And so is Albuquerque – or at least enough of Albuquerque to fill Tingley Coliseum.
A near-capacity crowd of some 8,000 fans (a precise count was unavailable) watched with full-throated gusto as a 12-fight Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship card unfolded at Tingley Coliseum on Friday night.
And while die-hard Diego Sanchez fans may have left disappointed, few if anyone else did.
Far from disappointed was Trout, the former world boxing champion from Las Cruces, who defeated a bloody and battered Sanchez – a New Mexico MMA legend – by fourth-round TKO (doctor’s stoppage) in each man’s bare-knuckle debut.
“I’m addicted, I’ll just say that,” said Trout, while icing the right hand that sliced open Sanchez’s face with such precision. “This bare knuckles, this I kind of like.”
Equally enthusiastic, as he always seems to be, was Dodson, who KO’d Floridian Jaron Grant in the first round with a perfectly placed left uppercut. It was Dodson’s second bare-knuckle fight and second victory by KO, and he’s eager for more – not just for him but for his younger brother as well. Eric Dodson improved to 2-0 on Friday with a first-round TKO of Belen’s Gene Perez.
“This was an amazing night for me and my brother,” John Dodson said, “both of us coming out with amazing performances together and making sure that we continue the journey, pretty much as the Dodson brothers.”
WHAT NEXT FOR DIEGO? Sanchez said during a Wednesday interview session that Friday’s fight might be his last.
If that proves to be the case, based on the lacing he took from Trout, no could argue against it.
Sanchez, a 41-year-old veteran of 44 MMA fights over a span of almost 21 years, was ineffective on offense and hapless on defense.
It was Trout who, late in the fourth round, urged the referee to halt the fight. A doctor, after inspecting Sanchez’s facial cuts, agreed it was time.
“Shout out to Diego,” Trout said afterward. “I pray that he’s healthy and walks away from this as healthy as he came in. He’s a warrior, and he put (fights) on for New Mexico a long time, and it was an honor to share that squared circle with him.”
Sanchez was healthy enough afterward to have posed for a photo with Trout, both men wearing smiles.
TITLE TALK: As young as the BKFC is, not quite five years old, it’s perhaps not surprising that the organization is already touting Trout (one BKFC fight) and Dodson (two) as title contenders.
After Trout’s victory over Sanchez, BKFC lightweight (155 pounds) and welterweight (165) champion Luis Palomino entered the ring and threw down verbally with the New Mexico fighter.
Trout fought Sanchez at the welterweight limit of 165 pounds, but has campaigned as a boxer primarily at 154 pounds.
“I was calling (Palomino) out even before I got in (the ring),” Trout said, “because I knew he was the best and to be the best I’ve got to beat the best.
“Hopefully he can put up both weight-class belts up. I’d fight him at 55, though.”
Dodson, meanwhile, is taking dead aim at the currently vacant BKFC title.
“I really want to go ahead and have that flyweight title,” he said. “To have that belt around my waist would be nice and neat.”
Tyler Randall (2-1), the BKFC’s No. 1 contender at flyweight, is schedule to face unranked Chancey Wilson (2-2) on March 17 in Delray Beach, Florida.
IT IS WHAT IT IS: Bare-knuckle fighting is as brutal as the name suggests, and Friday’s fight between Albuquerque’s Nick Gonzales (1-0) and Massachusetts’ Lardy “Sito” Navarro (1-2) served as Exhibit A.
After Gonzales’ victory by first-round TKO, the fallen Navarro was tended to in the ring by medical personnel for several minutes before being carried out of the arena on a stretcher.
“It breaks my heart. He’s a warrior,” Gonzales said afterward. “… Of course, I don’t want anybody (to get hurt). I want him to be OK.
“But it’s what we signed up for, and it’s something we have to accept in our sport.”
That’s how Navarro, who apparently suffered no lasting damage, saw it as well.
“I got caught with a big punch I did not see and I got really hurt, but it’s part of the game,” Navarro wrote on Instagram, “and I’m doing a sport that no one will do!”
But some, obviously, will.
KnuckleMania 3 (bare-knuckle fighting), Tingley Coliseum
Lorenzo Hunt (10-1), Cleveland, 185 pounds, def. Mike Richman (4-1), Rosemount, Minn., 183.8, by 1st-round KO (1 minute, 50 seconds). Hunt retains BKFC light heavyweight title
Austin Trout (1-0), Las Cruces, 164.4, def. Diego Sanchez (0-1), Albuquerque, 165, by fourth-round TKO (1:44)
John Dodson (2-0), Albuquerque, 125, def. Jarod Grant (5-2), Broward County, Fla., 126.6, 1st-round KO (1:41).
Will Santiago (2-0), Albuquerque, 174.4, def. Noah Cutter (3-5), Fort Walton Beach, Fla., 173.6, 1st-round TKO (facial cut, 2:00)
Jayme Hinshaw, (2-0) Albuquerque, 115.4 , def. Charisa Sigala (1-4-1), Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., 115.2, 1st-round TKO (:38)
Josh Moreno (2-0), Albuquerque, 173.2, vs. Christian Torres (2-3), Edicott, N.Y., 172.8, 2nd-round TKO (1:02)
Kevin Croom (1-0), Kansas City, Mo., 155.4., def. Chevvy Bridges (1-1), Oklahoma City, 155.8, 1st-round KO (1:11)
Josh Watson (2-1), Las Vegas, Nev., 282, def. Greg Hardy Jr., (0-1), Delray Beach, Fla., 295.6, 2nd-round KO (:19)
Gaston Reyno (1-0), Montevideo, Uruguay, 154, def. Daniel Van Sickle (0-1), Virginia Beach, Va., 153.2, 1st-round TKO (doctor stoppage, 1:26)
Nick Gonzales (1-0), Albuquerque, 144.2, def. Sito Navarro (1-2), Worcester, Mass., 142.8, 1st-round TKO (:41)
Eric Dodson (2-0), Albuquerque, 141.4, def. Gene Perez (0-1), Belen, 142.4, 1st round TKO (1:32)
Derek Perez (1-0), Belen, 135.4 def. Anthony Sanchez (0-1), Midland, Texas, 135.2, unan. Dec. (49-45, 49-45, 50-44).