Elizando stuns undefeated Angel Baby

By David Finger at ringside

For boxing fans in the Duke City, Saturday night was supposed to be the long awaited return of the Sweet Science in Albuquerque. And more specifically, the return of undefeated lightweight prospect Aaron “Angel Baby” Perez. Perez, 134.4, had not fought in front of his hometown crowd since November of 2019 and was hoping to make a statement against the dangerous Nevadan, Diego Elizondo, 134.8. But Elizondo, who had always shown flashes of brilliance in his eight fight career, finally put the pieces together in the ring (and finally got the judges to score his fight correctly) as he derailed the talented New Mexico, winning a comfortable ten round decision.

For boxing insiders, it was a clash of two talented fighters who had made statements in their last fights. For Perez, he was brought in to take on undefeated Raymond Ford in Dallas back in March. Perez surprised many fans by holding Ford to a draw over eight rounds. And for Elizondo, he shocked many in the boxing world when he held former #1 ranked amateur Anthony Cuba to a four round draw that most ringsiders felt that he won back in February. In fact, Elizondo’s two losses were both by a single point and both were to undefeated fighters. Despite a less than stellar record, most insiders recognized that he was a dangerous opponent for Perez, but few anticipated a performance like the one he put on at the Kiva Auditorium. Elizondo started round one by correcting one of the biggest mistakes he had made in the past against fighters like Anthony Cuba: he pumped his right jab with authority. Perez clearly was bothered by the long reach and hard jab of the southpaw, but he nonetheless pressed the action. Late in round one he was able to jump in and land a hard right hand that had the crowd erupting, but by round two Elizondo was back in control with the jab., Perez continued to try and close the gap, and again flurried at the end of the round. But by round three it was becoming apparent that “Angel Baby” needed to find an answer to the cagy Nevadan, and quick. Perez was able to rattle Elizondo early in round four with a quick combination upstairs early on, but Elizondo quickly regained his composure and boxed effectively for the rest of the round. Nonetheless, the pressure of Perez seemed to show its first sign of paying off when Elizondo visibly slowed down in round five, allowing “Angel Baby” to steal the round. However, the momentum shifted back to Elizondo in round six as Perez also showed signs of fatigue. Elizondo took complete control in round seven as Perez’s endurance began to wane. The local boy continued to force his way in but would only fire off one shot, which was usually answered with three from Elizondo. It was enough to prompt one of “Angel Baby’s” cornermen to passionately ask Perez “what the f—k?!” in between rounds seven and eight, clearly frustrated over Perez’s slowing pace. It was not enough to turn the tide as Elizondo came out in round eight with a second wind. But Perez was able to land a counter right hand over the jab of Elizondo that slowed down the Nevadan once again. Perez seemed to outwork Elizondo in round nine and there were a few rumblings ringside that Perez might, if given every benefit of the doubt by the judges, steal the fight or at least hold Elizondo to a draw. But any hope of that happening for the local boy was extinguished by the jab of Elizondo in round ten. Elizondo boxed well and dominated the tenth round, cementing the unanimous decision win. All three judges scored the fight 96-94 for Elizondo, who improved to 4-2-3, 0 KOs. For Perez, he suffers his first loss as a professional as he sees his record fall to 10-1-1, 6 KOs.

“It’s the greatest feeling,” Elizondo said of finally getting the nod against a prospect in the other fighter’s hometown, “it’s such a great feeling…coming in here in such a high profile fight and to come in here against the promoter’s nephew. But I knew what I was capable of. This is what fuels me. I love to be the underdog.”

Elizondo, who always showed a knack for getting stronger as the fight goes on, seems well suited for ten round fights and was already looking for his next big fight. With a payday of $4000 for this fight, Elizondo indicated that he is ready for another high profile fight, but did admit that he would be happy to take an easy fight if given the opportunity.

“If I get the opportunity to (take an easy fight), they never give me the easy fight.”

For “Angel Baby” Perez, he was gracious in defeat.

“I don’t have anything wrong with the decision,” he admitted afterwards. “He pushed round one…all the way. I give him respect. He did what he had to do. Back to the drawing board.”

In the co-main event debuting Abraham “Hammer” Perez, 110.6, kicked off his career with a first round TKO over fellow debutant Matthew Melton, 102. 8, of Forrest, Mississippi. Melton, who stood 4’11, clearly had no answer for the long reach and size advantage of Perez and elected not to come out for round two after being dominated in the opening round. Melton spent much of the round trying to keep his distance and refusing to engage with the taller and bigger New Mexican.

In a heavyweight fight, 6’6 Leonid Grachev, 233, dominated debuting Brandon Heredia, 212.4 over four rounds. Heredia was game, but the Russian born Grachev simply had more skills and used it to control the fight. A perfectly timed counter shot sent Heredia to the canvas early in round three, and although he was up at five his face was a bloody mess. Nonetheless Grachev was unable to put away the gritty Bernalillo native and he had to settle for the decision, although the fight probably should have been stopped by the corner of Heredia any time after the knockdown. The scores proved to be academic as Ester Lopez scored it 40-35, Mark Sanchez scored it 39-36, and Anthony Romero scored it 40-36 for Grachev, who improves to 3-0, 2 KOs.

A second major upset rocked the New Mexico boxing scene on the undercard when undefeated Cristian “El Castigo” Castillo, 145.6, dropped a decision to little known Xavier Madrid, 146.8. Madrid, who came into the fight with a 1-0 record, was nonetheless seen as the prohibitive underdog against the 3-0 Castillo, but he quickly established early on that he was the stronger man. Madrid came out aggressively and marched forward, challenging Castillo to make him step back. Castillo landed a hard right hand in the opening minute of the fight but it had no impact on Madrid, who continued to march forward like a tank. Madrid was able to push Castillo to the ropes where he fired several right hands that found Castillo’s chin, but Castillo landed another hard right hand that appeared to buckle the knees of Madrid in the closing minute of the round. It would ultimately be the final highlight for Castillo as Madrid found two new tools that clearly bothered “El Castigo”. Incorporating a solid body attack visibly hurt Castillo, and Madrid soon began to fire off the uppercut, a punch that seemed to land whenever he threw it. Castillo wilted in round three and probably benefited from the fact that the fight was only four rounds as his legs seemed to be close to going by the end of the final round. All three judges had it for Madrid with Ester Lopez scoring it 39-37 while Anthony Romero and Mark Sanchez scored it 40-36. With the win Madrid, who should be seen as a solid prospect in his own right, improves to 2-0, 0 KOs. Castillo falls to 3-1, 3 KOs.

In a light flyweight fight Albuquerque’s Anthony Bustillos, 108.8, dominated fellow Albuquerque native Santiago Giron, 108 to kick off his professional career. Giron was game but the pressure of Bustillos broke him down. Giron was dropped early in the third round with a solid shot in the opening minute of round three and although he gamely tried to fight back it became clear that Bustillos was simply to strong and too skilled. Giron’s corner signaled to the ringside inspector that they were throwing in the towel in in the final seconds of round four, prompting referee David Rios to wave it off at 2:53. With the win Bustillos improves to 1-0, 1 KO while Giron falls to 1-2, 1 KO.

In the opening fight of the night Jordan Gregory, 165, dominated Anthony Hill, winning a lopsided decision over four rounds. Gregory was a fighter who, despite his 0-3-2 record, had given some of New Mexico’s better super middleweights some difficult fights over his career. The fight with Hill was designed to be the sort of fight that would give him a relatively easy win, but it was also the sort of fight that could turn ugly as Hill had a deep bag of veteran tricks despite his record. Gregory nonetheless looked solid as he controlled the fight from the outside and scored a shutout on all three judges’ scorecards. Gregory gets his first win as he improves to 1-3-2 while Hill falls to 1-29.

The fight card proved to be a huge success for Legacy Boxing and promoter Aaron Perez Sr., despite the loss suffered by “Angel Baby”. A near sellout crowd at the Kiva Auditorium was present for the first boxing show to hit Albuquerque since the pandemic. The next show in New Mexico is slated to take place on October 30th in Las Cruces.

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