Arizona Boxing News & Notes With Don Smith: Beltran: Contender And Good Guy,Vargas,Barrera in Phoenix

Boxing Fans,

Lightweight Boxer Raymundo Beltran is a familiar name and face to the Phoenix boxing community. He has trained for several winning fights in Arizona and his proud parents live in Phoenix while the former Manny Pacquiao sparring partner resides in Los Angeles with his wife and 3 children. Raymundo is a fan favorite in the “Valley of the Sun” so when he visits Phoenix, reporters approach the affable pugilist knowing they can expect their Q & A session to be interrupted by fans and well wishers. For the record, Raymundo is very accessible to the media and journalists.

Beltran is a hot commodity these days after decisively defeating Alejandro Rodriguez and Ji-Hoon Kim in his last two action packed fights which were televised and the two upset victories upped his record to 28-6 with 17 knockouts and the “journeyman” tag no longer exists. Contender Beltran is ranked as high as #7 in the rankings and the soon to be 32 year old (July B-Day) is hoping for a world title shot this year. Beltran, aka “Sugar Ray” is willing to face any of the reigning lightweight champions, it doesn’t matter who or where; only when? Ray is impatient with the decision making process in boxing and he doesn’t pull punches when he suggests that politics carry too much weight in boxing. Behind the wide and warm smile is a man of conviction.

He told me the new and improved Beltran is the product of a better work ethic and a conversation he had with himself. After the in-depth talk, he decided to focus on what really mattered, family and winning. As a result of his better conditioning and personal growth, he shocked the boxing world when he won a majority decision(96-94-96-94-95-95) over Henry Lundy on July 27, 2012, 4 days after his 31st birthday. From that day on, he believed he could win a world title. The Lundy win came after Beltran lost a controversial unanimous decision to Luis Ramos Jr. in January of 2012. I was one of several boxing writers who gave the nod to Beltran. It was a late Christmas gift for Ramos who seemed to blush after his hand was raised. Beltran didn’t complain.

Beltran the man is working on a special project worth mentioning. He is spearheading a June 15 fundraiser in Phoenix to help Strong Enough Boxing Club head coach and mentor Andrew Mendez Sr. who is saddled with CLL (Chronic Lymphatic Leukemia) commonly referred to as blood cancer. The long list of symptoms attributed to this life threatening disease include: fatigue,nausea, shortness of breath, fever, swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, pain, loss of appetite and spleen enlargement. Ouch!

The recommended treatment for Leukemia is Stem Cell Transplant or Chemotherapy. Andrew’s prognosis is particularly worrisome because the disease wasn’t detected until 4 years after it invaded his blood stream. After numerous mind blowing and body wrecking sessions of Chemotherapy,the antidote to his cancer is still an elusive mystery, but his faith and love for his family keeps him from taking a knee. His courage throughout his battle with cancer has earned Raymundo’s respect and admiration. According to Raymundo, Andrew never complains about his condition and the father of four doesn’t sit around and feel sorry for himself even though there are days that seem longer than others. Raymundo calls him a hero.

The two men became friends after Raymundo volunteered to work with Andrew at the Strong Enough Boxing Club in Chandler. There is no admission to join the club and the only criteria to stay a member includes tidying up the backyard facility and be respectful to others. Strong Enough has produced some excellent boxers and Andrew laughs when his
boxing club is wrongfully referred to as “just another backyard boxing facility”. Strong Enough has produced champions.

Despite his weakening physical condition , Andrew continues to work for the City of Chandler and minister to neighborhood kids who face a myriad of deep and personal issues Including parental neglect, truancy, mental and physical abuse and peer pressure to join gangs and commit crimes against society. Cookie and Andrew started their volunteer intervention program more than 20 years ago. 2 1/2 ago, the 53 year old Andrew and his family opened the Strong Enough Boxing Club in Chandler. They did so to provide a place for kids to work out their frustrations. The facility has proved to be a quite a catalyst for change.

The modest couple thank God for motivating them and giving them the strength and wisdom to help those who need a helping hand. Here are two glowing examples of success, thanks to the efforts of the Menddez family and their non-
profit 501 c3 organization which includes contributions from the Mendez children , Anthony,Daniel, Andrew Jr. and Reyna their bright and ambitious daughter.

Upon hearing that two brothers were abandoned by their father after their mother was killed in a car accident; Andrew and Cookie Mendez gave the boys a big hug and let them know, they weren’t alone. One of the boys is preparing to be a fire fighter and both brothers will graduate from high school. Andrew thinks the light switch went on for the boys after they joined the family boxing club (Strong Enough) and incorporated discipline and positive thinking into their lives.

Jack Sanchez is another young man who wandered into the Strong Enough Boxing Club at a time he was running out of options. Jack had no interest in school, lacked motivation, self confidence and was a bit reclusive. He overcame a bushel
basket full of self doubts and inhibitions when he set goals including finishing high school and becoming game fully
employed. Today, Jack is a solid citizen and in his spare time, volunteers time at the boxing club. Quite a turnaround.

Beltran and Publicist Emily Pandelakis put their heads together recently and decided to throw a fundraiser for the Mendez
family. It was a moral imperative and the two planners didn’t consult Cookie and Andrew; however they’re invited to the event which will be held on Saturday, June 15 inside the Fellowship Center-Building B at Central Avenue and Bethany Home in Phoenix, Arizona. The exact address is is 5757 North Central Avenue. The show commences at 10 a.m and shuts down at 3 p.m.

The fundraiser has 3 components: a silent auction featuring sports memorabilia including signed boxing gloves , a raffle and
Raymundo Beltran will be on hand to sign autographs. A donation for his John Hancock is suggested. Also fans and well
wishers can drop off a donation to one of the volunteer attendants. So far, the donated auction items include: Glove and Headgear signed by NABF Champion Raymundo Beltran, Glove signed by Manny Pacquiao, Saul “Canelo”Alvarez signed Glove, Glove signed by Antonio Barrera, Fernando Vargas and other exquisite pieces.

Since the Mendez Fundraiser is part of a huge memorabilia and card show, patrons are charged a $1.00 admission at the door which allows entrants to take part in whole program which includes the right to purchase autographs from Hall of Fame Pitcher Bob Gibson, Dallas Cowboy Great Bill Bates and Arizona Cardinal Tight End Ron Housler.

Hopefully the event will raise a huge cache of money for a good cause. Call 602-540-5075 for more information. Fans, unable to attend, can call 602-540-5075 and place a bid on auction items during the hours of the auction 10 a.m.-2:45 p.m. on June 15. Please know auction rules before placing bid. Good Luck.

Barrera & Vargas: Food City Grocery and Tecate Beer have joined forces to bring Former boxing champs Marco ” Baby Faced Assassin” Barrera and Fernando”El Feroz” Vargas to the Food City Store located at 9020 W. Thomas Road in Phoenix on June 7, 2013 fro a meet and greet event commencing at 6 p.m. and concluding at 9 p.m. Both fighters will be signing autographs and admission and parking is free.

Super Bantamweight Barrera ranks #43 on ESPN’s 50 Greatest Boxers of all time. The “Assassin” never backed down from anyone and his star studded list of legendary foes include Juan Marquez, Johnny Tapia, Manny Pacquiao and Erik Morales. The 39 year old Mexican pugilist, winner of several world titles in 3 different weight classes, fought last year and told Boxing Scene .Com in March of this year, he will continue his illustrious ring career. So far,his professional resume includes 67 wins, 7 losses and 1 draw with 44 knockouts. . It is a career that every young fighter can only dream of having. Kudos to Antonio.

Vargas last fought in 2007 and despite rumors of a planned comeback, most astute ring observers think the former “Aztec Warrior” will never enter the ring again as a serious pugilist. 6 years is a long time to be away from such a competitive and physical sport. Vargas is a two time world champion, who won a bronze medal as an amateur in the 1991 Pan American Games in Mar del Plata. The colorful light middleweight compiled a ring record of 26 wins-5 losses including 22 wins via knockout. If you go, arrive early and good luck. Please don’t challenge either guy after chugging a few glasses or bottles of Tecate.

Free Speech: Arizona Boxing Coach Juan Martin Valera received some flak over his direct OP-ED remarks,distributed recently through social media venues, reflecting his view of the current status of Arizona Boxing and the over use of the term “prospect” in describing the state’s new crop of young Turks. In his piece, Juan challenged the alleged “prospects” to stop fighting tomato cans (my interpretation) and take on ring worthy opponents with comparable records and skills. I defend his right of free speech and anyone who wants to silence his voice is wrong headed. Open dialogue is always healthy.

Boxing Jolts: 123 lb Phoenix amateur Edgar Brito has recovered from his hand injury that caused him to take a respite from boxing. Brito called and reported his recent comeback fight in Tucson ended in victory!…….California heavyweight amateur Sione Taya, from Tonga, fought two or three times in Phoenix in preparing for a potential professional career and then seemed to vanish into thin air. I talked to him twice and he seemed excited to accept the pro challenge,but, I suspect there are issues with his management. Too bad; the big fellow can punch……Someone mailed a picture to me depicting a boxing trophy that their teenager had allegedly won at the 2012 Arizona Golden Gloves Tournament last year (in
Phoenix) to illustrate a painful error that irked the parents of a winning participant. The winner’s name plate was blank.There was no name attached to the complaint, so my response to the victim is please contact USA Boxing Arizona and share your unfortunate experience. According to the letter, the parents asked Arizona Golden Glove officials to fix the problem, but it still remains, Good Luck….Locals Mario Esparza and Luis Oliveras are inked for fights in Arizona and California. Oliveras (3-0) , signed with Curtis Jackson aka 50 Cent, is scheduled for 4 rounds on June 14 in Santa Ynez at the Intimate Chumash Casino. Opponent to be determined…. Esparza (Fan Base Promotions) has been patiently waiting for his professional debut and he will get that chance on July 20 at the Celebrity Theatre on the Iron Boy 8 Card. In the meantime, the two fighters are sparring each other in preparation of their respective bouts. Luis is a few pounds heavier but Mario is feisty….Cruiserweight Eddie Martinez Jr. has recovered from a back injury that altered his boxing plans, therefore manager/ trainer Tom Garcia is hoping to squeeze his protege onto the Iron Boy 8 card. Nothing official,yet! Tickets for the show are on sale at the Celebrity Box Office or through Ticket Master…… Siam Fight Productions presents Jr. Muay Thai Grand Prix Finale on Saturday, June 8 at the Tempe Center For The Arts. For ticket info call 480-350-2829. Event is available on GFL Live PPV…16 year old Anthony Mendez,Strong Enough Boxing Club in Chandler, will participate in the Adidas Tournament, June18-22 in Oxnard California. The talented 119 lb amateur boxer finished 2nd in the tourney last year and vows to bring home 1st place trophy this year. Mendez hopes to continue his education and start a career in boxing….15 year Eben Vargas is following his recent JO tournament victory in Prescott with a trip to the Regional Tournament on June 8-9 in Wheatridge Colorado. A 1st place win automatically sends him to the Nationals, June 25-29 in Mobile, Alabama. Eben works out at the Strong Enough Boxing Club in Chandler under the watchful eye of head coach Andrew Mendez Sr. and his personal trainer and uncle, Otonio Vargas…. 2013 National Junior Golden Gloves Tournament is set for the Casa Blance Hotel and Resort in Mesquite, Nevada: July 17-21.Expect lots of action and fan noise. The Arizona State Junior Golden Gloves Tournament was tentatively scheduled for June in Mesa, Arizona, but one unidentified USA Arizona Boxing Official says the event isn’t confirmed. Stay tuned! Until Next Time!