Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Boxing Column, Jan. 6

2010 shaping up to be a big year for boxing in the area
By Felix Chavez
El Paso Times
New Mexico and El Paso have a storied history in the sport of boxing. There have been great champions, plenty of contenders, top-notch amateurs and big-time fights.
But it's the future that could be bright for the local boxing scene.
Several fighters, including Las Cruces junior middleweight Austin Trout and El Paso junior featherweight Antonio Escalante, are gearing up for a big year in boxing on the borderland.
Trout is ranked No. 1 at 154 pounds by the World Boxing Association and could be in line for a fight with interim champ Nobuhiro Ishida or perhaps the recognized champion, Yuri Foreman.
Either way, Trout's next fight will likely be the biggest of his career and he's going to have to step up on that night, which could be in the first quarter of this year. There's no denying Trout's ability, but now the 21-0 left-hander will have to have his 'A' game because there will be no easy opponents the rest of the way.
Trout has long talked about becoming a champion and he's on the verge of joining the likes of Bob Foster, Danny Romero and Johnny Tapia as the elite of New Mexico boxing.
There may be some who question how Trout could be ranked No. 1 by the WBA because Trout has just one notable win against top-notch competition and that came in September against Nilson Tapia in Panama. Tapia is ranked No. 8 by the WBA.
But the fact is that Trout is No. 1 and if he beats Ishida, Foreman or another legit junior middleweight such as Vanes Martirosyn, Alfredo Angulo or Sergio Martinez, then he can erase all questions and doubt.
Meanwhile, the 24-year-old El Pas-based Escalante is ranked No. 1 at 122 by the WBA and is line for a title shot at some point this year. Escalante, who could also be eyeing a move to 126, is gaining steam on a worldwide stage. The Ring Magazine, long known as the Bible of [b]oxing, ranks him and he seems to be maturing in the ring as he gains more experience.
Escalante has never backed down from strong opponents and seems to be willing to fight anyone, anywhere for a crack at the title.
El Paso has come close to having a world champion with Juan Lazcano and Fernie Morales just missing out.
Escalante has shored up some holes defensively, but still has some improvement to go in that area. His offensive game is solid and depending on which champion he gets in the ring, he could become a world champ this year.
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As for other area fighters, El Paso heavyweight David Rodriguez remains unbeaten and is ranked by the WBA, but he must step up this year and fight someone with equal credentials. The public deserves to see him step up against elite competition.
Las Cruces bantamweight prospect Sammy Di Pace had a tough year in 2009 dealing with injuries and cancellation of a fight in El Paso. Hopefully, for the former amateur star, he can catch a break or two this year.
Two interesting prospects could have breakout years in 2010. El Paso junior middleweight Abie Han carries some dynamite in his fists and is as exciting a prospect as any in the area. Meanwhile, Albuquerque super featherweight Archie Ray Marquez is garnering some national attention. Marquez is 7-0, has fought on television and will be in action Jan. 29 in Albuquerque on a Showtime card against a fighter with 20 wins. Han, DiPace and Marquez are part of the big picture in the borderland. As the future shapes up in 2010, the area and state boxing scene might just provide many years of memorable bouts to come.

Felix Chavez can be reached at fchavez@elpasotimes.com; (915) 546-6374.