The wait is over.
Most of the area's high school and college fall athletic programs kick off their schedules this week, and as if that weren't enough for sports fans, there's a major professional boxing card in town on Friday night.
The boxing — the Lenny Fresquez Productions event dubbed "Perseverance" — features WIBA welterweight champion Holly Holm in a rematch with Terri Blair. Albuquerque native Holm took down Blair, a resident of Louisville, Ky., in 2004, but Blair has said she is in much better condition and much better prepared this time around. Holm figures to have the Wilson Complex crowd squarely in her corner. Not only is she a proud representative of the Duke City, she has also endeared herself to locals by visiting several local schools and training in town at Crespin's Boxing Gym. The undercard is loaded with Las Vegas' own favorite pugilists. Frankie Archuleta, who once waged a memorable couple of bouts with state boxing icon Johnny Tapia, returns to his hometown to take on fellow junior lightweight Lorenzo Estrada, whom he beat in 1997. Amanda Crespin makes her pro debut against Shannon Sangre, and big brother Arturo hits the ring for his fourth pro fight, with Freddie Cisneros as the foe. A couple of other bouts — tentatively featuring Rio Rancho junior middleweight Lucas Galle and Albuquerque light heavy Michael Brooks in separate matches — are also expected to round out the evening event, which begins at 7 p.m.; gates open at 6. Tickets range from $20 to $200.
While the boxing has been grabbing headlines, the weekend also will be notable for the first football games of 2009 for all three Las Vegas teams. On Friday night, coach Richard Martinez leads his Robertson Cardinals in the first of a rugged three-game stretch when they visit defending state champion Portales, coached by Andy Correll. Meanwhile, new West Las Vegas coach Mike Ulibarri takes his Dons to Taos, where they'll face former coach Mike Maldonado and the Tigers, soon to join WLV and RHS in District 2-3A. Then on Saturday, New Mexico Highlands and second-year mentor Chad Roanhaus open at Midwestern State in Wichita Falls, Texas.
By that time, several other local teams will have seen their first action. Robertson's boys' soccer team (led by veteran coach Clarence Montoya) and West's co-ed squad (led by RosaKay Carrillo) will debut at Portales and Taos, respectively, on Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday also marks the home opener for Mora's defending district champion volleyball team; the Rangerettes and Leslie Vigil host McCurdy.
On Thursday, Highlands' volleyball and women's soccer teams make their season debuts in the Lone Star State. Jim Deisler's Cowgirl spikers open at Angelo State in a San Angelo, Texas, tournament. First-year soccer coach Justin Wagar — who moonlights as a member of the Vatos rugby club — guides his Cowgirl kickers at West Texas A&M. RHS boys' soccer and Mora volleyball also are in action Thursday, hosting Española and Peñasco, respectively.
Aside from the boxing and prep football, the West Las Vegas volleyball team and coach Brian Gurule hit the Wildcat Invitational in Clovis beginning on Friday. At the same time, Highlands' spikers continue their run in the San Angelo tourney, facing Texas A&M-Commerce and Incarnate Word.
More season debuts are set for Saturday, as RHS and WLV cross country teams run in the morning's Española Invite. Robertson's Fabian Trujillo and the WLV father-son duo of Leroy and Jose Armijo are looking for progress from their squads. NMHU volleyball's Texas tourney rolls to a close with St. Edward's and East Central Oklahoma on the schedule. Coach Ray Parks and his Lady Cardinal soccer team open their home slate at 11 a.m. against Hope Christian; the Lady Cards were scheduled to play in the Artesia tourney over the weekend. West's kickers play at Moreno Valley in Angel Fire, and the Lady Don spikers wrap up their stay in Clovis.
Closing out the weekend, NMHU soccer hosts Augustana at noon Sunday at Perkins Stadium.