By David Finger at ringside
Boxing fans in the Permian Basin came out for an exciting night of fights this last Saturday (July 20th) as two of the State of Texas’s hottest young lightweight prospects easily defeated their foes in separate bouts.
Undefeated 23-year old Abel Mendoza, 133 ¼, of Fort Stockton, Texas won a shutout unanimous four-round decision over Los Angeles California’s Raymond Chacon, 133 ¼ in the co-main event.
Going into the fight few were predicting a Chacon victory, but despite being defeated 38 times in a career that has spanned over eight years many boxing insiders recognized that Chacon was a gritty and cagy veteran with a bag of tricks that could frustrate the younger fighter. Chacon had gone the distance in all but two of his 38 losses, including decision losses to world ranked contenders like Jason Sanchez, Manuel Avila, Azat Hovhannisyan, Adam Lopez, Carlos Castro, and reigning WBA interim super bantamweight champion Brandon Figueroa. Mendoza entered the ring knowing that Chacon would be cagy, and boxed cautiously in the opening round as he attempted to size up his foe. But Chacon was able to always stay just outside the punching range of Mendoza while flicking some soft jabs here and there. It was a clear Mendoza round, and one that was identical to the opening round that many a young fighter had against the Californian, but by round two it was clear that Mendoza wanted to separate himself from the pack and be only the third man to knock out Chacon.
Mendoza upped the pressure and forced the action in round two, but at times he did seem to show some signs of frustration at Chacon’s ability to avoid exchanges. Chacon often stepped out of punching range or, in the alternative, clinched whenever it looked like Mendoza was closing the gap. By round three Chacon had effectively smothered the offense of the undefeated prospect, getting inside and clinching every time Mendoza tried to make a fight out of things.
But by round four the young prospect began to figure out the cagy veteran and seemed like he was able force the action whenever he got Chacon on the ropes. Chacon was able to sneak in a left hand in round four, arguably the first punch of any meaning he landed in the fight, but Mendoza walked through it as he tried to force an exchange. At the end of the round both men threw punches, but for Chacon it was too little too late as all three judges scored the fight 40-36. Fightnews also scored the fight 40-36 for the undefeated Mendoza, who improves to 17-0, 12 KOs. Chacon sees his record slip to 7-39-1, 0 KOs, but certainly adds to his reputation of being one of the cagiest journeymen in the sport with his performance. Although some fans were disappointed that Mendoza was unable to score the stoppage, it was undoubtedly a good performance from the young prospect and perhaps more importantly, a valuable learning experience as Mendoza was able to see what worked and what didn’t when fighting a survival artist like Raymond Chacon.
In a featured undercard fight undefeated Abel Navarrete Jr., 133 ¾, made quick work of popular journeyman Derek Perez, 136 ¼, from Belen, New Mexico.
Perez didn’t possess the reputation for durability that Raymond Chacon had, having been stopped eight times in his eleven losses. But what he did possess was a mental toughness and “guns blazing” style that he brought to every fight. Perez was a man who always came out swinging, regardless of who he stepped into the ring against. And against the undefeated Navarrete Perez didn’t disappoint. Whereas some journeymen in his position would keep their distance and avoid doing anything that could lead to them getting clocked by the faster, younger man, Perez elected to “go big or go home” and jumped on Navarrete at the bell. The mildly surprised Navarrete covered up and Perez landed a decent body shot in the process. But Perez foolishly began to clown the undefeated prospect right as Navarrete began to realize that Perez’s wild offense meant that he was there to be hit. Navarrete clocked the Belen native with a hard right hook that staggered Perez and backed him into the neutral corner. A second right hook followed by a short left to the chin dropped Perez to the canvas where referee Ellis Johnson counted him out at 2:16 of the opening round. With the win Navarrete, who now has three wins in 2019 after inactivity plagued his career after turning pro in 2015, improves to 6-0, 4 KOs. He becomes the first man to stop Derek Perez in the opening round. Perez sees his record slip to 2-12-1, 1 KO.
Interestingly enough there was a brewing rivalry between the two undefeated Abel’s and both men stepped into the ring and called each other out after Mendoza’s victory. Navarrete pointed out that Mendoza said all the right things when he stepped into the ring in Amarillo back in January of this year. On that date Navarrete scored a knockout over an overmatched David Waters and called out the undefeated Mendoza.
“When they asked (in Amarillo) you said line ‘em up,” Navarrete said to Mendoza before questioning why he hadn’t signed on the dotted line. Mendoza was not having it and fired back with a blistering counter of his own.
“I’m fighting in one month in Chihuahua,” he told Navarrete and the crowd in attendance, “and then I’m going to fight for the NABF or NABO title and they won’t accept it (a Mendoza-Navarrete fight) since he only has six fights! You agree to all my terms (for the fight next month in Chihuahua) and you can have the fight!”
Although it is up in the air that the Mendoza-Navarrete fight would take place next month in Chihuahua, it does look like there is some legitimate bad blood between the two fighters and a desire from fans to see the two best fighters in West Texas square off in the ring. What is undeniable is that a legitimate world class boxing rivalry has emerged in West Texas, and sooner or later boxing fans are going to be rewarded with what may be the best Southwest rivalry since Danny Romero and Johnny Tapia electrified New Mexico back in the 1990s.
In a featured undercard fight undefeated light heavyweight Desmond “Dez” Hill, 177 ½, won a hard fought four round majority decision over debuting Efrain Escudero, 178 ¼, of Tempe, Arizona. Hill had emerged as one of the Southwest’s most exciting fighters after stopping gritty New Mexican Richard “Rico” Urquizo in the fourth round back in December of last year in a back and forth brawl. And Hill’s fight with Escudero on Saturday only added to his reputation for fireworks as the two men stole the show with an absolute war. Although Escudero was making his professional debut in the boxing ring there were many insiders who recognized that this might just be Hill’s toughest fight. Escudero was a veteran of 44 MMA fight and had fought on six UFC cards (UFC 103, 114, 141, 145, 188, and 197). He was also the winner of Season 8’s Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV and many recognized that with his solid MMA background he could upend the apple cart for the popular Odessa native. But Hill’s experience in the boxing ring proved significant as he found a home for the hard overhand right in the opening seconds of the first round. Escudero stumbled back clearly hurt but gamely fought back with his back on the ropes. Before long the fight emerged as a phone booth war as Hill continued to pump the hard right hand while Escudero fired back with punches of his own. As the first came to a close Escudero clearly was beginning to find his range but a hard shot from Hill at 2:50 cemented the round for the local fighter. By round two the pace seemed to slow down, and Escudero began to find a home for his own right hand as he had Hill backing up during several exchanges. But Hill again closed out the round strongly with a right cross to the body followed by a right to the chin that turned the momentum back in his favor as the round came to a close. However the MMA fighter had nonetheless found his range and in round three a trio of lazy jabs set up a seemingly innocuous punch that had Hill visibly hurt and stumbling across the ring. Hill showed solid defensive skills as he covered up and came back strong in the middle of the round. But another right hand from Escudero sent Hill into the ropes and had him looking close to going down. But although Hill looked all the part of a tired fighter he dug deep and refused to let the flight slip out of his hands as he fired back with a hard right of his own. A follow-up overhand right and left hook landed on the chin of Escudero and had the UFC veteran staggered as the round came to a close. Both men recognized that round four could be the deciding round and fought aggressively. Hill started strong and had Escudero covering up early, but the UFC veteran weathered the storm and came back with his own rally before both men threw caution to the wind in the final ten seconds of the fight. In the end the local fighter was able to edge out the close decision. Judge Raul Valencia scored the fight 39-37 while Judge James Moreno scored the fight 40-36. Judge Will Esperon had the fight even at 38-38. With the win Hill sees his record improve to 5-0, 4 KOs while Escudero kicks off his career at 0-1. Escudero nonetheless is a fighter who should have a bright future in boxing should he choose to stay with it. The referee was Robert Velez.
In the main event a pair of local heavyweights with a healthy dislike for each other going into the fight provided fans with an exciting brawl as Odessa’s Roman Huerta, 244 ½, stopped Midland’s Nicholas Tipton, 256, in the second round. Both men entered the ring with an undefeated 1-0 record had shown bonecrushing power in their only professional fight as Tipton scored a devastating first round knockout over Amil Ramos back in January whereas Huerta stopped Mark Sanchez in the opening round back in December of last year. The bad blood was visible as Tipton made his way to the ring and glared at Huerta from the ringside before resuming his ring walk. But although Tipton was an intimidating presence, Huerta was having none of it. As the bell rang Tipton jumped all over Huerta and seemed to hurt him with an overhand right that backed the Odessa brawler into the neutral corner. But although Tipton was undoubtedly a man with punching power his technique was less impressive and he leaned forward into a picture perfect uppercut that quickly changed the tempo of the fight. A follow-up overhand right from Huerta sent Tipton to a knee and the Midland native never fully recovered. Another hard overhand right had Tipton holding on for dear life and after some dirty exchanges prompted a warning from referee Robert Velez, the dismantling of Tipton continued as a right cross followed by an uppercut dropped Tipton a second time in the round at 2:45. Tipton proved he was a warrior however as he got up and proceeded to swing for the fences despite being visibly hurt. As round two kicked off it was clear that Tipton didn’t have his legs under him as he stumbled to the canvas twice in the opening seconds of the round. As both men exchanged heavy punches Tipton clearly was getting the worse of the exchanges and elected to cover up. The sight of his opponent close to breaking prompted Huerta to unload on his opponent, and a furious onslaught had Tipton buckling over ready to fall. It was enough to prompt referee Robert Velez to wave the fight off at 0:48 of the second round. With the win Huerta improves to 2-0, 2 KOs while Tipton falls to 1-1, 1 KO.
In the opening fight of the night heavyweight Ruben Sanchez, 245 ½, of Hobbs, New Mexico was stopped by debuting Mark Martinez, 232 ¼, also of Hobbs, at 1:02 of the fourth round. Martinez looked solid early, landing a few hard overhand rights that visibly bothered Sanchez. By the end of the round it became clear that Sanchez had no answer for the right hand of Martinez and by the second round it seemed that it would be only a matter of time as Martinez began to recognize that the right had would always be there. Although Martinez showed signs of slowing down in round three, and failed to throw nearly as many right hands, he picked up the pace again in the final round and dropped Sanchez to a knee in the opening seconds of the round. Although Sanchez got up he was on borrowed time and another overhand right from Martinez followed by a two punch combo to the chin sent Sanchez down to the canvas a second time. Although Sanchez gamely rose referee Ellis Johnson wisely waved off the fight at 1:02 of the round. Sanchez, who hasn’t fought since November of 2017, sees his record slip to 1-1, 1 KO while Martinez improves to 1-0, 1 KO.
In a four round light heavyweight fight Midland’s James Land, 170, looked impressive as he won his professional debut by stopping Ysidro Portillo, 172 ¼, at 2:41 of round three. Land may have been a local boy from Midland but his left hook looked like it was imported from Philadelphia as he landed the picture perfect punch on the chin of Portillo several times during the course of the fight. A vicious left hook to the body send Portillo to the canvas in pain in the second round and another left to the body finished him off in the third. With the win Land improves to 1-0, 1 KO while Portillo falls to 0-3. The referee was Robert Velez.
The event was promoted by School of Hard Knocks Boxing and Golden Eagle Promotions and proved to be another knockout for promoter Isidro Castillo, who has found a hungry fan base in West Texas and Southeast New Mexico. The near capacity crowd filled the Hacienda Event Center, and another fight in Midland is almost a certainty in the near future considering how loyal the West Texas fan base it. School of Hard Knocks Boxing’s next show is scheduled for September 21 in Hobbs.