Combat sports: Challenge, opportunity for Mendoza - Albuquerque Journal

Combat sports: Challenge, opportunity for Mendoza


Boxing: Brian Mendoza vs. Jesus Ramos Jr., Fox, 6 p.m.

Powerful boxing people have big plans for Jesus Ramos Jr., a hard-punching, 20-year-old southpaw from Casa Grande, Arizona.

Brian Mendoza has plans of his own, and Ramos is in the way.

Mendoza, a Rio Ranchoan who now lives and trains in Las Vegas, Nevada, is scheduled to face Ramos on Sunday in the 10-round main event of a nationally televised card.

The Cleveland High School graduate is a prohibitive underdog against Ramos (16-0, 14 KOs), a Premier Boxing Champions contract fighter who specializes in the spectacular knockout. But Mendoza (19-1, 13 KOs) was an underdog as well in his most recent fight a year ago against Thomas LaManna. He defeated LaManna by unanimous decision.

“They didn’t think I was supposed to beat (LaManna), they had plans for him and this and that,” Mendoza said in a phone interview from Minneapolis, the site of Sunday’s card. “I’m just here to mess up those plans again.”

Between now and Sunday evening, however, Mendoza wishes for Ramos nothing but the best of health. After having multiple fight opportunities fall through since the LaManna bout, the 27-year-old just wants to get back in the ring.

As for Ramos, Mendoza will have to be convinced that all the hype is real. Asked if he thinks Ramos is as powerful a puncher as his record suggests, he said, “We’re gonna find out. But I don’t think so, because he’s been at 147 (pounds, welterweight) and he’s knocked out guys that he’s a lot bigger than.

“Now he’s moving up to my weight class at 154 (junior middleweight). The contract is actually for 155.”

In watching Ramos on film, Mendoza said, “I feel like there’s flaws and openings that I can take advantage of.”

Mendoza said he doesn’t deny the existence of pressure entering his first televised main event against a touted and heavily favored opponent. Then again, he said, it’s a fight — not so different from his previous 20 as a professional.

The process, he said, doesn’t change.

“There’s all those pressures, but we still take it as what it is,” he said. “It’s a fight, and we go in there and go for the win and nothing less.”

THE SENIOR TOUR: Boxing promoter Teresa Tapia has announced her next card at the Inn of the Mountain Gods in Mescalero, with a bout between former world champions Marco Antonio Barrera and Daniel Ponce de Leon as the headliner on Nov. 20.

Barrera (67-7, 44 KOs) is 47 years old and last fought a decade ago. Ponce de Leon (45-7, 35 KOs) is 41 and last fought in 2014.

Ponce de Leon confirmed the matchup on Instagram but labeled the bout an exhibition.

“I’ll be proud to face the great champion Marco Antonio Barrera in an exhibition bout next Nov. 20,” Ponce de Leon posted.

Barrera and the promoter’s late husband, Albuquerque native and five-time world champion Johnny Tapia, share an interesting history.

In November 2002 in Las Vegas, Barrera defeated Tapia by unanimous decision. That night, and throughout his career, Barrera wore trunks with the name “Tapia” — his mother’s maiden name — sewed on the back.

Before his fight with Tapia, it was suggested to Barrera that he not wear those trunks in order to eliminate any confusion as to who was who.

He refused.

“Everybody knows Johnny and everybody knows Barrera, so there won’t be any confusion,” Barrera said at a September 2002 news conference in Albuquerque held to promote the bout.

Stranger still, Barrera’s ring nickname is “The Babyfaced Assassin.” That was Tapia’s nickname until, later in his career, he switched to the then-more appropriate and more descriptive “Mi Vida Loca.” Barrera said he came by his nickname honestly and wasn’t aware of the Tapia connection at the time.

Barrera and Johnny Tapia were good friends out of the ring, which may in part explain why Teresa Tapia is bringing him to New Mexico.

A news conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sept. 13 at the Inn of the Mountain Gods in Mescalero, 20 miles south of Ruidoso on U.S. 70.

ACROSS THE POND: Las Cruces boxing trainer Louie Burke is in Leeds, England, preparing his fighter, El Paso’s Jennifer Han, for her bout on Saturday against Ireland’s Katie Taylor.

Four versions of the women’s world lightweight title will be at stake.

Taylor (18-0, six KOs), a 2012 Olympic gold medalist, is a prohibitive favorite against Han (18-3-1, one KO) on a card to be streamed online by DAZN, a subscription service, starting at noon MDT.

GRUDGE MATCH: A bout between world boxing champion Claressa Shields and England’s Savannah Marshall, the only boxer to have beaten her, may happen in the near future.

Mark Taffet, Shields’ manager, announced an agreement with England’s Sky Sports that will eventually lead to a Shields-Marshall showdown.

Shields has begun competing in MMA and trains for the sport in Albuquerque while still pursuing her boxing career. On almost a daily basis, she and Marshall engage in a less-then-friendly manner on social media.

Marshall defeated Shields by decision at the 2012 world amateur championships. Marshall went on to win that competition, but otherwise has not equaled Shields’ achievements: two Olympic gold medals and world professional titles in three weight classes.

Marshall, who holds the WBO world middleweight title, is 10-0 as a pro. She has a bout scheduled on Oct. 16 against Zambia’s Lolita Muzeya (16-0, eight KOs) in Newcastle, England.

Shields, who made a successful MMA debut in June, is scheduled for a second MMA fight on an Oct. 27 PPL card against Mexico’s Abigail Montes (2-0).

Shields (11-0, two KOs as a boxer) has expressed a desire to get back in the boxing ring before the year is out.

ANOTHER GRUDGE MATCH? Well, sort of, and not yet.

As previously reported, Albuquerque’s Holly Holm (14-5) is scheduled to return to the Octagon on Oct. 16 to face Brazil’s Norma Dumont (6-1) on a UFC Fight Night card in Las Vegas.

This week, it was announced that Miesha Tate (19-7) will fight that night’s main event against Ketlen Vieira (11-2).

In March 2015, Tate defeated Holm to capture the UFC bantamweight title Holm had won from Ronda Rousey the previous November. Tate then lost the title to Amanda Nunes, the current champion, and retired after a subsequent loss to Raquel Pennington.

After Tate returned to competition in July, defeating Marion Reneau by first-round TKO, talk began of a Tate-Holm rematch. But Tate (19-7) demurred, saying she wanted at least one more fight before facing Holm again.

How she has it, and on the same card with Holm.

Unlike the Shields-Marshall feud, there’s no enmity between Holm and Tate. Still, Holm has made it clear she’d love to get back in the Octagon with the women who took away the UFC bantamweight belt she still covets.

UPCOMING: Bellator light heavyweight Christian Edwards (5-0), who trains in Albuquerque at Jackson-Wink, will attempt to continue his rise in the ranks on Sept. 18 when he faces Tennessean Ben Parrish (4-1) in San Jose, Calif.

This is a fight twice postponed, once because of an injury to Parrish, once because Edwards failed a pre-fight physical exam with an irregular heartbeat.

Edwards quickly was cleared to resume competition and defeated Simon Biyong by unanimous decision on June 25.

… Albuquerque’s Lando Vannata (12-5-2) is scheduled to face Tucker Lutz (12-1) on a Nov. 13 UFC Fight Night card in Las Vegas.

Vannata, who trains at Jackson’s Acoma, defeated Mike Grundy by split decision on May 15. It was Vannata’s debut at the 145-pound featherweight limit, dropping from lightweight (155).

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