With professional boxers being entertainers of the highest order, why shouldn’t we have someone like myself appraise their efforts, rate these boxers in comparison to their peers? On Friday evening, at the Salon Mezzanine in Tijuana in front of six hundred plus patrons, 20 athletes were set to perform on a fight card presented by the Borizteca Boxing Management Group. If for any reason, the patrons, the attending boxing fans, remained quiet and showed any restraint from cheering wildly at the end of a round or bout, we would have our proof of a lackluster performance.
Since Bout #1 featured the pro-debut of welterweight Édgar Valadez from Mondo’s Boxing Gym, Spring Valley, Calif., you knew his fans would be loud and perhaps over the top with their cheering. His trainer described Valadez as a brawler who likes to fight in close and his opponent, Hugo Gutiérrez (0-5-1) was surely hungry for his first win. After more than a dozen crowd-pleasing exchanges, it appeared Gutiérrez was in trouble and started to cover up. By the second round, Valadez had started to land the heavier blows to the side of Gutiérrez’s head. Before long we saw Gutierrez drop to all fours and he couldn’t get up.
Bout #2, featured Rosario Rosales from Tijuana going up against Ricardo “Maykito III” Martínez (7-0) of Tijuana. Rosales gave it his best in round one, but by round two he was being pummeled from one side of the ring to the other. With Rosales buckling under so quickly, we’d have to consider this bout a clunker.
Bout #3 From the middleweight division, they had debutant Alexis Zamarripa from Camalu, B. C., Mexico going up against Kevin Ottley (1-0) from the Bomber Squad Boxing Academy, El Cajon, Calif. Not much to say about this miss-match only that Zamarripa took a beating for almost two rounds until his corner finally decided it was time to throw in the towel.
Bout #4 In this one, welterweight Ricardo “Junior” Valdovinos from Logan Heights, San Diego, Calif. and training at Mondo’s Boxing Gym, Spring Valley, faced fellow debutant Juan Armendáriz of San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, Mexico. During their weigh-in on Thursday, there was talk Armendariz had failed to make the agreed upon weight and weighed nine pounds over the limit. Standing next to each other, it was easy to see Armendáriz was the bigger man. Did it matter? Yes. But Valdovinos was adamant about taking the fight. With both being debutants and not knowing anything about each other’s skill level, it was a bold move for Valdovinos to take the fight. With both men trading heavy blows, the first round was complete chaos. By the end of the second round, Armendáriz had started to breathe through his mouth and was definitely running low on petrol, while Valdovinos seemed fresh and began to land the cleaner, straighter blows, mostly to the head. The one thing that impressed you the most about Valdovinos was his calmness under fire plus ring savvy while his opponent was more nervous energy and swinging for the fences.
Bout #5 After coming out victorious in his debut on May 13, 2016, featherweight Robert “Ram” Meza of Temecula, Calif. returned to do battle with the winless Alfonso “Poncho” Sandoval of Tijuana. How hungry was Sandoval for that first win? He surprised everyone and had Meza on wobbly legs after landing this powerful overhand right. Amazingly, Meza kept his composure and battled back to get the win by scoring consecutive knockdowns, and a third knockdown of which Sandoval needed more than just 10 seconds to recover. And the quote from Mr. Meza, “Yes, I was staggered by that blow but the harder, the more challenging the fight … it only makes me perform that much better.”
Bout #6 had Hector Valdez (6-0, 5 KOs) from the Maple Avenue Boxing Gym in Dallas facing Horacio Perez Gomez (0-2) from Mexicali. It appeared Gomez was blindsided and didn’t know what hit him. There was no need for a 10 count as he lied there on his back and half way through the ropes.
Bout #7 Also from Camalu, it was Mario Ramírez making his professional debut against the hard-hitting Armando Tovar (3-1, 3 KOs) of San Diego’s House of Boxing. In round one, both boxers landed some big shots. Since Tovar was favoring these vicious uppercuts, it’s likely the judges favored him. In round two, Ramirez proved to be more elusive and varied his stance going successfully back and forth from righty to lefty. With both boxers doing so well in the final round, tit for tat, it seemed near impossible to decipher who would come out victorious. In the end, the judges were divided – two went with Tovar and the other had Ramirez ahead. This hard-hitting see-saw battle would have to get strong consideration for “Bout of the Night”.
From here on out, it seemed the patrons were being spoiled with one great match-up after another. In Bout #8 they had the very popular Alfredo “Pepe el Toro” Ledezma (6-0) of Tijuana going up against Julio Cesar Figueroa (0-2) from Camalu, B. C., Mexico. It’s likely Ledezma took both rounds one and two with his hard shots to the midsection.
In Bout #9, the 8-round Co-Main event, they had 19-year-old flyweight Tania “La Chula” Enriquez (8-0, 5 KOs) going up against the veteran Carol Castro (6-7) from Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico. With Enriquez dominating from the opening bell, this one turned out to be one of the most non-competitive bouts on the fight card. With Enriquez landing almost at will, you might have thought Castro had never, ever, faced a lefty. With Castro being so uncompetitive, referee Cristian Curiel felt obliged to stop the bout.
The final bout of the evening, Bout #10, between Tijuana’s Bryan “The Kid” Figueroa (10-0) and Héctor “Estudiante” Ambriz (5-3-1), a top prospect, who trains with José Guardado and Óscar “Vaquero” Maldonado at the Guardado Gym in Ensenada, turned out to be a classic battle with many shifts in strategy.
It could be argued that Ambriz took round one based solely on his additional two blows to the head. Round two was even closer and should have been scored a toss-up. Then, at the close of round three, Figueroa mentioned to his corner that he was having some pain in his left foot. Figueroa’s strategy changed in Round 4 as he began to circle ala Mohammad Ali. Circle and then tap the frustrated Ambriz on the head. By Round 5, Figueroa did nothing but circle and hold. Despite the repeated warning about holding, Figueroa continued to grab and hold which frustrated his opponent. With the leg injury getting worse, Figueroa went down on his own accord and the referee gave him time to sort things out. In that round, round 6, Figueroa could not run and with 30 seconds left in the round, he was forced to go toe to toe with Ambriz. For the remainder of the bout, rounds seven and eight, Figueroa went back to running/circling.
At the close of the fight, two fellow journalists came over to discuss and eventually ask who I thought had won the match. I said it was too close to call and they both disagreed with that assessment. They concluded with, “You watch, they’re going to give it to Figueroa because they want to protect his undefeated streak.” As the judges’ scores were read, their sentiments came to fruition. They had Figueroa, now 11-0, winning by a Majority Decision.
The “Viva Tijuana” boxing card is now part of the World Class Boxing Series, produced and distributed by PAP Sports. Friday evening’s well-received event was taped for delayed broadcast to the United States, Baja California, and Puerto Rico via LATV Networks, and worldwide via the Internet through Global Sports Streaming. GSS is a Live Streaming and Multi-Channel Network (MCN) within the YouTube Eco system which currently brings you live boxing and MMA but intends to branch out into other sports. What they do is help athletes expand their digital branding. GSS’s experienced team has the know-how and technological skills to help creators, sports organizations and athletes make their digital mark.