessed Madrid in action, he has shown improvement. He’d be a long shot, but if he could impress in some of USA boxing’s tournaments over the next twelve months it could result in an invitation to the Olympic trials.
Chris Okoa, Albuquerque, represented New Mexico in the 201-plus division. Entering the ring at the nationals was Okoa’s first amateur bout. You read it correctly; it was his first amateur bout. The six foot five inch “Duke City” southpaw shocked me with his poise from the opening bell. As you would expect the difference in skills was wide, but Okoa was able to land some nice overhand lefts from his southpaw stance. However, the much greater experience of his opponent made an upset unrealistic. Okoa trains at the Jack Candelaria Community Center under the watchful eye of former pro Joe Louis Murphy. Murphy knows his business and Okoa is eager to learn, that’s a formula for success.
At twenty-nine years of age, Okoa has ambitions outside of the ring. He has an Associate’s degree in Psychology and hopes to ultimately earn a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology.
At 106 pounds: Yvonne Gonzales, Albuquerque (Power Plant Boxing Gym) represented New Mexico in the nationals. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see her fight, the video of her match refused to cooperate. However, veteran trainer Aaron Perez who worked her corner was impressed with her punching power; an impression that several of her teammates also had. It was her sixth amateur fight (4 wins, 2 loses). I did get to spend some time with Gonzales after the tournament and was impressed with her story. Surprisingly she didn’t get into boxing until her mid-twenties. A girlfriend was in training to be an MMA fighter and asked Gonzales if she would work out with her. Gonzales discovered she liked the boxing aspect of the training and decided to pursue amateur boxing. She has a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the University of New Mexico. She works as a hairstylist for Mark Pardo Salon in Albuquerque. She hopes to use her knowledge from college to establish her own studio some day. She closed the interview with the following comment; “I want to take in the experience of the sport and enjoy the process of being an amateur boxer.”
After my interaction with these outstanding amateurs, I came away with the feeling that their all champions. The entire 2019 New Mexico Golden Glove’s team should be commended for a job well done.
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