“He’s strong and fast,” boxing trainer Hector Levario warns before he takes shelter behind the hanging heavy bag, readying for the inevitable pummeling from his protégé boxer, Damon Rivera.
Rivera throws a solid right hook, followed by a series of lightning-fast body-work punches delivered to the bag Levario grips tightly — the maneuver is meant for Rivera to soften up an opponent’s midsection, wearing them down so he can win a match.
That’s exactly what Rivera intends to do — win — when the 22-year-old Hurley native launches his boxing career at his future first amateur match, to be scheduled soon. In the meantime, you can catch him prowling the USA Boxing-sanctioned “Fairground Throwdown 3” in Deming on Saturday, Oct. 9, checking out his regional competition.
By nature, Rivera is stoic and unfailingly polite. At 6 feet, 2 inches, the handsome boxer towers over everyone in the Trinity Boxing Club in Silver City, where he trains.
He’ll be boxing his first amateur match in the heavyweight class, weighing in at an impressive 228 pounds. Most of that weight is attributed to muscle — and possibly mindset. Rivera is completely focused on winning to achieve his dream of boxing professionally, and the weight of his conviction alone could carry him from a mere contender to a world-class champion.
“I’m confident. I remember my opponent bleeds, like I bleed,” Rivera said before laying a few well-placed jabs into the bag.
The Cobre High School graduate got his start in sports playing football at his alma mater before heading to the collegiate level. At the end of his senior year, Rivera began training to compete in mixed martial arts, or MMA — including honing his jiu-jitsu. He won five bouts during his on-again, off-again time in MMA competitions, but last year he switched to boxing.
“Boxing is an interesting sport,” Rivera said of the change, and noted part of the reason for his departure was a lack of MMA venues in which to compete, even before COVID-19 closed rings across the Southwest.
To gauge his abilities, Rivera recently stepped into the ring to spar with Doña Ana County professional boxer and MMA fighter Randy McCurdy.
“Damon did well, and he went all four rounds,” Levario reported of the encounter. “He showed poise and a lot of guts in his first sparring session with a professional boxer.”
As Damon’s trainer, Levario hopes to see this amateur go to the top of the sport, and emerge as big of a legend as Canto “TNT” Robledo, the Tyrone-born boxer who was scheduled to face world bantamweight champion Panama Al Brown in 1932 but was tragically blinded before the bout.
But tragedy won’t be touching Rivera, who has a good, strong jab for opponents to contend with, according to his trainer.
“Everyone has different fighting styles. Damon is a well-rounded fighter,” Levario said. He noted Rivera has been training for this fight for almost a year, putting his COVID lockdown to good use by dedicating it to the sport he hopes to conquer.
Levario knows how to recognize a winner. He boxed for 15 years, has been teaching boxing most of his life, and now runs the Trinity Boxing Club. He hopes the reopening of rings around the state allows the Trinity Boxing Club to become an “envoy for boxing” in southern New Mexico.
“The sport keeps younger kids out of trouble,” Levario said.
Both men demurred to share Rivera’s strategy for his future bouts or his signature move, citing the need to keep future opponents in the dark — or maybe hoping to score that coveted knockout punch.
“Damon has a lot of stamina and a good, hard punch,” Levario was willing to share.
If you want to see Rivera’s fancy footwork, discover his signature punches or find out when his upcoming matches are, visit the online Independent Event Calendar at events.insilvercity.com.
“My upcoming first match will be a step on the road to becoming a professional,” Rivera said.
It’s a match Grant County can’t wait to watch, and one many hope leads him to the center of the ring as a victor.