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Sixteen Pounds of Punches

By Richard E. Baker on March 29, 2021

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Competence, not health, was the main concern in those days. (Photo: Richard E. Baker)

The decision for a young boxer to go pro is partially made for boxers in the United States. The law does not say how old he can be but how young he cannot be. He cannot be under 18 years old. There are some exceptions, like Jose Benavidez Jr. who petitioned the boxing commission and was allowed to turn pro at 17. If a boxer wants to turn pro earlier he must fight in another country.


Many countries have no age restrictions. Welshman Nipper Pat Daly turned pro at the age of 10 and retired at the age of 17. He was ranked No. 10 in the world and had 119 fights with 99 wins. That was Britain in the ’20s. Competence, not health, was the main concern in those days. Safety was no concern of the government and every man made his own decision, personal or monetary.


There have been many recent young boxers and champions. The Japanese Tanaka was a world champion at age 18; Saul Alvarez turned pro at 15 and was champion at 21; Salvador Sanchez went pro at 16 and became champion at 21; Felix Trinidad went pro at 17 and was champion at 20; and Wilfred Benitez turned pro at 15, became world champion at 17, and was a 3-time world champion at 23.


So, along comes the “Habanero Kid” Luis Gallegos, a 16-year-old spicy pepper ready to turn pro. He is part of a new trend of boxers who have decided not to fight as amateurs because they feel the amateur ranks often ruin promising pros and imbeds bad habits not conducive to the pro ranks. This new line of thought includes such top boxers as David Benavidez and Jose Benavidez Jr. Like them, Gallegos has learned to box by sparring with professionals in the gym. As they advance they spar with better opponents. If they continue to advance they may spar with top contenders or even world champions. They learn no bad amateur habits like rapid but mostly meaningless soft head shots and few body shots. One of the first things a pro learns is the correct way to throw body shots and anything they throw to the head is thrown with power.


Until he turns 18, Gallegos will have his pro fights in Mexico where kids are born wearing boxing gloves rather than booties, groin protectors instead of diapers. These fights will get him used to the ring and to the limelight. There is an abundance of qualified opponents in Mexico waiting to earn a few bucks and to advance their careers.


I enjoy writing about fighters like Gallegos, fighters unknown to the world and who have real potential. Such boxers are often of Mexican descent and have little financial means for support. Boxers supported by Bob Arum, Mayweather Jr., Oscar De La Hoya, etc. are going straight up. They have all the benefits of the wealthy boxing world not unlike the educational benefits of kids from wealthy families. They will be a success like the pampered boxers will be a success. Big promoters put no money into failures. Like all the young people who are denied a chance at university, so there are many qualified boxers who may never get a shot at the big time, or even a decent paycheck.


My job is to bring these boxers to the attention of the boxing world. They can use a bit of publicity and recognition. Who needs another story about GGG, or any other name boxer? The trick is not to fill up paper with any boxer but to choose boxers with real skill and potential, ones who have a chance to make the big time, to at least become true prospects, contenders, and possibly even champions.


Every trainer and manager thinks he has the next great boxer—that is their job. They lack objectivity. There are few objective boxing people in the world, especially in the Northwest. There are also few boxers with any big-time potential in the Northwest. Not since the days of Greg Haugen, Johnny Bumphus, Sugar Ray Seales, Ray Lampkin, Al Hostak, Leo Randolph, and Rocky Lockridge have there been any contenders. I have seen trainers and managers crimson with outrage because their boxers received an unfair decision, even though their fighter was thoroughly beaten into the ground. To build a fighter, objectivity must be maintained and one must not be caught in smoky dreams.


One of the last boxers from the Northwest I thought might make a small splash was cruiserweight Patrick Ferguson. He had guts, determination, hit hard, and had stamina. He was on the rise. But, he peaked early, and seemed to lose interest. I could have been disillusioned, continued to tout his qualities, think he got robbed, and attempt to push him forward on paper. Glowing write-ups do not make glowing fighters. To do that I would have lost my objectively. Ferguson can still earn some money, beat a few carefully picked opponents, but he will never rise above a decent club fighter.


The first boxer I chose to become a future champion was Ricky Hatton. I watched him in the gym in Manchester, England. He had had only 4 fights and did not look all that good sparring. Something inside him stood out, something that cannot be described, something that all great boxers have. I started writing articles about him.


I have recently been touting 112-pounder Gessuri Brito, the Jalapeño Popper, and have been writing a series on his progress to show people the effort a boxer takes to become a successful professional. Another prospect is the “Habanero Kid” Luis Gallegos. He is a sight to see. Like most boxers he is a very nice young man, polite and serious. To pick a decent boxer you must have the ability to feel what is inside of him, that something special that drives them ahead. Gallegos never complains, he hits hard, and when he gets hit a fire blazes inside of him. At the moment he is conservative with punches and needs to move his head more. That will change. Seldom does he spar that he does not put his opponent down. He recently sparred with a young professional with a number of wins. The opponent was doing well until he caught Gallegos with a nice right. One could feel Gallegos tense up, grit his teeth as he came forward and put his man down. Everything about the opponent changed and he cringed every time Gallegos moved toward him. Before the sparring was over the Habanero Kid had knocked him to the canvas a second time. The unknown inside quality put down the opponent, not the outside skill.


Last week a 15-year-old stepped into the ring. Wow! I will watch him for a month and keep an open mind. He may end up on the list of decent boxers who should rise in the ranks. Who knows? The trick is to see what is really there and not what you think you see. Leave the dreaming for when you sleep.

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