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Richard Contreras: On Birthdays & Broken Jaws

“Fight of the Night” Ends in Majority Draw

Life throws you a curveball every now and then; you gotta learn to roll with the punches.

Such was the case in Richard Contreras’ match this past Friday night against Daniel “El Cuate” Quevedo at the Thompson Boxing Promotions feature at Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, Calif. Hoping to celebrate his birthday today (February 27) with a victory to add to his unbeaten ledger, the young pugilist will now instead be nursing a shattered jaw suffered in his “Fight of the Night” feud.

But no need to worry about this tenacious warrior nicknamed “The Terminator.” Contreras’ positive attitude, strong faith, unbreakable determination and natural athleticism will provide him and his team with a plan to come back even stronger.

While it’s safe to say most young men turning 22 celebrate their birthday by maybe pounding back a couple of beers with family and friends, “El Terminador” Contreras (9-0-1, 8 KOs) is choosing to celebrate his B-day in a low-key manner–while rebounding from the broken jaw suffered by a late hit after the bell on the “New Blood” card.

Richard-ContrerasToday the humble young man will keep it low profile in his celebration. “I will probably just kick back for my birthday and hang out with my family,” he says of his special day.

You won’t catch him partying hard till the sun comes up. Today–on his birthday–the prizefighter plans to continue icing his swollen jawbone as he and his trainer visit orthopedic surgeons. Makes for a memorable birthday, to say the least.

And in getting a majority draw in Friday’s bout, Richard may not have won the war (getting a draw) but the prospect gained something invaluable. Fighting through intense adversity, mind-numbing pain and the threat of his first defeat as a pro, Contreras dug deep showing heart, courage and a rock-solid will that belies his youth. And more importantly, he earned mad respect from everyone in the sold-out venue and gained massive recognition for his brave efforts in not only coming back from his spaghetti legs but almost winning the bout.

During a six-round hellacious battle versus Quevedo (13-12-3, 8 KOs), the standing-room-only crowd knew they were watching one incredible war. The opening round ended in controversy with Contreras being rocked by a late punch from his gritty 28-year-old challenger from Sinaloa. Referee Jerry Cantu deducted a point for the foul and the second stanza continued with a visibly hurt and wobbled Contreras trying to survive the next three minutes of a punishing tirade by his veteran foe (who ironically had “Smile Specialist” emblazoned on his red trunks).

In the second frame, the hometown hero was setback by a second knockdown scored by Quevedo. Many in the audience may have expected a glassy-eyed Richard to be knocked out by the bomb-throwing vet, never expecting the young slugger to make it to the bell. But slowly and surely, the kid showed what he was made of as the shocked crowd watched the Riverside boxer come to his senses in small increments in each and every round that progressed.

Battling back, Contreras stayed on his feet till the final bell, giving as good as he got in the six rounds of non-stop fury between the pair.

After the fireworks, Jimmy Lennon Jr. announced official judges’ scores as: 57-55 in favor of Contreras (judge David Denkin) and 56-56 twice (judges Max De Luca and Sergio Caiz) ending in a majority draw for the two gladiators. With one judge’s nod, many spectators thought Richard won–but all in the room applauded both boxers for really leaving it all in the ring.

Boxing is a blood sport; unexpected injuries come with the territory.

And those watching this super bantam clash didn’t realize Richard’s jaw was broken; that’s exactly what Contreras’ trainer and manager Joe Esquivel was hoping. The head coach from Riverside Lincoln Boxing Gym had a tough decision to make after Richard was brought to his corner telling his coach his jaw was rocked. What do you do as a coach? Do you stop the fight and accept defeat? Do you continue with your woozy fighter possibly getting knocked out in the subsequent rounds; Contreras was knocked down a second time. Or do you believe in the iron will of this Perris puncher? Tough decision to make.

But with an extraordinary pupil like Contreras, the decision was already made–to continue and fight on with the pain of an unhinged jaw hanging in the balance. It wasn’t an easy choice for the veteran trainer to make in letting his prospect continue–but Richard himself refused to give up or give in, imploring his chief trainer for the chance to go back in, wanting to fight for his family and friends who came out wearing their Team Contreras shirts in support.

There was no turning back for the pug–even with his swaying jaw causing such searing pain that most mere mortals wouldn’t be able to withstand.

Just how did he get through the six rounds?

“I got through this fight with the help of my coach,” Contreras tells me a couple of days later. “He mentioned my family, my friends and all the hard work we had put in so I knew there was no turning back! And I have always went by: “A quitter never wins and a winner never quits!”

While Contreras vs. Quevedo will never receive worldwide infamy the way “The Battle of the Broken Jaw” did in which Ken Norton busted Muhammad Ali’s jaw or in more current times, the collision between Arthur Abraham and Edison Miranda with Abraham’s loose jaw hanging grotesquely through the remaining fisticuffs, Richard’s courage in toughing it out has been noted by all who witnessed this war. Veteran trainer Bennie Georgino has seen it all after decades in the sport and after the Contreras–Quevedo scrap, the well-regarded boxing vet told me this match really impressed him. And if you know Georgino, not much impresses the Hall of Fame coach and manager….so you know this was one vicious contest!

“The fight made the show; he’s a warrior,” Richard’s trainer/manager Joe Esquivel spoke. I talked to the Riverside coach over the weekend as he was trying to recover his voice–which was shot and hoarse after cornering last Friday evening. His son Michael Esquivel was also in Contreras’ corner and helped in our conversation whenever Joe’s voice and sore throat gave out. I asked the team if they thought (like many in the crowd) Quevedo should’ve been DQ’ed for the late punch and what he thought of the majority draw?

“I’m okay with it; I’m okay with the majority draw,” the trainer replies with his trademark directness. “After the knockdown I knew he was in trouble but his conditioning made me decide not to stop it even though it hurt like hell every time he got hit in the mouth.”

Esquivel continues to rasp on the phone while reliving the fight: “It was a hard decision to make but we had trained to fight in case he ever got hurt. He knew what to do on wobbly legs, to use his jab a lot and go to the body. We had Plan B. Richard’s conditioning was perfect; we could’ve gone another few rounds!”

Joe has so much pure confidence in his charge, praising his courage.

“He did not want to stop–he wanted to keep fighting,” Esquivel explains. “He is not a quitter and this fight showed people who he really is! We want a rematch with Quevedo–but next time we want it EIGHT rounds!”

And his coach even has the gravitas to call out another future opponent Team Contreras has their sights on: Coach Joe wants Richard to face unbeaten Coachella sensation Randy Caballero. But first things first as his young charge faces surgery next.

“When will your surgery be and when do expect to be back in the gym?” I ask the Thompson Boxing prospect.

“I don’t know when my surgery will be yet but I go get that checked today, thank God,” a humble Contreras answers. “And I will be out for a couple months but I sure will come back stronger and more determined. My performance wasn’t my greatest; the broken jaw had a lot to do with it couldn’t focus in there but it was all heart and determination!”

There is no doubt the kid is tough. Various definitions of the word: -TOUGH: adj. strong and resilient; aggressive and pugnacious; capable of enduring strain, hardship and strong enough to withstand adverse conditions with uncompromising determination.

I would say all of the above describe Richard Contreras’ actions last Friday night.

HAPPY 22nd BIRTHDAY to the “El Terminador”!

Photos by Dominic Serna Sr./ StandnFight.com

Michele Chong

Michele Chong

Feature Writer at MyBoxingFans
Michele Chong has been involved in the sport of boxing for over a decade. Her “Chatter Box” column covers a variety of subjects in both professional and amateur boxing, and features exclusive one-on-one interviews, recaps of fight events, shows and tournaments, book/film reviews and much more. Inducted into the California Boxing Hall of Fame in 2008, she is also a member of the World Boxing Hall of Fame, Golden State Boxer’s Association and the Burbank Boxing Club. Michele is also involved in many non-profit and charitable organizations.
Michele Chong