By David Finger
Although the oilfield may be in a slump in Southeast New Mexico, one thing that isn’t is the boxing scene. Hobbs, New Mexico will again show why it is emerging as one of the boxing capitals of New Mexico as undefeated Hobbs native Oscar Espinoza (1-0, 1 KO) takes on fellow Hobbs native Edgar Zubia (4-3-1, 2 KOs) in the six round main event. The fight, in the middleweight division, is as much of a class of styles as it is a class of stories. Espinoza, the green but gritty tough as nails brawler, against Zubia, the talented and flashy former amateur standout.
The fight looks like such a natural matchup that it is hard to believe that it is the result of an unexpected cancellation over the weekend.
When School of Hard Knocks hosted the first press conference on Saturday night for the much anticipated September 10th fight card, the main event looked to be between Espinoza and the fighter widely regarded as the most exciting fighter in Hobbs: Gerardo Quintana (5-1-1, 3 KOs). Quintana was coming into the fight off the heels of what was arguably the greatest fight in Hobbs boxing history on December 19th, a split decision win over Robbie Sanders. But a day after the press conference Quintana was forced to drop out of the card, leaving comebacking Edgar Zubia (who was slated to fight on the undercard) to step up into the main event. Zubia was widely regarded as one of the hottest prospect in New Mexico when he turned pro in 2010 but his professional career suffered a series of setbacks when he came up short against undefeated prospect Victor Castro in 2012 and prospect Jose Salinas in 2014. But it was what came after the loss to Salinas that seemed to end the career of the popular Zubia. A devastating car accident left Zubia with such severe injuries that many (including Zubia) were left not just wondering if he would ever fight again, but even if he would ever walk again. On top of his badly mangled leg Zubia also broke both his arms, seemingly ending the idea of renewing his professional career.
“I broke both my arms completely in half,” Zubia said during the press conference. “But slowly and surely I started getting better.”
The long, hard rehabilitation process also gave Zubia time to reevaluate what he wanted out of boxing, and led him to rededicate himself to the sport. Zubia, who by his own admission never fully dedicated himself to developing as a professional prizefighter, has comeback as a man on a mission. Determined to show his children than they too can overcome any obstacle life throws at them, Zubia is not content to just coast. He promises that he will not only tap into the vast reservoir of natural talent that he possesses, but that he will couple it with a fire that fans have not yet seen. He promises that he will show the world that the Edgar Zubia story in boxing is not over. Rather, it’s just beginning.
But first, he has to defeat the younger, bigger Oscar Espinoza.
Zubia’s career was a sharp contrast to the professional career of Espinoza, who literally exploded onto the scene on December 19th. Despite having no amateur background Espinoza scored a dominant win over fellow Hobbs native Kelly Westby in his professional debut. Rather than sit on his win he immediately called out Gerardo Quintana for the September fight, despite the fact that even his trainer encouraged him to hold off and get a little bit more seasoning under his belt. And although the Quintana fight fell through, and despite the fact that Zubia has a more extensive amateur background, Espinoza holds one big advantage over Zubia: size. For Edgar Zubia, this is not only his first fight in nearly two years, it will be his first fight outside of the junior welterweight division. Zubia’s highest weight prior to this was at 143.5 pounds. The Zubia-Espinoza fight is contracted at 157-pounds, a weight that clearly favors the younger man.
Rounding off the undercard are some of the most popular young fighters in the Southwest. Making his eagerly anticipated professional debut is Isidro Castillo Jr., son of promoter Isidro Castillo. Castillo has shown flashes of brilliance as an amateur and is widely expected to emerge as a top prospect in New Mexico as well. But despite being the son of the promoter, Castillo didn’t draw a particularly easy first fight. The younger Castillo will square off against El Paso’s Oscar De La Parra, who is coming into the fight with an undefeated record and a reputation for toughness.
“I feel confident,” Castillo said during the press conference. “Now my mind is clear and my body is clear.”
In an interesting regional matchup Amarillo’s Abel “Bobo” Navarrete Jr. (2-0) will take on fellow Texan Ernesto Hernandez (1-3, 1 KO) in a four round welterweight fight. Navarrete joked with the audience during the press conference, poking fun at the fact that as the out of town fighter he wasn’t the person most people were there to see. But he promised to change that on September 10th when he would make his second appearance in Hobbs.
“None of ya’ll know me but I’m going to make sure that on September 10th ya’ll know who I am.” Navarrete said. “I want you to come out and see me again. I want to put on a good show for you.”
Rounding off Saturday’s press conference were several of the undercard fighters, including debuting Richard Villa of Roswell, New Mexico. Villa is a fighter with an extensive background in MMA (with over 12-years experience).
“My coach said I was ready” Villa said about making his professional debut in a new sport. “I feel confident. There’s a fire. This fight I will knock this guy out.”
Villa takes on debuting Andrew Tapia from Clovis, a fight that carries an interesting subplot when it comes to New Mexico boxing. Villa’s uncle once defeated Johnny Tapia as an amateur, and Richard will be fighting the nephew of Tapia on September 10th.
Fellow Roswell native Enrico Orosco also appeared to talk about his professional debut against Paco Castillo (0-3) of Hereford, Texas. Orosco is the son of a former alternate to the 1992 US Olympic Team and, much like Villa, grew up with boxing in the blood.
“It’s always been more of a religion,” Orosco said of growing up in a boxing family. “It’s all I know. All I ever wanted.”
Also present was Michael Andrews of Hobbs (0-2) who spoke of his scheduled fight with Francis Beniquez (1-2) of El Paso. Andrews, who was matched tough in both his professional fights, promised to take the lessons learned in those fights into the ring on September 10th.
“I’m a more humble fighter,” Andrews admitted. “I went in there and learned a very good lesson. You need to put in the work to get the work done.”
Luis Luna of Seminole Texas also appeared and spoke to fans and reporters about his scheduled fight with Daniel Garcia (0-3) of Albuquerque. The fight will be Luna’s professional debut.
“I dedicated my life to fighting.” Luna told reporters.
Rounding off the press conference was popular junior middleweight Richard “Rico” Urquizo (2-4-1, 1 KO) of Clovis. Urquizo was coming into the fight on the heels of an impressive win in his hometown back in May against Andre Galarza and promised to keep the win streak going against Derek Perez (0-3) of Belen, New Mexico. Despite Urquizo’s less than flashy record, he has found success in Hobbs, knocking out Dustin Ray Lafon in Hobbs back in 2013.
Also scheduled for the September 10th card is undefeated Clovis heavyweight Elijio Sena (2-0-1, 1 KO) who will come back down to Hobbs to take on the debuting Aaron Garccia of San Angelo, Texas. Debuting Vicente Orona of Hobbs will take on Andre Garlaza (0-2) in a junior middleweight fight. The fights will take place at the Lea County Event Center. Tickets can be obtained by calling promoted Isidro Castillo at 1-575-263-4942.