San Jose, CA, junior lightweight Andy Vences began his night by striding across the ring straight to his opponent’s corner, standing inches from Cesar Valenzuela’s face, staring long and hard into Valenzuela’s dark eyes, mean-mugging, until the commission ordered Vences back to his corner for this breach of pre-fight protocol. Andy Vences ended his night by walking across the ring to the seated, vanquished Valenzuela and lightly kissed Valenzuela on the forehead with compassion and respect. In between those moments, Vences endured the test of his boxing life.
On Saturday night, January 24, 2015, in Brooks, CA, the usual suspects filled Club 88 at the Cache Creek Casino Resort for a night of Northern California professional boxing.
A majority of the ticket holders for this Don Chargin Productions and Paco Presents promoted show appeared to be family and friends of the fighters, along with a mix of boxing of boxing fans, the curious, and the foolish.
Middleweight Paul Mendez and featherweight Guy Robb were the featured fighters. Each boxer notched wins, building their records for the true challenges yet to come. But the fight that elevated the show, the fight that revealed the strength of character inherent in real competitive professional boxing, was Andy Vences against Cesar Valenzuela.
Cesar Valenzuela, 7(3)-4-1, of Phoenix, AZ, entered the ring in red trunks and around his head a red bandana, folded, pressed and creased old school cholo style. A tall, rangy, 5′ 10″, junior lightweight, Valenzuela has spent much of his career on the road fighting hometown prospects with winning records. Valenzuela has upset more of them than he has lost. For Valenzuela, there was nothing unfamiliar about these unfamiliar surroundings.
Andy Vences, 10(6)-0, was the house fighter. He sported red and white trunks and a pencil thin mustache. Vences, nationally ranked as an amateur, has spent his entire professional career in Northern California, defeating lesser boxers with his superior technique, speed, smarts and power.
From the opening bell both fighters were sharp. Valenzuela worked his long jab to the head and Vences his faster jab to the body. The crowd grew silent as fight crowds often do when quality is on display and the stakes unexpectedly raised.
In the second round, Valenzuela found a home for his right cross, set up by the long jab. By the third, Valenzuela was seeing everything that Vences was bringing. Vences, who does not use much side to side head movement, could not counter the longer Valenzuela and could not escape the long 1-2. Vences had to adjust or lose.
In the fourth, Valenzuela subtly walked Vences down, landing the cross repeatedly. A quick flicking double jab followed by a hard straight right cross landed flush and Andy Vences was hurt. Forced to hold Valenzuela tight like a drowning man to a life raft, Vences was in trouble. He could not survive many more right hands.
Andy Vences dreams to be the champion of the world. Why else enter this profession? Why give up the time with loved ones. Why give up the youthful nights out with friends. Why work two jobs taking odd shifts so you can pay for gas to and find time to drive hours away to your trainer’s gym. Why else commit to the sacrifice? The sacrifice demands the endless training, conditioning, sparring, honing of technique, the torturing of your body. Why else, but for the dream. Day after day, year after year, Vences makes the sacrifice. All this work necessary not to beat those who you should easily defeat, but necessary for those moments, those few seconds in the fight, that mean the difference between victory and defeat, those seconds that hold your dream in the balance, that make your career.
After the referee broke Vences from holding late in the fourth round, Vences drove Valenzuela to the corner and unloaded a pair of hard left hooks to Valenzuela’s body just at the bell. Vences was awakened. When Valenzuela threw the 1-2 in the fifth, the composed and reinvigorated Vences hopped back quickly just out of range and then sprung forward even quicker to deliver a tight, lightning fast counter left hook to Valenzuela’s chin, dropping Valenzuela hard to the ground under the ropes. Valenzuela beat the count, but was stopped shortly after at 2:17 of the fifth round. Vences dream can remain uncompromised, bright, true.
At 35 years of age and with 13 losses, Jose Silveira of Merida, Yucatan Mexico, has probably long abandoned any grandiose dreams he once held as a young boxer. Jose Silveira is a professional opponent. He is brought in to lose, but brought in to lose with a purpose. He is good at his job. He forces the young and the hungry to go rounds and solve a puzzle. He provides promotional matchmakers a measuring stick to assess a prospect’s ability. Fighting younger, faster, bigger, stronger professional boxers for half an hour at a time is not an easy way to make a living. Silveira takes his job seriously and brings a master craftsman’s attention to detail.
Jose Silveira in his fight with Sacramento featherweight Guy Robb, 15(8)-1 put on a seminar in cagey defensive boxing. The much smaller Silveira would move or pivot or side step away from punches at the last instance. When he couldn’t move away, he would slip and weave the punches. When he couldn’t slip or weave, he would block. When he couldn’t block, he would roll his head to take away the punches impact. Robb found great difficulty hitting him with any conventional combinations. Robb didn’t have much to fear from the light hitting Silveira, but he wasn’t able to open up and blast away in the style that has made Robb a local action hero. For whatever reason the referee stopped the fight in the seventh round. Robb got the TKO. Yes, Silveira was not trying to win, but he was not in danger and deserved the professional courtesy and respect of being allowed to finish the fight.
The main event ended quickly when middleweight opponent Ernesto Berropse tore his left bicep and had to retire at the end of the first round. Paul Mendez, 17(8)-2-2, had to be disappointed having spent a training camp for naught and leaving his many fans who spent their time and money to travel the almost four hours from Salinas, CA, wanting more.
Light heavyweight Ryan Bourland, 6(3)-0, of nearby Vacaville, worked over work-horse Loren Myers (9-21) and earned a four round unanimous decision. Bourland hit Myers with everything he had while Myers kept coming forward in slow motion. Myers thought he won despite eating over a hundred punches. Myers was the less tired to the two.
Junior lightweight Michael Gaxiolo, 3-0, defeated Adrian Rodriguez via four round unanimous decision. Each got paid to do something most amateurs do better, but the barrier to entry into professional boxing is low even if the inevitable cost is high.