My two week’s vacation from covering Denver boxing came to an exciting end when this past Saturday, April 23, my wife, father-in-law and me, traveled to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the 2016 Colorado/New Mexico Regional Golden Gloves competition. This trip was a wonderful mixture of pleasure (family in New Mexico) and business (boxing) with the weather a balmy but windy plus for those in attendance at the Mountain View Community Center located in Albuquerque. The winners Saturday and the ‘unopposed champions’ will make their way to Salt Lake City, Utah, representing our region in the 2016 National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions, May 16-21.
New Mexico journalists Rick Wright and Austin Killeen did an excellent job of letting their readers know of one particular bout they should not miss, that being the scheduled final bout of the afternoon where old foes Shon Mondragon (Colorado) and Aaron Perez (New Mexico) would battle in a 123 lbs. matchup, these two having previously met twice before with Mondragon coming out the victor. There were only 7 boxing matches on Saturday (that number maybe seeming slight) but the action was entertaining from the opening bell.
Starting off the afternoon was Colorado 108 lbs. ‘unopposed champion’ Salaam Gonzales (20th St. Boxing) squaring off with New Mexico 114 lbs. ‘unopposed champion’ Zachariah Jacquez in a spirited 3 rounds ‘show bout’. Both Gonzales and Jacquez advance to Salt Lake City. The 132 lbs. weight division had New Mexcio’s Jaime Aguilerra take on Colorado’s Efren Villalobos (Denver Boxing Academy) where before the bout began, the ring announcer mentioned a brief background of the competitors that included what they felt amateur boxing offered. Villalobos had the best quote of the afternoon when saying, “Boxing brings in the women”, that drawing laughs and lightening the mood. Villalobos went on to earn the unanimous decision win, advancing to Salt Lake City. The third bout of the afternoon came in the 141 lbs. weight class, pitting Colorado’s Sergio Lujan (Denver Boxing Academy) against New Mexico’s Marcus Ewing. Ewing did an excellent job of boxing, coming away with a 4-1 split decision win allowing him to advance to Utah. Following a brief intermission, bout number four had Colorado ‘unopposed champion’ super heavyweight Leonid Grachev (The Corner Boxing) in a ‘show bout’ against New Mexico ‘unopposed champion’ heavyweight Lorenzo Benavidez in a match where Benavidez looked up the entire fight, Grachev a legitimate 6’5” and Lorenzo close to 5’8”. The heart of Benavidez was as clear as the size of Grachev, both men advancing to Utah. The 178 lbs division had Colorado’s Shawn McCalman (A1 Boxing) in a dominating performance against Aiseah Achessah of New Mexico, McCalum earning the 4-1 split decision win. The 178 lbs. weight class is always one of the toughest in national competition and McCalman will be tested as he advances to Salt Lake City. The sixth bout of the afternoon was one that could have easily been considered the ‘one to watch’ but since there was no rivalry of sorts, fans were in for a real treat as one of Colorado’s top amateur boxers, Andres Borrego (Sloan’s Lake Boxing) took on Adan Marquez of New Mexico in a 152 lbs. contest. The judges had a tough time making their decision before it finally being announced Borrego would advance to Salt Lake City via the 3-2 final tally. Andres Borrego is a definite ‘One to Watch’ in Utah and Marquez has nothing to be shamed of as he represented himself and New Mexico well.
The final bout of the afternoon lived up to its billing as New Mexico’s Aaron Perez and Colorado’s Shon Mondragon wasted no time in giving the fans exactly what they came for. Round one had both young men getting after each other with solid head and body attacks, the round scored either way. Round two saw very few body punches thrown but head shots with bad intentions from both men. Perez landed the better shots in the round, Mondragon suffering a standing 8 count. The third and final round offered more of the same, this time Mondragon digging deep and forcing the referee to halt the action as Perez was issued a standing 8 count. The bout ended with fantastic toe-to-toe action, both boxers then showing their respect for one another at the final bell, the fans appreciative of their good sportsmanship. Aaron Perez gets the win by way of 4-1 split decision, advancing to Salt Lake City. The always classy Shon Mondragon offered no excuses and complimented Perez when saying, “Hats off to Aaron Perez, he came to fight and I was a bit off today. Congratulations to him and I wish him the best”. Shon Mondragon Sr. is one of my favorite boxing parents’, always candid with his fight assertions, complimented Perez as well saying, “Perez did a great job this afternoon and we applaud the young man for giving it everything he had today. We wish him well as he heads to Salt Lake City”.
Congratulations to our 2016 Colorado/New Mexico Regional Golden Gloves champions who will be heading to Salt Lake City, Utah, May 16-21. Special thanks to our Colorado coaches, officials and fans who made the trip to New Mexico. Good sportsmanship displayed by all was an added plus. It’s always a pleasure to hang out with Artie Lucero, nationally acclaimed New Mexico boxing historian Colleen Aycock and the New Mexico Boxing folks who’s hospitality is second to none.
108 lbs. Salaam Gonzales (CO, 20th St. Gym)
114 lbs. Zachariah Jacquez (NM)
123 lbs. Aaron Perez (NM)
132 lbs. Efren Villalobos (CO, Denver Boxing Academy)
141 lbs. Marcus Ewing (NM)
152 lbs. Andres Borrego (CO, Sloans Lake)
165 lbs. CristianEscobedo (CO)
178 lbs. Shawn McCalman (CO, A1 Boxing)
201 lbs. Lorenzo Benavidez (NM)
201 lbs. + Leonid Grachev (CO, The Corner Boxing)