By Eric Butler: PNT Correspondent
Weather was naturally a concern as boxers from around the state gathered for the 61st annual New Mexico Golden Gloves championships on Friday.
But the fighters did come to Clovis, in numbers that will warrant title bouts in all 11 weight divisions on Sunday — not a usual occurrence in the recent history of the event.
Two local pugilists who were glad that mother nature didn’t interfere with the slate of events were Clovis’ Kevin Mah and Portales’ Gabino Armijo as both won opening-round clashes at Roy Walker Community Center.
For Mah, a victory over Suanito Hogue of Albuquerque was the first time that he had won a fight in his four years of competing at the state Golden Gloves.
After the 132-pound division win, Mah was naturally elated.
“I heard the guy was no joke. I heard he was a good fighter, so I went in there not underestimating him at all,” said Mah, 27, who works at Wal-Mart in Clovis. “I’ve trained hard — the hardest I ever had.”
In the other fight at 132 pounds, Paul Castillo knocked off Antonio Garcia in a decision. Mah will find out this morning if he will fight this evening, in another preliminary bout session that begins at 7:00 p.m., or if he will get a bye into Sunday’s 1:30 p.m. championship.
Armijo, meanwhile, earned a decision at 141 pounds over Isaac Bautista of Albuquerque. Last year, the Portales resident made his way to the finals of the 152-pound division where he fell to Las Vegas’ Arturo Crespin.
Crespin has since turned pro and Armijo, who trains in Clovis, has dropped to a lower weight division.
“I’ve just been training ever since the last Golden Gloves. I have not stopped; my last fight I was at 147,” said Armijo, who will have to fight this evening to get to Sunday’s championship round.
In his win over Bautista, Armijo attacked his opponent early and forced a standing eight-count in the first round. In the third round, Bautista was forced to one knee by an Armijo blow and that standing eight-count made the decision a relatively easy one for the judges.
Another Clovis fighter entered this year’s contests at a lower weight division, but Rico Urquizo found his first-round opponent a little too difficult on Friday.
At 165, Urquizo drew the defending state champ at that weight, Jesus Correa of Albuquerque, and lost a decision.
Urquizo’s best moments of the fight came when he was able to turn Correa into a corner. But the defending champ, who began every round with a flurry of punches, proved to be elusive for most of the blows that Urquizo tried to deliver.
“A helluva fighter,” said Urquizo of Correa. “He’s gonna be the champion again.”