By David Finger
Small club shows at places like Club La Sierra in Hobbs, New Mexico are not the sort of venues where you end up seeing the boxing equivalent of a number one draft pick. If the sport of boxing had a Trevor Lawrence or a Joe Burrow, odds are they would be making their professional debut in Las Vegas on the undercard of a Canelo Alvarez or Manny Pacquiao fight, and not at a local boxing show like the one thrown by local promoter Isidro Castillo on Saturday night.
But as any fan of Tom Brady knows, there are often some gems to be found in the later rounds, and on Saturday night undefeated Mario Gonzalez made a strong case that he is a mid-round draft pick with a pro bowl future after he blitzed out fellow undefeated prospect Luis Luna in the second round. Make no mistake, Gonzalez still has a long road to a world title, and there is no guarantee he will ever get there. But his performance against Luna certainly had the scouts doing a double take and wondering if maybe, just maybe, the future of boxing might someday pass through Lea County.
Gonzalez, who came into the fight at 153.8 pounds, showed power and precision as he walked through the smaller, but no less gritty, Seminole native. Luna, who also weighed in at 153.8, came out in round one swinging and even clipped the taller New Mexican with a left hook, prompting some local fans to wonder if Gonzalez might stumble in what was amounting to his first NFL combine. But the size and skill of Gonzalez began to shine through towards the end of the opening round as Gonzalez began to land solid shots upstairs from a distance, where the terrain clearly favored the bigger man. Luna never eased up on his aggression, but by the end of round one the first signs of trouble for Luna emerged when Gonzalez closed the round with a solid combination upstairs that pushed back the Texan.
By round two the Hobbs native dialed it up to eleven and shut down his aggressive foe. Luna, who continued to move forward, walked into a counterpunch in the opening minute of the round that send him stumbling back into the ropes. Gonzalez, sensing his foe was critically wounded, pounced on him and staggered him with a right hand. Luna tried vainly to push off the bigger man but Gonzalez refused to be denied at at 1:03 of the round referee Rocky Burke saw enough, waving the fight off and giving Gonzalez a second round TKO victory. With the win Gonzalez improved to 5-0, 4 KOs while Luna slips to 2-1, 2 KOs.
In a stunning upset undefeated super middleweight prospect James Land was upset by little know rookie Emany Rendon, dropping a four round majority decision. Land appeared to be the more fundamentally sound boxer, but the debuting Rendon was a fighter who made being awkward into an art form. Rendon was a puzzle that Land clearly had trouble solving as he threw punches from unorthodox angels, boxed with a wide stance, and on occasion stepped over his own feet while punching. But despite the fact that Rendon appeared to be a fighter that made some fundamental errors in the ring, it was clear by round two that the strategy was working. Land simply failed to throw enough punches and at times it appeared that the undefeated prospect was looking for a simple straight left jab that he could counter over, only to be served with a bizarre shot that wouldn’t be out of place in a NES console game of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out.
The confusing style of Rendon seemed to carry him in the opening two rounds, but James Land seemed to slowly but surely figure out the cagy Odessa native. Nonetheless with a two round deficit in a four round fight, Land has simply found himself in too big a hole to dig out of. He fought well in round four and seemed to win the round with an improved punch output, but it it proved too little too late. Rendon was given three rounds on two of the judges scorecards (the third judge had the fight even) giving him his first victory as a professional boxer. Land suffered his first loss as he slipped to 2-1-1, 1 KO.
In a matchup of winless fighters Johnny Soto of Mission, Texas blew out Larry Sanchez of Midland in the opening round. Soto, 150.2, dominated the fight from the opening bell and dropped Sanchez after hurting him with a right hand upstairs. Sanchez was unable to recover as Soto jumped all over his wounded opponent. Referee David Rios waived the fight off a little after the two minute mark, giving Soto his first victory. With the win Soto improved to 1-1, 1 KO while Sanchez slipped to 0-5.
Ira Herrera, 166.2, of Lubbock, Texas made a successful professional debut as he dominated Issac Sifuentez. Although Sifuentez came out swinging he had no answer for the body attack of Herrera and was quickly dropped with a solid shot downstairs. Referee Rocky Burke counted Sifuentez out inside of the two minute mark of round one. With the loss Sifuentez slips to 0-5 with all losses coming by way of knockout.
Debuting lightweight Conrad Martinez, 130, kicked off his career in impressive fashion as he dominated 40-fight veteran Manuel Rubalcava, 134, over four rounds. Rubalcava was a fighter who earned a reputation for durability and his performance against Martinez certainly added to that reputation. Although Rubalcava was game, he proved surprisingly difficult to hurt until a thudding shot upstairs dropped him in round three. And despite the knockdown the Mexican native was able to dig deep in his veteran bag of tricks to survive the round and go the distance. The scores proved academic with all three judges scoring the fight 40-35 for Martinez. With the win Martinez clearly established that he is a prospect worth keeping an eye on in future. Rubalcava sees his record fall to 4-35-1, 0 KOs, but despite his less than stellar record he continues to earn points for durability as he has been stopped in only ten of those fights.
In a surprisingly fun brawl, one day substitute Yhorhighness “Dangerous” Rezzaq stepped in for Desmond “Dez Mundo” Hill and won a four round unanimous decision over Mike Sanchez when Hill came in seven pounds overweight. Hill, who was recovering from an illness, was advised not to attempt to lose the additional weight, opening a spot for the colorful Rezzaq to step in. Rezzaq, who was admittedly not in shape, may have ended up with several moments where he might have regretted his decision, but he ultimately gritted out a tough, but lopsided, win in a fun back and forth brawl.
Although Rezzaq clearly won the fight, for the better part of four rounds Sanchez refused to take a backward step. However he paid a dear price for his determination, getting dropped twice in round one. Nonetheless Sanchez refused to lay down and continued to trade punches with the talented Hobbs native. Although Sanchez was rattled again in round two and dropped by a left hook in round three he simply refused to give up and actually had Rezzaq reeling late in the third round. By the end of the round the undefeated Rezzaq was holding on for dear life as the fans were on their feet. Both men threw all caution to the wind in round four and traded bombs with reckless abandon, and both men were rattled at times, but Despite his courage and determination Sanchez was unable to dig himself out of the hole he found himself in. All three judges scored the fight for Rezzaq, who saw his record improve to 2-0, 1 KO. With the loss Sanchez falls to 2-7, 2 KOs.
In an interesting crossroads fight between local lightweights, Ricardo Reyes stopped Jorrell Sparenberg at 2:17 of round two. Both Reyes and Sparenberg were boxers whose career started off on the wrong foot but for both men they had recently started to turn things around. Sparenberg lost his first three fights before he scored a first round knockout over Levi Lucero in fight number four, and Reyes had won his last two fights after starting his career 0-2. Reyes was the aggressor for the fight and dropped Sparenberg twice in the second round before referee David Rios waved the fight off at 2:17 of the second. With the win Reyes improves to 3-2, 2 KOs.
In a minor upset Farmington’s Jonathon Abeyta, 248.8, scored a third round TKO victory over Ricky Martinez, 247, of Levelland, Texas. Martinez came our aggressively in the opening round and dropped the New Mexican in the opening minute with a crisp combination upstairs. He continued to dominate the round and even dropped Abeyta a second time with a left hand in the closing seconds of the round. But after Abeyta came back strong in the second half of the second round Martinez elected not to come out for round three. It was unclear if an injury was the reason that Martinez elected not to come out considering how big of a lead he undoubtably had going into the second half of the four round fight. Both men were making their professional debut.
In a special feature that proved historic for all the right reasons, Anthony Sanchez scored a third round TKO over Daniel Arriaga of Dimmit, Texas in the first bare knuckle boxing match in modern New Mexico history. The brawl was everything it was billed up to be as both men tasted the canvas and landed heavy blows. Without a doubt the fight was a crowd pleaser and it seems a certainty that bare knuckle boxing will be back in New Mexico again before long. One fight, the Mark Martinez versus Roman Huerta heavyweight fight, was scrapped on the day of the event when Martinez sent a text message to promoter Isidro Castillo indicating he no longer was interested in boxing.