Fighters feed off of momentum, whether it is during a fight or in the gym.
Efrain Esquivias is no different and perhaps cemented his name as a contender when he knocked out Rafael Marquez on Dec. 7 in Indio, Calif.
Unfortunately, Esquivias was not able to immediately build off the momentum of such a satisfying victory over a future Hall of Fame fighter. An injury temporarily derailed a quick return to the ring for the 30-year-old Esquivias.
With possible high-profile opponents waiting on the horizon, Esquivias faces Ruben Tamayo in an eight-round bout at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, Calif., tonight. The bout headlines a six-bout card presented by Thompson Boxing Promotions.
After a disappointing 12 round unanimous decision loss to Jhonatan Romero in September of 2012, the second of his career, some wondered whether Esquivias’ career would transition from prospect to gatekeeper status. The former National Golden Gloves champion was unbeaten in his first 16 bouts, but went winless in his next three bouts.
It may have fueled the idea Esquivias was selected as just an opponent against Marquez in December. Esquivias was not thought of as dangerous puncher and is a notorious slow starter. Esquivias did start slow against Marquez, but eventually found his rhythm in the fight and scored the surprising and well-earned knockout victory.
Immediately after the fight, Esquivias returned to the gym, eager to secure another big fight. What he did not count on was a back injury in the gym that abruptly halted all training.
Weeks turned into months and with it was added frustration of not being able to fight. Less than a month ago, Esquivias was cleared to fight and is eager to catch up on lost time. A fight with Tamayo will have to do, where a convincing victory could bring about more lucrative bouts with the top fighters at 122 and 126 pounds.
"It was very frustrating not being able to fight," Esquivias told RingTV.com in an interview over the phone. "I wanted to get back in the ring as soon as possible and built upon the Marquez win. I couldn't do anything in the gym. It (the back injury) ended up being a pinched nerve and I still have it."
Tamayo could pose some problems against Esquivias. Not only is Tamayo a southpaw and has some power, Esquivias may be looking past him as he looks toward solidifying his standing as a contender.
Esquivias knows all too well what overlooking an opponent can do. There are brighter lights and bigger purses to secure down the road, something Esquivias is not about to throw away. Esquivias believes an impressive victory will open more discussions to make fights with contenders and world title holders.
“I want to make a statement,” said Esquivias, who resides in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson. “Getting rounds would be great, but I want a victory to put me out there where I can get the attention of the champions.”
“I can still make 122 pounds. I would a title shot against guys like Kiko Martinez. He has my belt. It’s the belt I should have, but I lost to Jhonatan Romero in a fight I wasn’t at 100 percent. You can tell I wasn’t my best that night (against Romero).”
There are many people close to Esquivias and fans along the way who are pulling for Esquivias to win on Friday night and continue on a path towards a world title shot. While it is a daunting task for any fighter to get the ultimate goal of a world title shot, he is confident it will happen as long as he keeps winning.
But a world title shot and winning one would have special meaning for Esquivias. It would mean fulfilling a promise Esquivias made to his father before he passed away a few years back.
“I’m still fighting for the memory of my father. I made a promise to him that I would get a world title for him. I do have him in the back of my mind and he’s always taught me to never quit.”
While it hurt Esquivias more psychologically than physically to not be able to get back in the ring after the Marquez fight, he did follow through on what his father spoke about to never quit. That mindset got him back in the ring, with the probability of bigger fights down the road.
While it remains to be seen Esquivias will end up in a position to fight for a world title, fighting for his benefit and the memory of his father are commendable. While that is good, that world title belt is what he wants and will continue grinding until it is wrapped around his waist.
“I want to make a huge statement.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing