Anchondo-Barrios: Was It Mike’s Fault?


You would think that a serious, professional prize fighter would watch his weight like a hawk prior to such an important event. You would think that his trainer, his conditioner and his manager would all keep vigilant watch over such an important factor. The seventh day of March was anything but lucky for 22 year-old Michael Anchondo. To his utter surprise he missed his assigned weight at weigh-in, and lost his belt as the bell rang for his bout with 28 year-old Jorge Barrios.

This trusting young man was thrust into a no win situation, losing thirty thousand dollars, and his belt, all because of seventy-two ounces of body weight.. That’s a fine of $ 417.00 per ounce. Additionally his opponent could become champ by winning, while Mike could only qualify (at best) as the number one challenger if he prevailed. Once you read below about specific events which led up to this debacle, you will probably re-examine any assumptions you might have formed about how it happened and who was at fault.

Driving west, leaving the scrambling tizzy of the eastern Florida resort coast, one turns south on highway 27 then right across the barren wetlands of the state. After ten minutes or so a big red sign appears on the right announcing your arrival at the Miccosukee gaming resort. To the right of the main entrance is a large, white Quonset building where special events are held. Last Friday night the attraction was boxing.

The main event was between Michael Anchondo and Jorge Barrios. The under-card fights were a mix of excitement and boredom with the lighter weight, four-rounders being the most entertaining. When we finally got to the big one, which was featured on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights (delayed by a goofy baseball game) it was short and sweet for Barrios. For Anchondo it was another story. It was, in fact, far more interesting because of the controversy surrounding the mysterious overweight condition of Anchondo.

Eastside Boxing has been told that Anchondo was conditioned by a man named Francisco “Pancho” Valdez. Previously, Valdez had been associated with a fighter named Ponce De Leon who, we were told, was instrumental in bringing Pancho to the notice and hire of Golden Boy Promotions. At the start of training for this fight Anchondo was in California under the supervision of Norman Wilson and John David Jackson. His weight was carefully watched by everyone (including Mike) every day by orders of the staff physician.

About half-way through his training Mike was moved by Team Freedom to a Vero Beach ocean-side mansion to train with Buddy McGirt. His conditioning was to be under the supervision of Valdez – the Same Valdez who has ties to Golden Boy, the principle agency for Barrios’ management in the U.S. One might ask why would Team Freedom trust a Golden Boy associate to help prepare one of Team Freedom’s fighters for a match with Jorge, a Golden Boy fighter?

Valdez had been calling during the conditioner selection process to try to get on as Mike’s conditioner. Does it seem prudent to hire a conditioner with such an apparent conflict of interest? For some reason a conditioner nick-named “DJ”, with no connection to Golden Boy, was passed over in favor of Valdez. Possibly Mike’s trusting nature and his familiarity with Valdez affected his choice. Couldn’t Team freedom see the potential danger in that? Didn’t it occur to them?? Why not?

Originally Anchondo was with Golden Boy, but did not renew his contract because he felt that De La Hoya was not directly involved enough with his fighters. Oscar is said to have been rather displeased with Mike’s choice, thus setting the stage for potential conflicts in the future. De La Hoya, whose reputation was variously sullied by an extremely controversial decision “win” over Felix Sturm prior to his double-contract fight with Bernard Hopkins, and an ill-fated attempt to beat (some say “rip-off”) the boxing reality show “The Contender” to TV screens, could not be reached for comment.

Anchondo took up residence in the mansion with his grandfather and Valdez to begin his final training for the Barrios fight. He trained at Buddy McGirt’s Vero Beach “Elite” training facility. Valdez was exclusively in charge of Anchondo’s weight supervision to the extent that Mike was told not to even look at the scales, and his weights were taken at another location. Elite was said to have been told to refrain from ever weighing Mike at the training site. Presumably Mike was weighed at the mansion by Valdez. DJ said he tested the scales and they were accurate, but Mike was told not to look, so he was out of the loop on that issue.

Mike lives with his L.A. area step-parents who adopted him when he was just six years old after seeing him in a sort-of pee-wee boxing exhibition. Mike is very young (22), trusting and well-liked. He was so astonished (shocked) when his weight was as far off as it was, that he insisted another set of scales be brought in to verify the first reading. Is that the reaction of a guy who was trusting others to keep watch on his weight? - Probably. Additionally, just ten days before the weigh-in Mike was an astonishing FOURTEEN pounds over; a large figure for a feather-weight.

Therefore he was set on a course of weight-loss regimens which included three-hour stints in a sauna, every day, for three days before the fight. In fact someone had to step in a put a stop to this insanity before Anchondo was irreparably damaged. Also the day before the fight he was seen at a local fitness center on a high-incline treadmill for at least one hour.

Additionally, several observers, including Mike’s parents, stated that Valdez had called the room and asked to come up. When he arrived he gave Mike a handful of pills to take – possibly diuretics. The above is a certain prescription for exhaustion and electrolytic imbalance. Mike was observed later to be very dehydrated and pale.

This writer sat at the apron as Anchondo entered the ring looking weak and not ready. Those who want to blame Anchondo for this mess should consider the possibility that he may be too trusting…even gullible, but it is quite probable he was either duped or horribly miss-managed, possibly even (in the opinions of many) to the point of negligent liability. Persons who contract to perform tasks which are quite doable, and fail to come through with no plausible excuses, are in breech, and are commonly required to compensate those they have failed to properly serve, causing great loss or damage.

The rest is history. None of this takes away from Barrios’ great condition and performance. He was dominant and powerful in his repeated and effective assaults on Anchondo. Mike was repeatedly floored and, each time, crawled toward his corner. When Buddy had seen enough, he waved to the ref and entered the ring to protect and hug his beaten fighter. Mike was crushed. He was given oxygen and tended to in the corner for several minutes as Jorge celebrated with his crew, and the very vocal Argentinean fans.

Considering the weigh-in problems and the very dangerous weight-loss machinations to which Mike was subjected, it is a miracle he lasted as long as he did. One must ask, was Valdez just completely incompetent or was there a more troubling reason for Anchondo’s problems? Either answer should be great cause for concern. Valdez is said to still be in the employ of Golden Boy. How could they possibly hire and have faith in a man who seemingly miss-managed Anchondo’s pre-fight weight controls? Valdez was seen at the fight. If yours truly had so radically failed to be properly responsible for one of a fighter’s most important conditioning factors, I would not even consider showing my face at the fight.

Anchondo is six years younger than Barrios and will certainly have more opportunities to rise through the ranks. He would be wise to buy himself a set of scales, and no matter whom his future “conditioning” trainer is, he surely should keep an eagle eye on his weight. He must know by now that Valdez was a horrific choice as a conditioner. A man who through negligence, incompetence or possibly even through design, in the opinions of some, cost Mike $30,000.00 and his championship belt, ought not be on his next short list for a conditioner.

Congratulations to Barrios for his valiant training effort, and condolences to him in regard to his recent family losses. Many thanks to Veronica Paysse at NGM Advertising, and the great staff at the Miccosukee Resort for their kind services to Eastside Boxing for our coverage of the fights. Also the Florida Boxing Commission officials and Judges were very helpful to the assembled media.

We hope that Mike and Jorge will both continue in earnest with their boxing careers so that we may enjoy their exciting talents in the future.

Photos (c) Wray Edwards

Article posted on 11.04.2005

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