- Joe Tessitore, Boxing
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Things can change so quickly in boxing. Mike Anchondo, who just a few years ago was one of the fastest-rising stars in the sport, feels he has now reached a career "do or done" fight. The 25-year-old Californian is facing life-changing decisions and will take on Darling Jiminez on this week's "Friday Night Fights" (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
"This is the most important fight of my career," Anchondo said. "This is the fork in the road. Either I proceed and pursue the championship title and chase the dream, or I start working in real estate."
Real estate he says? I was there when Anchondo invested in swampland instead of beachfront.
He was the 25-0 junior lightweight titlist. Then Anchondo suffered his first loss. As a fight fan, certain things really seem to stay with you. The moment an unbeaten champion loses is definitely one of them.
It would be one thing if the Anchondo loss happened by stunning knockout. Guys get caught and go down -- that's boxing. Or it would be understandable if Anchondo had lost a controversial decision. But neither was the case. I watched the young undefeated champion lose on the scale.
It was a Thursday afternoon, April 2005. Our ESPN crew was hustling around the weigh-in, capturing moments on camera leading up to the showdown between Anchondo and title challenger Jorge Barrios. Barrios made the 130-pound mark with ease. Then Anchondo stepped up. He seemed as reluctant and fearful to get on the scale as a C-list star on the "Celebrity Fit Club" reality show.
The best Anchondo could do was 4½ pounds over the limit. Weighing in at 134½ pounds is fine for a soccer mom looking to stay fit for the swimsuit months ahead, but not for a world champion. Not for a 22-year-old who had the world on a string. Barrios celebrated as if the fight were already over. It may as well have been.
Barrios scored three knockdowns on the way to a TKO. Anchondo's stock fell hard, very hard. And with only two ordinary wins in the two years which have followed, he hasn't given fans reason to buy back in. Now he doesn't have a choice.
"I'm a very understanding person when it comes to reality. I have no doubts in my mind that this fight is going to go the way that it should go, but if something were to happen and I come out with the defeat, I believe this would be the end of my career," Anchondo said.
At least he sees the big picture, although I like a little more single-minded optimism from a fighter.
"I'd be able to move forward because there's so much more that I want to tackle in life. The main goal is to create that cushion for my future, and the future that others are going to share with me. A loss isn't going to get in the way of me doing that," Anchondo said.
Darling Jiminez is a four-time New York Golden Gloves champ. He had many touting him as a top amateur to watch. His skills have translated to the pros with 22 wins against only two losses. If Anchondo has one foot already out the door thinking about real estate commissions, then Jiminez may be just the guy to push the rest of Anchondo right out of boxing.
How could things get so desperate for a former champ who is only 25 years old?
Could that one moment on the scale have thrown Anchondo off that much?
Will he be jumping into his real estate licensing class next week? Or will the old Mighty Mike finally come out to the ring on "FNF"?
"This fight should be mine. I'm going to take everything I've got and bring it to the fight and everybody's going to see the real me," Anchondo said. "I'm not going to hold anything back. I'm going to unleash the animal in me."
Let's hope he starts by unleashing those mere 4½ pounds from his memory. Hold off on the home listings and open houses for a moment, Mike Anchondo has a bigger deal to close.
Joe Tessitore is the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."