Reno’s boxing comeback continued Friday, a night that showcased a likely future world champion, a controversial decision and lots of local talent, including the debut of an inspirational University of Nevada student who faces the threat of deportation.
Legends Sonny Liston, Boom Boom Mancini, Roy Jones, George Foreman and Mills Lane all fought at Reno-Sparks Convention Center, which until this year had not featured pro boxing since 1995. Let’s Get It On Promotions brought the sport back May 5 – Cinco de Mayo – when teenage sensation Gabriel Flores Jr. won his first fight.
Flores returned to headline Friday night’s card, winning impressively with a second-round knockout over Sonora, Mexico’s Alexander Acuna, improving his pro record to 5-0 with 4 knockouts. Many of the paid crowd of more than 2,000 traveled from Flores’ hometown Stockton, California to cheer the undefeated 17-year-old, who is the youngest fighter to be signed by Top Rank Boxing.
There was a huge, boisterous hometown crowd, too, which cheered victories by Reno’s Oscar Vasquez, Ricardo “The Dreamer” Lucio-Galvan and Carson City’s Diego Elizondo in event hosted by the Atlantis Casino.
For those who were around during Reno’s boxing heyday, there were plenty of familiar faces in the arena, including Nevada Athletic Commission members and longtime referees Jay Nady and Vic Drakulich.
“The officials are like uncles and aunts to me,” said Terry Lane, who operates Let’s Get It On Promotions with his brother, Tommy. It was founded by their father Mills Lane based on the famous phrase he would tell fighters before matches he refereed. Lane, an International Boxing Hall of Fame member, retired in 2002 after suffering a stroke.
Sitting ringside, Terry Lane said he was optimistic about Northern Nevada’s boxing scene. The sport’s popularity in this country has diminished in recent years with the rise of MMA fighting.
The fans from Reno were most boisterous for the 125-pound Lucio-Galvan, who has lived in the city ever since he was 7 months old. Born in Mexico City, he is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival – DACA – a so-called Dreamer, who is under the threat of deportation by the Trump White House. Lucio-Galvan took up boxing when he was 10 years old. He graduated from Wooster High School, five minutes down South Virginia Street from the arena where he made his professional debut.
“This is my dream, and my dream came true,” he said.
“A lot of people have been waiting a long time to see me fight,” he said. Those fans hardly had a chance to see him in action, however. Referee Drakulich stopped the fight after just 55 seconds after Lucio-Galvan pinned his opponent Benjamin Amezquita of Portland, Oregon, on the ropes and landed more than a dozen unanswered punches. The taller Amezquita also was making his pro debut.
“I am used to sparring with taller fighters,” Lucio-Galvan said. “I blocked his jab and came over the top.”
Lucio is a 20-year-old business administration student at UNR. He’s a sophomore taking a full-class load 15 units. As he walked through the crowd before his bout, a member of his entourage held an American flag. His only misstep of the night occurred when he stumbled entering the ring.
“I wasn’t nervous; the steps were dark,” he said. Cognizant of his DACA status, he said, “I am a healthy fighter and a heathy person. I am successful contributor to society, and I am in school, not on the streets.”
Riverside’s Ricardo Sandoval (9-1) won a six-round split decision over Sacramento’s Brent Venegas (3-0) to open the fight card. Sandoval rallied after being knocked down in the first round.
“He caught me with his left,” Sandoval said. “I wasn’t hurt. I was cold.”
Sandoval adjusted by switching to a left-handed stance. The momentum turned in the third, which the bantamweights exchanged several body shots.
“My uppercuts started connecting,” he said. “He threw a lot of punches in the first two rounds and then he got tired. I won the last four rounds.”
Venegas’ trainer, Gabriel Flores Sr., disagreed.
“Some of the judges don’t know what they’re watching,” he said. “It’s real disappointing.”
Judges Eric Cheek (57-56) and Herb Santos (58-55) scored it for Sandoval. Burt Clements had Venegas winning, 57-56. Tahoe Onstage contributor and Reno boxing analyst Simon Ruvalcaba had it 58-55 for Venegas.
It was a tough night for Reno’s Vasquez, who nevertheless managed to get a victory.
A 30-year-old family man and full-time truck driver, Vasquez has lost only once in his 16-bout career, a loss in just his third fight. Normally a 112-pound flyweight, he missed his weight, which usually means a reduced purse. He fought in the slightly heavier super flyweight class against Victor Ruiz, a veteran boxer from Tijuana who was making his 30th pro appearance. Battling in the only 10-round bout on the card, the fighters might have been miffed that they were not billed as the headliners.
Ruiz appeared to be winning early, but after a headbutt left a severe cut over Vasquez’s right eye in the third round, the hometown fighter made a furious rally. In the fourth round, Ruiz butted him in the nose and the bout went to the judges’ score cards. Vasquez won on a technical split decision.
Before heading to the hospital for stitches, Vasquez said, “I had blood in my eyes and I couldn’t see, then blood in my nose and couldn’t breathe. When he cut my eye, he didn’t even look. He just went in head first and as soon as he butted me it instantly started gushing. The second time, he led with his head first, not even face first. That one hurt.”
The mood was better in the Elizondo camp. Carson City’s Diego Elizondo, a lightweight, won every round en route to a four-round decision over Chandler Clements of Las Vegas. It was the second pro fight for each boxer, and it was a rematch. Prior to the bout, Elizondo’s right hand was slammed by a car door, so the southpaw was forced to use a tactical game plan.
“The last time, I was the aggressor,” he said. “The guy came to fight and he has some good power. I had a lot less nerves this time and I fought smart.”
Elizondo began fighting at the Carson City Boxing Club when he was just 8. “When I started to do well in boxing a lot of people thought I was getting out of line,” he said. “I was told that once I hit a big city gym I would be destroyed. Well, (my opponent) is from the big city of Las Vegas and I proved them wrong.”
In the main event, Flores knocked down Mexico’s valiant lightweight Alexander Acuna twice in the first round, the second with a body blow. Referee Nady stopped the bout in the second.
“You try to learn something from every fight,” Flores Jr. said. “No fight is perfect.”
Fans learned Flores Jr. can take a punch because Acuna nailed him solidly in the first with an exchange of left hands. “When I throw a left, I remember to always bite down on my mouthpiece,” he said.
Flores Jr. was 91-7 as an amateur.
How does the son compare to his father at this stage of his career?
“At this stage, he just needs to stay clean behind the jab, have good distance and spacing,” Flores Sr. said. “It’s all about fundamentals. Keep it simple. Some people try to overthink things.
“I’ve been his coach since he was 7 and have had 100 fights with the kid,” he said. “When I was his age, I was in a world of trouble. I was in gangs. I am a proud father.”
Flores Jr.’s next fight will be Feb. 3, in Corpus Christi, Texas, his father said.
Notes: Left-hander Bruno Escalente of Redwood City peppered Mexico’s Alex Rangel with jabs to win a unanimous, super flyweight six-round bout. Rangel did well when he bulled his way inside, but Escalente’s boxing skills prevailed. … Lucio-Galvan’s preparation for his first pro fight included sparring sessions in Stockton with Flores Jr. … On July 9, 1995, Tracy Harris Patterson TKOed Eddie Hopson in IBF World Super Featherweight title bout, the last time before this year that boxing was held at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.
- Let’s Get It On Boxing
Friday, Nov. 17, 2017
Reno-Sparks Convention Center
- Gabriel Flores Jr., Stockton, California, (5-0, 4 KOs) TKO 2 over Alexander Acuna, Sonora, Mexico, (2-2, 1 KO), Lightweights;
- Oscar Vasquez, Reno, (15-1, 4 KOs) Technical Split Decision 5 over Victor Ruiz, (22-8, 15 KOs) Tijuana, Mexico, Flyweights
- Diego Elizondo, Carson City, (2-0) Decision 4 over Chandler Clements (0-2) Las Vegas, Lightweights
- Ricardo Lucio-Galvan, Reno, (1-0, 1 KO) KO 1 over Benjamin Amezquita, (0-1) Portland, Pregon, Featherweights
- Bruno Escalante, Redwood City, California, (15-3-1, 6 KOs) Decision 6 over Alex Rangel, Sonora, Mexico (17-8-3). Super Flyweights
- Ricardo Sandoval, Riverside, California, (9-1, 7 KOs) Split Decision 6 over Brent Venegas, Sacramento, (3-1, 1 KO) Bantamweights