Though definitely not the ideal way to start a long-awaited night of fights, the somber note upon which the amateur portion of the May 9 ‘Boxing Is Back In The Rockies’ pro/am lineups began needed to be heard.
Before any punch was thrown, respect was shown in the form of an honorary ten-count tolling of the Sky Ute Casino Resort Events Center bell for regional pro pugilist Joe Barela’s parents, Al and Samantha, who were killed March 28 in a motorcycle-car collision in Scottsdale, Ariz., during a Special Olympics benefit Torch Ride.
“I was going to fight tonight, but I had to cancel for that reason,” said Joe Barela (5-3, 2 KO), whose father and mother were ringside regulars at events in Ignacio.“But I’ll be back! You’ll see me in here again!”
Six amateur bouts – of eight originally scheduled – quickly helped pick up spirits inside Sky Ute Casino Resort Events Center, with GB Boxing Club’s Brandon Hughes awarded Male Fighter-of-the-Night for his triumph in Bout No. 5 and Leandra Toledo of Farmington, New Mexico-based 11th Street Gym Female Fighter-of-the-Night status for her win over GB’s Dominika Joy in Bout No. 4.
“I think it’s a start to a new era, New Year. Me and my ex-boxing coach, George Manzanares, got together and formed George & Brian’s Boxing Club,” Brian Frost said, “and we are trying to get a lot of youth involved, to instruct and teach boxing, leadership…to fight that inner demon inside each of us … it’s a great feeling to have boxing back here in the Four Corners; I think a lot of people have been waiting for it to come back.”
Farmington-based Martinez Boxing’s Nicholas Backman got the long night underway with a win over GB’s Lawrence Toledo after three one-minute rounds of action. Natalie Martinez then also did her crew proud by defeating Morris Boxing’s Belicia Posey in a 4×2 Bout No. 2.
Utilizing an effective jab from start to finish, GB’s Justin Alston was slated for three three-minute rounds with unattached opponent James Lammon and scored his first-ever win inside the squared circle.
“To bring a ‘w’ to the city, it felt real good for my first, my debut fight!” he said. “It was pretty much a rumble, from first to third round! Everybody was landing punches; I just toughed it out, and at the end got the KO.”
Toledo’s effort for her four-rounder (two mins. per) against Joy was rooted in the sport’s essentials.
“I don’t know. Just worked hard, fought hard!” she said.
Connecting with multiple solid rights near the end of Round 1 against Club-mate Tyreik Posey, Hughes was able to set the tempo in his favor and curried the judges’ favor after nine minutes of combat.
“In the first I tried to use my jab to set up the right hand, and the right hand, I saw, stunned him a little,” said Hughes. “I was trying to time his left hand – he was dragging his hand a little bit. He’s a real good kid, had a real good fight, but I kind of dictated the pace…seeing he got tired, kind of frustrated, so I just went from there.”
Closing out the ‘Boxing Is Back In The Rockies’ amateur lineup, unattached fighter Kerwin Tom managed to land enough shots to require a late standing-eight to be given GB’s Manny Wall.
Unfortunately for Tom, Wall’s work during the first two rounds was just enough to receive the decision.
“It’s a great opportunity to be out here in Ignacio at Sky Ute Casino,” summarized Hughes. “You know, growing up I came here and they had great boxing at the [since demolished] Tecate Pavilion when I first came.”
“And I’ve been with George for a long time … just to see them get some new fighters in here … we’ve got some pro fighters, but we’ve also got some amateurs coming up, so that’s nice to see them coming out and giving it their all.”
“They each showed us the drive that we’re looking for in individuals that want to learn boxing. The leadership, the courage, the determination … shows us that we’re teaching properly to them,” Frost said. “The love is there for our boxers, and the love is given back to us.”