Vaiza coming up in Tough Man tournament Saturday

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Athlete Ray Vaiza, a 2011 Socorro High School graduate, will compete in a Tough Man boxing tournament at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Boot Camp Boxing gym in Socorro.

Polo C ‘de Baca/For El Defensor Chieftain: Ray Vaiza and his father Ray Vaiza get ready for Saturday’s fights to be held in Socorro.

Vaiza, who is 20 years old, has five siblings and is the eldest of the boys. He played football and was a runner on the track team in high school. Now all of his athletic activities are focused on the disciplines of mixed martial arts, which he has studied and practiced for 10 years under the tutelage of his father, Ray.

“My dad used to fight when he was younger, and I wanted to do that,” Vaiza said. “I got interested just watching him, ’cause I look up to him.”

Vaiza said in his category, 180 pounds and under, there are about seven other tournament contestants. In a tough man bout a 130 pound fighter may come up against someone weighing 180 pounds, hence the name “tough man.” He spoke modestly about being in a jujitsu tournament in Las Cruces recently.

“It worked out pretty good because I hadn’t wrestled in a long time,” Vaiza said. “The first match I won in 15 seconds or something like that. It was pretty quick — but I lost the second match by just one point.”

Vaiza’s dad started studying the martial arts 30 years ago and has competed in taekwondo, jujitsu, karate and other disciplines. He and other coaches work to help local competitors who compete under the name, Team Damage Inc., established 13 years ago.

Vaiza said that he leaves the scouting and studying his opponent to his coaches so that he can concentrate on his job. He said he couldn’t honestly say how many fights he had under his belt because he’s had so many. Vaiza works at Walmart but manages to train three to five times a week. His father said between boxing, kickboxing, jujitsu and MMA his son has over 100 matches.

“Once you step into that gym, you’re there to work,” Vaiza said. “You’re not there to mess around, you know what I mean. I just try to be calm; I listen to my coaches and concentrate on my training.”

Vaiza will not know who his opponents are until the day of the tournament. This competition will very much be a straight-out stand-up fight. There will be three one-minute rounds

“He can go three times that much,” Vaiza’s dad said. “In practices he will go anywhere from seven to 12 five-minute rounds a night.

“Because he is my son, you don’t want to let the emotions get the best of you. I just watch what he’s doing and I honestly watch what his opponent is doing. It’s a discipline in itself to stay focused and not let emotions get to you.”

The doors will open at 6 p.m. and the competition begins at 7. The admission is $10 and is to help with operating expenses. The gym is located at 105 Francisco de Avondo St. in Socorro near Fire Station No. 3, and close to the Family Dollar store.