Lenny Fresquez had it all figured out, or at least as much as anyone can figure out anything in boxing.
Sometime in the next couple of years, Holly Holm, the star and centerpiece of the Albuquerque promoter’s boxing business, would retire from the ring.
By then, Fresquez’s young protégé Matthew Baca – by now with a 6-0 or 8-0 record, somewhere in there – would be ready to take Holm’s place at the top of his shows.
Then, in close chronological proximity, two unexpected things happened.
On April 16, Holm announced her intention to retire from boxing, opting to focus solely on mixed martial arts, after her May 11 bout against Mary McGee.
Baca, 18 days earlier, lost by unanimous decision to fellow Albuquerquean Yordan Hernandez. It was Baca’s fourth professional fight.
With plans to promote Holm as an MMA fighter, and with Baca’s record blemished so early in his career, Fresquez easily could consider following Holm out of the boxing business.
He has no such plans. He’ll promote future boxing cards without Holm, he says, as well as MMA cards with her.
“We’ve been putting on (boxing) shows since 1994,” the veteran promoter says, “and we’ll continue to do it.”
Still, a future without Holm presents challenges, not just for Fresquez but for the sport in Albuquerque.
“We’ll have to figure out a different tactic,” Fresquez says.
Certainly, Holm’s impending departure from the ring leaves a hole.
Since becoming a main-event fighter under the Fresquez Productions banner in 2005, Holm routinely has fought to sellout or near-sellout crowds. Only the late Johnny Tapia, far past his prime but still “Mi Vida Loca,” had similar drawing power in the past few years.
“People would pay to watch (Holm) fight a hamster,” writes Austin Killeen of BillyCboxing.com. Just as important for the health of the sport in Albuquerque, dozens of local fighters have performed on Fresquez-promoted undercards. Thousands of fans have paid to see Holm and left the event having also seen Hector Muñoz, Max Heyman, Willie Villanueva, Jodie Esquibel, a stylish young southpaw from Las Cruces named Austin Trout, et al.
Fresquez says those opportunities will continue, though perhaps on a reduced basis. He likely will promote two boxing shows a year in the future, he said; he has averaged almost three a year, with Holm in the main event or a co-main event, since 2005.
There are, of course, other promoters in town.
Teresa Tapia, Johnny’s widow, on May 31 will stage her second card of 2013 and her fourth since her husband’s death in May of last year. Joe Chavez has promoted successful club shows at the YDI Wool Warehouse.
Boxing in Albuquerque is far from dead, and Holm’s departure won’t kill it.
But who’s the star, the boxer who transcends boxing – the Danny Romero, the Johnny Tapia, the Holly Holm?
An Austin Trout fight in Albuquerque certainly would be a big draw, but that couldn’t happen on a regular basis, if at all.
Albuquerque lightweight Fidel Maldonado Jr.’s contract with Golden Boy Promotions has him on a track that has taken him to Mexico more often than to his hometown. Lightweight Archie Ray Marquez, like Maldonado, has a couple of losses to overcome.
Fresquez, meanwhile, says he has not lost faith in Baca’s potential as a future main attraction.
The 19-year-old’s bout against the 29-year-old Hernandez on a Chavez Promotions card was a mistake, Fresquez says, but not one that can’t be overcome.
“(Baca) showed me something in that fight that very, very few fighters are gifted with,” he says, “and that’s a good chin and a big heart.”
What Baca doesn’t have, Fresquez says, is the frame of a welterweight. Having been physically overmatched against Hernandez at 147 pounds, he’ll be fighting at 135 for the foreseeable future.
“I take some of the responsibility for that, for putting him in that soon with a guy that big,” Fresquez says. “… He always told me he was a full-fledged 147-pounder, but once he started training full-time the weight just started shredding off of him. He’s a 135-pounder now.”
In the past, Fresquez has had several fighters – Muñoz, Gomez, Frankie Archuleta, Cuauhtemoc Vargas, the late Andrés Fernandez – under promotional contract. More recently, it was only Holm and then Baca.
Fresquez says he’s not actively seeking other boxers to sign but would be open to the idea.
“I’m a businessman, and I’d look at all aspects of it,” Fresquez says. “… We just want to be known for putting on the best and biggest shows.”