Atrisco fighters on Santa Ana card
Albuquerque boxer Fidel Maldonado Jr. is scheduled to fight Saturday at the Santa Ana Star Center.Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal.
Atrisco Boxing teammates Fidel Maldonado Jr., Brian Mendoza and Matthew Griego are scheduled to fight on the same professional card for the first time Saturday? at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.
The first time might also prove to be the last.
The three boxers are teammates and train together under the guidance of Fidel Maldonado Sr. and Manuel Anaya. But in the business of boxing, they’re separate entities.
Maldonado Jr. (a lightweight, 21-3-1, 18 knockouts), the most experienced of the three, is under contract with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions.
Mendoza (a welterweight, 13-0, nine KOs) is promoted by Empire Promotions, a firm based in Colorado with close ties to active boxer Brandon Rios.
Griego (a flyweight, 5-0, five KOs) is promoted by Victory Boxing Promotions, which is staging Saturday’s card.
Give Victory’s Chris Middendorf credit for the diplomacy that freed Griego and Mendoza to perform on his promotion at the Santa Ana Star Center.
Enjoy it, Maldonado said. But don’t get used to it.
“I don’t think all of us will fight on the same card (again) for a while, because we’re all with different promotions,” he said. “It’s a rare thing.”
Victory is a new boxing enterprise, though Middendorf has been involved in the sport and the business for years. He works closely with Las Vegas, Nev., manager Cameron Dunkin.
The card is happening in Rio Rancho largely because Dunkin in the past lived in Albuquerque and worked with Danny Romero and Johnny Tapia. Dunkin watched Tapia and Romero perform here in front of big, enthusiastic crowds in the 1990s and is hoping the new generation can do the same.
Griego, who already has generated quite a following, plans to do his utmost.
“It’s gonna be a challenge to fill (the Star Center), of course, because it’s a huge arena,” he said. “But the (early) ticket sales are good ... A lot of people are excited to see us fight in our hometown.”
Actually, Griego and Maldonado are from Albuquerque, not Rio Rancho. But Mendoza, a Cleveland High School graduate, really will be fighting in his hometown.
“It’s big. It’s my homecoming fight,” he said. “I want to put on a big show for everyone.”
Another Rio Ranchoan, light heavyweight Bryant McClain (2-0, no KOs), is scheduled to be on the card, as are Albuquerqueans Hector Munoz (welterweight, 24-18-01, 16 KOs) and Alex Holguin (junior lightweight, 8-1, 5 KOs).
Two young prospects promoted by Victory and managed by Dunkin ? super welterweight Zsolt Daranyi Jr. (9-0, nine KOs) of Toronto and welterweight Jaron “Boots” Ennis (3-0, three KOs) of Philadelphia, also are scheduled to fight.
Opponents for the above fighters have not been officially announced, but Maldonado said he’s matched against Gerardo Cuevas (17-16-1, 15 KOs). Cuevas is the son of former welterweight world champion Pipino Cuevas and is often referred to as Pipino Cuevas Jr.
Maldonado is coming off a 10-round draw against Art Hovhannisyan (17-3-3, nine KOs) in May in Indio, Calif. Before the fight, Maldonado had talked of using his boxing skills against the bearish Hovhannisyan but instead engaged in a brawl.
The Albuquerquean gained an edge with an eighth-round knockdown, but in the ninth was assessed a one-point penalty for a low blow. The deduction cost him a victory.
“I get a little bit excited because I like to fight and then I turn it into a war,” Maldonado? said. ”... I need to use my skills and listen to my corner a little more, that’s the main thing.”
Whether or not the three teammates ever again fight on the same card, they’re excited to have the chance on Saturday.
“It’s gonna be a great showing for our boxing club, to show off what we’ve been doing with our talent,” Maldonado said. ”... We’re gonna show (the fans) what Albuquerque can produce.”
No doubt, that goes for the entire metro area.