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Lenny Fresquez celebrates 25th year of promoting fights

MMA fighter Holly Holm and Lenny Fresquez, president and CEO of Fresquez Productions, talk before the start of a press conference at Isleta Resort & Casino on Tuesday. (Greg Sorber/Journal)

ISLETA PUEBLO — Lenny Fresquez’s first-ever combat-sports promotion took place on Aug. 3, 1994 — a Wednesday.

Why Wednesday?

“I didn’t know any better,” Fresquez said on Tuesday at a news conference held to announce three events to be held later this year (all on Friday or Saturday) in celebration of his 25th year in the business.

It seems fair to say he figured things out. Some 70 boxing cards and seven MMA cards later, having helped Holly Holm become one of the world’s biggest names in each of those disciplines, he’s ready for more.

On May 10, Fresquez and business partner Mike Winkeljohn will stage the fifth in their series of Jackson-Wink Fight Night cards at Isleta Resort & Casino. Jackson-Wink bantamweight Steve Garcia (8-3) is scheduled to face Andrew Whitney (16-6) of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in the main event.

On June 8 at Isleta, Fresquez plans to stage his first boxing promotion since 2013, when Holm — a boxing champion in multiple organizations in three weight classes — left the sport to focus on MMA.

Fresquez said Albuquerque super flyweight Matthew Griego (9-0 with eight KOs) will be featured on the boxing card.

On July 6, Isleta will host a telecast of UFC 239 from Las Vegas, Nev., featuring Holm’s challenge for the UFC women’s bantamweight title against champion Amanda Nunes. Jon Jones, Holm’s Jackson-Wink teammate, is scheduled to defend his UFC light heavyweight title against Brazil’s Thiago “Marreta” Santos in that night’s main event.

When Fresquez promoted that first card in 1994, Holm was 12 years old, living with her family in Bosque Farms. She’d just given up gymnastics, she said at Tuesday’s news conference, and taken up soccer and swimming.

Combat sports? She had no idea.

Eight-and-a-half years later, after having taken up kick-boxing at Winkeljohn’s dojo while a student at Manzano High School, she made her professional boxing debut on a Fresquez-promoted card at Isleta.

Two-and-a-half years after that, Fresquez “signed” her to a promotional contract. No actual piece of paper, he said on Tuesday, has ever been needed.

“He’s always been so good for my career,” Holm said. “I can’t talk in too much detail (about it), because I get emotional, because he’s been so good to me my whole career.”

In September 2005, against the advice of some, Fresquez brought women’s boxing legend Christy Martin to Isleta to fight a far less experienced Holm. The Albuquerque southpaw won by lopsided unanimous decision, an outcome that accelerated her career.

“Everybody else thought I was gonna get knocked out,” she said. “(Fresquez) believed in me, paid her a good purse to make it worth it, believed I could take her out.

“It wasn’t just his faith in me but his money, his time, everything. That was just the start. … I’m indebted to him for my life, to literally be able to live the life of a dream.”

Fresquez said he lost money on that first show in 1994, a boxing card at Tingley Coliseum headlined by a 20-year-old future world champion named Danny Romero. Even so, he’d been bitten by the bug.

Through the years, promoting at more than a dozen venues throughout the state, Fresquez has helped further the boxing careers of New Mexicans Romero, Sean McClain, Rudy Lovato, Frankie Archuleta, Hector Muñoz, Joe Gomez, Chris “J.C.” Linson, Shawn Gallegos, David Martinez, the late Johnny Tapia and others.

His MMA cards have featured New Mexicans Holm, Garcia, Mikey Lovato, Andres Quintana, Cody East, Nick Urso, Abel Cullum, Josh Montoya, Joby Sanchez, Harvey Park, Damacio Page and many more.

“Our program has always been about the local fighters, making sure that they don’t be used as opponents,” Fresquez said. “It really makes me happy when I see these young guys prospering and doing stuff, and that our program really did work.

“That’s what our program has always been about.”

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