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Sanchez returns to boxing after MMA run

Donald Sanchez, shown training in 2013, returns to the boxing ring tonight in Texas after ending a 50-fight MMA career. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

After a 50-fight MMA career that began in 2005, Donald Sanchez decided it was time to leave the sport.

It was not, he decided, time to stop fighting.

Sanchez, 34, is scheduled to face Isaac Sifuentez of Dimmitt, Texas, Saturday night in a four-round middleweight bout on a pro boxing card at the Embassy Suites.

“Back to boxing it is,” said Sanchez (3-2 with two knockouts as a boxer) at Friday’s weigh-in. “We’re gonna finish out.”

Sanchez (31-19 in MMA) is a former King of the Cage champion who fought at virtually every level – KOTC, LFA, Bellator – except the UFC. He’d lost his last four fights but said that wasn’t the reason he’d decided to move on.

“There’s too much politics going on in the MMA world,” he said, “all this gym beef, all this bull****.” … I have a good boxing background, and I just want to finish my career out and see what I can do.

“I had a goal in MMA, and I accomplished that at a pretty high level. Now I want to do that in boxing.”

Sanchez last fought in the ring in June 2018, defeating Eric Grant by second-round TKO in Denver. He had what he said was his last MMA fight in January, a loss by second-round TKO to Fernando Padilla, on an LFA card at Route 66 Casino Hotel.

He’s been training for the last three weeks with veteran Albuquerque boxing trainer Steve Garcia.

Sifuentez, Sanchez’s opponent, is 0-3 as a boxer. He also has an MMA background, with a 4-8 amateur record in the cage.

THE CARD: Albuquerque’s Fidel Maldonado Jr. (27-4-1, 19 KOs) weighed in on Friday at 134.6 pounds, just under the 135-pound lightweight limit, for tonight’s eight-round main event against Denver’s Juan Santiago (16-16-2, nine KOs). Santiago weighed in at 134.2.

The five-bout card includes the delayed debut of Albuquerque amateur standout Santiago Giron, who was scheduled to fight in March, but his opponent pulled out the night of the card. He’s matched tonight against fellow Albuquerquean José Vialpando, who’s also making his pro debut.

Promoter Pat Holmes on Friday said the card is virtually a sellout, with only a handful of tickets remaining that he expected to be sold by this morning.

MENDOZA: Rio Rancho welterweight Brian Mendoza (17-0, 12 KOs) is scheduled to face Nicaragua’s Rosemberg Gomez (20-7-1, 16 KOs) in an eight-round bout on a Top Rank, Inc., card in Los Angeles.

Mendoza, who now lives and trains in Las Vegas, Nev., was signed by Top Rank earlier this year. He’s 1-0 as a Top Rank contract fighter, having defeated Carlos Mohamed Rodriguez by second-round KO in May.

The undercard, featuring Mendoza-Gomez, is scheduled to be streamed by ESPN+, starting at 4:30 p.m. But Mendoza’s fight is a swing bout, could be shortened to six rounds and may or may not make the digital stream.

MMA: Albuquerque’s Jodie Esquibel (6-5) weighed in at 116 pounds, a permissible one pound over the strawweight limit, for tonight’s fight against North Carolinian Hannah Cifers (9-3) on a UFC card at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.

Esquibel’s fight will be streamed on UFC Fight Pass on a portion of the card scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m.

BARE KNUCKLES: On Aug. 10, Albuquerque’s Isaac Vallie-Flagg defeated former Jackson-Wink MMA teammate Melvin Guillard by third-round TKO (hand injury) on a Bare Knuckle FC card in Biloxi, Miss.

Leonard Garcia, another former Jackson-Wink MMA fighter, lost to Jim Alers by first-round TKO in the evening’s main event.

SATURDAY

Pro boxing: Fidel Maldonado Jr. vs. Juan Santiago, four other bouts, Embassy Suites. First bell: 7:30 p.m. Tickets: Sold out. The card: Page B4

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