By Francisco Salazar
Photos: Big Joe Miranda
The last time fight fans on the national level saw welterweight Artemio Reyes Jr. was when he was stopped in the first round by Alan Sanchez on April 13th. Although those punches by Sanchez did hurt Reyes, they were nothing like the hurt Reyes suffered when he lost his father less than two weeks prior to the fight. While some fighters may postpone a fight due to an illness or a death in the family, Reyes soldiered on, choosing to not back out of the fight against Sanchez. According to Reyes Jr., anything less than that would be the opposite as to how he was brought up by his father.
Reyes will continue his march to fulfilling his dream of winning a world title belt in honor of his father as he takes on John David Charles in the eight round main event at the Omega Products International in Corona, CA.
The bout headlines a six-bout “New Blood” card, presented by Thompson Boxing Promotions.
Reyes (16-2, 12 KOs) rebounded from the loss to Sanchez in his last fight on June 22nd, winning an eight round unanimous decision over Enrique Gutierrez. Although Reyes won 80-72 on all three judges’ scorecards, the fight did not reflect Gutierrez battling back despite being stunned numerous times by the hard-hitting Reyes.
“I heard that Gutierrez had a strong amateur background,” Reyes told Fightnews.com over the phone on Sunday evening. “Even though he took my best shots, I didn’t get frustrated. I didn’t want to get caught and I let my jab to do the work.”
Reyes will be facing Charles, who has a less-than-stellar record of 7-5, 1 KO. However, the compelling aspect of the fight is Reyes will be fighting a southpaw for the first time in his professional career. Reyes faced a southpaw only once as a amateur and lost that bout.
He does not want history to repeat itself on Friday night.
“From what I’ve seen (on film), he is a southpaw who likes to move,” said Reyes, who is promoted by Thompson Boxing Promotions. “I have to be smart and cut off the ring and work behind the jab. That is the key to the fight.”
While Reyes acknowledges the key to his upcoming fight, he understood the keys to life from his father before and after Reyes Sr. was in a horrible car accident over four years ago. The impact of the accident left Reyes Sr. in a comatose-like state until he passed away on April 3rd.
Although Reyes was 21 years of age at the time, he had to assume being the man of the house. It meant having to run the family restaurant “El Taquito,” which is located in Colton, where Reyes resides with his family.
Reyes was also taking classes at Riverside Junior College, where he recently earned his Associate of Arts degree in accounting last year. He is currently taking classes at California State University, San Bernardino, where he hopes to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.
While assuming responsibilities in and out of the ring may be daunting to many people, Reyes welcomed the challenge. Reyes figured if he was not, it would be a slap to his father, considering he brought up Artemio to become a man and not shy away from life’s unexpected challenges.
“I had to grow up from one day to the next. I was a young man and I had to grow up overnight. I had to check my emotions and take care of the family business. The women in my family looked up to me for guidance and I was the person that now had to provide the shoulder to lean on.”
With that mindset in the ring, Reyes would like to campaign as a welterweight for the rest of his career.
If there were something down the line that would make him contemplate moving up a weight class, he would jump on it. However, 147 pounds is where Reyes would like to be.
“I feel very comfortable and strong as a welterweight. Earlier in my career, I had a hard time trying to get to 140 pounds. I don’t have any weight issues at 147 pounds.”
Asked if there was a fighter whom he would most like to fight, Reyes took the high road.
“I leave all that up to my promoters and trainers. My job is to go in the gym and prepare myself the best I could be. I’m looking to fight the best out there. As long as I have the right amount of time to train for, I’ll take any fight and give it my all.”
The soft-spoken Reyes is known to spend hours in the gym daily in his quest to one day fulfill that dream.
As Reyes understandably dealt with the loss of his father, he is fortunate to have the support of a loving and close-knit family. Whether it was right after the accident four years ago, Friday night, or even years from now, Reyes will continue to persevere until he will one day fulfill his dream of winning a world title belt.
If he so happens to forget, he needs to not look any further than his trunks. Right on the waistband, “4POPS” is embroidered. It is a reminder to Reyes that although his father is not physically with him, he is there in spirit.
Just by bouncing back to win his fight against Gutierrez and to run a restaurant is a success story in itself. However, Reyes wants to accomplish more.
Fulfilling that promise of winning a world title belt for “4POPS” would be the ultimate prize on a road that started years ago.