The Jalapeño Popper Ready for Pro Debut
By Richard E. Baker on October 21, 2020
Gessuri Brito is an experiment, a throwback experiment. (Photo: Richard E. Baker)
I was wandering the local gyms looking for stories like a hunter looks for elk. They are few and far between. In the time of covid there is limited boxing action to be found. A few television fights are starting to appear, but there is limited access for writers and photographers, especially one of my caliber—.22 short. Like any reputable boxing gym, Wild Card, Big Bear, etc., the Benavides Boxing Gym, in Burian, attracts many top boxers. I decided to drop in and see what, or who, was new.
A kid in the ring was fighting his heart out, all action, all toughness, pretty skilled. He oozed guts, his strong point. The skill would continue to improve with time and experience.
Gessuri Brito has just turned 18 and he is eager to enter the pro ranks. Some careers cannot wait and he is anxious to make his way in the world. Do not be confused by his smiling countenance and gentle ways. Shakur Stevenson has the same look and he is not to be trifled with. Stevenson will offer a glad hand, a Joker smile, then, at the sound of the bell, take an opponent apart like an angry brat does a tinker toy sculpture. A fighter who mistakes that look for an easy victory should prepare for a beatdown and book a room at the local recovery ward and be sure to have dental insurance.
Brito is one of the favorite boxers at the gym and all the old hands, including champions, stop their training to line the ring and offer him advice. He is shy and quiet and only grins. He can fight, all 120 pounds of him. He is the sparring partner for former champion and number one super bantamweight contender Moises Flores. Although Flores outweighs him by over 20 pounds, is a seasoned pro with 28 fights, is taller and with a longer reach, the Popper hangs with him round after round and often gets the better of him in exchanges.
Brito is a fierce competitor, extremely aggressive, a banger of the first class, and never stops throwing solid punches. He should be a very popular and fan pleasing boxer. Of course, he could be a flop, a gym fighter who performs well on the small stage, but freezes up under the big lights. That will not be known until he steps into the pro ranks for the first time.
Turning pro is difficult. Suddenly a fighter is confronted with many emotions: Will he do well, can he handle the pressure, what if he is cut or injured, can his opponent fight and, if so, how well. Can he live up to the hype of boxing writers, not always the most reliable sources? Boxing is a mental game as much as it is physical. There is also the matter of heart. Boxing can be tough for any fighter. Heart and determination cannot be taught to anyone. A decent heart can overcome a lack in skill. Many fighters have proved that.
Rocky Marciano was a lousy boxer, yet retired as undefeated heavyweight champion. He was clumsy and missed more shots than he ever landed. He could not be stopped. Gene Fulmer was another top fighter with limited skills. He had the silliest jab in the game, sort of a punch that looped up and over the top. Guts won out in his success. Some boxers have made very decent money on heart alone. Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti come to mind. Micky Ward, especially, would never have gotten anywhere without his heart and many fans would rather see Arturo Gatti, all guts, lose a fight than watch a great champion win one.
Occasionally heart and skill come together. Consider Muhammad Ali. Even when hurt, a jaw broken, or knocked down, he never showed any sign of injury and never gave up. Then there was the king of them all, Sugar Ray Robinson. No boxer in history had more heart or more skill.
Brito appears to have that special ingredient, that inner confidence held by a special few. He walks through the few punches he absorbs in the gym, never flinches, never complains. Smack him a good one and he will instantly retaliate, usually with something harder. He is not given to single punches and generally throws everything in combinations. Such practice now will pay big in the pro ranks. Habits need to be learned early so they stick. Too many fighters today think one punch is the answer. They want to be KO punchers and believe that hard, single shots are the way to go. Speed often puts a man down, not power, and the speed is cleverly camouflaged with combinations.
Experiments are few in boxing. Brito is an experiment, a throwback experiment. His father is a boxing coach and started training his son. The boy was entered into several amateur matches. He was not happy. He wanted real fights, fights where mixing it up and hard punches counted. There can be trouble fighting in the amateurs and fighting there has ruined many prospects. The boxers rely on “scoring” punches, not hard ones. Young boxers learn to slip in, toss a few often harmless shots that score, then jump out again. When some of them turn pro they may be fast, but they may put a crowd to sleep within a few rounds. What they have learned in the amateurs is difficult to overcome. The exceptions are Russian fighters. They have always remained tough and amateur fighting does not taint them for the pros. Many boxers also stay too long in the amateurs. They are already shot by time the reach the pros.
When Brito decided he did not like the amateurs, he and his father decided to do something different, an interesting experiment. His father kept him in the gym. All of Brito’s fighting was done as a sparring partner with professionals. He first faced new pros with limited experience and, as his skills improved, he moved up to more seasoned boxers. His skills have increased to the point that he is now the sparring partner for a former world champion. His team will soon know if this experiment has been successful.
The problem is finding fights. With so few shows, and so many boxers, getting on a card is difficult. His manager, and new trainer, Jose Benavdez, has sent out feelers. Brito is ready, his bags packed. All the team needs is a call, and he’ll come running.