Mon, Sept. 23

Verde Valley fighters show their skills at Redemption VI Warriors Reunion

Jeese Gonzales gets his hand raised after his victory Saturday night. Gonzales earned his first victory in nearly three years. (Photo by Greg Macafee)

Jeese Gonzales gets his hand raised after his victory Saturday night. Gonzales earned his first victory in nearly three years. (Photo by Greg Macafee)

SURPRISE- Saturday evening, three different Verde Valley clubs took to the gym at Valley Vista High School in Surprise to showcase their skills at Redemption VI Fight Night Warriors Reunion. Three of those Verde Valley fighters came home with their hand held high after earning victories.

Some were stepping back into the ring like they have been doing for a while. Two were stepping back in after a hiatus and one was getting his beak wet for the very first time.

The night started off with eight fights on the first card before the real fights started on the second card. Dragon's Eye Muay Thai fighter, Angel Gonzalez, was the first Verde Valley representative to step into the ring. After three rounds of battle with his counter-part, Xavier Epstein, the decision was left into the judges' hands and Epstein was awarded with the victory.

Gonzalez's teammate Brandon Verdugo was the next to step into the ring and was one of three Dragon's Eye fighters to get in the ring. Verdugo was the only one of the three to get a victory. He got his hand raised after earning the decision over his opponent Justin Takai.

Camp Verde High School junior Ezekiel Casillas took the ring for his second amateur fight after coming back from a hiatus. Casillas got back into training just a couple of weeks ago and was pitted against An Ho, who brought a record of 3-0-1 into their fight and was the current World Muay Thai Alliance Flyweight Champion.

The two did battle, some professional fighters in the crowd even called it the fight of the night as the whole crowd was cheering after the two went at it in the middle of the ring for three rounds.

Both of them never backed down or showed any fear during those three rounds, but it was An Ho's hand that was raised at the end of the match.

The decision could have gone either way but Casillas said he is already ready for another shot.

"I'm ready to get back in the ring right now if I could," Casillas said. "I truly thought I won the fight just because I landed more power punches but I guess the judges didn't see it that way. Hopefully in the future I'll fight him again."

Casillas hopes to get back in the ring in April and said that it felt good to get back in the ring and he is ready for anything.

After Casillas it was Dragon's Eye fighter Joseph Freudenreich who took the ring for one of two title fights on the night. He squared off with Joseph Torres for a shot to wrap a belt around his waist. Torres came out swinging and with a longer reach and was able to keep his distance and pepper the Verde Valley fighter with kicks and jabs and earn his way to victory.

Hulices Felix, took the stage next to dance under the lights. With no experience in the ring before Saturday night, you could see the true determination in the Camp Verde natives' eyes as he went blow for blow with his counterpart for three straight rounds of battle.

At the end of those three rounds, it was his hand that was raised and with a loud wooooo a new amateur career was started. Felix, who is a part of the Camp Verde Wrestling team, said he started early with combat sports.

"I've always wanted to get into it (fighting) and when you have partners and a coach that all have the same dream and the same motivation it just becomes a further drive to want to succeed," Felix said.

To start his career in the ring off with a win, Felix said it felt great.

"It gives me something to shoot for every time I step into the ring now," Felix said. "I was relaxed and focused, but I was also pumped up by Ez's fight."

The last Verde Valley fight of the night was nothing short of exciting as Jesse Gonzales, a member of HDH Kickboxing, returned to the ring after close to a three-year hiatus. He said he got the 'itch' to get back in the ring after cornering at an event in Phoenix.

"My dad wanted me to help at the event in Phoenix and just being in the weigh-ins and helping corner something inside me was like it's time to get back in this," Gonzales said. "I was like a little kid helping my dad, so pumped, so excited."

Gonzales turned out to have what was needed as he gave the remaining crowd a show over three rounds against opponent Charles Albaugh. Gonzales said he plans on getting back in the ring on March 26th in Phoenix.

Three clubs from the Verde Valley traveled to Surprise for a night of exciting fights and three Verde Valley fighters came home with victories.

-- Follow Greg Macafee on Twitter @greg_macafee and Instagram @VerdeValleyNews

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