BELEN — The young amateur boxers who fought in Sunday’s New Mexico Golden Gloves finals at the Belen Community Center should save their hand wraps for posterity.
Those wraps were inspected, approved and autographed, after all, by a New Mexico boxing legend: Henry Anaya Sr.
This year’s Golden Gloves reflected a changing of the guard, with many of the top amateurs from recent years having turned pro or simply having moved on from the sport. Based on Sunday’s action, there appears to be no shortage of developing talent.
The stewards of New Mexico boxing, however, keep coming back: coaches, judges, referees, organizers, et al.
Among those contributors who were on hand Sunday, to mention but a few: Juan Nuñez, Bunny Martinez, Steve Garcia and Tony Rosales, all of Albuquerque; Las Cruces’ Rocky Burke; Hobbs’ Isidro Castillo; Roland Nez from the Four Corners.
Perhaps no one, however, has done more for the New Mexico amateur community, and for as long, as Anaya Sr., 78.
When Anaya started coaching the sport in Albuquerque, Lyndon Johnson was the President of the United States; “The Sound of Music” won the Oscar for best motion picture; Muhammad Ali was the world heavyweight champion; Florida quarterback Steve Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy.
“Fifty-five years,” Anaya said, sitting at the table from which he inspected each fighter’s hand wraps before initialing them.
“This is my job now,” he said, noting that, in his younger days, he’d have played a more active role: setting up the ring, tearing it down, etc., etc.
Yet, Anaya as a coach had two boxers in the weekend’s competition. Said Zac Anaya of his grandfather, there’s plenty of energy still there.
“He had COVID back in November, and we didn’t think he was gonna do this again,” said the younger Anaya, who served as public address announcer at the Golden Gloves. “So, honestly, being able to see him up here (Saturday) night and (Sunday),” definitely has been a blessing, has been a joy.”
Boxing has been a family undertaking for the Anaya clan. Henry Jr., Zac’s dad, had more than 300 amateur fights, then went 17-4 as a pro. Another son, Charles, fought as an amateur some 250 times and was 5-2-1 as a pro before his death in 2001. Zac’s brother, Henry III, fought five times between 2010-17.
Yet, with sons and grandson having fought their last, dad/granddad is still deeply involved.
“It just shows it’s not about his family,” Zac Anaya said. “It’s about his love for the sport.”
ANOTHER SOUTHPAW: Add Yoruba Moreu Jr. to the list of talented New Mexico left-handers, a roster that includes former world champions Holly Holm and Austin Trout and former WBC FECARBOX champion Fidel Maldonado Jr.
Sunday, the slick-boxing Moreu, 16, outpointed Clovis’ Angel Sandoval in a 119-pound open-division bout.
Moreu is part of another prominent New Mexico boxing family. He and his older sister Sharahya, a U.S. Olympic alternate at 152 pounds, both are coached by their father, Yoruba Moreu Sr.
“Southpaws in New Mexico, right?” Moreu Sr. said after his son’s victory. “That’s what we’re known for.”
Moreu Jr.’s performance, as skilled as it was, with greeted with muted enthusiasm by Sunday’s crowd — in part because it followed one of the day’s more exciting bouts, a victory for Luis Garrabo of Los Lunas’ TNT Boxing over Gamaliel Garcia from Doña Ana.
Sharahya Moreu, however, gave her brother’s effort a thumbs up.
“People who don’t know boxing may say it was boring,” she said, “but to me it was beautiful because he did what he needed to do.”
At 22, Sharahya Moreu is mapping a future that one day, probably sooner than later, will send her into the pro ranks.
“I love USA Boxing, love the amateurs and everything, but they’re not really helping me out financially,” she said. “… I’m also getting older, and women are on the rise (in the pros), and I want to be able to be part of that journey, too.”