By Ryan Maquiñana
Middleweight prospect Paul Mendez will headline this Saturday’s Solo Boxeo Tecate card in a 10-rounder against rugged veteran Lester Gonzalez at the Storm House in Salinas, Calif. TeleFutura will handle the broadcast.
Mendez (10-2-1, 4 KOs), a 23-year-old from Delano, Calif., who has been training in Salinas at the Garcia Boxing Gym since June, is riding a five-bout unbeaten streak. In his last outing, which also aired on TeleFutura, an improved “El Gallo Negro” stopped fellow prospect DonYil Livingston in the seventh round.
“Beating Livingston was a good win, and I have to credit working with the Garcias,” Mendez told BoxingScene.com/CSNBayArea.com. “I’m stronger, faster, and smarter in the ring. Lester’s a tough fighter and I know I have to beat him to keep my momentum going, so I have to make the most of this opportunity on TeleFutura.”
Gonzalez (12-7-4, 6 KOs), a San Diego southpaw via Havana, Cuba, is best known for posting the first blemishes on the ledgers of up-and-comers Bastie Samir (split draw) and Omar Henry (technical draw after accidental headbutt). Having taken top prospects like Brandon Gonzales and Matt Korobov the distance, Gonzalez’s last six foes have a combined record of 78-2-2. Many observers, including this writer, felt Gonzalez did enough to beat Samir.
Mendez will be fighting with a heavy heart on Saturday. His trainer as an amateur, Michael Dallas Sr. of the Bakersfield PAL, passed away last month due to cancer. Meanwhile, Mendez has been making trips to Stanford University Hospital to visit Sy Sherman, a 10-year-boy from Salinas who is battling the same disease.
“It’s been tough, definitely,” said Mendez, who will also appear on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area's afternoon talkshow Chronicle Live on Thursday at 5 p.m. PT. “Mike Dallas Sr. was a mentor to me, both in and out of the ring, and his son Mike Jr. is a good friend of mine. I know that whenever I fight, I’m part of [Mike Sr.'s] legacy and I won’t let him down.
“As for Sy, they said he only had a couple days to live, but that was a few weeks ago and he’s still here. He’s such a fighter. He just inspires us all to never give up, and we’re dedicating this fight to him.
In the six-round televised co-feature, undefeated junior welterweight Jonathan Garcia takes on Rodolfo Armenta.
Garcia (9-0, 7 KOs) has begun to make a name for himself around Northern California boxing circles for his offensive prowess. The native of nearby Watsonville, Calif., strings his punches together well and is an excellent finisher, as evidenced by his first-round knockout of Pedro Arcos in August. Garcia rose from the canvas twice to deck Arcos three times and deliver a thrilling come-from-behind victory.
Armenta (12-8-1, 9 KOs), from Los Mochis, Mex., is 2-3 in his last five, but all three losses came to fighters with a combined record of 48-0. One of those defeats in May was an exciting slugfest where he went all 10 rounds with then 13-0 Mark Salser on TeleFutura. Armenta got back in the win column last month with a unanimous decision over Wilbert Ortiz.
The undercard features the return of former welterweight contender Jose Celaya (31-6, 16 KOs), who last fought three years ago and seemingly ended his career with three straight losses—one of which came at the hands of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. by eighth-round stoppage.
But Celaya has decided to make a comeback, and in a Central California matchup, the former regional beltholder from Salinas will meet Fresno’s Loren Myers (8-17-1, 2 KOs) in a four-rounder.
Also on the card, a potential fight of the night might be brewing between Northern California-based junior welterweights Jonathan Chicas (8-0, 4 KOs) and Moris Rodriguez (3-1, 2 KOs). Chicas, the brightest prospect to come out of San Francisco since current 140-pound contender Karim Mayfield, hopes to finish the year a perfect 5-0.
The versatile boxer-puncher will have his hands full with Rodriguez, a Chico native who scored a NorCal Knockout of the Year candidate of Bret De La Torre in May, is coming off a close decision loss to Keandre Gibson that some ringside spectators felt should have gone the other way.
Welterweight Preston Freeman (2-0, 1 KO), a St. Louis product who also trains at Garcia Boxing in Salinas, faces pro debutant Vicente Guzman of nearby Tulare. Freeman scored a savage first-round knockout of Eduardo Hernandez two weeks ago; Guzman was a successful amateur at 141 pounds, having advanced to the Northern California Golden Gloves finals in the past.
Rounding out the card is Watsonville welterweight Oscar Godoy against Javier Gomez of Tijuana, Mex. Godoy (8-2, 3 KOs) passed arguably the biggest test of his fledgling career thus far in August, taking a points victory over decorated amateur Richard Hargraves. Gomez (13-9, 9 KOs) has displayed heavy hands but holds just three triumphs over fighters with winning records, and his last outing in October ended by first-round knockout loss to unbeaten Jose Zepeda.
Golden Boy will promote the card in association with Don Chargin, Paco Presents, and Jorge Marron. Tickets, priced at $25, $45, and $65, are available online at pacopresentsboxing.com or by calling (831) 757-5658 or (831) 754-1452.
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a weekly column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at [email protected], check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.