By Austin Killeen (Click on photos for full size)
Last week I went to Old Coors Road in Albuquerque to interview Jason Sanchez at the family’s boxing gym. 2019 has been a good year for “El Alacrancito” in terms of both opportunity and financially. But somehow the conversation always seemed to windup about family. I’d done Christmas stories about Josh “Pitbull” Torres and Fidel “The Atrisco Kid” Maldonado, so why not a story about “The Duke Cities’ latest sensation who was standing right in front of me. Jason seemed to like the idea, eager might be a better word regarding his wife and two small children.
The obvious first question was how did Jason meet his lovely wife Marlina? I figured the answer would be through a friend, at school, a dance, or maybe at church. Wrong on all four counts, they did it the modern way, a computer dating site. Once again I assumed they both lived in Albuquerque or one of the nearby towns. Rio Rancho, Edgewood, Tijeras, Cedar Crest, Los Lunes, etc. Wrong again; Marlina grew up in Espanola, while Jason lived in Albuquerque. The distance between these towns is approximately 90 miles or an hour and a half drive. I guess when you’re in love, what’s a three hour round trip. Jason and Marlina make a cute couple but it didn’t take long for the Sanchez family to grow from two to four. They have a beautiful little girl named Zaylyn who is five and her little brother Jaythen who is three.
I asked Jason what Zaylyn and Jaythen would like for Christmas? He responded; “They both want a puppy so bad, but my wife and I are concerned about making such a big commitment. As for Marlina and me, we are pretty grateful for whatever we get. We don’t have anything in particular on our list. We want to spend Christmas day with our kids, watching their faces light up when they open their gifts. That’s what is most precious to us. Also spending quality time with Marlina’s family and my family because we really cherish that time together. My mother-in-law’s birthday is on December 25th, which makes it extra special.” Like my Christmas stories on the Maldonado’s and Torres’ families, the Sanchez’s put family first.
I would never get away with a story about Jason without mentioning boxing. Jason’s first exposure to Martial Arts was Taekwondo along with his older brothers Alan and Jose Luis. (Editors Note: Sadly Alan the oldest brother lost his life three years ago in a car accident. At that time he was enjoying a successful boxing career in his own right.) From Taekwondo the brothers switched to Kickboxing and finally boxing. Jason had a successful amateur career winning many regional tournaments.
As a professional, Jason won his first twelve bouts, six by KO. That’s when lightning struck. Matched with undefeated Jean Carlos Rivera (15-0-0, 10 KOs) of Puerto Rico for the Vacant WBO Youth Featherweight Title in Panama. Somebody‘s ‘0’ had to go but it wasn’t “El Alacrancito” as he won a unanimous decision. Rivera got off to a fast start but by the third round, Sanchez hit his stride, winning in dominating fashion. Suddenly he was an overnight sensation after only 12 years in the sport. He followed this up with a second-round TKO win over Daniel Olea in February of this year.
This resulted in an opportunity of a lifetime, a featherweight title bout with Oscar Valdez for his WBO belt. Not only was he getting the opportunity to win a title but the biggest payday of his career. Sanchez had built up his career behind a punishing left jab, that was more like a battering ram. The punch would strike with jarring effect, leaving his previous opponents on rubbery legs. But not on this night, because Valdez took away Sanchez’s best weapon; his jab. Except for the fourth and seventh rounds, it was a long night for Albuquerque’s latest sensation. Pride and pride alone allowed Sanchez to finish the fight on his feet. But his showing allowed him to remain a hot prospect with promoters interested in booking Sanchez with other young hotshots on the way up. Sanchez finished the year with a fourth-round KO over Adeilson Dos Santos in Reno, Nevada. 2020 offers some interesting matchups for Sanchez but facing the top 10 contenders at this time would not be my recommendation. Facing the likes of Leo Santa Cruz, Carl Frampton, Gary Russell, and Jessie Magdaleno at this stage of his career would more likely result in replays of the Oscar Valdez fight. Sanchez would quickly become an opponent with little financial value. I feel Jason needs another solid year of seasoning before he takes on any of the aforementioned fighters.
One rumored match-up is a contest with Adam Lopez which does make sense and would be a 50-50 match. Lopez was ahead on all scorecards in a fight with Oscar Valdez this year including a second-round knockdown. In the seventh round Valdez dropped Lopez who beat the count. Suddenly the referee jumped in stopping the bout in favor of Valdez. Ringside commentator Timothy Bradley Jr. erupted in disgust, feeling the referee’s actions were outrageous. I agree with Bradley as Lopez knew where he was and was covering up against his opponent’s attack. Sanchez is the harder puncher but Lopez the better boxer, with both men having outstanding jabs. The winner of the contest would leave the ring a better fighter than he entered it, and much better prepared to face the likes of Santa Cruz, Frampton or Russell.
I enjoyed the time I spent with Jason Sanchez. He values family above all else and dedicated to his boxing career. He doesn’t need somebody standing over him when he enters a gym as he is self-driven. May tomorrow be a blessed day for the Sanchez family, and 2020 a great year for “El Alacrancito.”
P.S. What about that puppy?