Rapper Big K.R.I.T. came to national acclaim with a song that was an ode to his hometown. Using an Adele sample to echo the beloved love affair he had with a small southern Mississippi town where he was raised. The deeply held love for a hometown was surfaced in a similar way on Monday, February 17th in Salinas, CA. Paul Mendez walked out in his adopted hometown, his boxing hometown, the hometown of Sam Garcia Boxing. Garcia Boxing is one of the most prestigious camps in Northern California and is truly a family affair.
Max Garcia’s son, Sam Garcia, handles the technical aspects, while Kathy Garcia, Max’s wife and Sam’s mother, handles the all sides of the management, from living accommodations to training. The Sam Garcia Boxing Gym, in short, is both beautiful and restores our faith that some people are just inherently good. The Garcia family has their fighters’ best interest at heart and, quite simply, it’s hard to believe anyone in the business treats a fighter better than the Garcia Family.
Paul Mendez signed a managerial pact with Garcia Boxing in April of 2012, nearly two years ago, and since has been 8-0-1 and picked up a regional belt, IBA, on the way. Mendez fought last October against Louis Rose, a guy who many feel is a spoiler, in a fight that looked fairly ugly, no matter how you judged it. Mendez was busier and Rose seemed to land a bit cleaner, but neither really outright won the fight – it was fairly confusing.
I watched as a member of the media walked by after that decision saying “…that was bullshit, Mendez won 7-3.” Even I felt Mendez had it about 6-4, until I watched it on television and saw it for Rose, just barely. No matter what way you side on the fight, it was not the most ideal fight for a television debut on major English language network television.
Mendez, who is calm and kind, the type of guy who walks around an arena to talk to everyone who ever supported him. Mendez dawning a Mohawk for the fight, appeared different. He looked more focused than he had in any other fight.
The day prior, Mendez, at the weigh in, told me to expect, “…Fireworks tomorrow night.t” Mendez did not lie. Raul Casarez, a man who many know for being knocked out by Alfredo Angulo, had been riding a winning streak into the bout and presented a style that could in theory give Mendez trouble. From the outset, Mendez made it clear he wanted his jab to provide the foundation for everything else, but in all honesty, Casarez seemed offended if Mendez didn’t hit him.
As Mendez began to find a rhythm, Casarez became more wildly aggressive and the tactical Mendez showed his television friendly side. In the later seconds of the third round, Mendez landed a thudding shot that floored Casarez, who tried his hardest, but couldn’t beat the count. As though a local beloved sports team had just won a crowning achievement, the sold out crowd in Salinas, CA burst out in one loud cheer that showed support for their guy. Mendez is not just a good boxer, a humble person, and a person with ties to Salinas, he is a role model for the kids who came to the event with their hands wrapped. Mendez is the guy who has always been there, at the gym, and now those who have started to grow older in the area want to see him go to the next level.
Backstage, a pleased Mendez coyly said, “It’s up to you guys [alluding to room full of media], what you think about my performance tonight, you guys sit back and critique it, I just work,” as three video cameras and multiple voice recording devices pressed up into Mendez’s face. Mendez stood cherishing the moment.
Mendez had one word for a middleweight out there who recently said his name on ITR Radio, “J’Leon Love, you want me? Well, I want you!” J’Leon Love, The Money Team fighter, who recently had a win over Gabriel Rosado overturned and since has had fight to stay busy fights. Another interesting person who could appear on the radar if he wants to move up to middleweight again is Gabriel Rosado. Both of those fights are very winnable fights for Mendez and would get Mendez into the conversation of top ten middleweights, a space that he is flirting with right now.
For the time being, Mendez deserves a bit of rest and he is planning on returning potentially around April 5th at Cache Creek Casino and Resort.