Joe Rein Writings


Anchondo Comes of Age

Aside from his faithful in La Puente and gym rats and smart boxers and trainers in Los Angeles, "Mighty" Mike Anchondo (23-0) is not a household name.

But like a comedy stand-up that's worked the lounges in obscurity until he's ready for his shot on the Leno show, this 21-year-old made the most of his opportunity last night at Oscar De La Hoya's "Boxeo De Oro" at the Grand Olympic Auditorium, thoroughly beating, outclassing, out speeding and outthinking the former WBC Super Feather, IBU Lightweight, and IBA Super Feather Champion, Gregorio "Goyo" Vargas of Mexico (47-3-1)

The old saying: 'Youth is wasted on the young.' did not hold true for Anchondo. He was awash in the elixir. All of his tools and reflexes were razor sharp and allowed him to do what he did as naturally as breathing.

Right from the opening bell, the stocky 130-pounder, with the head of a middleweight, came out to set the strategy, to make Vargas fight his fight. Like General Patton said, "No poor bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other bastards die for theirs."

So, Anchondo circled, moving right and left, never letting Vargas get set, alternately feinting to draw leads; and at first, just finding the range with jabs, but always much too far away from Vargas for him to do anything.

And like a stick shift leaving an automatic at the stoplight, Anchondo increased his lead every round.

Vargas marched forward, hands high-anxious-- but not panicked to close the distance-- to pin Anchondo against the ropes or in a corner. But not only did Anchondo avoid the traps, spinning off the ropes and out of infighting, he got in an out without retaliation, consistently, getting the best of trades with speedy, surgical combinations. They weren't feather dusters, but they didn't dissuade Vargas from continuing to look like the Terminator.

But Vargas was chastened enough by an Anchondo left uppercut in the fourth--that made him look like a drunk trying to hide the fact--that he tempered his attack, giving Anchondo even more room to operate.

It was deja vu all over again every round. Anchondo increased the frequency and intensity of his darting-in combinations and lead right hands; and Vargas, like a heat-seeking missile, was unswerving, but never lost his composure. He seemed to settle in to the mindset: I'm gonna take you into the deep water and drown you. You could almost hear the theme from "JAWS" under the Mariachi music blaring in the arena.

At the end of the fifth round, when Vargas backed up to gather himself after throwing a fusillade of punches, Anchondo came off the ropes like Ricardo Mayorga, snarling and gesturing, Bring it!

From my vantage point, I couldn't see the punch that was ruled a knockdown for Anchondo in the sixth. But from the look on Vargas's face as he raised himself off the canvas and he held the back of his head and winced, mouthing to the ref: "It was a rabbit punch!"; he was hoping it would be disallowed and Anchondo warned. But the knockdown counted. And Vargas went back to his corner with a look of frustration and a pronounced mouse on his right eye.

Like a bullfighter sensing the Moment-of-Truth, Anchondo waded into Vargas, throwing caution aside, in the seventh, driving him to the ropes with combinations meant to finish him, slipping what few returns Vargas could muster and renewing his attack even stronger.

Vargas just went into a shell, believing he was moving just enough to avoid the real impact of the blows and waiting his moment to fire back. Anchondo's blows looked like "ROCKY" sinking his punches into the side-of-beef. Vargas did try to flurry at the end of the round, and even thrust out his chest: Is that the best you got? as the bell sounded.

But most fighters suffer the same delusion when they cover up on the ropes, thinking they're deflecting shots, taking them on their arms, avoiding damage and getting a breather. They have no idea how much it's dwindled their reserves.

Vargas pulled out all the stops in the last three rounds, trying to pressure Anchondo into trading-his only hope. Vargas did land singular, thumping shots to the head and body, but Anchondo never lost his poise or his focus-and that's saying something-30 of Vargas's 47 wins have been KO's.

But, Vargas's attack was still one-dimensional, and the pattern remained the same. Vargas, though proud, was bruised and spent, and Anchondo was as fresh going into the tenth as he was at the opening bell.

Anchondo was booed in the last round for sitting on a lead, keeping as much distance between he and Vargas as possible, stopping only to jab and shoeshine to blunt Vargas's final assault, build up points, and run out the clock.

When the final bell rang, Anchondo leaped into the arms of his team, and Vargas just hung his head and went to his corner without expression-which said volumes.

The judges scored it for Anchondo: 100-89, 98-91, and 97-92. This reporter had it 100-89.

The fight was much like the first Louis-Conn go, except this time Louis never caught up with Conn. And Anchondo never succumbed to Conn's folly.

Anchondo is 5'5', and with short arms, but his overall ability, ring generalship and hand speed make you forget that, and levels out the playing field against anybody at his weight. Much like Toney's invasion of the heavyweights.

Two things are cause for concern for this work-in-progress--and his Top Gun reflexes have bailed him out so far: He's bolt upright-his head stationary-- when he exchanges and when he squares up fighting off the ropes.

Now, at the peak of his reflexes, he sees the punches coming. But one miscalculation could transform him into the next David Reid. But how do you get through to a young man, 23-0, who, with almost impunity, made a former three-time world champion look like a journeyman.

But, it's entirely possible; this kid is a very quick study. Just months ago, I interviewed him at the Wild Card Gym, and he said he spoke no Spanish. But in the post-fight interview in the ring with Mario Solis on HBO Latino, he responded in fluent Spanish to every question. Learning to move his head should be a breeze.

In the co-main event, lightweight ten-rounder, Adan Hernandez (13-1) of El Paso made his way to the ring looking like a rhinestone cowboy, complete with sequins and ten-gallon hat to face Urbano Antillon (11-0) of Maywood, C.A. Antillion was almost Spartan in his simple white robe and trunks.

The flashiest part of Hernandez's style was his entrance to the ring. He was deliberate, workmanlike and slower than Antillon, but his short, inside double left hooks rocked Antillon on several occasions. Once, Antillon all but tackled Hernandez, while he cleared his head.

Antillon began to find his rhythm in the middle rounds, landing sharp combinations and using more of the ring and being busy. Because there was so much space between them as Antillon circled, his punches were more articulated.

It was very hotly contested, with furious exchanges, and the most crowd-pleasing fight of the night. This reporter felt that Hernandez's bigger bombs should have had more weight than Antillon's quantity. But the judges were unanimous in their selection of Antillon, 97-93, 97-93, 98-92.

The opening bout was a ten-round featherweight match between Jorge Solis (21-0-2) of Guadalajara, MX, and Cristobal Cruz (25-5-1) from Chiapas, MX.

Solis was tall and drawn, looking much like Alexis Arguella; and his trunks, shiny orange and green with a brocaded gold beer ad on the seat, looked like crumpled Christmas wrapping paper. His opponent, Cruz, with his Indian features and spiked, black crew cut, was reminiscent of 50's welterweight contender, Gaspar "Indian" Ortega. But neither man fought as well as their famous look-alikes.

Cruz was an honest, earnest workman who tried to win on aggression and hours in the gym. Solis had natural boxing skills and maneuvered to try to draw leads, and was quick enough to counter Cruz's mistakes with inside uppercuts and multiple left hooks, His swings look harder than the power they seemed to carry, but he landed often enough and looked stylish enough to earn a unanimous nod.

The good-natured crowd was continually entertained by one audacious, blonde ring girl in a bikini a few sizes too small, who's motto must have been: If you've got it, flaunt it! She strutted in pumps and jumped up and down, and got more appreciation than the main-eventers. But they couldn't jiggle.

[back to top]