Young fighters emerge

CNJ staff photo: Gabriel Monte Ayanna Vasquez, left, defeated Cheyenne Candalaria in a battle of 13-year-old girls during Saturday’s state Golden Gloves competition at Roy Walker Community Center.

By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent

Amateur boxers have to be at least 17 years old in order to be eligible to win Golden Gloves championships. But that hasn’t kept the New Mexico state tournament from holding other matches as well involving a variety of younger fighters.

That tradition continued on Saturday as the 60th annual state Golden Gloves tournament continued in Clovis.

For instance, among the 11 non-open bouts, three fights were contested by 13-year-old girls.

One spectator was clearly impressed.

Monica Lovato is the current women’s champion for the NABF superfly division at 115 pounds and the IBA world title holder for the 118-pound bantamweight division. While waiting for a chance at the WBC title at 118, Lovato is also serving as a trainer for a pair of Golden Gloves fighters from her hometown of Espanola.

“I only had 12 amateur fights in four years,” said Lovato, 30. “There’s just a lot more girls competing now. It was hard for me to get a match. I started late. I wish I had started back when I was nine, like some of these kids, but I didn’t start until I was 21 years old.

“A few years back, they would always say that girls didn’t have the skills of fighting. But these girls have skills. Three girls fights tonight, that’s awesome.”

Ayanna Vasquez of Las Cruces became the de facto champ of the 13-year-old girls at this year’s Golden Gloves by winning a decision over Cheyenne Candelaria of Albuquerque. On Friday, Vasquez also defeated Albuquerque’s Victoria Cordova — who bounced back on Saturday to knock off fellow Duke City pugilist Senida Maldonado.

“I’ve been boxing for 3 1/2 years,” Cordova said. “I got interested by watching some of my cousins box. They’re all boys, except for one girl, who also fights.”

Many of the contests for those under 18 are set up simply for boxers to get the chance to get into the ring for more experience.

In a hastily-arranged bout, Marshall Moore of Clovis defeated Albuquerque’s Malachi Jolly on Friday. But on Saturday, the 11-year-old was at a major height and weight disadvantage against 13-year-old Albuquerquean Irvin Rodriguez, who won the three-round fight on a decision against the game Moore.

“He’s a little bit older and I kind of got freaked out because I got TKO’d the last time I fought him, but that was because my nose wouldn’t stop bleeding,” Moore said. “This time I felt kind of confident, but a little depressed I was going to fight him.”

Today’s championship round, beginning at 1:30 p.m., will include eight weight divisions with the combatants hoping to win their way into the regional competition between New Mexico and Colorado. The winners of those fights will then move on to the national Golden Gloves tournament.

Open division winners on Saturday included Taos’ Michael Herrera at 112 pounds as he scored a first-round knockout of Deming’s Angel Avalos. At 152 pounds, Portales’ Gabino Armijo knocked off Albuquerque’s Josh Moore, and in the championship he’ll face Las Vegas’ Arturo Crespin — a winner over Albuquerque’s Alejandro Lopez.

Two defending state champions who train in Clovis advanced to the finals as well. Edgar Zubia won a decision over Roswell’s Andres Quintana, while in the superheavyweight division Elijio Sena knocked out fellow Clovis fighter Juan Garcia with a hard left in the first round.

“I think I tried to finish him (Quintana) a little too early, instead of trying to box him,” Zubia said. “I’ve been training in the pro-style, throwing three punches that are solid as opposed to the amateur style — which is more like five punches in a row.

“It did hurt me a little bit, so tomorrow we’re going to go back to what we should have been doing.”