Lujan facility looks to get back in the fight game - Albuquerque Journal

Lujan facility looks to get back in the fight game

Johnny Tapia, right, is checked out by referee Bobby Ferrara during a 1990 fight at the Manuel Lujan building on the then-State Fairgrounds. Boxing events were common at the site in the 1980s and ’90s but before tribal casinos became more popular. (Journal file)
Johnny Tapia, right, is checked out by referee Bobby Ferrara during a 1990 fight at the Manuel Lujan building on the then-State Fairgrounds. Boxing events were common at the site in the 1980s and ’90s but before tribal casinos became more popular. (Journal file)

If those walls could talk, they’d probably say “Wow.”

Or, maybe,  “Ow.”

For most of the 1990s, the Manuel Lujan Exhibit Complex on the State Fairgrounds — now Expo New Mexico — was the boxing capital of Albuquerque.

Then, in the early 2000s, the tribal casinos came to the fore. According to information found on boxrec.com, — and this is not official — the Lujan building last hosted a boxing card in 1998.

The drought ends on Saturday, when Legacy Promotions will stage an 11-fight pro card there.

Legacy’s Eric Martinez has been in the boxing business only since 2015, but he’s aware of the history.

“The Lujan building has always been recognized as one of the top places for a boxing event, back when Johnny Tapia (was fighting there),” Martinez said in a phone interview.

Martinez, who is from Española, has promoted three cards at Camel Rock Casino north of Santa Fe. In Albuquerque, he and partners Aaron and Jordan Perez have staged events at the Convention Center, outdoors at the National Hispanic Cultural Center and at MCM Elegante Hotel.

In seeking a venue for Saturday’s card, he said, he talked with representatives from several casinos. But he settled on the Lujan building.

“The Expo (staff) were over and above accommodating,” he said. “Everybody knows where to go, and it’s right in the middle of Albuquerque, so it makes it a lot of fun.”

No definitive decision to stage more shows there, he said, will be made until after Saturday. But he and the Perez brothers are keenly interested in returning.

“Most likely, yeah,” he said. “I think we’ll stick with the Expo for at least two or three more events, probably until 2018.

“But this one’s huge. We’ll see what the success is on this one and we’ll go from there.”

For more than a decade, area boxing fans flocked to Lujan to watch New Mexico promoters like Frankie Montaño, Stan Love, Jack Luce and Lenny Fresquez stage cards featuring local stars like Tapia, Tommy Cordova, Danny Romero, Henry Anaya Jr., Daniel Perez and Frankie Archuleta. National and international promotional firms like Top Rank, Cedric Kushner Productions and America Presents also dropped in.

According to  boxrec.com — again, this is by no means official — boxing first came to the Lujan Building on March 29, 1986. That night, Cordova defeated Robert Anderson by fourth-round disqualification when the Phoenix fighter persisted in throwing elbows.

Neither fighter was happy with the stoppage, each insisting that the other had initiated the dirty tactics — nor was a crowd of about 1,000.

The last boxing event at the Lujan found by the Journal took place on Dec. 4, 1998. In the main event, Archuleta, of Las Vegas, N.M., improved his record to 15-0 with a unanimous 10-round decision over Texan Javier Diaz.

In perhaps the most momentous boxing event held there, on Oct. 26, 1990, Tapia defeated Venezuela’s Santiago Caballero by seventh-round technical decision after the Albuquerquean took a thumb to the eye.

Days later, it was revealed that Tapia had tested positive for cocaine. He would not fight, while dealing with his addiction, for another 3½ years.

After 1998, boxing continued to be staged on the Fairgrounds at Tingley Coliseum and at the outdoor pavilion. But, for whatever reason, the Lujan fell out of favor.

Saturday, it’s back.

MMA: April will be a typically busy month for area fighters.

On April 8 at the Santa Ana Star Center, Rio Rancho welterweight Anthony Rozema (4-1) is scheduled to face Desmond Hill (8-4) of Odessa, Texas, in the main event of a King of the Cage card.

On April 15 on a UFC Fight Night card in Kansas City, Mo., Albuquerque’s Michelle Waterson (14-4) is matched against Rose Namajunas (6-3) of Milwaukee on the main card, to be televised on Fox. UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk has said she would like her next title defense to be against Waterson.

On April 22 in a Fight Night card in Nashville, featherweight Cub Swanson (24-7), Waterson’s Jackson-Wink teammate, is scheduled to face Russia’s Artem Lobov (14-12-1) in the main event of the FS1-televised show.

Jackson-Wink fighters Diego Sanchez (29-9) vs. Al Iaquinta (12-3-1) and John Dodson (18-8) vs. Eddie Wineland (23-11-1) also are on the card.

Saturday: Fidel Maldonado Jr. vs. Mohamed Rodrigues, 10 other fights, State Fairgrounds. Tickets: $25-$50

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