Look who's back: Duke City's Griego-Ortega - Albuquerque Journal

Look who’s back: Duke City’s Griego-Ortega

It has been an eventful past 26 months for Albuquerque boxer Matthew Griego-Ortega, principally missing just one thing.

A fight.

That situation promises to be remedied on Friday, when Griego-Ortega (11-0, eight knockouts) steps into the ring against Californian Gilberto Mendoza (19-12-3, 10 KOs) in an eight-round super flyweight bout on a card promoted by Teresa Tapia.

Of the 831 days between fights, Griego-Ortega says, “It’s been tough, man.”

And, yet, during that ring hiatus came the day he might well describe as the best of his life: the birth last Jan. 29 of his daughter, Lovella Joy, with his fiancee, Jolene Otero.

Fatherhood, he said, has heightened everything.

“She’s changed my life,” he said in a phone interview of his 4½-month-old child. “People tell you, ‘Oh, (parenthood), it’s a whole different feeling, and I believed them. Obviously they know that.

“But once it happens to you, it’s unexplainable.”

Now, Griego-Ortega said, he spars, does roadwork and hits the heavy bag with more desire than ever.

“I was always motivated and I was always a hard worker,” he said. “But (Lovella Joy’s arrival) has just pushed me to a whole other level, and I have more reason to fight now. So it’s nice.”

Griego-Ortega last fought on March 7, 2020, defeating The Philippines’ Jeromil Borres by 10-round majority decision at Isleta Resort & Casino.

Shortly thereafter, COVID-19 restrictions shut down not only boxing but, for a time, Griego-Ortega’s day job as a barber.

In midst of all that, Griego-Ortega, in trying to referee a fight between his dogs in his backyard, broke his wrist and got bitten for his troubles.

“I had to go to the doctor, get the (cut) cleaned up, get put in a cast,” he said. “So I was out for a while because of that.”

Discouraged but not close to giving up, he headed for the boxing Mecca of Las Vegas, Nevada, where welterweight Brian Mendoza, his friend and former teammate at Albuquerque’s Atrisco Boxing, was living and training.

Griego-Ortega spoke to the Journal from Las Vegas, where he’s done most of his preparation for Friday’s bout.

“Albuquerque is home. We still have our house there,” he said. “But I’m trying to stay out here (in Vegas) for camp. Six weeks at a time, eight weeks at a time, whatever I can do.

“There’s a lot of sparring out here, a lot of good work and opportunities as well.”

Yet, no fight opportunities came – until Team Tapia called.

“They got ahold of me,” he said. “They’re supposed to be throwing fights in July, but I knew this one in June was going on. I was like, I’m ready to go right now, I need a fight sooner. So they added me to this card kind of at the last minute.”

His opponent, Mendoza (no relation to Brian), is a tough, durable veteran who in his last outing went eight rounds with Australian title contender Andrew Maloney. Mendoza has been stopped short of the prescribed distance just three times in his 34 pro fights.

“It’s gonna be a good one,” Griego-Ortega said. “Teresa was telling me, ‘You’re kind of taking a tough fight for a two-year layoff.’ But I want to get right back to where I was. I’m 26. I don’t have too much time.”

The time out of the ring, he said, has not been wasted. His work in Las Vegas at the Salas Boxing Academy, as well as in Albuquerque with longtime trainer Manuel Anaya, has seen to that.

“I believe in these two years off I’ve only gotten better,” he said. “Out here (in Vegas), sparring, there’s killers out here. Sparring these guys, it’s just brought me to another level. Hopefully, I’ll be able to display that.”

In the meantime, Griego-Ortega has continued to work as a barber, both in Albuquerque, at City’s Barber Shop, and in Las Vegas.

“I do house calls (in Vegas),” he said. “I still do OK. Even (on Monday), I did a couple of haircuts at the gym right after training. Whatever I can do, I have to do it.

“But hopefully, we’ll get really busy (in the ring).”

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