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The Riverside Connection Hits L.A.: Chavez, Garcia and Rodriguez

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Riverside_connection_photo_Mikey_and_Saul_2Mikey and Saul (right) show their stuff on Saturday.

Most people think Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. began boxing in the town of his father the great Mexican boxing legend Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. They would be wrong.

Most people think Mikey Garcia, the younger brother of boxing trainer Robert Garcia, still lives and trains in the city of Oxnard under his brother’s tutelage. They would be wrong.

And most people think you need to win numerous amateur titles and awards to become a sought after amateur star. They would be wrong too, especially when you see a boxer like Saul “Neno” Rodriguez come along.

Riverside claims all three fighters above including Chavez Jr. who began lacing up the gloves and learning the rudimentary aspects of the fight game in the rural town of Mira Loma, a suburb of Riverside, California.

Lately, the area surrounding Riverside has become a hub for boxers of all weight classes from mini flyweights to heavyweights. Chavez Jr. and his younger brother Omar Chavez began boxing in this new hotbed for boxing that erupted in the late 1990s.

A strong Riverside connection led by Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Mikey Garcia and newcomer Rodriguez takes front stage on Saturday’s Top Rank card at the Staples Center.

The Riverside area will be showing off some of its talent.

Chavez Jr. fights current WBC middleweight titleholder Sebastian Zbik (30-0, 10 KOs) in the main event, and in the semi-main event Garcia tangles with Miguel Beltran Jr. and Rodriguez makes his pro debut. Chavez and Garcia’s fight will be televised on HBO.

Chavez, a former student at Ramona High, has been waiting for this moment since he became a pro in September 2003.

“I wasn’t in a hurry,” said Chavez, 25, who began training in Mira Loma when he was a young teen. “There were a lot of things I needed to learn. I’m excited to be fighting for the title.”

Chavez (42-0-1, 30 KOs) remains undefeated and has moved up several weight divisions since he first laced up gloves as a pro at 130 pounds. Now he weighs 160 pounds and has grown several inches.

Though raised for several years in Riverside its Mexico that holds his heart.

“I want to win the championship for Mexico,” Chavez says.

Germany’s Zbik is also undefeated. The current titleholder also desires to make history but for another reason.

“I want to become the first German fighter since Max Schmeling to win a world championship fight in the United States,” said Zbik pointing toward Schmeling’s win over Joe Louis back in June 19, 1936. “I want to make history.”

In actuality, Zbik would be the first. When Schmeling beat Louis it was in a non-title match. Their second fight was a world title fight.

Zbik acquired the title when Argentina’s Sergio Martinez took the middleweight crown and was relieved of the junior middleweight title.

“People say I didn’t really win the world title,” Zbik, 29, says. “That will all change when I beat Chavez. He’s strong but I’m stronger.”

In a featherweight battle between top contenders, Moreno Valley’s Garcia (25-0, 21 KOs) battles Mexico’s Beltran (24-1, 17 KOs) to decide who gets first crack at a world title. (Note: Beltran broke his hand, so Rafael Guzman will face Garcia instead.)

Garcia moved to Moreno Valley and trains in Riverside in the same gym as heavyweight contender Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola and junior welterweight contender Josesito Lopez. No longer does he prepare in Oxnard and his father Eduardo is his trainer.

“I haven’t seen him fight but he’s got to be a tough opponent, he’s going to come to win,” said Garcia about Beltran. “Obviously he’s trying to make a step up and if he were to beat me he possibly gets a title shot in his next fight,” Garcia said. “So I expect a rugged fight.”

Garcia recently fought on a nationally televised broadcast and knocked out another undefeated fighter in Matt Remillard last March in New Jersey. Now he’s fighting in Los Angeles.

“I haven’t fought at Staples Center ever and it’s been a while since I fought here in California,” said Garcia whose family moved from Oxnard to Moreno Valley in early 2010. “We’ve been here for more than a year and it’s been good. I’m happy and my father is happy.”

Garcia is a stable-mate of Saul Rodriguez who recently turned 18 and is about to graduate from Riverside Poly High on Wednesday June 1. Three days later he’ll make his pro debut at Staples Center after a successful amateur career.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Rodriguez, who lives in Riverside,  about graduating and turning pro. “It’s a big opportunity to have that same memory in the same week.”
Rodriguez trains under little-known king-maker Garcia who helped his other son Robert Garcia become a junior lightweight world champion and also guided Fernando “El Feroz” Vargas to the junior middleweight world title.

Rodriguez has been a crowd pleasing amateur for many years with his fast hands and knockout power. After years of providing excitement to amateur boxing fans, he’s like a young gunslinger eager to move on to the pro crowds and show the stuff he’s learned under legendary trainer Eduardo Garcia. The man who guided his sons and “El Feroz” has a new potential champion and those at the Staples Center will see him do his work.

“It’s an honor to train with Mr. Garcia and you learn a lot. He has a lot of experience and he’s made it to the top with a lot of fighters,” said Rodriguez who was mulling different offers from various managers and ultimately signed with Cameron Dunkin. “Hopefully I’ll do good things.”

All three prizefighters will be showing boxing fans a taste of Riverside’s fighting style.

Other bouts

Glendale’s undefeated Vanes Martirosyan (29-0, 18 KOs) fights Saul Roman (34-8, 29 KOs) in a 12 round junior middleweight match. The winner could possibly fight the Chavez-Zbik winner later this year.

Female star Christy “The Coalminer’s Daughter” Martin (49-5-3, 31 KOs) fights Dakota Stone (9-8-5) in a six round junior middleweight bout. They previously fought in 2009 and Martin won by majority decision.

“She’s a tough girl I don’t expect an easy fight,” said Martin while training in West Hollywood.

Other boxing chatter:

Heavyweight contender Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola of Riverside is already scheduled to fight again on July 9 in Atlantic City. Arreola (32-2, 28 KOs) recently knocked out Kendrick Releford in round seven last Friday. It was his second fight in two weeks.  

San Diego’s Antonio Orozco (9-0, 6 KOs) meets Hensley Strachan (5-8-1) in a junior welterweight fight scheduled for six rounds on Thursday, June 2 at the Orange County Fairgrounds. Orozco had to postpone a fight several weeks ago due to food poisoning but has recovered. Riverside’s Sindy Amador fights Jessica Penne in a flyweight bout. For more information call Roy Englebrecht Events (949) 760-3131.

Three Southern California prospects, Luis Ramos, Leo Santa Cruz and Randy Caballero fight on Friday, June 3 at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio. Ramos (18-0) fights Francisco Lorenzo (36-9) in a lightweight bout set for eight rounds. Santa Cruz (15-0-1) faces Puerto Rico’s Jose Lopez (39-9-2) and Coachella’s Caballero is scheduled for a six round bout. For more information (800) 827-2946.

Cruiserweight Anatoliy Dudchenko (11-2, 8 KOs) fights Michael Simms (21-13-2, 13 KOs) in an eight round contest on Friday, June 3 at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills. For more information call Art of Boxing Promotions (626) 388-8888.

Undefeated bantamweight Abner Mares (21-0-1, 13 KOs) will fight IBF bantamweight titleholder Joseph “King Kong” Agbeko (28-2, 22 KOs) in the finals of the Showtime Bantamweight Tournament on August 13. No site has been determined. Agbeko was forced to back out last month when he suffered a back injury.

Omar Chavez (26-0-1, 19 KOs), the younger brother of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., knocked out Genaro Trazancos (22-15-1, 13 KOs) at 56 seconds of the fourth round of a welterweight bout in Mexicali on Saturday. Chavez, who formerly lived in Riverside, is 21 years old.

Costa Rica’s junior lightweight prospect Bryan Vazquez (26-0, 14 KOs) knocked out Nicaragua’s Michael Carrero (10-15-2) in the first round of a scheduled 10 round contest. Vazquez, 23, fights out of San Jose, Costa Rica.

Germany’s Christina Hammer (10-0, 7 KOs) won the battle of undefeated middleweights by decision over Sweden’s Maria Lindberg (5-1-2) after 10 rounds. The world title unification bout took place in the Czech Republic on Saturday. Hammer now has the WBO and WBF middleweight titles.

Heavyweight Franklin Lawrence (15-2-2, 10 KOs) stopped Jason Gavern (20-8-4) at the end of the seventh round by knockout. The fight took place in Dover, Delaware on Friday night. In a female junior lightweight bout Ronica Jeffrey (7-0) handed Elizabeth Sherman (3-1) her first pro loss after four rounds.

WBO lightweight titleholder Erin McGowan (14-0, 7 KOs) defends against Amy Johnson (7-2-3) on Friday, June 3 in Mt. Claremont, Australia. McGowan, 30, is making her first title defense. Johnson fights out of Edmonton, Canada.

Former super middleweight world champion Mikkel Kessler (43-2, 32 KOs) fights Mehdi Bouadla (22-3, 10 KOs) in a 12 round super middleweight bout on Saturday, June 4, in Copenhagen, Denmark .

Marco Antonio Rubio (50-5-1, 43 KOs), who recently upset Canada’s David Lemieux by knockout, is set to fight Ricardo Ramallo (11-3-1) in a super middleweight match on Saturday, June 4, in Mexico City.

Undefeated Andy Murray (24-0, 12 KOs) clashes with Gavin Rees (34-1, 26 KOs) in a 12 round bout for the vacant EBU lightweight title on Saturday, June 4. The lightweight title match takes place in Cardiff, Wales.

WBC super middleweight titleholder Carl Froch (27-1, 20 KOs) of Great Britain meets former light heavyweight world champion Glen Johnson (51-14-2, 35 KOs) in the semi-finals of the Super Six Super Middleweight tournament. The contest takes place Saturday, June 4 in Atlantic City. The winner meets WBA super middleweight titleholder Andre Ward who beat Arthur Abraham decisively two weeks ago.

Fights on television

Fri. 11:30 p.m., Leo Santa Cruz (15-0-1) vs. Jose Lopez (39-9-2).

Sat. 9 p.m., Carl Froch (27-1) vs. Glen Johnson (51-14-2).

Sat. HBO, 10 p.m., Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (42-0-1) vs. Sebastian Zbik (30-0).

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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