It seems like yesterday that Andy Vences, the super featherweight from San Jose, California, was undefeated, and his manager at the time, Herb Stone, was guiding his career to what seemed to be a world title out of obscurity.
Stone, one of boxing's unsung heroes, masterfully positioned Vences, who didn't have the same amateur pedigree as others but had a work ethic unlike any I had seen. That work ethic was put to the test for this training camp for his upcoming February 18th bout against Christian Mino, as Vences now lives in a Central California suburb and is driving at times four hours, if not more, from the gym and back to his house for this training camp.
“All driving did take a toll on me [for this training camp],” said Vences, who explained he trains with his coach Angel Cordon Sr., at FightKore International in Martinez, Ca, from Saturday to Tuesday non-stop, and then works on things he needs to on the remaining days. “I ended up making my mom's house the camp house. She is here in San Jose, and she has [a small house behind her house], and I was staying in the unit behind her house. It was saving me a drive since it was the middle point.”
Vences lost his original manager Herb Stone to cancer far too soon. Herb was a major inspiration for me and many others in the sport, such as Mike Bazzel, Bruno Escalante, Jonathan Chicas, and many more. Vences reflected on his time with his former manager. “I felt like I lost [Herb Stone] too soon,” said Vences reflecting on the manager who turned him pro. “Herb [Stone] didn't know who I was, but he gave me a shot, and I ended up being one of the best fighters out of all the [expletive] fighters he had.”
Vences would work with another all-star, and in my opinion, a future hall-of-fame manager in Peter Kahn, who guided him well and led him to career-high payday against Jono Carroll, but Vences would soon see close losses to Albert Bell, Luis Alberto Lopez, and Jono Carroll stall out his career. Vences was hard to beat, even harder to look good against, and had lost more fights at the world-class level than won, which made things tough for him to stay active on that level.
Yet, Vences decided to move on and bring in Emily Pandelakis, a well-respect boxing insider who has worn multiple hats in the industry but now serves as Vences' manager for his career moving forward.
Over the last four years, Vences is 2-4, with his last loss to Henry Lebron being unsettling to watch for a long-time observer of Vences. It was the first time I had seen him get hit clean in a fight, and at times it appeared the damage being afflicted to him was taking a toll. After the fight, Vences decided it was not the end, but he needed to change things, and he phoned an old friend, Angel Cordon Sr.
For those unaware, Cordon Sr., a legend in Concord, California’s boxing scene, was brought up in the game around the real trainers such as boxing legend Karl Sharrock. Cordon Sr. is an old-school coach, no-nonsense, someone who will never have an out-of-shape fighter because he'd kick them out of the gym before going to the ring with them if they didn't meet his expectations. Vences wants to end his career on his terms with the coach with whom he had the most success and who led him to his marquee performance against Erick De Leon.
“For this camp, training wasn't at a set time,” confessed Vences. “I didn't know if we were training and [the evening prior], [Cordon Sr.] Angel would tell me, ‘hey, be in Martinez at 8 am!' That would mean I would have to leave my house at 6 [am], so I'd be up at 5 [AM]. In a way, I felt like he was messing with me, just always changing it, so it was [whatever my coach said was how it would be].”
His opponent, Christian Mino, looks about a built-to-order for a world-class fighter on paper, but an astute observer can raise concerns. Mino has fought Kenny Sims Jr. recently at 135 lbs. and has fought as high as 140 lbs. Vences has never fought above the 130 pound limit. The fight, promoted by Westside Promotions, will see Vences fighting at the highest weight of his career in recent memory, 133 lbs, as only two consecutive bouts in 2013 contested at 134 lbs trump the weight he will come in at.
“That's what me and Angel [Cordon Sr] talked about [the size of my opponent], he has fought bigger guys, so I might not be as big as some of the guys he has already fought,” said Vences when talking about his current opponent. “To be honest, we're expecting him to take a lot of punches and be able to withstand the power. We also made it very clear he cannot come in over 133 lbs. He has to come in at the 133-pound weight limit because that is how much of importance it is for us, too. “
Vences was quick to explain he has never come back in a manner that benefited him, and he is going to ease back into the situation but always listen to what his coach thinks is best for him moving forward. “I am going to listen to my coach, and whatever he thinks is best for me next, I am going to do that,” said Vences when reflecting on his future after this bout.
Andy Vences fights in the co-feature of Saturday night's event at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, California. Doors open at 4 PM.