One Chocolate Malt, Please

By Richard E. Baker on February 4, 2021

Many boxers look great in the gym, but fight terribly in a bout. (Photo: Richard E. Baker)

This is the second article on boxer Gessuri Brito, the “Jalapeno Popper.” I thought fans might enjoy following a new professional boxer in his career, from diet, to training, to pro debut, to prospect, to contender, to champion. If things go terribly wrong, as often happens, that would also be interesting. Not every endeavor works out for the best. Thousands of boxing hopefuls fall and that would also be interesting. Devoting oneself to a business only to end up bankrupt makes a great story.

 

I found Brito at the Benavidez Boxing Gym near Seattle, an 18-year-young man with little amateur experience who had just graduated from high school. He is the sparring partner of former world champion Moises Flores and is still looking for his first pro fight.  

 

There was talk of a fight in Mexico. So far that has not materialized. In the time of covid fights are difficult to find. There is the possibility of turning pro on a small card in Great Falls, Montana, an ideal spot, quiet, remote, a chance to shake off the bugs and pressures of a debut. That might still be a possibility. If so, the fight will be toward the end of February.

 

Moises Flores has returned to Mexico to finish training for an upcoming fight on February 26 in Cancun, Mexico. Brito has remained in Washington. With the Benavidez team (David Benavidez, Abraham Martinez, and Jose Valenzuela) training in Big Bear, California, for future fights the gym here feels fairly empty. A tall blonde woman, punching the heavy bag, was preparing to turn pro. I gave her a picture I had taken the previous week. She did not like the picture. Her hair was not combed just right and she wore no make-up. Anyone concerned about her looks will not figure for much of a professional. I reminded her that after a year in the pro ranks her nose would be wider than her face. The remark surprised her. Reality is cruel but necessary in many walks of life. I am interested in following her progress or if the remark has gotten her to rethink her future. Walking around with your nose in a sling is not a pretty sight.

 

Brito has been training with Javier Valerio, a conscientious and skilled trainer and the rock of the gym, especially when Jose Benavidez and Poncho are away with other fighters. A key to boxing success is recognition, something difficult to materialize in a new fighter. A decent boxer who is not seen will not go far. Winning local fights is a start. Winning local fights does not carry outside a local area. Getting on the undercard of a big fight is better. A few people from across the country might see you when they can finally attend to events. Getting your fight televised on the undercard of a big fight works very well. That happening is often sheer luck. Sometimes sparring with a noted fighter who agrees to get you on the undercard of one of his fights works well. There is also getting recognized by accident.

 

Boxing manager Ray Frye visited the Benavidez Gym to view a promising prospect who was sparring with Brito. He was more impressed with Brito than he was with the prospect. He mentioned Brito to his trainer, Sonny, in Arizona. Sonny knows the trainer for “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. Gonzalez was not happy with his sparring partner. Sonny sent WBA and WBC super flyweight champion and pound-for-pound top boxer Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzales (50-2-0) some training footage of Brito when he was sparring with Moises Flores. Brito was giving Flores all he could handle. The sparring impressed Gonzales. He invited Brito to camp for the weekend to spar. Brito was just the ticket: someone more aggressive and more active than the boxers he was using. The two clicked and Brito is now Gonzalez’s newest sparring partner. Not a bad bit of luck for an 18-year-old who has yet to have his first professional fight.

 

The training camp with Gonzalez is brutal. “Sparring with ‘Chocolatito’ is intense,” said Brito. “We spar 4-minute rounds with just 15-second rests. It’s no wonder he is such a great champion.”

 

The unanswered question is—can Brito really fight?

 

His trainer Javier Valerio never gets excited about fighters. He has seen fighters come and go, both good and bad. “Brito is very good in the gym,” he said. “He fights everyone. We will not know anything until he has had his first professional bout. Then we will know something.”

 

In my 50 years in boxing many managers and trainers have come to me saying they have the next world champion. Their job is to be enthusiastic. The job usually clouds their objectivity. The number of times I have been invited to a fight to watch their hopefuls, only to see them knocked out, is endless. An objective eye is essential to pick a winner. Anytime I go to a fight I pick the boxer I hope will win (my sentimental favorite) and the boxer I think logically will win. They are seldom the same boxer.

 

Many boxers look great in the gym, but fight terribly in a bout. Other boxers, like Greg Haugen, look terrible in the gym, but fight like mad dogs in the ring.  

 

Brito was surprised to discover that Gonzalez is not a power puncher. “His punches are not hard. Flores hits harder. Gonzalez puts opponents away by the number of his punches. Sometimes it felt that he hit me 100 times a second. It makes it very difficult to think like being in a vicious hailstorm. You want to go down just to catch your breath.”  

 

So, how will Brito fight in his first pro bout? As long as he does not eat too much chocolate, we should know within the next month.