The end of the year brings bigger bellies, heartburn from the holiday eating and of course, “Best of …” lists to fill a small compact car. Just like last year, I have jumped on the bandwagon so it is time once again for the 2nd Annual SDFightys where we acknowledge all those that made an impact in the San Diego/Tijuana boxing scene in the last twelve months. Like the Oscars, we do ours in the beginning of the year instead at the end of last year and just like last year, due to budget cuts there is no trophy, medal or certificate and of course nobody’s opinion but my own. With that said, let us begin…
With a nearly twenty-year professional career, Tijuana’s Erik “El Terrible” Morales keeps on picking up accolades and for the second time running, he is awarded the coveted SDFighty for Fighter of the Year. Since his comeback in 2010 after a two-year hiatus from the ring, Morales (52-7, 36KOs) has steadily fought back into title contention and made his dream of becoming the first Mexican born fighter to win four world titles in as many divisions a reality in late 2011. In his first fight of the year, Morales gave fight fans a treat when he battled hard hitting Marcos “Chino” Maidana in a twelve round instant classic. Even though Morales found himself on the losing end of a majority decision, the clear winners were the fans that witnessed Morales give the young lion all he could handle despite that the Tijuana fighter’s right eye was closed shut for the majority of the bout. In normal “Terrible” fashion, the thirty-five year old fighter signed on to fight another hard hitting Argentinean last September for the vacant WBC super lightweight title, Lucas Matthysse. Unfortunately for fight fans, Matthysse claimed sickness a couple of weeks before the bout and dropped out. Morales instead fought undefeated unknown Pablo Cesar Cano. The brave Cano put up a fight in the first half of the bout but Morales’ experience and his lion heart showed up in the second and he completely annihilated the Mexico City fighter. With the win, Morales becomes the first Mexican born fighter to earn four different titles in as many weight classes and set him up for first ballot Hall of Fame entry once he really retires.
Honorable Mentions: Antonio DeMarco, Juan Carlos Burgos, Mercito Gesta
Nobody took better advantage of the biggest stage of his career than featherweight contender Juan Carlos Burgos of Tijuana. As the opening act for the PPV televised card headlined by Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez III, Burgos faced the highly touted and at that time undefeated Luis Cruz of Puerto Rico. Burgos (28-1, 19KOs) went ahead and put on a display of agression coupled with experience which led him to achieve the mild upset over the favorite Top Rank fighter. Because of that performance, Burgos takes the SDFighty for Television Fighter of the Year. With the win, Burgos captured both the vacant WBC Silver and WBO Latino super featherwight titles although he usually campaigns one division south. The slugfest on the biggest PPV of the year was not the only televised Burgos fight of 2011. Back in February, Burgos stopped veteran Frankie Archuleta in the second round on the nationally televised ESPN2′s “Friday Night Fights” to start of the year with a bang. With an ultra aggressive style which always looks for the knockout, Burgos will be featured early on in 2012 versus former 126 lbs. and fellow Tijuana native Cristobal “Lacandon” Cruz to start off his year. It is almost a given that Burgos will bring the fireworks.
Honorable Mentions: Erik Morales, Antonio DeMarco, Mercito Gesta
Our Breakout of the Year is a fighter who has steadily climbed the charts since 2008 but last year took the biggest leap of his career when he signed on with arguably the best promoter on the planet, Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions. Undefeated Filipino lightweight sensation Mercito “No Mercy” Gesta (24-0-1, 12KOs) takes the award and now is poised to become a star while riding the most powerful marketing wave in boxing. Under his previous promotor, Gesta once again fought Genaro Trazancos in a club show setting to begin the year but as soon as he signed on with Arum’s outfit, he was pushed onto a major card as he stopped the always durable Jorge Pimentel on the undercard of Rios-Antillon at the Home Depot Center in July. No stranger to tv dates, Gesta once again was put in the headlining spot by Top Rank but this time on the more english language friendly Fox Sports as he went the distance versus Manuel Perez and Ricardo “Pelon” Dominguez in strong showings to close out the year. Look for Gesta to be put to a major test in 2012 leading up to a title as Top Rank hopes to pass on the baton from that other popular Filipino fighter to the young “No Mercy”.
Honorable Mentions: Ivan Morales
It seems that our Comeback of the Year is always a fighter that leaves the sport, gains weight to an unimaginable level and then makes a triumphant return to the ring. following the footsteps of our first recipient of the award, Erik Morales, one time super featherweight stand out Emilio Bojorquez of Tijuana takes the award in 2011. After stopping the unheralded Victor Rodriguez in two round back in ’09, Bojorquez (18-1, 12KOs) took an unexpected two year hiatus from the sport. The amateur stand out then joined several local regional Norteño bands in his native Tijuana in hopes of striking gold in the music industry. Bojorquez also ballooned to near if not over two hundred pounds. Bojorquez was seen periodically at different boxing events as he usually worked the corner for his younger brother, Christian “Huevo” Bojorquez. In mid 2011 it was announced that Emilio would make his much anticipated comeback and this time under trainer Joe Vargas of the Undisputed Gym in downtown San Diego. In November, Bojorquez stepped into the ring in the super welterweight division and looked like his old self albeit in a fat man’s body as he went six hard rounds versus the overmatched Alejandro Alonso. A month and a half later, the popular Bojorquez took on veteran Jorge Juarez and didn’t look as well as in his first comeback fight but still earned the win. Bojorquez is scheduled for February as he looks to continue to shed the pounds in getting back to either the lightweight or super lightweight division.
Honorable Mention: Aaron Garcia
In what surely was the Upset of the Year for a San Diego/Tijuana fighter, super bantamweight Christopher “S.D. Kid” Martin(23-1-2, 6KOs) was ripped of his undefeated record by tough journey man Jose Angel Beranza in Las Vegas in October 2011. In an ironic twist, Martin was the recipient last year of the same award but for his upset over the then undefeated and highly touted Chris Avalos. As Martin made his Top Rank and Las Vegas debut on the undercard of the Toshiaki Nishioka vs. Rafael
Marquez, the “S.D. Kid” saw his coming out party crumble around him as Beranza controlled the action and took the fight to the talented Martin. As the rounds began to slip away, it was obvious that Martin was not himself that night as he saw his undefeated record as well as what many believe would have been his biggest chance, a slot on the much anticipated under card for the Cotto-Margarito rematch in New York’s Madison Square Garden, slip away. Despite Beranza’s record, the Mexico City fighter is a tough out for anybody but with Top Rank’s experienced matchmakers, it was a given that Martin should have boxed his way to an easy win and a good showing in front of his new boss. Now, Martin has been given another chance to shine but with a tougher opponent in Teon Kennedy on ESPN2. Hopefully it goes the way of his biggest win to date, the upset over Chris Avalos.
Honorable Mentions: DeMarco over Linares, Godinez over Estrella, Burgos over Cruz, Robb over Armenta
With five career building wins, San Diego, CA’s Adrian Vargas (5-0, 3KOs) is our Rookie of the Year. The junior welterweight Vargas began the year with his pro debut versus Franky Martinez which the San Diego fighter won with a workman-like four round decision. The hard hitting Vargas earned his first knock out in his second outing a month later when he stopped Alejandro Garcia in the first round. As the popular Vargas made the Four Points Sheraton Hotel is home away from home, Vargas met Martinez once again and went the distance for the second time with the Las Vegas fighter. In his best outing yet, Vargas completely destroyed Luis Sanchez in the first round back in September with a perfectly placed left hook to the head. Thirteen days later, Vargas traveled out of the comfy confines of the Sheraton to his first fight out of it when he brought his sizable fan base to Las Pulgas in downtown Tijuana as he crushed Hector Rivera, also in the first round. Under the tutelage of his older brother Joe Vargas, Adrian is slowly but surely being built into a recognizable draw and that is exactly what San Diego needs.
Honorable Mentions: NA
Usually the Fight of the Yearis one that was full of action with enough drama to win
an Oscar and this year’s is no exception as the Antonio DeMarco win over Jorge Linares takes the SDFighty in this category. Granted the fight did not take place in San Diego or Tijuana, but it did include a Tijuana fighter and with it taking place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, close enough. Along with the SDFighty, the scheduled twelve round clash for the vacant WBC lightweight title has also been nominated numerous times for the best fight of 2011 in a national and international level. There is no question that the match up had everything, a humble fighter in DeMarco (26-2-1, 19KOs) who came from behind in the eleventh round to stop the house fighter and favorite Linares after being down on all the cards. What the fight also consisted of was non stop action as Linares controlled the ring with his superb boxing skills and speed while DeMarco attacked while baiting his time for just the right opportunity. With Linares bleeding badly from several cuts spread through out his face, DeMarco’s corner pleaded with him to turn up the heat in the second to last round. Roberto Quirarte, one of the assistants in DeMarco’s corner, even went as far as to tug at the heart strings of DeMarco as he reminded the Los Mochis’ fighter living in Tijuana that there was a little girl, DeMarco’s daughter, who wanted the green and gold belt as a souvenir. That’s all DeMarco needed to come out with one of the most intense and brutal attacks in recent years as he relentlessly beat Linares to a pulp forcing referee Raul Caiz Sr. to stop the beating at the 2:32 mark of the eleventh round. Word is that the rematch is in the works for mid 2012, let’s hope its at least half as good as the first.
Honorable Mentions: Nava UD Matthysse
Erik Morales is not the only winner to be awarded his second SDFighty in a row in the same category, the honor also goes to Romulo Quirarte as the Trainer of the Year for the second year in a row. Mr. Quirarte had a series of ups and downs with his stable at the CREA Gym in the heart of Tijuana but over all, had a great year. Bantamweight David De La Mora and junior welterweight Juan Pablo “CheChe” Lopez suffered their first professional losses but De La Mora’s came in a title bout in which many observers believed he won while Don Romulo also led southpaw lightweight Marvin Quintero to three wins in 2011 but Mr. Quirarte takes the award almost solely on one fight which was the exihilarating 11th round Antonio DeMarco win over Jorge Linares to capture the WBC lightweight title. Quirarte had been on the same road before with DeMarco in early 2010 when “Tony” challenged the late Edwin Valero for the same crown but the veteran trainer was able to tweak DeMarco’s style enough and more importantly push him in the gym and in the ring to the brink so that the young southpaw fighter could walk away with the strap and the dream.
Honorable Mentions: Vince Parra, Raul “Jibaro” Perez, Joe Vargas, Carlos Barragan
Despite Tijuana and San Diego’s abundance of promoters, from Zanfer Promotions to Box Latino and from Baja Boxing to Bobby D. Presents and Jorge Marron Productions, it took a new kid on the block to really breath fresh air to the boxing scene in 2011. With only a handful of events, Quiñones Promotions led by newcomer Gabriel Quiñones really took the club show setting and ran with it as he brought a legendary boxing venue from the past and made it current again when he presented two highly attended boxing shows at Las Pulgas nightclub in downtown Tijuana. With mostly evenly matched fights, Quiñones succeeded in creating an intimate setting inside the cavenourous Las Pulgas while turning up the fun factor with live music and lively fights. With no protected fighters to speak of, Quiñones for the most part was only interested in bringing in the crowds with ninety percent of the fight participants from Tijuana and the surrounding region. Quiñones Promotions is truly a homegrown operations and that is why they take the Promoter of the Year award.
Honorable Mentions: Jorge Marron Productions, Bobby D. Presents, Zanfer Promotions
Matchmaker of the Year goes to Jorge Marron of Lakeside, CA, for the work he did for his own promotional company as well as helping Golden Boy Promotions and Don Chargin in putting together a number of “Solo Boxeo” fight cards on the Telefutura channel in San Diego in the first half of the year. The first was last January which gave San Diego fight fans the upset of Golden Boy’s Charles Huerta by Raul Hirales of La Paz, Mexico. The match ups continued with a number of and coming prospects like Danny Garcia, Hanzel Martinez, Marco Antonio Periban and local favorites Pablo Armenta, Amaris Quintana and Adrian Vargas being put in good match ups that not only gave the fighters much needed work and lessons but also gave the local fight fans some well deserved boxing action.
Honorable Mentions: Conrado Guerrero, Gabriel Quiñones