Jalapeño Popper—Episode 3—Debut
By Richard E. Baker on March 5, 2021
These are two very decent young fighters so no one was harmed. (Photo: Richard E. Baker)
Boxing is filled with surprises. Some you just have to accept. Not everything goes according to plan. The “Jalapeño Popper” Gessauri Brito was on his way to great Falls, Montana for his pro debut. Fights are difficult to find for a 112-pound boxer and his manager, Ray Frye, was lucky to find anyone on which Brito’s team would agree. A 1-6-0 fighter was found and a 3-8-2 but the team was worried about them having too much pro ring experience. In some ways a pro debut is a very important fight, one of the most important for any boxer. In other ways the fight is meaningless. You want your fighter to win, not for the obvious reasons one might think, but because you want to see how he reacts in his first fight. There is a lot of pressure on him. He will be nervous. He will be anxious. He will often be hungry from dropping weight or bloated from eating too much after the weigh-in. Yes, you want to see him win. Mostly you want to see how well he fights under pressure. Much can be learned even if things do not go as expected. What mistakes does he make? How is his conditioning? Etc. That is why the fight is important. A fight was found, one at 117 pounds.
The reason the fight is meaningless is because the fighter who wants to make his pro debut gets a worthless opponent, someone with no skills, a human punching bag who steps into the ring to pick up beer money.
Fighting another opponent making his pro debut can be dangerous. Most people think such a fight is safe, both boxers having the same skills and both being nervous. Trying to find out anything about the opponent is difficult. His only experience, if he has any, will be in the amateur ranks. That information will not be readily available so you are often taking a chance. It is not a fight of which one can be proud. It is just a win. A fighter loves to have a win, something to build his confidence, but the confidence is usually false.
The Popper was scheduled to fight Angel Mondragon. The fight was taken based upon information his manager thought was correct. There are certainly not many people in the fight world named Angel Mondragon and who weigh 117 pounds. The researcher, Chauncy Welliver, could find only one: a 30-year-old MMA fighter with a record of 1-2-0 with one of his losses coming by way of KO, the perfect opponent for someone making his pro debut. The guy will have had some ring experience and MMA fighters seldom make decent boxers. Perfect.
Unfortunately there are at least two 117-pound fighters named Angel Mondragon. The first indication of there being something wrong was when the Mondragon team agreed to pay their expenses to the bout. Only people assured of a victory pay their own way. The one who showed up at the fight was 18 years old, not 30, had an amateur record of 22-7, was a national champion, and placed 3rd in a California PAL tournament. Not the ideal opponent for one’s first fight. To add to the problem, Mondragon’s walking around weight is 140, making him the naturally bigger fighter. The Popper’s walking weight is 122. And his name is actually Angle Sylva Mondragon. He also has a contract with the promoter. Everything appeared to be against the Popper team.
Manager Ray Fry was uneasy taking a match with someone he had not seen. I was asked to verify Welliver’s research before the match was made. I could find only the one Mondragon, the MMA fighter and I recommended the match based on the wrong guy. I understood that if the fight did not go well, the fault was entirely mine.
There was no backing out now. Like the Popper, Angel is a very nice young man who is trying to do the same thing as Brito. His team took the fight based on the fact that the Popper had had no amateur experience, was a small man, and had only fought in the gym. Brito’s fight was going to be tougher than expected. Sometimes it is better to get a tough fight under your belt early. The team was a bit worried about the Popper although they felt he could beat most boxers. The Popper was not at all concerned. As former world champion Moises Flores’ chief sparring partner, he had the heart and the skills to beat Sylva. He had also just spent the last week sparring with Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and holding his own. He spars everyone in the gym regardless of size. He is in great shape and, regardless of his huge smile, is as tough and determined as any decent boxer once in the ring.
That first walk to the ring must feel like it takes forever. The crowd in Great Falls, Montana, was anxious for a fight, any kind of activity that would let them out of the house. The newly elected Republican governor had opened up the state and made covid masks recommended, not required. Businesses were allowed to operate at 75% capacity. There was hardly a mask seen at the event. Safety is not a concern in cowboy country; just ask General Custer. Full steam ahead, that’s the motto.
The Popper came out wearing a Mexican blanket, white gloves, and black trunks. As always, a wide smile draped his face as he waved to the crowd. Trainer Javier Valero issued last minute instructions while manager Ray Frye greased up Brito’s face.
From the opening bell the Popper pushed the fight, crowding Angel and pinning him against the ropes. Punch after punch slammed into Angel’s body. Angel fought back, most of his punches missing. This scenario repeated throughout most of the fight except for round 3. For some reason, Brito threw fewer punches and gave the round away. I thought perhaps he was tired. That did not seem right. He was always in great shape. He came back in the last round. Angel was now bleeding as Brito regained control and smacking him from corner to corner.
Naturally I felt Brito had won, and had won fairly easily. I gave him 3 rounds to 1 having given away the 3rd round. Reviewing the fight several times later, I am sure he won. The judges scored the fight a draw. I do not think they took into account all of the body shots landed by the Popper or his aggression. Finding a competent judge in Las Vegas is difficult enough; finding one in Montana must be a real problem. They are mostly amateur judges and view fights differently. The referees were some of the best I have ever seen, competent and professional to the extreme.
The draw was fine. These are two very decent young fighters so no one was harmed. They can both take pride in a draw against a real opponent and not a walkover win. It gave everyone a chance to view the next steps.
Brito needs to open up in the last of each round. Do not worry about knocking out the opponent then, just unload with punches. He also needs to keep his chin down. He got hit when he was often standing tall with his chin out. That made the punches look more devastating than they were as his head flew back and the sweat went flying. (Boxers should crop their hair before bouts to avoid the flying sweat.)
The Popper felt a bit disappointed in his performance and thought he could have done more. That is a good sign in a boxer. One can always do more. He decided to take a week off and then return to the gym. His next fight should be at 112, his fighting weight. He will not have a fight as tough as this one for some time. Until then the routine starts over again: conditioning, training, and sparring. There is no other way to build a fighter.