By David Finger
It’s a story as old as the sport of boxing itself: the former heavyweight champion on the comeback trail. Far removed from the bright lights of Las Vegas he makes a pit stop in some smaller venue hoping to create enough of a buzz to position himself for one more shot at the title. And yet, it’s a story that has never before been told in New Mexico. Sure New Mexico once hosted a heavyweight title fight in 1912, and two future heavyweight champions fought early in their career in New Mexico. But never had a former heavyweight champ stopped off in New Mexico while on the comeback trial.
On September 28th boxing history will be made as a former heavyweight champion will step into the ring in the State of New Mexico for the first time ever. Oliver “The Atomic Bull” McCall (59-14, 38 KOs) is slated to take on the durable journeyman Grover Young (13-27-3, 9 KOs) as he tries to position himself for one more run at the title, and he will do it in Hobbs at the Corral Arena.
At 54-years old the likelihood of another world title shot is miniscule, but McCall is still regarded as a durable and competent fighter despite his age. In fact he is a fighter who has earned a reputation of possessing the best chin in boxing history, having never been dropped in a career that started in 1985. In that time he worked as Mike Tyson’s chief sparring partner before scoring a monumental upset in 1994 when he stopped Hall of Famer Lennox Lewis in the second round to win the WBC heavyweight title. McCall would defend his title once against another future Hall of Famer in Larry Holmes before he dropped a decision to Frank Bruno in 1995.
The McCall-Young clash will be an intriguing featured fight on a loaded card that features several other talented heavyweights, several of whom were in town during a press conference Friday night at the Corral Arena.
Undefeated Mark Martinez (1-0, 1 KO) of Hobbs promised fans a chance to not only see a former world champion in action, but a future world champion as well.
“I want to be champion of the world,” Martinez told the press and the fight fans in attendance. “I want to carry all of the belts. I want to have all the title belts. I feel if you do this you should go all out. Hard work pays off and hard work shows.”
Martinez showed talent in his professional debut when he stopped fellow Hobbs native Ruben Sanchez in the 4th round back on July 20 in Midland, Texas. It was a back and forth brawl that had many fans cheering, and Martinez promised another brawl as he takes on debuting Xavier Valenzuela of Roswell.
“I’m ready to put on a show,” Valenzuela said of his opportunity to fight in the main event. Although this will be Valenzuela’s first professional fight as a boxer he is a former MMA fighter with seven MMA fights.
In another heavyweight fight undefeated prospect Richard Villa of Roswell (2-0-1, 1 KO) looks to comeback after a two year layoff as he squares off against Ruben Sanchez (1-1, 1 KO) of Hobbs. Sanchez, who came up short against Martinez in his last fight, promised fans that he learned an important lesson from that loss.
“I learned a couple of things, first was conditioning, conditioning, conditioning.” The visibly slimmer Sanchez said during the press conference. “I’m looking forward to showing what happens when I come in shape.”
Also featured on the card is another heavyweight fight featuring Midland Texas’s Nick Tipton (1-1, 1 KO) as he squares off against Clovis New Mexico’s Corey Gilmore in a four round fight. Tipton, an all action brawler, came up short in his last fight in Midland on July 29th. He also promised fans that, like Sanchez, he learned several important lessons from his last fight.
“I’m highly disappointed in my last performance,” Tipton said. “But I learned a ton.”
Tipton admitted that “outside interference” distracted him during his preparation for his last fight and promised a different fight on September 28th.
Several other fighters spoke during the press conference including the 45-year old Kelly Harrison, a kickboxer who will be fighting Bryan Butler of Midland, Texas. Although somewhat older than most of the fighters on the card, Harrison was still almost ten years younger than the former heavyweight champion. Despite his advanced age Harrison is a fighter with over 20 years of experience in combat sports including wrestling and Muay Thai.
Also speaking during the press conference were Hobbs fighters Oscar Espinoza (2-1, 2 KOs) who is fighting for the first time in over two years as he steps into the ring with Midland’s Mark Sanchez. Four MMA fights and four other professional boxing fights will be featured on the September 28th card.
Tickets are on sale now with general admission starting at $35 and ringside starting at $75. Tickets can be obtained by calling promoter Isidro Castillo at 1-575-263-4942. Doors will open at 5PM with the first fight set to kick off at 6PM.