The "Habanero Kid," Luis Gallegos, Wins First Victory
By Richard E. Baker on May 10, 2021
You look him directly in the eyes. He looks confident, too confident. (Photo: Richard E. Baker)
He stands looking at the crowd. Their eyes demand action. A woman clutches her purse. The man with her grins. You turn around. The hand wraps feel good, just enough padding and tension. You are here to establish your dominance and to protect your territory which tonight is the squared ring of the Big Punch Boxing Arena. The ring belongs to you. You will not relinquish the ring, not yet, not until you get older and too weak to dominate the younger opponents that are always waiting.
You feel the aggression building as if pushing up from the center of the earth and erupting through the spout of a volcano. Your autonomic nervous system, one part at a time, starts to gear up for action. You feel your body begin to change. Your sympathetic system begging to rumble, to prepare for action, to make you want to advance, to step forward, to get started. Your parasympathetic system reminds you to hold back, to conserve your strength, that this fight might be a long one and you need to guard your strength. One system says go for it, knock him out. The other system says to go easy, be smart, don’t blow all your strength too quickly. Your body attempts to balance the two systems. For a moment you feel uncomfortable and tingly.
You see your opponent, Jorge deLara a 28-year-old veteran with 13 professional fights. He looks bigger than you thought, bigger and tougher. You are not used to fighting men. Your autonomic system starts to dominate, to overcome any of your doubts. Adrenalin crowds into your blood. Your heart beats faster and your blood pressure rises causing you to clench your fists tightly as the blood moves from your skin and viscera and fights its way into the muscles and brain. They need all the blood they can to handle the job at hand, to take out your opponent.
Your hair stands on end so the scalp can cool more readily and you stop salivating. Red corpuscles increase and your blood coagulates more quickly. Your bowels and bladder do not empty as quickly as usual. Good thing. You do not need the embarrassment of an accident.
Blood is filled with sugar from carbohydrate pumped from the liver, where the sugar increases muscular efficiency. You begin sweating and breathing increases. Any fatigue vanishes. Increased blood to the brain quickens your thoughts. Your blood prepares to clot more quickly in case you catch a big one or encounter a head butt. The spleen now steps in and increases red blood cells and helps the respiratory system expel carbon dioxide and replace the gasses with oxygen. You are now ready to go, to do battle, to attack your opponent and tear him apart. You look him directly in the eyes. He looks confident, too confident. He knows he is facing an inexperienced kid.
You have sparred hundreds of times over the years. This is different. DeLara wants to damage you, to knock you out, to cut you up and leave you bleeding on the canvas. Suddenly you are hit with fight or flight, the animal instincts of survival. A hint of fear invades your body and you see in your opponent’s eyes his determination and aggression. You had not thought of this danger before, the fact that you might be injured. You suppress any fear you might possess, any indication that you doubt about the outcome of the fight. You swell your chest, smack your gloves together, pace slightly and glair at your opponent, attempt to stare him down, to put the fear in him and cause him doubts and to show that you are fully confident and want to tear him apart. Visual threat and counter threat follow as your countenances battle one another.
Your body leans toward battle, then caution, then battle, then caution. Everything is in conflict. The bell. You lunge ahead. The caution is pushed aside. The decision has been made and now everything flows toward destruction.
The Habanero Kid, Louis Gallegos, is just 16 years old. He is in Tijuana, Mexico for his pro debut fight. He cannot fight in the U.S. because of his age. He is ready to fight now. He paid no attention to the signals his body sent. The body changes make no difference to him. DeLara stands before him and has never been down, a tall order for a kid’s debut fight, a kid with no amateur experience.
Gallegos is nervous. It shows. He is under the lights, the first time without headgear, the first time with an audience, the first time on Mexican TV. A beautiful television personality waits in the shadows to interview the winner, an added bonus for victory.
Tijuana holds three fights a week with 15 bouts on every card. That makes 30 boxers every night, 90 boxers a week, 180 trainers and cornermen. Mexicans take their boxing seriously. Some of the fights are staged by Ray Frye Boxing, a businessman from Auburn, Washington, who has recently taken his 30 years of boxing experience promoting fights and managing fighters and turned that knowledge into a full time business. He is staging shows in Tijuana and Puerto Vallarta and is carefully building a stable of potential contenders ready to compete with the best. He has just inked a 9- fight television deal on Mexican television.
Frye could buy established fighters but he prefers to build them from scratch. Gallegos is one of his newest prospects. Frye sees in this young boy an inner strength that cannot be taught. Fry never matches his fighters with tomato cans and stumblebums. He matches his fighters carefully choosing tough opponents who can teach his boxers. DeLara is a tough professional, a tough man for a debut fighter to face. With a record of 2-11 he has never been down. His losses have been against winning opponents. Frye knows that deLara will be on his best game. His pride will not let him get beaten by a kid with no experience.
Frye and trainer Jaime Moore expect a close fight. They have every confidence in Gallegos. Most managers will chose a canvasback opponent for a pro debut. They feel the easy victory give their new fighter confidence as they start their careers. The victories are hollow ones. No rational boxer can take pride in such a win. Beating a real opponent instills pride and confidence in a new boxer, a win of which he can be proud.
The bell sounds and Gallegos moves ahead. He is always the aggressor. His punches are tentative, slower than usual. Nerves, just nerves. DeLara’s confidence grows. He is used to losing. He sees an opportunity for victory. He catches Gallegos with a clean shot—a big mistake. The inner fortitude of Gallegos kicks in and he moves DeLara against the ropes and into a corner. He fires single shots, not enough combinations, and lets deLara escape. He has many emerging skills that will need to be developed over the years. He will not make these mistakes again.
By round 2 the tentativeness of Gallegos starts to dissipate. He is fighting more like himself. He moves ahead with confidence. DeLara moves backwards, the only place he has to go. He fires back. Frye does not like 4-round fights. Any mistake, like a flash knockdown, is too difficult to overcome in such a short amount of time. The commission would not approve of anything longer because of Gallegos’ inexperience. He did not need the extra rounds. In his first tough pro fight Gallegos earned his first victory, a unanimous victory over a seasoned professional, a win of which he can be proud.