The fight of his life
By Richard E. Baker on August 1, 2020
He will never be an opponent unless he fights for a world title. (Photo: Richard E. Baker)
Jose “El Rayo” Valenzuela (5-0-0) sits for a moment and sips at the water bottle. The coolness from the bottle seeps through his wrapped hands. The biggest fight of his life is coming up on PBC Fox Sports August 8 in California. He will go against Teodoro Alonso (3-2-0). Every fight is the biggest fight of a serious boxer’s life, every fight a step forward or backward on what he hopes to be a successful career.
The main event is between Jamal James (26-1-0) and Thomas Dulorme (25-3-1) and will be televised. Valenzuela’s fight is the undercard of the undercard. The undercard fights are televised, and his fight and one other are not. Receiving any kind of recognition is difficult for a profession filled with so many stars. The galaxy is complemented with numerous sanctioning bodies who all claim champions until there is such a plethora of sweating bodies that they all blend into one globular light, not one distinguishable from another. Few fans can even name the sanctioning bodies much less their champions. The only thing known for sure is that one champion will seldom fight another champion so fans never know who the best boxer in a given weight division will seldom be known.
This does not concern Valenzuela. He is not political. He is a boxer, a man hoping to earn a living with his fists. He did his daily run in the morning, the same run he has done every day for the last month. Fortunately the air in Washington, even outside Seattle, is clear and clean and cool and easy to breath in where it excites the blood to boldness.
He hit the gym at one in the afternoon and has been stretching, working the heavy bag, shadow boxing. He must exercise around the film crew working this day on clips of David Benavidez (22-0-0) for his upcoming fight against Roamer Angulo (26-1-0) August 15 on Showtime. The filming crew slips past Valenzuela as if he is not there. They see no one except Benavidez and his trainer father Jose.
If all goes well, that attitude will change some day. Film crews will be visiting him and ignoring other new fighters. This does not seem to bother Valenzuela. He has an inner confidence that comes through his determined grin and intense eyes.
As an amateur he experienced some of that glory by winning the Washington State Golden Gloves and the Ringside World Championship.
Life returns to normal as the film crew leaves drawing the stale air behind them. Valenzuela jumps into the ring and continues to shadow box. He tears after an invisible opponent jabbing his way in followed by hooks and an uppercut. The sweat returns. He spins like a dancer then spins again, ducks, springs up, follows with a hook. His face remains confident. He is in there to win, not to be an opponent. He will never be an opponent unless he fights for a world title. There is no other reason to fight. To box is to win. Every fight is the fight of his life. Every fight brings him closer to the spotlight. There is no such thing as a small fight, not for a man determined to reach the top, the roar of the crowd, the ring lights representing his world.