Joey Borrero will leave Las Vegas early next week to travel to Mexico for a professional boxing match on Feb. 27.
If all goes as planned, he’ll land in San Diego, cross the border into Tijuana and then catch a flight to Colima, where he’ll fight Luis Ernesto Rueda at the Hotel Fiesta Inn.
But there’s an outside chance the 23-year-old will be grounded in San Diego and unable to make the fight.
Borrero, who has no promotion company or manager, is on his own to pay for travel and other expenses. He’s already got a plane ticket for the initial part of the journey. The rest is unaccounted for, including the return trip to Las Vegas — of which he’ll start with a fight purse of 500 pesos, or about $24.
“This is my dream. I know I am going to be a world champion,” Borrero said. “I’m giving everything I have to make this dream happen, including all of my money.”
Borrero has already leaned on his coach and others at the Las Vegas Fight Club, and would feel bad again asking for financial help. He’s got a young son and lives with the boy’s mother, knowing they can’t break from their hand-to-mouth budget to further fund the trip.
So, he started a Facebook fundraiser with hopes that friends could make small contributions to equal the $228 needed for the remaining travel expenses. One of the first to donate was K.C. Karns, his old track coach from Chaparral High School who messaged, “I want an invite to the party when you win the belt.”
Borrero has a 7-0 record with all of the wins coming by knockout in the 140-pound super lightweight division. But, like most aspiring fighters, his opponents have been those making their debut or fill-in fighters who don’t pose much of a threat. Those fighters have a combined 1-25 lifetime record.
That’s why Borrero can’t let this opportunity pass, because Rueda is a veteran fighter who has an 18-1 record and represents a significant upgrade in competition.
If Borrero can again win convincingly, it could catch the eye of matchmakers to secure a more marquee fight, or possibly for a coveted spot with a promotion company. Those would pay for him to train, offer per diem and handle expenses in traveling to a fight.
Until then, he’s making due.
Fighters usually have a coach in the corner during a match to shout instructions or make in-fight strategy chances. Coach Rafael Ramirez will remain in Las Vegas because Borrero can’t afford to also bring him along. He’ll borrow a coach and cutman from the fight before his.
It seems comical, but it’s the reality for many unknown fighters launching a career.
“Having fought no big names, this is how it has to be,” Borrero said.
What doesn’t lack is Borrero’s training regime, which includes long daily sessions at Las Vegas Fight Club. He trains there at no charge because “he’s a good kid,” owner Jayson Gallegos said. He also runs about five daily miles, usually taking the same route from his home on Maryland Parkway and Charleston Boulevard through east Las Vegas.
On those runs he continually envisions how winning a championship will look and feel — the referee raising his hand, the announcer saying his name and the belt being around his waist.
That determination is what sets him apart.
“It’s his mindset. He doesn’t like the word loser,” Ramirez said. “He shows up every day wanting to prove that he can do it.”
Borrero has been mastering his craft since his childhood in Puerto Rico, where he comes from a noted boxing family. His uncle is multi-division former champion Félix Trinidad, his grandfather Juan “Popo” Guzman is a famed Puerto Rican trainer and brother Ezequiel Borrero is also an up-and-coming Las Vegas fighter.
He wants to have a legendary career like Trinidad, who is widely considered Puerto Rico’s best all-time fighter and a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. More important, he wants to provide for his young son, 20-month-old Joey Abraham.
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He’s never thought about giving up on the dream. He’s invested his entire life into boxing and feels he’s very close to making a splash in the sport.
Borrero has previously had jobs at a cellphone store, moving company and dental office assistant. He’s even made a few hundred dollars sparring against accomplished fighters in preparation of their Las Vegas bouts. Those sessions against the likes of Jorge Linares, Devin Haney and Teofimo Lopez at various gyms throughout town have fueled his confidence because he says he proved he can compete at that level.
“I’ve been in there against some great fighters. They know who I am and that I can hold my own,” he said.
Now it’s about getting a promotion company to share that mindset. But first, there’s a more pressing demand — securing the money to complete his travel.