New Mexico Boxing

Fresquez Productions & Sky City Casino - Sky City Casino - Friday, August 17, 2001 - Acoma, NM

Almager Nets the Iron Butterfly

by chris cozzone

The day before the fight, Mary Ann Almager told me that before her first fight with Trina Ortegon, she was contemplating retirement. Snaggin’ Trina’s WIBA belt changed things for her—even though that first fight was a close fight.

Friday night’s fight was not.

Friday night, Mary Ann Almager might’ve lost two rounds—but the rest was hers. The first couple rounds had it lookin’ like the original fight; that this was going to go the distance, and that it would be close and difficult to score—a matter of preference for judges having to choose between awarding the busier, more aggressive fighter who lands more, or the fighter who picks her spots and lands the more telling blows. Unfortunately, for Trina, scoring last night’s rematch wasn’t difficult to score at all.

Ortegon spent her time pursuing Almager around the ring, trying to cut it off, trying to corner her, trying to land her shots, trying to hurt the woman who would ultimately double the number in her “L” column.

But Mary Ann Almager was in control. Her defense was tight enough to render most of Trina’s attacks ineffective; the punches that got in did not seem to have any damaging effect on Almager. Mary Ann’s own offensive moves slowly started to dismantle the Iron Butterfly until, by the 9th Round, Trina was getting hit in the head too often; taking too many shots that rocked her. Trina was taking unnecessary punishment.

Trina Ortegon was not going to go down; and she was not going to quit. So, Trina’s trainer and manager, Irene Garcia, did the right thing. She climbed onto the apron and waved a white towel at referee Tony Rosales until he waved it over.

Got to be honest here. Last night’s rematch had to be the hardest fight I’ve ever shot or written about.

In Boxing, it’s always a struggle to remain objective. It’s easier to do when covering fights in Vegas. But here in New Mexico, when you’re covering all the local fighters; when you’re getting to know them all; when you end up calling many of them friends, it’s nearly impossible to be totally objective. Still, you give it your best shot.

What gets hard to do is watch—cover, photograph—someone you know well and like get beaten, the way Trina was beaten Friday night.

And when the winner’s announced and it’s your job to shoot the champ pumping her fists in the air, it’s hard to keep your eyes from wandering over to the not-so-fortunate opponent, consoled by her corner, now crushed by two defeats in a row and possibly headed for a knockdown had the fight continued.

But the Iron Butterfly’s got an iron chin. Most likely, she would’ve found a way to take the punishment, to last the round, to go the distance and to keep on trying for that only-chance to win; that one knockout punch that did not seem likely to materialize last night. Trina’s persistence was an even better reason for Irene Garcia to throw in that towel.

Friday night might’ve seemed like Trina’s toughest fight yet but I got a hunch that her biggest battle is only beginning. Trina’s biggest challenge will be fought over the next several months, as she finds the strength and will power to come back from this loss. But if I know Trina, we’ll be seeing her in the gym soon enough . . . trying to figure out what went wrong and how to correct it.

As for Mary Ann, her options are many, at least, as far as women’s boxing goes. After the fight, she called out Laila Ali. But after last night, Ali wouldn’t be too smart to take on Almager. Could be, the loss might work better in Trina’s favor in getting a shot at Ali.

But, as far as retirement for Mary Ann Almager? Not too likely after her show of skills last night . . . not too likely. She’s going to be around for a while.

Brady Steps Up

The main event last night wasn’t the only surprise of the night. The co-main—a real, ugly bang-‘em-up scrap—between the “South San Jose Assassin” Joseph Brady and Tucson’s Jo Jo Varela was my pick for Most Entertaining Fight of the Night.

I’ve been criticizing Brady from Day One; for fighting guys without heartbeats, mainly. I’ve also doubted his skills. From what I’ve seen of Brady, against the weak opposition he’s been up against, I’ve seen little of the skills everyone’s raved about the amateur star.

Friday night, I had to eat my words.

Brady faced his first big test in Tucson’s Jo Jo Varela. Varela was a top amateur in Arizona and with a record of 9-2, was coming off a big win in Dallas over a local prospect. Varela said he liked winning in his opponents’ backyards; he liked upsetting and in Brady, that’s what he’d come to do.

It was a helluva ugly fight (and I’ll get to that.) A slugfest. But at the end of six rounds, Brady had not only won but he’d dropped the tough Tucson fighter three times—four times if you count the one time the ref missed, ruling it a slip. (But that works both ways: ref Rocky Burke also ruled a damaging body blow Varela landed on Brady a low blow. Brady took advantage of the ruling and took a breather.)

In between the slugging-about and the wrestling moves, Brady showed a tight defense. He was also able to take advantage of openings to land clean, flush shots that had Varela hurt . . . and on the canvas. The fight came close to ending in a TKO-KO victory for Brady.

I won’t say jack about Brady’s ability to outbox Varela last night. The kid shined . . .

Well, almost.

As much as I’d like to leave it at that, I can’t. It would be irresponsible of me to overlook Brady’s behavior in the ring last night.

Skills alone should’ve prevailed for Brady last night. Should’ve. Would’ve. But his power punches, his determination to win, his boxing skills were supplemented by a steady salvo of dirty tactics.  Ironic, that a fighter who is winning the fight would have to resort to fouling but that’s just what the crowd saw (and booed) last night at Sky City. Brady hit on the break two, maybe three times; he body slammed Varela at least once; he pushed Varela through the ropes . . . Hell, Brady made Bernard Hopkins look like Mother Teresa.

But there was no need.

Brady was in control from Round Two on, especially with all the knockdowns. There was no reason for dirty fighting.

Referee Rocky Burke had a rare ‘off’ night--which is understandable since he spent the majority of the time trying to get both fighters to stop wrestling. Still, there should’ve been points taken off—that would’ve, or should’ve put an end to it, and without changing the outcome. Brady still would’ve won the fight, even with a couple points off for bad behavior; but the threat of a loss by DQ might’ve given him incentive to quit fouling. It also would’ve saved him the massive chorus of boos Brady received at the end of the fight when he was announced the winner.

Varela wants a rematch. He said his defense was lacking and next time around, he’d be ready. Brady said he’d give him one.

Is this a fight we want to see again? Sure thing. But let’s box . . . not wrestle, not street-fight.

Alright, so I’ve seen Brady’s potential . . . but let’s not shadow skills with dirty fighting.

Heyman Returns

The opening bout of the night saw the return of lightheavyweight hopeful Max Heyman—his first fight in New Mexico in three and a half years.

Last night, Max was matched up against El Paso’s Francisco Stevens. From Round One, you could see the two fighters were in different skill levels. Heyman had a few specks of ring rust, not having fought since last November, but he still won every round before Stevens quit on his stool after the 4th. The first two rounds saw an aggressive Heyman dominating Stevens. Stevens came back in the 3rd and 4th—well, maybe not “came back,” but, rather, was able to survive and land some quality shots on Heyman who was not as aggressive as the first two rounds. Still, Heyman took the rounds and Stevens did not answer the 5th Round bell.

Heyman has taken a different route in his career than most NM fighters. Max is a road warrior, and has taken on tough guys out-of-state in NV. If he’d had someone to groom him, we’d be seeing a 20-0-or-something top ten contender right now instead of the 12-3-3 fighter he is now. But things are changing for Heyman. Last November, he nearly beat Julian Letterlough, before a disputed stoppage gave the TKO win to Letterlough. It was a loss but it also boosted Heyman’s rep.

Recently, the Maloof Brothers signed Max. Just a few weeks before they picked up Danny Romero. The plan is to build his record, keep him busy and get him a match that’ll put him get him ranked in the top ten.

Aragon and Estrada Show Improvement

Another great match on the card was Steve Aragon vs. Lorenzo Estrada. Whatever both guys are doing in the gym, they need to continue and do more of, because it’s working. Both fighters showed a side I hadn’t seen before.

Lorenzo, who usually plods in straight ahead and tries to go toe-to-toe, switched styles and had Steve runnin’ all over the ring getting frustrated and tired as he tried to catch him. Then, when Aragon would not expect it, Estrada would rush in and pot-shot him. It very nearly worked and certainly gave Estrada two of the first four rounds.

But Steve, on the other hand, also showed a different side to his style by using his speed and skills rather than his usual move-in and bang-it-out style.

The fight was even through the 4th but then Aragon’s speed and conditioning gave him the edge. And, by the 5th, Aragon had figured out a way to crack Estrada’s new style.

Aragon takes another win, rising to 5-1 now; and Lorenzo Estrada, slips to 2-13. Estrada shouldn’t be discouraged, though. He looks like he’s improving and if he can stay away from accepting fights from heavier fighters (and being used so often as an opponent), he can begin to even out his win and loss columns.

Payne Wins Again

Vernon Payne had an easy fight against last-minute sub Jose Chavirez from Denver. It’s hard to say how good Payne looked—Payne always shows his skills—but Chavirez wasn’t exactly top opposition.

Chavirez, though, did come to fight. But he was no match for Vern who had him down in the first, and again, in the second . . .and then again before his corner threw in the towel.

What’s next for Vernon Payne?

He wants fights. More fights. Tougher competition.

A showdown with Joseph Brady is not an impossibility, although Payne would like to see that fight at a catch weight between 154 and 147.

Next Card

Look for the next Fresquez card to be on October 5th, again, at Sky City. Headlining the show will be Frankie Archuleta, who will take on the unheralded Roberto Lopez. Also scheduled on the card: Adriana Delgado, Vernon Payne, Isaac Cruz and Kenny Maldonado.

Almager vs. Ortegon
Mary Ann Almager (13-4, 9 KO’s) TKO 9 Trina Ortegon (9-4, 4 KO’s)
Almager Retains WIBA Middleweight belt
Brady vs. Varela
Joseph Brady (7-0, 1 NC, 3 KO’s) W 6 Jo Jo Varela (9-3, 4 KO’s)
Heyman vs. Stevens
Max Heyman (12-3-3, 7 KO’s) TKO 4 Frank Stevens (5-4, 3 KO’s)
Aragon vs. Estrada
Steve Aragon (5-1, 3 KO’s) W 6 Lorenzo Estrada (2-13)
Payne vs. Chavirez
Vernon Payne (6-0, 4 KO’s) TKO 2 Jose Chavirez (0-1-1)

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© 2001 by New Mexico