By Ryan Maquiñana
For close to four years, Artemio Reyes Jr. has dealt with the daily anguish of seeing his “Pops” in a comatose state the way any father hopes his son would. The 25-year-old has embraced the dual challenge of taking care of his family while following his own personal dream of becoming a world champion.
“When he got in the car accident,” Reyes (15-1, 12 KOs) said, “I knew there was no other option except to do for him what he did for me growing up. I work at the (family) restaurant and picked up the slack because it’s my duty. I train as hard as I can in the gym because it’s my duty. I owe Pops for everything. He’s been fighting every day, so why not me?”
In the latest installment of ESPN2 Friday Night Fights, the welterweight prospect from Colton, Calif., approaches his rematch with Alan Sanchez (9-2-1, 3 KOs) the same as always, albeit with a heavier heart following his Artemio Sr.’s passing last week.
“It’s been tough, but my dad’s passing is behind us now,” Reyes Jr. told BoxingScene.com. “Tuesday was his burial. He’s still with us in our hearts though. I always fight for him and I know he would want me to fight on Friday.”
In our brief conversation, Reyes revisits his first meeting with Sanchez (a Southern California Fight of the Year candidate by all ringside accounts), the impact a second win would have on his career, and of course, how “Pops” will continue to factor in his life going forward.
BoxingScene.com: My condolences to you and your family, Artemio. I can only imagine what you’re going through right now.
Artemio Reyes: Thank you. It’s been tough, but my dad’s passing is behind us now. Tuesday was his burial. He’s still with us in our hearts though. I always fight for him and I know he would want me to fight on Friday.
BoxingScene.com: The last time we spoke, it surprised you to see people approach you at Costco and tell you how much they’ve been inspired by you and your story. I’m sure your father would be proud of the way you’ve handled everything.
Artemio Reyes: Oh yes, absolutely. It’s always great meeting the fans and knowing they’re behind us and what we’ve been going through the past couple years. I’m writing this new chapter of my life in a way, too, and no matter what happens, my father will always be with us.
BoxingScene.com: This Friday you’re facing Alan Sanchez in a 10-round rematch of your six-rounder in 2009 that was a hellacious war. Tell me how you pulled out the split decision win the first time around.
Artemio Reyes: It was a great fight, and I think David Avila of the Riverside Press-Enterprise called it the Six-Rounder of the Year. (Laughs) Eventually, I was able to get inside and fight at a high rate or high pace in excess of 100 punches a round. The key was staying active and making him go backwards to keep him from sitting on his punches and retaliating.
BoxingScene.com: Since then, you’ve won nine in a row, including an upset of 2008 Olympian Javier Molina on ShoBox that put you on the map. Now that the smoke has cleared, do you think he underestimated you?
Artemio Reyes: To an extent. He didn’t expect me to come forward the way I did. He’s a great counterpuncher when he’s able to stay on the outside. One key was being able to measure him out in the first round. Once he saw that I could take his firepower, I could see the discouragement in his face as the rounds wore on.
BoxingScene.com: Do you see any parallels with that fight and this one coming up knowing that the stakes are high on national TV yet again?
Artemio Reyes: Yes. Like the last fight, the first round will be key because you want to feel him out. It’s more of a tactical measure so I can see what he has in his arsenal. I know he moves laterally a lot, so I’m going to try to cut off the ring.
BoxingScene.com: The first fight was two years ago, and Sanchez attributed the loss to the fact he was only 18 or 19 and inexperienced. He’s won four straight since then and gone unbeaten in five overall. What do you think about his reasoning that he’s improved by leaps and bounds since then?
Artemio Reyes: So have I. I’ve won nine in a row. For one, I move my head a lot more than I did before. I’ve been working with a strength and conditioning coach, so my stamina has picked up. Also, I’m going to throw more combinations on the inside. In the last fight, will was what carried me through six rounds, but now, my conditioning is top notch, so I’m ready for 10.
BoxingScene.com: Sanchez’ team has stated your regional belt is not on the line. Is that true?
Artemio Reyes: No one told me anything about it being on the line, so maybe it’s just a regular fight.
BoxingScene.com: With everything that has occurred this week combined with the already existing importance of the fight, what would a win mean to you?
Artemio Reyes: It will put me on a national level more than the ShoBox fight when you think about it, since only a few people have Showtime. ESPN is shown in a lot more households, so a lot more people can see me fight and I can get my name out there again. Also, based on the first fight, the matchup’s great. We’re both blue-collar guys. We work hard inside the ring and out, and I think we’re going to steal the show on Friday.
Ryan Maquiñana writes a weekly column for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (CSNBayArea.com). He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and Ring Magazine’s Ratings Panel. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org , check out his blog at norcalboxing.net or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.