Anchondo-Barrios Part ll: How Far In My Mouth Can I Get My Foot?
09.05.05 - By Wray Edwards: There I was, minding my own business, preparing to do the mundane chores of camera work, round scoring and roughing out an article. The usual territorial jostling of the photographers at the apron was in full swing when, all of a sudden, people were calling on the cell, waving their arms and trying to get me to join the full-blown controversy over Mike Anchondo's having missed his assigned weight for his belt bout with Barrios..
Article posted on 10.05.2005
People whom I had known for twenty years were telling tales about Mike's conditioner, Francisco “Pancho” Valdez, and making allegations about events leading up to Mike's failure to make weight. Several persons from Anchondo's camp, his parents and semi-involved bystanders were having hissy-fits over Mike's loss of his belt and pre-fight conditioning problems. I interviewed two eye-witnesses and several hear-say sources to attempt to understand what had happened.
The net result was the report I wrote after the fight entitled “Was it Mike's Fault”. The general outline was based on the interviews, as there was not much to report about the fight itself which was short and ugly. This writer took, at face value, the general details, which were consistent from several sources, and ran with them. I also volunteered my own opinions regarding what I had learned so far, having got caught up in the drama and frenzy of what had happened. Then I made a mistake.
It would (in hindsight) have been much better, and informative for the article, to have also interviewed Mr. Valdez to get his side of the story. The reasons for this are mainly two: First, and foremost, he deserved, in all fairness, a chance to tell his side of what happened. Second, his rendition of the events, motivations and consequences is really interesting and informative. I sincerely apologize to Francisco for allowing my journalistic bias to be skewed by the passion of other interviewees. Also, as a minor excuse, I had made the mistake of using the valet parking and wanted to avoid the rush.
The result was that Mr. Valdez threatened legal action over what he characterized as a “fabricated” story. Can't say I blame him for being hacked off over the whole mess. Many posters took me to task for not placing more responsibility on Mike for his weight problems. Therefore, we present the following interview with Francisco Valdez which gives his perspective and proves, to some degree, to be a cautionary tale which relates to another article of mine entitled “The Weighting Game”. Mike's problems stemmed, in part, from the very questionable practice of allowing boxers to starve themselves down to say, 130 for a fight, and then box at 145, and then walk around at 160 or so between fights. The health risks and the absurd practice of allowing fighters to contest when 15 pounds over the advertised weight classification for a bout, taint boxing's credibility and threaten the safety of the boxers.
I enjoyed speaking with Mr. Valdez who was personable and happens to live and work very near where I grew up.
Wray: Good evening Mr. Valdez.
Valdez: “Hello, how are you?”
Wray: Fine, thank you. How would you describe the events which led up to the Anchondo Barrios fight?
Valdez: “To begin with, let me state that I did not keep calling to try to Become Mike's conditioner for this fight. He called me. I Think he did so as a result of the successes we had in the past, including his championship match. When I first got to Vero Beach I had to ask for
someone to buy a scale. I was there about a week before they bought a scale.
Wray: Who bought the scale?
Wray: Do you think Mike had a health problem in the weeks leading up to the fight which made it difficult for him to hit the mark this time?
Valdez: “He didn't show any signs up until the last week.”
Wray: What do you think happened?
Valdez: “You know there's a possibility that he might have eaten something, because he showed signs of fatigue that I have never seen before. He showed signs of fatigue that I have never seen in anybody before. I've never seen him that exhausted. He's a tough cookie.
“When we got to the Miccosukee area we discovered that we would not have access to the official scales until the day of weigh-ins. I have conditioned fighters all over the country, California, Texas, Nevada and I can tell you that the official scales are always available to the fighters in the week leading up to the fight, so that they can be sure that they are in compliance from day one with the actual equipment which will be used at the weigh-ins.
“Anchondo arrived at camp weighing around 162. We began an exercise and nutritional program which was aimed at having him at 140 a week before the fight. Mike has always been very good at this, and does not like to go below about ten pounds over until just a few days before the weigh-in. He has never had any trouble with this before.”
Wray: What is the bottom line for you in answering the allegations made against you by others in the Anchondo camp?
Valdez: “I would like to make it clear that my association with Golden Boy in no way influenced the quality of my effort to prepare Mike for the fight. In fact they were not at all pleased that I had agreed to do so. Besides, does it make any sense that I would risk the money I could make helping Mike to become a successful champion for some imagined conspiracy with Golden Boy? That's absurd. That really got under my skin to have people think I had planned the whole thing from the beginning. If I could pull off such a big deception, I should be working for the CIA…you know…a spy.
“It just does not make any sense. What incentive would I have to do that? There's a lot more money to be made helping him to stay champ than there is taking him away from the championship. In the long run if I help this kid do the best he can I could make millions. “I really like Mike. He is a great guy. I would never do anything to jeopardize his health or career. Just walking down the street I've seen him give money to the needy without even being asked. That's just the kind of guy he is.
“At the time of the weigh-in there was only one person allowed to go on stage with each fighter. In other places up to three are allowed to accompany the fighter to the scales. So Buddy was the one who went up there. As soon as he failed to make weight everybody shunned me and tried to keep me away from Mike. I asked him if he wanted to go for a walk and try to lose some weight, just four more pounds, let's go knock it off… and he told me “No I'm done…I can't move any more”. I've never seen him like that before. He absolutely had no energy which I cannot explain. I wish I had the answer to that.
“It certainly cannot be conditioning because you cannot knock conditioning down in one day…you know what I mean? Something medically was wrong. I don't know what it was. The day of the weigh-in he walked about forty minutes on the treadmill which is very low impact. He got off and wanted to sweat a little more for ten minutes or so. He was fine from the afternoon circuits and we checked his weight on the digital scale Team Freedom had purchased for us. Now these digital scales often weigh out two pounds less than medical scales. 134 the night before the morning of he had gained a little bit of weight – I told him you are not leaving here until you weigh 130 and he did weigh 130 on the digital scale.
“When I saw the official scales for the first time I said oh s**t and went to Mike and said we may have a problem. How do you feel about losing some more weight because we may be up to two pounds too heavy. He said, ‘I don't know man.' In my experience I have known that digital scales weigh you light. I'm the kind of guy who prepares for the worst case scenario and I'd rather be two pounds under, and be happy, than two pounds over and have to lose it, so I asked him if he would like to take off a couple more. He said “No, I already made weight” (on the digital). He started looking a little weak. Every fighter does this…whatever…and he just told me to ‘back off'.
“When I found out at the weigh-in he was four and one-half pound over I could not believe it. I began to calculate what we had to do to lose it. It takes about ten minutes to lose one pound on the treadmill. That's about forty minutes so I went up to him and asked if he wanted to lose the weight, are you OK…and he said ‘I don't want to lose any more weight…I'm done, I don't feel well'. That's when I began getting the suspicion that something was wrong physically or mentally…but I never got a chance to follow up on it to figure out what was going on you know.
“Immediately all the blame started coming in my direction and I was shunned in fact by everyone. I could not find out what was going on and this all came on my shoulders. I'm not there to make weight for anyone or to make absolute sure that they are going to make weight. I'm there to help guide the people to get there the right way. Now if I'm not allowed to do my job, I can't help guide someone unless I'm given the proper tools.
“One other thing…and this is what really pissed me off (regarding the hand full of pills)…did you know that when we went to go buy vitamins, there were receipts to what we bought as they were paying for them. They were not just a hand-full of diuretics. They were mostly proper supplements from GNC like vitamin C, and B-6 and other proper substances. Finally, I wonder what they are not telling you. There's a lot of stuff that they know which they are not letting you know.
“Frankly, I am concerned how they re-hydrated him after the weigh-in because if you give a guy really cold water or hot soup it can cause the body to reject it and it all goes to the skin. I would have given him luke-warm water and sent him for a nap. Whatever happened after the weigh-in, I was not allowed to observe or participate and for thirty hours or more there's no telling what Mike went through.
“After that I got three threatening phone calls on my cell phone so I had to change rooms as there was a key to my room floating around. I had a key to Mike's room and he had one to mine. Things were so intense that when I went to Mike's room to get my stuff I had a Sheriff and Mike's brother accompany me there even though I had a key.
“On fight night of course I was there. If I show up and look you in the eye it means I did nothing wrong. If I stayed away that means I did do something wrong. I was not actually in the room during Mike's fight. I had asked how many fights there was before Mike's fight and was told three. As I had reached my limit as to how many stares and dirty looks I could take, I went back to my room until his fight. As it turned out, that information was wrong and I missed the fight.
“By the way, if I had been there and seen what poor condition Mike was in. I would have tried to stop him from fighting. Later on TV interviews (given before the fight) he seemed horse and not too well. If you ask me, if there is any liability, it was with those who allowed him to go in the ring so dehydrated and weak. As they were making accusations before the fight about what I had supposedly done to him, why did they still let him fight if they thought I had damaged him so badly? Knowing what I know now, I would not have risked him under those conditions. Yet they still let him fight. Somebody must have noticed that. Looking at his hand-speed I could tell he was not all there.
“On Tuesday he was in great shape. If he had fought Barrios that night he would have knocked him out by the third or fourth round. Between Tuesday and Wednesday-Thursday something happened that I cannot explain. For my part in those days we conditioned on the normal cycles of treadmill, bicycle etc. as always before, with ten or fifteen minutes in the sauna for the morning session, and again in the afternoon. I worked along side him on the same equipment so that I know what he is going through.
“Wray I would love to tell you everything that I saw going on during training camp. But I don't want to bad-mouth anyone…all I can say is this: Talk to Mike Anchondo. Get it from the young man himself. Find out how much of a demon I really am. Find out what I really did and you should be completely satisfied that I did nothing wrong. Mike's a great person and I completely trust that when you hear the truth from his lips, this whole thing will be put to rest. Thank you for letting me have my say.
Wray: Thank you for taking the time to give us the opportunity to hear the story from your perspective.
Francisco makes some really good points to counter the suspicions and allegations of his detractors. In everyone's defense much of this boils down to the current practice of weight shifting mentioned in my previous effort entitled “The Weighting Game”. If the scales were closer to the ring and fight-time it would go a long way towards making contests based on weight divisions much more legitimate. Those who scoff at actually requiring boxers to really weigh what it says on the sanction belt are just playing into the laxity of the sport when it comes to weight. To have fighters entering the ring two or three divisions above their advertised weight is just silly on the face of it. The more serious aspects of the practice are the health risks which obtain when these men tamper with their metabolisms in order to play the weight game.
Boxing itself is dangerous enough without taking the added risks associated with massive weight swings. Some boxers, to their credit, run a much tighter ship for themselves. They stay in shape and do not participate in or take advantage of the current dichotomy allowed by state
commissions. Until there is more truth in advertising for the sport, it will suffer along with its participants from this sad practice.
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