Photos by Chris Cozzone/cozzone.comSticks and stones
In New Mexico's 'Fight of the Year,' Valdez evens verbal war with a brawl and draw with Montez

Ringside report by Chris Cozzone and Gerardo Martinez
Photos by Jose Leon Castillo III

What do you get when you throw together the world’s most reluctant promoter (a first-timer at that), a card plagued by postponement and a near capsizing, a mediocre line-up and a main event that pits a hopeless underdog coming out of six-year retirement against a heavier, fast-punching, faster-talking opponent?

Most of the time, you get disaster. But in last night’s case, you get, both, fight card and fight of the year in New Mexico.

Originally slated for financial disaster at The Pit on August 25, first-timer Eviva Productions relocated their slapdash show to the Indian School’s Pueblo Pavilion in Santa Fe the early part of September. For the next three weeks, fight fans, press and, in some cases, the fighters even, were kept in the dark whether the card hadn’t been nixed altogether. Retaining the original artwork bearing Archie Ray Marquez, who’d dropped out of the line-up weeks before (sparing fight fans the pain of watching Jorge Reyes receive yet another beating on yet another New Mexico-approved bout), Eviva moved silently ahead, doing their best to limit anything remotely resembling promotion.

Photos by Chris Cozzone/cozzone.comMatchmakers Jacob Maes and Patrick Holmes kept to task, putting together a card that shouldn’t have succeeded – yet did. Eviva might’ve lost out, with a limited attendance estimated at 600, but fight fans who showed up in Santa Fe last night saw the best card yet in the local arena this year.

In the case of the main event, it, too, should’ve been doomed to failure. But sometimes you don’t factor in that it’s not always the size of the dog, but the size of the fight in the dog.

Espanola’s Tony “The Warrior” Valdez was one big underdog, too. Having last fought in 2006, Valdez was giving up a heap of time, weight and verbiage to Albuquerque’s king of smack, Raymond “Hollewood” Montez. At best a 115-pounder, back in the day, Valdez agreed to fight Montez at 117, but on the day of the weigh-in, he had to eat four pounds when Hollewood came in at 121.

Outweighed, outsized, outtalked and outskilled against Montez, Valdez was tagged for a hasty return to retirement by those-in-the-know, who, turned out, knew less than they thought, when it came to gauging the size of a pug’s heart.

Followed into the ring by a mass of teammates, family and Españolans wearing “Whatever It Takes” on red shirts, Valdez bounced up and down in his corner while, across the ring, Montez whipped his arms shouting, “It’s Hollewood time, baby!”

When the bell rang, however, it was Valdez’s time to shine. In the performance of his career, Valdez forced Montez to dig deep just to come out even.

Photos by Chris Cozzone/cozzone.comMontez went right to work on Valdez, who showed the arena – the Santa Fe audience split equally between Española and Albuquerque – that Montez’ bark was worse than his bite. Valdez fired back, earning Montez’ respect with big rights. Back and forth it went, through the opening chapter, Montez ever so slightly edging the round until, in the last minute, a big right nearly floored Valdez. Valdez dipped dangerously to the canvas, the seat of his pants scant millimeters from making contact, then he sprang upright like a jack-in-the-box, before referee Richard Espinoza could even assess whether he’d just seen a knockdown. He hadn’t. Before Montez could fire a second shot that would horizontal the vertical Valdez, Española’s pride was swinging back while the crowd cheered his name.

Despite the near-knockdown, Valdez came back strong in the second, driving Montez back and catching him with a stunning left hook. Montez shook away the cobwebs, firing back as the round progressed. Both men landed hard shots in exchanges that never seemed to end.

It was Montez’ fight to finish – then it was Valdez coming on strong, just when you thought he was tiring. Back and forth, against the ropes, in the middle of the ring, exchange after exchange had the crowd on their feet.

Montez maintained the pressure in the third, but cleaner, harder shots from Valdez later in the round made for tricky scoring.

In the fourth, Montez pulled ahead with big overhand rights while Valdez started to fade – at least it looked that way until, in the fifth, Valdez came out recharged. Bigger punches crashed into Montez early, though Hollewood poured it on in the second minute, nearly turning it around again before another dish of Española fisticuffs had him eating his words that Valdez would be an easy knockout.

Photos by Chris Cozzone/cozzone.comBig rights from Valdez punctuated the sixth and final round. Montez took the shots and plowed forward, driving Valdez back for much of the round. In the final 30 seconds, the two squared off and let loose, both landing furious shots that had spectators pumping their fists and shouting “TONE-EEEE!” or “HOLLY-WOOD!”

After a sportsmanlike embrace and congrats, both fighters paraded around the ring with their arms held in victory – while the judges’ scorecards were tallied.

Two judges (Esther Lopez and Joe Perez) had it even, 57-57, three rounds apiece, while the third, Levi Martinez, gave the edge to Valdez, 58-56. The place erupted in boos, though it was impossible to tell just why they were booing – half the place, perhaps, thinking Montez had won; the other half, that Valdez had the edge.

Even NewMexicoBoxing.com was split. Writer Chris Cozzone thought Montez’ ring generalship gave him a slight edge, 58-56, while Gerardo Martinez liked the Española fighter’s harder shots, scoring it the same, but for Valdez.

“I was happy with the outcome,” said Valdez, now 6-2-1, 3 KOs. “I came in much lighter and was rusty with all the time off, but I think I staggered him a couple times.

“I had a good time.”

Valdez attributed his success to a strong camp, and sparring with Fidel Maldonado.

“I worked real hard and I did my part. I wouldn’t mind a rematch.”

The ‘R’ word was on everyone’s lips – but at a set weight with at least eight rounds.

“It’s definitely a must-have rematch,” said an emotional Montez in the locker room. “He was a lot tougher than expected and he could take a punch.”

Montez, now 5-2-1, 4 KOs, admitted he’d been hurt in the fight, but thought he should’ve been given the knockdown in the first.

“He hurt me and I saw black a couple times,” he said. “But I took him down with a straight right.”

Trainer Manuel Anaya is also calling for a rematch.

“I don’t want to make excuses, but the fact that we had to weigh in again the day of the fight affected Hollewood.”

Montez is scheduled to fight on the December Fresquez card.
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Photos by Chris Cozzone/cozzone.comHeyman returns with a win

In the only undramatic fight on the card, Albuquerque cruiserweight “Mad” Max Heyman (25-11-4, 14 KOs), now a paramedic with the Albuquerque Fire Department, ended a two-year layoff following his 2010 bouts with crosstown rival “Mad” Mike Alderete. Heyman had to settle for a points win against professional opponent Chris Thomas (17-17-2, 14 KOs), who’s now lost 13 out of his last 14 bouts.

In a sleeper first round, the two measured one another, with Heyman throwing more shots. In the second, Heyman had to fend off headbutts but was able to land an overhand right that drove Thomas back. After a big left to the body, Thomas dropped to the canvas, though came back up shakily to beat the count.

In the third, Thomas scored a knockdown when he stepped on Heyman’s foot, then landed a punch as Heyman went down, off-balance. It was Thomas’ only round.

For the remainder, rounds three through six, Heyman plugged away at Thomas, who drooped, backed up, tired and occasionally popped back halfheartedly at Heyman.

All three scores were for Heyman, who claimed to injure his right paw in the fight: 58-53 across the board.
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Photos by Chris Cozzone/cozzone.comTone Luc

In a four-round jr. welterweight bout, Espanola lightweight Antonio “Tone” Martinez (1-1-1, 1 KO) moved up in weight to take on cage fighter Angelo Sanchez (0-0-1). He was lucky to walk away with a draw, for despite his cage training, ring debuter Sanchez proved the better conditioned, better boxer.

Early in the first, the two decided they’d keep the fight a down-and-dirty phone booth battle on the inside. The first round was close, with Martinez’ body shots, just past Sanchez’ elbow, making the difference.

In the subsequent rounds, however, Sanchez’ endless uppercuts landed more often than not while Martinez found he was unable to get inside the crafty cage fighter’s defense. Sanchez backed up Martinez, forcing him to fight on the ropes in the second and much of the third. In the final minute of the third, Martinez staged a reprisal with an attack to the body, though Sanchez kept his guard tight enough to fend off the worst of it. In the final round, Sanchez outlanded Martinez with ease, backing him up and closing the show.

Unfortunately for him, the judges didn’t see it that way. While one judge had him winning 39-37, the other two scored the bout even, 38-38, marking it a majority draw.

NewMexicoBoxing scored it three rounds to one, for Sanchez.
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Photos by Chris Cozzone/cozzone.comAnaya III returns for first win

In a four-round cruiserweight bout, comebacking Henry Anaya III (1-1) evened out his record with a tougher-than-expected war with MMA fighter Mario Eastman (0-1). It was a brawl from the start, and though the better boxer and bigger man, Anaya had to clear the cobwebs in his head more than once during the four rounds.

Both came out swinging, but Anaya landed the harder shots in the first. Proving he was no gimme opponent, Eastman launched himself at Anaya, landing shots upstairs, until a downstairs shot – more like a basement shot – had him wincing.

Anaya’s money punch proved to be his digging body shot, but more than once, it strayed too far south. In the second, Anaya scored a knockdown with a dig to the body that was low. After another low blow, referee Rocky Burke deducted a point, giving Eastman time to recover. When the bout resumed, Anaya hammered Eastman upstairs with straight rights.

Refusing to back down, Eastman came on strong in the third and fourth as Anaya began to tire. Anaya coasted around the ring in the third, allowing Eastman his first solid round. In the fourth, Anaya and Eastman duked it out in several exchanges. Though Anaya boxed well enough in spots to keep his edge, he was visibly hurt by Eastman in the last minute.

One judge had it even, 37-37, while the other two scored a majority decision win for Anaya, with scores of 39-36 and 38-37. NMB also had it for Anaya, 38-36.
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Photos by Chris Cozzone/cozzone.comCrespin destroys unknown in criminal mismatch

In a dangerous fight somehow approved by the New Mexico Athletic Commission, 10-bout veteran Amanda “Boom Boom” Crespin (6-4-1, 2 KOs), of Las Vegas, scored a 33 second win over a pro debuter.

Most of us ringside were pretty sure it was not only Raquel Olivas pro debut but amateur debut, as well, for when the bell rang, she held up her gloves as if they were foreign objects. And when “Boom Boom” zoomed in on her, her nonexistent defense spoke volumes about her unfamiliarity with the fight game.

Needless to say, she was down in less than seconds and

mercifully saved by the referee at :33.
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Garcia battered again, Castillo scores win

Photos by Chris Cozzone/cozzone.comIn a bloody four-rounder, Santa Fe’s Bryan Garcia (7-21, 2 Kos), was hammered and bullied about by Socorro’s David Castillo (3-4). Having lost 12 straight bouts, the hard way, with the last two following a five-year retirement, Garcia should finally get the hint that his place in the squared circle is in the corner as a trainer – not a fighter.

Castillo isn’t the nicest guy in the ring; in fact, he’s famous for fouling. But against Garcia, he really didn’t need to resort to low blows or head butts – sheer aggression and his superior size did the trick.

Garcia never had a chance to establish a game plan. Kept off-balance by the charging Castillo, Garcia’s pitty-pat combos did nada to dissuade his victor. Bullied and bloodied, Garcia survived only to lose a shutout decision.

All three judges scored it 40-36 for Castillo.
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Photos by Chris Cozzone/cozzone.comLopez’s chips away at Rocky Ramirez

Ending a one-and-a-half-year layoff, Socorro’s Adrian Lopez (2-1-1, 1 KO) duked it out with tough MMA fighter Rocky Ramirez (1-1, 1 KO), of Rio Rancho.

Ramirez never stopped coming forward. Up against the bigger man, Lopez used his extensive amateur background to pick his shots in the first round.

After two close rounds, Lopez pulled ahead in the third, catching Ramirez coming in and landing big lefts and hooks to the head. Ramirez was staggered in the third but he came back strong in the final round. Cleaner, harder punches by Lopez gave him the round, and fight.

Judges had it 39-37 twice, and 38-38, giving the victory to Lopez by majority decision. NMB also had it 39-37 Lopez.

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Bonus photos

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2012 by Chris Cozzone