New Mexico Boxing

The Scrapper From Seboyeta
From Light Heavy to Super Feather, Slugger to Boxer, Steve Aragon
Looks to Take Career to Next Level by Taking on Tommy Aragon

text & photos by chris cozzone

“Sensational” Steve Aragon has been about transition—changes in weight, in trainers, and in styles. Next week, that steady progression will apply to his step up in opposition when Steve takes on Tommy Aragon.

Slugger Tommy Aragon is only the 2nd opponent Steve has faced with a winning record; he is also, by far, the most dangerous fighter the Seboyeta fighter has yet faced.

“A lot of people get on me for not stepping up the competition,” admits Aragon. “But that doesn’t bother me. For me, it’s about getting experience. It’s about learning as I go.”

Aragon’s less-than-optimum amateur experience has him moving at a slower pace in the pros than, say, celebrated amateurs Joseph Brady or Ray Sanchez III. Now at 6-1 (3 KO’s), secure in styles and his training team, Aragon feels it’s time to step things up.

Steve played around with boxing as a kid but it wasn’t until he was in the Navy that he started fighting. Two years into the Service and stationed in the Tacoma, Washington area, Aragon was hitting a bag at the gym when he ran into a fellow New Mexican who owned a local gym. Steve started working out there. Before long, he was doing the smoker circuit in the Portland-Tacoma-Seattle area.

“At the time I was pretty big and out of shape—about 178 pounds,” says Aragon. “For the last two years in the Navy, I started dropping weight.”

Aragon, now in the 140’s and 23 years old, came back home after the Navy. Still interested in fighting, Steve hooked up with Sammy Kidd who enlisted him in a few amateur fights. After Kidd wanted him to fight Vernon Payne one night in the South Valley, Steve decided it was time to switch trainers.

“I wasn’t ready to fight Vernon,” said Steve. “He was too heavy, too big for me. Sammy said, ‘Oh no, he can’t take a punch. You’ll knock him out.’ We ended up not fighting; Sammy and I went our separate ways.”

They didn’t fight, but Payne and Aragon started talking. Together with Mike Connolly, the three trained under Luis Chavez at San Jo.

“We started fighting quite a bit. I fought Shawn Gallegos, and Ray Sanchez III for the state championship in Socorro. We went to the PAL together but I lost in the 2nd round to a guy named James Countryman. He was tall and lanky and I was outboxed. That was always the case. I was always getting outboxed.”

Now fighting around 139, Aragon felt it was time to move on again.

“Luis is an awesome trainer and I have a lot of respect for the man,” says Steve. “But we were disagreeing on a few things. Me and Vernon decided it was time to move on. We got introduced to Rocky Stapleton . . .”

Stapleton, who’d been with Tommy Cordova in the 80’s, turned Aragon pro.

Aragon would’ve turned pro under Chavez in July of ’00, fighting on the Linson-Reed I card in Santa Fe, but the fight was cancelled in the last minute. Instead, Aragon fought a four-round exhibition against Tomas Felix. Steve’s pro debut wouldn’t happen until October when he was matched up against another pro-debuter, Luis Torres, on a Fresquez card in Santa Fe.

“Torres didn’t come to fight,” says Aragon, who stopped him in the 2nd. “He was an easy fight.”

Aragon’s second fight was a month later at Sky City—where Steve would become a fixture on the Fresquez card. This time, Steve was matched up against “El Chocalate,” Rafael Labacena, 0-1 at the time.

“He was coming in heavier and Rocky was started to get cocky, telling me, ‘We’ll knock this guy out, we’ll take the fight . . .’ But Labacena was a big guy for me. He said, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ He wanted me punching bell to bell, told me to bury my head in his chest and punch, wear him out.”

Turned out, Steve had little to worry about. Labacena ended up looking tougher than he actually was in the ring. Aragon knocked him out in the 1st. Despite the win, Aragon was less than comfortable with the way he was being trained to fight.

“We worked out hard with Rocky, which was good because you don’t want to come into a fight getting tired, but he was training me to be more of a banger, to just bang it out.”

Stapleton says he wanted Steve to move side-to-side and change angles, while throwing punches. He didn’t see Aragon as a pure boxer who kept to the outside.

There would be just one more fight under Rocky Stapleton—the fight against veteran Juan Aranday in February of 2001.

Although 5-18-3, Aranday was a big test for Aragon. Despite the lop-sided losing record, Aranday had 24 more fights than Steve had. He was also heavier.

“I was 130 and Aranday came in at 136,” says Aragon. “Rocky said he had a lot of fights but that I could take him. But that week, I was coming down with some flu symptoms. I was pretty weak. I told Rocky, ‘I don’t know about this . . .’ I hated to pull out. All these tickets had been sold and my family was coming down for the fight. I kept on taking medication. Rocky said I’d be fine.”

Aragon was fine, at least in the first round. But in the 2nd, Aranday caught Steve with a hard right and dropped him for the first time in his pro career.

“Up until Aranday, my opponents hadn’t really come to fight. I could push them around . . . but Aranday came to fight, and I could feel the weight difference. I thought he’d be another quick knockout. After the 1st, I came back to the corner and told Rocky I had no legs. I was weak. He said, ‘Do your thing, throw more punches.’ But in the 2nd, he caught me with a sloppy punch and down I went.

“I remember thinking, This can’t be happening. I didn’t see the punch. There was no pain, just a daze. I looked up at the ref who was counting, I thought, I got to get up, I got to get up. That was a mistake, jumping up when I did. I should’ve stayed down for the 8-count. I panicked and I had no legs after that.”

Despite the knockdown, Aragon showed heart and continued to fight only to lose a four-round decision.

“It’s a day I wish I could live over, but it ended up being for the best. I was disappointed for a few days. I didn’t answer the phone, I was pretty beat up. It was a combination of being sick, of being up against a heavier opponent—and of not having enough boxing skills. It was a big wake-up call for me. It’s not fun getting beat up.”

Aragon says he nearly gave up boxing after that, but instead moved on, changing trainers yet again.

“I still respect Rocky and I know he meant well, but I thought it was time to move on. I talked to Leonard Fresquez who said he’d continue giving us fights. Then, I thought about another trainer. Leonard suggested Freddy Esquibel or Luis Chavez, but I thought they had too many fighters already. I thought about Ronald Herrera, who trained his brother Moises who I sparred with at 4th Street. I called him up and we agreed to try it for a couple weeks. The workouts were tough but it was just what I needed. He agreed to train me.”

Steve’s been with the Herreras ever since, training in their garage in Bernalillo, sparring inside a makeshift ring that fills most of the area.

“Since then, my style’s changed. Ronald said, ‘Let’s throw everything out. I don’t want to change your style but let’s go back to basics, start with fundamentals.’ We worked on the jab, straight punches instead of looping punches, throwing combinations. We worked big on defense, keeping my hands up. It’s been a learning experience and every fight, we pick it up.”

Two months after losing to Aranday, Aragon won a four-rounder over 0-1 fighter Juan Carlos Cortes, then stopped Mike Sloboda (1-0) after two rounds two months after that. Three months later, Aragon fought a tactical match between an improved but 2-12 fighter Lorenzo Estrada, winning a six-round decision.

Last October saw Aragon at his best, beating a 3-2 Guillermo Vara. While Vara was much slower, Steve kept to his game plan and fought him on the outside, boxing his way to a six-round decision.

Steve’s seven opponents have a combined record of 10-34-3 (Aranday responsible for 5-18-3 of that.) Aragon and the Herreras now felt it was time to step up the competition.

“At first Fresquez offered us Jacob Romero,” says Steve. “Me and Ronald wanted that fight. Ronald said, ‘Let’s step it up.’ Jacob was coming off a long layoff, I was coming off one of my better fights. It was perfect timing. We took the fight and I was training for it, but it fell through. Then I went through some personal problems and they had me working where I couldn’t train.”

Aragon works for Western States Fire Protection, a company that installs fire sprinklers. During November and December, they had Aragon working in Los Alamos, but in January, they had him working at Intel where he could train again. That’s when Fresquez offered them Tommy Aragon.

“Ronald said, ‘Tommy’s too big,’” says Steve. “I’ve seen him at 135 and he couldn’t make the weight. Leonard [Fresquez] wanted the fight at 132-133. I said I’m coming up in weight and usually fight at 126-128. Tommy really wanted the fight so we agreed on 130. The big question now is whether Tommy will make that weight.”

Gym reports coming out of Winkeljohn’s Kickboxing, where Tommy trains, can put that fear aside—supposedly Tommy Aragon is down to 131 pounds now, just one week out from the fight.

At first, the Aragon vs. Aragon fight was set as a 6-round co-main event for the February 22nd card at Sky City—but after the main event crashed, the card was rescheduled for March 9th and Aragon vs. Aragon was pumped up to an 8-round main event.

“We wanted eight rounds to begin with,” says Steve. “Eight is to our advantage. Tommy always loses wind and I’m always in shape.”

March 9th won’t be the first time Tommy and Steve have fought. Several years ago, the two fought a 4-rounder in a smoker at 4th Street.

“It was when I was training under Sammy Kidd,” says Steve. “I was only a month out of the service and I gave up a few pounds to fight him at 156. Tommy’s a big guy and he came out to fight the same way he always does—wailing. I lost the decision and spent the time just trying to survive. I never thought about facing him again but he started coming down in weight.

“March 9th is going to be a war. He comes to fight and he doesn’t back down. He’s a hard puncher and I’ll be the first to admit that, but I think I can take a pretty good punch. The only way to beat him is with some skill.

“We’re gonna outbox him. We’re not gonna run, we’re gonna fight—but smartly. We’re not gonna get suckered into those big punches. We can run all night but we’re not going to. We just won’t let him get set up. Once he does, be careful. He throws those awkward punches and likes to fight on the ropes. But I think I can punch just as hard as him—but smarter punches and not just one, I’ll throw 4-5 where they count.”

Although Steve’s team does not want to look past March 9th, they would like to fight at least ten times this year. What’s more, they will no longer take an opponent without a winning record.

“If they don’t have a winning record, they’re not worth fighting,” says Steve, who’s been criticized for his soft opposition so far. “The criticism doesn’t bother me. If you can’t take criticism, you’re in the wrong sport. If we don’t get respect, that doesn’t bother us, either. Ronald has really worked my career around, and with every fight, I’m improving. We just do our own thing. But people do pay a lot of money and they deserve to see something better than what they’ve been seeing with me.

“As for Tommy Aragon? I’ll respect his power, I’d be stupid not to. His biggest challenge will be in making the weight. We’re saying that he’ll probably come in one or two pounds heavy and will have to lose it the day before. But we’re ready for any situation.

“Whatever happens in the ring, we are ready.”

© 2002 by New Mexico
Site & photos by cozzone.