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Torres Eyes Next Step

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque welterweight featured in tonight’s main event

Fighting El Paso’s Bernardo Guereca is a bit like punching a bowling ball; it’s hard on the hands, and it’s hard to look good doing it.

Albuquerque welterweight Josh Torres, Guereca’s opponent tonight in the eight-round main event of a professional boxing card at the Crowne Plaza, believes he’s up to the challenge.

“I plan on using my strength and youth against him, and going out and making a statement for myself,” says Torres (9-2-1, four knockouts), 23, who hopes to stamp himself as New Mexico boxing’s next breakout star.

Based on Guereca’s recent record, defeating him isn’t the problem; the 39-year-old veteran left-hander, 16-16-1 as a professional, has lost nine of his last 10 bouts and 11 of his last 13.

In November, however, Santa Fe’s Joaquin Zamora — Torres’ friend and teammate at Albuquerque’s Johnny Tapia Boxing Academy — struggled a bit in defeating Guereca at the Crowne Plaza.

Though one wouldn’t know it from the judges’ scores, Zamora, a classic boxer, had trouble finding punching room against the short, squat, aggressive El Pasoan. It wasn’t a pretty fight.

The Guereca-Zamora bout went the distance, as have most of Guereca’s bouts. The seven fighters who have managed to stop him have a combined record of 70-11, with two draws.

A knockout, Torres says, is definitely a goal.

“(Guereca) has a tendency to make people fight his fight,” he says. “I plan on going out there and making it rough for him. … We’re prepared and ready for anything that he’s gonna bring to the table.”

Torres was an amateur contemporary of fellow Albuquerqueans Archie Ray Marquez and Fidel Maldonado Jr., but hasn’t had their advantages as a professional. Maldonado and Marquez both signed early in their pro careers with major promoters; Torres has come up the hard way.

A pair of losses on the road — to Rufino Flores in Chandler, Ariz., and to Raul Carrillo in Longmont, Colo. — slowed his climb toward the top. But he believes his training at the Tapia gym, first with the late Johnny Tapia, now with Chris Chavez, have polished his skills and peaked his conditioning.

Torres says his 13-monthold son, Julian, and his wifeto-be, Ariana Duran, are his priority. Still, he looks at Marquez and Maldonado and aspires to join them.

“I grew up with Archie and Fidel in the amateurs, and I feel like I’ve always been somewhat in the shadows,” he says. “They were always praised a little higher than me, but I feel that I’m finally putting in the wrench time, finally putting in the work.

“I didn’t start (boxing) until high school, about 14 years old. So I got a fairly late start. But … we’re more than 100 percent ready to start challenging ourselves and taking the steps that they’re taking.”

Guereca, then, is the next step.

In tonight’s semi-main event, welterweight Hector Muñoz (20-9-1) faces fellow Albuquerquean Jeremiah Torres (7-20, one KO) in an eight-round rematch no one really wanted. But Torres (no relation to Josh) stepped in after several other prospective opponents fell out.

Muñoz stopped Torres by fourth-round TKO in 2006, and predicts a similar outcome this time. But he promises an entertaining fight while it lasts.

“I’m gonna make it a show,” Muñoz says. “You’ll see; it’s gonna be a show.”

Tonight’s undercard features a four-rounder between two fighters both nicknamed “Boom Boom” — featherweights Amanda Crespin and Brenda Gonzales — and the second pro fight for Las Cruces light heavyweight Siju Shabazz.

The former Golden Gloves national champion is scheduled to face Albuquerquean Anthony Jones, who’s making his pro debut.