Punching pals - Childhood friends beat each other up to help each other out

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By Dave Kavanaugh

With the hard rock — Def Leppard’s “Gods of War,” to be specific — cranked up at top volume on a nearby sound system, longtime friends Arturo Crespin and Fidel Maldonado Jr. set their camaraderie aside.

Then they began punching each other.

It’s hardly unusual for reunions of these two to involve such violence. And this past Sunday, each of them welcomed the opportunity to slam his fists into the other and to be treated in kind.

It’s what they do.

Crespin, a middleweight from Las Vegas, is training for what could be a pivotal fight Nov. 16 in Albuquerque. Crespin (10-3-1, one no contest; four wins by knockout) will box Julio Cesar Lanzas in the eight-round main event of “Fights at the PAL Auditorium,” a Chavez Promotions pro boxing card.

Maldonado, a light welterweight from Albuquerque, will battle Luis Ramos Jr. to headline a card Nov. 11 in San Antonio, Texas. For “The Atrisco Kid,” who is 16-3 with 13 KOs, this is likely his most important fight to date. Ramos is 23-1 with 10 KO victories.

The two have sparred before in a long friendship that dates to their first forays into boxing as bright-eyed amateurs still in elementary school. They’ve remained pals while rising into the pro ranks.

This time, they spar with a third, Brandon Holmes of Santa Fe. Holmes is a 20-year-old featherweight who’s won his first two bouts, both by knockout. The three of them take turns unleashing flying fists, rotating in and out of the ring.

Afterward, as it was beforehand, they embrace and trade war stories and talk about other boxers and their fortunes.

“It’s a big deal that he came down to spar,” Crespin said of Maldonado. “We’ve known each other since we were little, so it’s special. It’s an honor to help him prepare for a big fight. He’s helping me, too.”

Maldonado said he was glad to make the trip to Crespin’s Gym, particularly because his buddy is a fellow left-hander — as is Ramos.

“He’s helped me out a lot,” Maldonado said. “I’ve known him since I first started boxing. He’s fast for as big as he is.”
Maldonado said his upcoming match will be significant so it’s important to get in the best preparation he can.

“To me, it’s the biggest fight I’ve had. (Ramos) has beaten quality opponents. He’s my biggest opponent to date.”
Sparring with Crespin allowed him to get ring time with a hard-hitting southpaw — and on friendly turf.

For “El Toro,” the session was also productive with his own main event looming.

“I’m not used to that kind of speed,” Crespin said.

Crespin is looking for a bounce-back fight three and a half months after a high-profile matchup against undefeated Christopher Pearson on July 19 in Las Vegas, Nev. Pearson took a hard-fought technical knockout in the final round of the six-round clash; the official stoppage came after a gash opened over Crespin’s right eye, affecting his boxing.

“I hurt him in the first couple of rounds,” Crespin recalled. “I should’ve taken advantage of that. But it was an overwhelming situation. I’ve never performed on that big a stage before. It was a learning experience, though. Next time, I’ll take advantage.”

“He was a smart fighter,” Crespin continued. “He adapted. Now he’s ranked like 16th in the world. It made me come back and work a lot harder.”

“I’m just anxious to get back to the ring. I’ve got to focus and just progress. The big fight will come.”

Holmes, too, is looking for that big fight, at least somewhere down the line.

Boxing against two bigger, more experienced pugilists on Sunday was a welcome challenge for the quick-footed Santa Fean.

“I’m just trying to spread out and use the ring,” he said after the workout. “It helps me get used to their power; it helps me stay sharp. I’ve got power but it’s not like their power.”

Holmes’ dad, trainer Patrick Holmes, was pleased with the afternoon’s fisticuffs.

“Here we all are, working together,” he said, referring not only to the young pro boxers but to each of their fathers and trainers. “It’s nice that we can.”

Notes: Lanzas, originally from Nicaragua, is a veteran of the ring, carrying a record of 8-18-6 into his match with Crespin. He’s coming off a unanimous decision over Katrell Strauss on Oct. 3 ... Tickets to the card range from $25 to $45 to $60 and are available locally from Carlos Crespin, 429-4068 ... Crespin’s is hosting the New Mexico State Silver Gloves amateur boxing tournament Dec. 6-8 at the gym on 900 West Valencia. First bout will be at 6 p.m. each of the nights. Admission will be $12 adults, $8 students and free to children under 5. Call  429-4068 or 425-1422 for more information.