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Boxing: LLHS classmates to square off

Thursday afternoon at the Convention Center, two Albuquerque boys fought for a USA Boxing regional title.

Saturday evening at the same venue, two young Los Lunas women will do the same.

Thursday, 12-year-old Adrian Cisneros defeated fellow Albuquerquean Yoruba Moreu by split decision for the boys 75-pound Bantam Division title at the Western Elite Qualifier and Regional Open Championships.

Perhaps a half-hour later, Los Lunas’ Estrellita Iturralde repeatedly staggered Arizonan Neildra Harvey en route to a victory by third-round TKO to reach the finals of the women’s Junior Division’s 101-pound weight class.

Saturday night, Iturralde will face Los Lunas High School classmate Jolene Bottini for the title. Bottini drew a bye into the final.

The Cisneros-Moreu bout was the third between the two young fighters. Cisneros has won all three, but Thursday’s was razor-close. After three action-fraught rounds, Cisneros’ hand was raised.

“It was close,” said Cisneros, a sixth-grader at Truman Middle School, but added he had little doubt about the outcome.

Nor did his coach, Richard Mirabal.

“I know (Moreu) was feeling his power,” Mirabal said. “He was backing off, especially in the second round, so I knew after that that (Cisneros) was going to take it.”

Cisneros agreed. “It was my pressuring (that decided the outcome),” he said.

Regarding his USA Boxing regional title, he said, “I’m really proud. Thankful.”

Both young Albuquerqueans, Mirabal said, had reason to be proud. They combined to defeat three out-of-state fighters before meeting for the championship.

“We eliminated all the out-of-towners, these hometown boys,” Mirabal said. “So we did well.”

Iturralde, whose first name translates from Spanish to English as “Little Star,” was just that in the ring on Thursday.

Possessed of far more punching power than her opponent, she prompted the referee to step in and give Harvey a standing eight-count in the first round.

Where does the power come from?

“It’s natural,” Iturralde said after the bout.

In the second round, Harvey landed a couple of clean shots to the head. But Iturralde responded with more power shots, driving Harvey back.

In the third, after two more standing eight-counts, the referee stepped in and stopped the contest at the 1-minute, 52-second mark.

It was a stunning performance, considering Iturralde, 16, has been boxing for only a year.

Even so, David Adame, her coach at Los Lunas’ TNT Boxing Club, wasn’t completely satisfied.

“She was a little sloppy,” Adame said. “We have very high expectations for our kids, especially this one.”

Iturralde was drawn into the sport because of her friendship with Elyza Peralta, now her teammate at TNT.

Peralta, who’s scheduled to fight Oregon’s Brittany Sims on Saturday for the women’s Elite 125-pound title, said she’s not surprised at her friend’s rapid progress.

“Honestly, she came into the gym better than I ever was at her age,” Peralta said. “I was impressed (by Iturralde’s performance (Thursday), but I wasn’t surprised.”

Bottini, Iturralde’s opponent, on Saturday, is a more experienced fighter who won a USA Boxing Intermediate Division title two years ago in West Virginia. She once trained at TNT but now trains in Albuquerque at FIT-NHB.

Mario Tapia, TNT Boxing’s founder, said Iturralde and Bottini are friends.

“When they get in the ring, they’ll go after each other,” Tapia said. “But after, they’ll be friends again.”

Another all-New Mexico Saturday final is on tap at 138 pounds in the boys Junior Division. On Thursday, Albuquerque’s Josue Reyes defeated Hakeem Antoine of Atlanta, and Kirtland’s Elija Martinez beat Jesus Ramos of Casa Grande, Ariz.

Five other state boxers, Bloomfield’s Leonardo Rodriguez and Albuquerqueans Santiago Giron, Anthony Bustillos, Jessica Bridge and Abraham Perez, lost semifinal bouts.

RECEPTION: Three Olympians and two former professional world champions from New Mexico are scheduled to attend a reception from 3-5 p.m. today at the Altitude Sports Grill at Hotel Cascada.

Albuquerque’s Danny Romero and Las Cruces’ Austin Trout are expected along with Olympians Raul Marquez (1992) and Fernando Vargas (1996) and 1972 Olympic bronze medalist Jesse Valdez of Rio Rancho.

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