It's been quite some time since I've anticipated a boxing match. As a kid, on many Tuesday nights, my father and I would set the TV to USA network's "Tuesday Night Fights" hosted by Sean O'Grady and another announcer. I caught a lot of fights during the 90s, from the likes of Oba Carr & Roy Jones Jr., who were two of my favorite fighters... also fights from Roberto Duran, Bernard Hopkins, Pernell Whitaker, Vinny Pazienza, Larry Holmes, Hector Camacho, Kevin Kelly and the list goes on and on. I was a big fan. Even took a few months during the fall to train at Nations Tobin gym with my pops for the workout. I still remember in 94' waking up early Saturday morning to go meet Oscar De La Hoya when he visited El Paso making a quick stop at Nations Tobin gym. I had figured the place would be packed, but when we got there, no more than 20 people were in line for autographs. A couple years later, when De La Hoya was in town, now with a few titles under his belt, fans surrounded him at full capacity. When I met De La Hoya in 94' he was real cool. Signed a couple magazines for me and a few photographs they had at the gym. Being a fan at the time, I didn't know what to say. My pops recently found the VHS recording of me at 13 years old, 8 am Saturday, crust still on my eye lids askin' the soon to be champ, "...so who you plan on fighting next?" He said, "I'd like to fight Jesse James Leiga... bring the fight here to the fans in Texas..."
This week I was told Antonio Escalante would be at the Carolina Rec. Center hosting a lunch time workout. I asked, "who?" My boss responded, "the champ, he's ranked no. 3 in the world." It's been quite some time since I've watched boxing. Having lost sight of where Tuesday Night Fights went, never having ordered those over priced, over hyped pay per view bouts, and with all my favorite boxers already taking L's and reaching the end of their careers... I wasn't as interested anymore.
I decided to visit the Carolina Rec. Center on Tuesday (July 21) to check out the third ranked fighter in the world who I also learned hails from El Paso's Coronado High School. When I got there it was real cool seeing all the young folks with their parents showing their appreciation for Escalante, as it reminded me of 15 years prior when I visited Nations Tobin gym to meet De La Hoya. Interestingly enough, De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions team is heading the upcoming Escalante boxing match. I got the chance to take several photos of Escalante along with many of the fathers and sons, mothers and daughters and scattered fans that stayed around after the lunch workout to request pictures/autographs with the pro who has 13 KO's attached to an impressive 20-2 record.
The fight will be televised on what is now titled "Friday Night Fights", ESPN2, July 24, live from the Don Haskins Center. After leaving the Carolina Rec., my anticipation for boxing came back, at least for the moment, with high hopes that Antonio Escalante is able to move forward to the world title. This time we supportin' one of El Paso's own. Much respect to El Campeon.