chris@cozzone.comBlind Ambition
Valenzuela stuns Garcia, shuts eye and stuns crowd; Garcia & Valdez upset on show of wars in Espanola

Ringside report & photos by Chris Cozzone
Assisted by Felix Chavez

The undercard locals might’ve survived the flames of last night’s “Valley on Fire!” card, but the headliners were more than a little scorched after a night of blistering action at the Espanola High School in Espanola, N.M.

Despite a disappointing turnout, freely estimated at 800, Fire Inside Productions, in their second show, might’ve set a precedent for the local scene: If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen—be prepared to play with fire and don’t rely on home cooking on the cards.

Putting the flame name game aside, last night’s smoker had it all: a kid on his way up, another on his way down; two returns for undefeated locals; wars and good scores; brawls and falls.

And upsets—for Albuquerque’s Vicente “Picosito” Garcia and hometowner Tony “the Warrior” Valdez both suffered serious setbacks last night.

For Garcia, Mexico’s Roberto Valenzuela, with his nickname of “El Viejo” (“The Old One”), proved more than meets the eye—literally.

And for Valdez, looks (and hooks) were deceiving when it came to Mexico’s Jose Luis Cardenas, with his losing record—but at least the Espanolan had the opportunity to make it a close fight over the six-round distance.

For Garcia, it was a case of desperation that ended abruptly, with a stunned crowd filing out of the high school gymnasium as Garcia, broken-hearted and tear-filled, pounded the canvas in frustration.

chris@cozzone.comHis scheduled-for-ten welterweight bout was supposed to be a step above tune-up, for the rugged 62-fight, 33-year-old Mexican veteran had proven tough-but-beatable for Garcia’s rivals, the Mora brothers, across the state line in Denver.

It started out business-as-usual for Garcia, who easily won the first two minutes of the opening round letting Valenzuela plod forward as he peppered him with jabs, lead lefts and one-twos.

But then, at about the two-minute mark, Valenzuela closed the gap and let loose with a crushing left hook to Garcia’s side. Garcia’s eyes bulged with the impact and he immediately threw himself at the veteran in a clingy embrace. Referee Rocky Burke had to borrow a crowbar from the janitor to get him off, and when the fight resumed, Garcia dove into a desperate clinch once more.

After Burke’s repeated warnings and re-prying, Garcia had recovered just enough to keep on his feet-but Valenzuela, smelling blood—more than the trickle coming out of Garcia’s nostril—was all over him.

Still in trouble, Garcia was bombarded by hooks and a left uppercut that plowed into his face. He tried to fight back, resulting in a shot thrown low—but that only earned him a point deduction from the referee.

The trade-off was worth it, however, for, while the south-of-the-border fighter recovered from his south-of-the-border shot, Garcia was quickly recovering from the body blow that’d nearly folded him in two 50 seconds earlier.

Unfortunately for Garcia, he had a new problem for, within seconds, just as the fight resumed, his right eye had completely closed. And when the bell rang—before Valenzuela could launch another offense—Garcia staggered back to his corner exclaiming, “I can’t see! I can’t see!”

Sssshhed by his cornermen, Garcia changed his tune when the ringside physician paid a visit to his corner to assess the damage. Over the next three minutes, Garcia told him his eye was okay, and he begged permission for round two. Despite a completely closed eye, commission officials somehow let the fight continue.

To Garcia’s credit, fighting one-eyed, he won the second round, much the same way he did the first two minutes, but with an overt sense of desperation. Knowing he had the fight in the bag—a stoppage would automatically result in a TKO win for him for the injury had been caused by a punch—Valenzuela took his time.

Garcia, however, was out of time, for in between the second and third, after another long conference between corner, fighter, physician and officials, the fight was brought to a screeching halt.

Crushed, Garcia hurled his mouthpiece to the canvas (it bounced nearly to the top of the gymnasium), then himself, as he bellowed his disbelief.

chris@cozzone.comAs Garcia pounded the canvas, Valenzuela, now 37-23-2 (33 KOs), was declared winner by third round TKO.

Most of the crowd hastened out of the auditorium, not bothering to applaud Valenzuela, who shrugged and slipped away for a shower.

“I was surprised by the eye,” the Mexican admitted backstage. “I just hit him. But I sensed he was really hurt before the uppercut landed.

“The plan was to test the body early, and that’s what I did. He was definitely on his way down from those body shots. He was a strong fighter but I have more experience—I’ve fought a lot of tough guys. This guy didn’t bother me.”

Valenzuela said he refused to let the fight go to the cards.

“It was his backyard and I knew I couldn’t let this go to a decision. I was several points down just entering the ring. The plan was to get him out before the fifth and sixth.”

Garcia was understandably distraught, but his mood improved slightly when he realized a significant portion of the crowd had remained in the gym for support—Garcia brought a cheer from his supporters when he threw T-shirts at them.

“I let everybody down,” said a teary-eyed Garcia.

“I didn’t want to quit. I couldn’t see a damn thing and I lied to the doctor about being able to see, but he caught me and stopped the fight.”

Garcia said it wasn’t just an uppercut that closed his right eye.

“I got thumbed,” he said. “He didn’t turn his uppercut over and I felt it right away. But even one-eyed, I still wanted to fight. I didn’t want them to stop the fight.

“I’m just sorry I disappointed the fans.”

Despite clinging to Valenzuela after the left hook to the body, Garcia said he hadn’t been hurt.

“I don’t even remember the liver shot. I didn’t feel it. All I remember is not being able to see.

“What more can I say? This is boxing. It’s another setback. I’ll be back, as always. It’s the first time I’ve been stopped—but it’s going to be the last time.”

Garcia, losing for the first time in his home state, falls to 12-5 (8 KOs).

chris@cozzone.comCardenas wins on cards, upsetting Valdez

If the main event turned out to be an eye-closer, the co-main was an eye-opener, for despite a losing record, Mexican super flyweight Jose Luis Cardenas proved more than local hopeful Tony “the Warrior” Valdez could handle over the course of their six-round war.

Valdez was too fast, slick and clever for Cardenas in the opening stanza, piling up points against the slowly-plodding-forward Mexican until the final ten seconds when the two brawled.

Cardenas made the right adjustments between rounds, for he kept Valdez moving in the second, pressuring him at all times and landing big right hands. Again, at the round’s end, the two brawled, but it was Cardenas lefts and big rights that made the difference.

Instead of big rights, it was big lefts that earned Cardenas the third round. Keeping Valdez on his bike, Cardenas continued the pressure—when he wasn’t gesturing to his chin for Valdez to, c’mon, hit him. Valdez had a couple moments in the round but was kept dazed and confused for the latter half, trying to fend off Cardenas’ big punches.

This time, in between rounds, it was Valdez’s turn to make adjustments, for he took the fight back in the fourth, boxing beautifully and making Cardenas look slow and clumsy. A brief break in the action resulted from a low blow by Cardenas.

Valdez kept up his winning game plan for much of the fifth round, but in the final minute, Cardenas closed the gap again and bombed away at Valdez, landing enough big right hands to take the round.

Round six was all Cardenas, with more pressure, more right hands and more left hooks that had Valdez staggering on at least two occasions.

At the end of six rounds, two of three judges were right on the mark, with scores of 58-56 for Valenzuela; the third had it even 57-57, somehow scoring the second round for Valdez.

NewMexicoBoxing/Fightnews had it 58-56 for Valenzuela.    

“He was good but I was better,” said Cardenas, who ups his record to 5-6-1 (3 KOs).

“I worked hard for this. I was afraid of getting a hometown loss but thought the judges saw I almost knocked him out.”

Valdez, now 6-3-2 (6 KOs), was emotional, saying little but, “I felt I was robbed.”

“The fight was very close,” said Valdez’s trainer, Pat Holmes. “But I thought we edged him. Tony’s strategy was to box him, and I thought we won it that way.

“Cardenas is a very good fighter. Both fighters fought a good fight, and both made the right adjustments, but it was disappointing for everybody here.”‘Papitas’ pops De Leon

Albuquerque featherweight hopeful Matthew “Papitas” Esquibel opened up the show with an impressive performance over Jorge De Leon of Reynosa, Mexico. Although De Leon was unwon, he’d shown durability in his previous two bouts—but Esquibel put an end to that with a right uppercut in the second round.

De Leon was game, but Esquibel retained control in the first, jabbing, landing big left hooks, up and downstairs, while slipping and ducking shots thrown by his opponent.

Esquibel let loose with his left hooks in the second, but it was a crisp right uppercut that floored De Leon for the count at 1:03.

Esquibel rises to 3-0, 2 KOs while De Leon shows inverse numerals, falling to 0-3.

Alderete returns with win

After three years of inaction, Albuquerque cruiserweight Mike Alderete returned to action with a hard-fought unanimous decision win over Deric “Ironman” Flores, of San Antonio, Tex.

Alderete, now fighting under Bernie Sanchez, showed himself to be more than the sloppy brawler he was three years ago. Big body shots softened up the “Ironman,” who spent the time walking Alderete down. On two occasions, Flores was successful in pinning Alderete into a corner, but the Albuquerque fighter had his best moments countering his way out of danger.

Alderete regressed from boxer to brawler in the second, and the two fighters stood toe-to-toe for the entire round, hurting one another with lefts. Flores, however, had the edge, and had Alderete backpedaling out of danger on at least one occasion.

After the action-packed second, the third round was noticeably tame, with neither fighter all that willing to engage. Alderete returned to boxing, and had a slight lead, but a brawl at the end nearly had the round changing hands.

Alderete closed the show in the fourth. As Flores tired, Alderete picked up the pace and landed his best punches of the night.

All three judges were in agreement, scoring it 39-37 for Alderete.

“I had a little rust, but it felt good to be back,” said Alderete, who is trying to work down to 175.

“I felt his punches but nothing that dazed me.”‘Shark’ Bray takes a bite out of beaten-down Brady

Returning light heavyweight Jason “the Shark” Bray made short work of Albuquerque’s Joseph “the Assassin” Brady, destroying the former hopeful, former minor-beltholder, former junior middleweight in just 53 seconds.

Actually, it wouldn’t be far off the mark to say that Brady was a destroyed man before he even entered the ring against Bray, for the former local main eventer, pudgy and pathetic in performance, showed himself to be but a sad shadow of his former self, six losses and three years ago—so much, in fact, that he had to borrow cornermen.

There’s not much to say about this one.

Bray was too big. Too strong. Too aggressive.

Brady was too small-of-stature. Too feeble. Out of shape.

Bray forced Brady to backpedal from the opening bell, from hard-thrown jabs, straight lefts and one good right hook. Brady while throwing one ineffective punch downstairs, another one that missed altogether, spent the duration covering up, then was slammed with a left to his solar plexus. After he was  pushed into the ropesm, he bounced off of them, and landed on all fours on the canvas where he, in a fit of dry heaves, was given the mercy stoppage by ref Rocky Burke at :53.

Bray, 6-0, 3 KOs, was surprised it’d been so easy.

“I expected more out of him,” he said afterward.

“But I knew I had him with that body shot.”

Brady, 0-6 in his last six, all by KO/TKO, and one a suspected dive, at that, needs help—in, both, his personal life and his deteriorating-beyond-repair career.

Placed on a long-term suspension now, Brady is going to have a hard time finding another payday. He may want to spend the time reevaluating his situation before stepping into the ring again.

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Note: The six-rounder between Durango jr. middleweight Elco Garcia and Cabien St. Pierre was nixed due to a family emergency for Garcia.

Bonus photos

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