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Golden Boy Grabbing Hold of Southern California

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It’s been noted through surveys and experts that Latinos, especially Mexican fight fans, represent the center of the hardcore boxing fans. That without these fans boxing would cease to exist.

Golden Boy Promotions has set out to stir up the hornets nest by shaking the tree at the center by working from Los Angeles and outward. They’re looking for young talent in their own backyard and in specific points abroad to appease the fans.

Recently members of the L.A. based company have been seen at amateur tournaments from Coachella Valley in the desert area to Houston, Texas.

On Thursday, the first of two Southern California fight cards displays some of the local talent at the early stages. The Belasco Theater will be the locale for LA Fight Night. Two days later in Indio the contenders take to the ring at Fantasy Springs Casino.

Downtown LA history

I’m not sure whose brain child it was to pick the Belasco Theater to stage fight cards but it’s been like biting into the tastiest peach in your life. It leaves a lasting memory.

Word has it that Golden Boy Promotions is seeking a larger venue. Hopefully they keep Belasco Theater or maybe just move next door to the Mayan Theater which is bigger and a mere 100 feet north.

The Belasco Theater has turned out to be a revelation for staging fight cards. It has tons of film noir-like atmosphere reminiscent of the nights at the old Olympic Auditorium a few blocks south. You can almost imagine Speedy Dado, Manuel Ortiz or Chalky White stepping on the same sidewalks 80 years ago. Or Mae West emerging from her limousine and bumping into Al Jolson to catch a fight or two.

Los Angeles has always been a fight town from pro boxing’s true infancy in the 1890s to the present. Major League Baseball didn’t arrive until 1958 and aside from being the movie capital of the world, boxing co-existed with motion pictures for over a century. L.A. depended on boxing for entertainment.

Hollywood and boxing fit together like coke and ice.

Just a few blocks west of Belasco Theater a warehouse exists, it was used for many of the shots of movie “The Fighter” starring Mark Wahlberg. Who knows if the “Southpaw” was shot there too?

The trainer for Jake Gyllenhaal was Terry Claybon a known boxing and fitness trainer to the stars like Denzel Washington and others. For decades actors have been interested in boxing and frequented the many former L.A. venues like the Olympic Auditorium down the street, or L.A Sports Arena for bigger events. There was also the Hollywood Legion on Gower Street that is now a fitness workout center.

Conversely, many boxers like Max Baer and “Slapsy” Maxie Rosenbloom transitioned from fighting in the boxing ring to acting on the big screen. The two entertainment professions have always been intertwined so it’s no surprise when limousines pull up to a Golden Boy fight card and out emerges a Hollywood celebrity.

Not prime time

Very few big name boxers appear at the Belasco Theater. It’s a starting point for the prospective boxers signed by Golden Boy Promotions. The fights are good and though on occasion a mismatch may occur, more often than not they’re somewhat evenly matched with upsets happening on every show.

Golden Boy is not trying to cultivate a boxer’s undefeated record. They’re looking for real talent that can move from prospects to contenders and hopefully world champion status.

The main event on Thursday at Belasco Theater will be Abraham Lopez (18-0-1) an undefeated featherweight from La Puente. He was formerly managed by Frank Espinoza who has a nose for guiding the best. Lopez had up and down performances and then took a three year sabbatical before returning. He faces New Jersey’s Jorge Diaz (18-3-1) in a bout set for 10 rounds. It’s a crossover fight with the winner moving forward toward a bigger stage.

Others on the fight card are Roy Tapia a super bantamweight boxer from East L.A. who fought to a draw in his last appearance. Five others will be making their pro debuts or second pro appearance. It’s an excellent opportunity to discover the new L.A. area talent. It’s also a great time to experience the film noir ambience. It’s the best place to watch boxing.

For Belasco Theater tickets call (213) 746-1606.

Contender Saturday

Northern California’s Manuel Avila, a tall undefeated super bantamweight, tangles with Cuba’s Yoandris Salinas in the main event at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio.

It’s a very interesting clash between Avila who is Erik Morales-like tall at 122 pounds with speed and power. Salinas has already fought for the world title and ended with a draw against United Kingdom’s Scott Quigg. That fight took place in London, England about two years ago.

Avila seems unconcerned by Salinas and has not seen tape of the Cuban fighter.

“I don’t watch any tape on my opponents,” said Avila an elongated 122-pound super bantamweight. “I can kind of adjust to any type of style. Just figure a guy out and take over from there.”

Salinas was defeated by knockout from a former Avila foe named Enrique Quevedo a year ago. But styles make fights.

Welterweights

A pair of solid welterweights take part in the co-main event when Venezuela’s Johan Perez (20- 2-1) and Russia’s Dmitry Mikhaylenko (19-0) jump in the ring.

Perez fought and lost to Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera but there’s no shame in that. Herrera should be wearing the WBC junior welterweight world title after fights with Danny Garcia and Jose Benavidez. Perez fought well but has a habit of not throwing many punches.

Mikhaylenko is making his first West Coast appearance and has only four pro fights outside of his native Russia. It’s always interesting to see someone from Eastern Europe perform in the U.S. For decades boxers from over there tended to be one-dimensional with their embedded amateur style that left them prone to body attacks. In the last decade they’ve made big strides and have adapted to a stronger professional style with more aggression than defense. They understand they need fans to love them so they sidestep the defensive stances more prevalent in the East Coast for a more West Coast attacking mode. We’ll see what category Mikhaylenko falls into.

One young boxer on the card to watch is Joet Gonzalez from the L.A. area. The young super bantamweight has looked solid in his first 10 pro fights.

For Fantasy Springs ticket information call (800) 827-2946.

Oscar De La Hoya and his crew seem to be strengthening their grass roots scouting. They have a number of strong, young, hungry fighters ready to move up into the bright lights. It’s fun to watch the process and imagine it’s the same way it was in the nights of Prohibition.

Crowds line up around the arena early. It’s always good to see those type of fans.

Photo by Belasco Theater

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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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