By David Martinez / dmboxing.com
My friend, Henry Calles, officially ended his professional boxing career by announcing in March 2016 his retirement from the ring after a four bout and three year tenure.
Henry, a successful amateur boxer in his younger days, and owner of Duke’s Boxing & Fitness Gym in Isla Vista, California turned to his lifetime dream of becoming a professional boxer in the summer of 2013. At the age of 36, many including myself, knew it would be against the odds starting at such a late age. Most boxers at this age are considering retirement or have completed their careers. The key element in Henry’s favor was that he was a youthful, well preserved boxer at a late age.
Boxing is like no other sport, as your diet, lifestyle, and superior conditioning are most essential in your everyday life, with training usually six days a week. Trips to Ventura, Oxnard and Los Angeles for sparing sessions to achieve top quality is a must and a huge part of training.
At the start of Henry’s pro career, Team Duke’s consisted of head trainer Mark Lee, team manager Sarah Cammann, my daughter Laura Danhauer R.N. (Registered Nurse) as cut person, myself as team second/coach, and his wife Veronica.
It was determined at the start that Henry would begin his career at the light heavyweight (175 pound) limit. After two months of serious training, Henry made his professional debut on August 16, 2013. The opponent was 29-year-old southpaw Zlatko Ledic, for a scheduled 4 rounds at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, California.
The fight ended in a controversial draw. Working in the corner for Henry that night, I saw Henry “close up” winning 3 of 4 rounds. However the judges saw it differently; on a ten point must system the scorecards were 40-36 for Calles, and 38-38 by the other two judges, resulting in a majority draw.
The bout had rematch written all over it and would come four months later on December 6, 2013 at the same venue. After a brief break, it was back in the gym to train for the rematch. Henry continued running every day, consumed a safe diet to maintain weight, and made many trips down south for the up-grade in sparing sessions.
Team Duke’s requested the bout to be a six-rounder, but the promoters declined. In the rematch Henry fought brilliantly and won by a four round unanimous decision.
Next up was a fight at a larger venue in Orange County against unbeaten local prospect Reese Bennett. New trainer Oscar Gracia Jr. and father Oscar Gracia Sr. replaced Mark Lee, and first on their agenda was to move Henry down in weight to the super middleweight (168) limit. The training stepped up to another level and camp opened up for eight weeks. Henry made the trainer adjustment just fine and stepped into the fight on June 11, 2015 with the younger Bennett as the underdog in a scheduled four round bout.
This was to be Henry’s finest performance. He fought his heart out, never taking a step backwards and was the aggressor from beginning to end. The crowd of over 1,500 cheered throughout the all- action bout and when the fight ended, $300 was thrown into the ring with everyone in the arena giving a standing ovation. In the fight game the money represents the ultimate appreciation from the fans when two boxers display their absolute best in the ring. The fight itself was declared the “Fight of the Night.”
The official scorecards had one judge scoring it 39-37 Calles (3 rounds to 1), while the other two judges scored it 38-38 (2 rounds apiece), resulting in a majority draw decision.
I will say that Henry showed his mark as a true champion that night, with his will to win and mental toughness in a hostile environment that favored Bennett.
Next up would be a larger venue, the Westin Bonaventure in downtown Los Angeles on November 28, 2015 against another unbeaten local younger boxer, Lucius Johnson. The fight was fought at a middleweight catch weight of 165 pounds and scheduled for 4 rounds. I was in Henry’s corner and certainly had the best seat in the house to see another sensational performance by Henry. He took it to the younger opponent with effective shots to the body and at the end of the fight was the fresher of the two standing. The scorecards were 39-37 in favor of Calles, with the other two judges scoring it identical 38-38, a draw. My score was 39-37 (3 rounds to 1) for Calles.
After four professional fights Henry remained undefeated with 1 win, no losses, and 3 draws.
The amazing fact about three of the four fights was that Calles was the underdog and considered just another opponent for the local promoters’ prospects. Henry Calles certainly derailed that notion and proved by hard work and his boxing ability to be more than just another opponent.
What I admire most about Calles was that while in training for all of these fights he was maintaining his gym on a daily basis, and most importantly, he was being a husband and a father to two young children (Benny born in 2011 and Camile born in 2013) during this time.
Henry will now focus on family and staying in shape in the gym as he continues to teach boxing to his students.
On behalf of Team Duke’s and all the many family and fans that supported Henry Calles, it was an absolute pleasure to be a part of Henry’s professional career. Thank you to everybody for being in his corner!