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The Avila Perspective Chap. 30: A Day in L.A., Plant, Pacquiao, and More

David A. Avila

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L.A.

Every time it rains in L.A. I think about the Doors song “Riders in the Storm.”

On Sunday a brief window of dryness blanketed as I drove to downtown L.A. on freeways that were slightly emptier than normal with the L.A. Chargers playing the New England Patriots. I guess some people stayed home to watch it.

Freeway traffic plays a big part in any Californian’s life. But it’s rare that a boxing event is held on a Sunday. My destination that day was LA Live across the street from the Staples Center.

LA Live has a skating rink in the middle of the courtyard and people were milling around an hour before the boxing card was to begin at Microsoft Theater. The theater is a swanky building across the skating rink from the ESPN structure.

A guy resembling my nephew Giovanni is talking to a few people next to the Starbucks. As I walk closer the person is gone. Later, I would see that the same kid resembling my nephew is actually fighting on the large boxing card. About a dozen fights are listed on the boxing bout sheet.

The Microsoft Theater has gone through a name change since it was first opened in 2007. It used to be called the Nokia Theater. The large theater hosts the ESPYs, EMMYs, Grammys and American Music Awards. But it’s no stranger to boxing events. A few fight cards have been held in its confine.

Crowds gathered early for the Premier Boxing Champions boxing card and by 5 p.m. it filled up pretty good.

One of the earliest boxing champions to arrive as a viewer was Mikey Garcia with several other young boxers and their entourages. The four division world champ has a date with Errol Spence Jr. in a couple of months. Spence arrived to watch the LA fight card a little later.

Title Fight

The main event featured Caleb Plant challenging the dangerous IBF super middleweight titlist Jose Uzcategui.

Plant has always shown he had skills and athleticism inside the boxing ring. But you can have all the tools in the world and it doesn’t mean a thing. What it really comes down to is can you take a punch from a puncher? Uzcategui can punch.

The Tennessee native has a pretty hefty following and they were loud in support of the slick fighting Plant. During the first six rounds it was like watching a concert with girls standing and cheering. But when the tide turned and Uzcategui began finding the antidote for Plant’s slickness, the same crowd was deadly quiet.

Plant is an entertainer. He can’t help himself. But he’s a classy kind of guy and fans genuinely like him. He can also fight.

Despite an undefeated record Plant had never truly established he belonged on the A list. He has A list skills but had never beaten an elite fighter until Sunday. He beat a good one and fans were thoroughly engrossed.

After their entertaining bloody clash you would have thought the two warriors would be red hot with anger. But instead, the two were like old chums and gracious after their 12-round battle. It kind of reminded me of long ago when two late greats Aaron Pryor and Alexis Arguello battled twice in the early 1980s. Those two great warriors became great friends and propelled the sport of boxing to greater heights and awareness. Later, Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward did the same in the early 2000s. It’s the beauty of boxing.

In the locker room Plant told Uzcategui they ought to share some Modelos soon. That got a big laugh and hug from the Venezuelan fighter who trains in Mexico. There were no hard feelings, just a lot of bruises and cuts.

Super middleweights may be the new showcase division.

A few possible opponents were in the crowd including David Benavidez, the current WBC titlist. A match with Plant or even a rematch with Uzcategui would bring an even bigger crowd. The super middleweights are heating up. There’s a lot of talent now in the 168-pound division including James DeGale, Callum Smith and George Groves in the United Kingdom and Gilberto Ramirez of Mexico. Hey, it’s even possible to see Gennady “GGG” Golovkin in the super middleweight division if the money is right.

I can’t wait to see the next super middleweight world title matchup.

El Cholos

When the fight card was over we walked across Figueroa Avenue to the Mexican restaurant famous for its margaritas. El Cholos has been around since the 1920s and has expanded to almost a dozen eateries in Southern California. I wish they had one in Las Vegas which does not have a good sit down Mexican restaurant.

El Cholos has become a favorite destination for me following boxing cards in L.A. After the fights several boxing reporters joined me for dinner including Muhammad Mubarak, Anthony Saldana and his wife Cynthia Saldana, Nancy Rodriguez from Supreme Boxing and Daniel who works with them and others. Usually my good friends from the Japanese press join us and long-time photographer Al Applerose, but not on this occasion. Still, we spent a couple of hours there and even ran into an old friend, Liz Quevedo Parr. As an amateur fighter she dominated two divisions for Team USA and now owns a gym in Long Beach called Guv’Nors Boxing Club. She recently had a cover page write up in OC Weekly.

At El Cholos we talked about Plant, Spence, Garcia and Benavidez. We also talked about women’s boxing especially Maricela Cornejo who is managed by Nancy Rodriguez. Both have movie star looks. Cornejo will be fighting in about 12 days in Hollywood at the Avalon Theater. Another female we discussed is Kenia Enriquez who fights out of Tijuana, Mexico. She’s very good.

The Lakers were playing across the street and I expected a rush of fans following the game. But the Lakers lost that night so fans must have been disgruntled and left quickly to their respective homes. Rain was threatening too. We can’t drive in the rain.

Eating and drinking with other journalists is one of the joys of being a fight reporter. Who better to talk about boxing than people that actually know the sport? Only in L.A., New York or Philadelphia can you find plenty of fans that actually know boxing and its politics. Over the years I’ve met some truly knowledgeable fight fans throughout Southern California.

Pacman and Broner

We’re heading to Las Vegas on Thursday, first to see Layla McCarter headline a Mayweather Promotions card that night at the MGM Grand. Tickets are free and it’s a hefty boxing card featuring many fighters from Floyd Mayweather’s stable.

McCarter is the best female fighter in the world pound for pound. Nobody has beaten her in 11 years and she’s fought in numerous countries around the world. Do you know how hard that is to accomplish? Ask any fighter.

Friday is a weigh-in for the Showtime pay-per-view card and I’m curious to see how many fans show up.

It’s been a while since Manny Pacquiao last fought in Las Vegas. Back on November 2016 he battled Jessie Vargas at the Thomas & Mack Center. On Saturday, Pacquiao will face Adrien Broner for the WBA welterweight world title at the MGM Grand. Showtime will have it on pay-per-view.

Every time I see Pacquiao I remember first watching him at the Wild Card gym almost 20 years ago. Freddie Roach kept telling a few of us to watch out for the lefty Filipino kid. Right from the start he proved to be deadly accurate. Pacquiao, now 40, has exceeded all my expectations and out-lasted everyone from that era.

I remember years ago in 2003 talking outside on the parking lot of the Olympic Auditorium. It was still light outside on a summer night and Freddie saw me and a couple of reporters and walked up to talk about his first experience in the Philippines training Pacquiao. He was still overwhelmed by the experience. Later that night Pacquiao would obliterate Emmanuel Lucero in the third round with a vicious uppercut. Even though I knew Pacman was very good I would have never predicted his longevity in a sport that usually spits out good fighters in 10 years.

On Saturday we will see how much the Filipino super star still has left in his legs. Hopefully on the drive to Las Vegas it won’t rain or snow.

Photo credit: Luis Mejia / TCB Promotions

Fights to watch

Fri. 5 p.m. PT DAZN – Jorge Linares vs Pablo Cano; Amanda Serrano vs Eva Voraberger; Demetrius Andrade vs Artur Akavov.

Fri. 6:30 p.m. PT/9:30 PM ET ESPN* Bryant Jennings (24-2) vs Oscar Rivas (25-0).

Sat. 6 p.m. PT Showtime pay-per-view – Manny Pacquiao vs Adrien Broner; Badou Jack vs. Marcus Browne; Rau’shee Warren vs Nordine Oubaali; Jhack Tepora vs Hugo Ruiz.

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Philadelphia’s Danny Garcia Wins in LA (is Manny Next?) and Undercard Results

David A. Avila

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Garcia

CARSON, Calif.-Former two division champion Danny “Swift” Garcia had too much firepower for Adrian Granados and simply overwhelmed the gritty fighter from Chicago before winning by knockout on Saturday.

No world title was at stake but future prizes were.

Philly fighter Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs) had predicted he would mow through Granados (20-7-2) who was moving up in weight again for this fight and was just too heavy handed before a crowd of more than 6,000 at the Dignity Health Sports Park. The PBC card was televised by FOX.

After a casual exchange of punches in the first round Garcia started bringing the thunder in the second round and connected with a double left hook to the body and a left hook to the head of Granados. The blows resounded throughout the arena and drew oohs from the crowd. Then Garcia caught Granados with a counter left hook that sent Granados sprawling across the ring. He got up and beat the count. Another exchange saw Garcia land a counter right cross and down went the Chicago fighter. He beat the count again but looked hurt. He survived the end of the round.

Garcia stalked Granados who moved more cautiously for the next two rounds but was still catching rights.

In the fifth round a straight right floored Granados while he was against the ropes. He survived the round again.

Granados tried every move he could think to change the momentum but nothing seemed to work. In the sixth both fought inside but Garcia soon began pummeling Granados with the referee looking closely. He allowed the fight to continue into the seventh round but checked with the corner twice.

With the crowd murmuring, Garcia gave chase to Granados and caught him near the ropes with a lead right and another right before unleashing a four-punch barrage. Referee Tom Taylor jumped in and stopped the beating at 1:33 of the seventh round to give Garcia the win by knockout.

Philadelphia’s Garcia had won in Southern California once again. He had beaten Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero by decision three years ago in Los Angeles.

“This is what makes Danny Garcia one of the best fighters in the world,” said Garcia. “I had to be the first man to stop him and I did that today.”

The win puts Garcia as a strong candidate to face multi-divisional world champion Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao who now holds the WBO welterweight world title.

“I hope I didn’t scare him away. Frankly I would love that fight or Keith Thurman or Errol Spence,” Garcia said.

Other Bouts

Brandon Figueroa (19-0) of Texas rumbled to a knockout win over Venezuela’s Yonfrez Parejo (22-4-1) to win the interim WBA super bantamweight title. The battle was fought mostly inside, forehead to forehead, but surprisingly, neither fighter suffered cuts from butts.

Figueroa and Parejo slugged it out inside until the sixth round when Parejo took the fight outside and scored well from distance. But Figueroa kept hunting him down and digging to the body and head. Finally, in the eighth round Figueroa began catching the moving Parejo with digging shots that seemed to affect the Venezuelan boxer. At the end of the round Parejo signaled he had enough.

Figueroa was deemed the winner by knockout.

“Honestly I thought I was going to finish him the next round,” said Figueroa.

California’s Andy “the Destroyer” Ruiz (32-1) won by knockout over Germany’s much taller Alexander Dimitrenko (41-5) in a heavyweight fight set for 10 rounds. Despite the size disparity Ruiz was the aggressor throughout and attacked the body with punishing blows. In the third round Ruiz almost ended the fight when Dimitrenko was severely hurt. After the end of the fifth round Dimitrenko’s cornered signaled the fight was over and referee Ray Corona waved it off. Ruiz wins by knockout as the crowd cheered loudly.

Ruiz was recently signed by PBC and may have found a home more suited for his weight division. It was his first fight under the PBC banner.

“I’m ready for the next one, I kind of seen that coming,” said Ruiz who admitted to eating a Snickers for energy. “The game plan was dropping the body down.”

Alfredo “El Perro” Angulo (25-7, 21 KOs) used the trusty knockout to win for the first time in four years. The victim was Evert Bravo (24-10-1) a super middleweight from Colombia who had his own losing streak like Angulo.

Both punished each other with hard combinations the first round, but in the second frame Angulo found his rhythm and fired a barrage of blows that left Bravo slumped along the ropes. Referee Rudy Barragan stopped the fight at 1:23 of the second round to give Angulo his first victory since he defeated Hector Munoz at the Staples Center on August 2015. He now trains with Abel Sanchez in Big Bear.

“I found a good coach,” said Angulo.

More than 1,000 fans remained to see Angulo perform long after the Garcia-Granado’s main event. He’s still a draw, especially in Southern California.

Former US Olympian Carlos Balderas (8-0, 7 KOs) stopped Luis May (21-14-1) with a barrage of blows in the fourth round of their lightweight clash. Balderas knocked down May several times but the crafty May used every means to survive including multiple low blows. Finally, at 1:07 of round four, Balderas unleashed several blows that saw May go down and a towel was thrown from his corner. Referee Ray Corona stopped the fight.

Fontana, California’s Raymond Muratalla (7-0) floored Mexico’s Jose Cen Torres (13-12) three times in the third round to win by knockout at 2:58 of the round in a super lightweight bout. Muratalla dropped Torres with a short right uppercut for the first knockdown. A right to the body sent Torres down a second time. A double right cross delivered Torres down a final time as referee Ray Corona immediately stopped the fight.

Las Vegas fighter Rolando Romero (9-0, 8 KOs) knocked out Colombia’s Andres Figueroa (9-5, 5 KOs) with a left hook during an exchange of blows at 1:27 of the fourth round in their lightweight scrap. Figueroa landed with a thud and was unconscious for several minutes and sent to the hospital.

Denver’s Shon Mondragon (2-0) battered Mexico’s Hugo Rodriguez (0-4) in the third round forcing referee Eddie Hernandez to end the fight at 1:55 of round three in a super bantamweight match.

Nelson Hampton (5-2) of Texas beat Phillip Bounds (0-3) by decision after lightweight fight.

Other winners were Jeison Rosario by split decision over Jorge Cota in a super welterweight fight. Omar Juarez beat Dwayne Bonds by decision in a super lightweight bout. Featherweights Ricky Lopez and Joe Perez fought to a draw after 10 rounds.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Fast Results From NYC: Crawford TKOs Khan but not Without Controversy

Arne K. Lang

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Crawford vs Khan

Amir Khan, who doesn’t shy away from tough assignments, was in New York tonight opposing WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford, a man who is on everyone’s short list of boxing’s top pound-for-pound fighters. The general assumption was that Khan had the slickness to win a few rounds but that his chin would ultimately betray him.

Khan won one round at the most — and that’s being generous – before the bout was stopped after 47 seconds of the sixth frame with Khan in pain from a low blow. Referee David Fields stopped the action to allow Khan to recover and then stopped the fight on the advice of the ring doctor with the apparent encouragement of Khan’s trainer Virgil Hunter. Because the low blow was accidental, Crawford was declared the winner by TKO.

It appeared that this fight would end in a hurry. In the opening round, Crawford decked Khan with an overhand right. Khan got to his feet but was in distress and for a moment it didn’t appear that he would last out the round. But Crawford did not press his advantage in round two and Khan regained his composure.

Crawford was in complete control when the fight ended, having raked Khan with combinations and a series of body punches in the fourth and fifth stanzas. Although the final punch of the fight was way south of the border, Khan’s refusal to continue was widely seen as an act of surrender. After the bout, Crawford called out Errol Spence.

PPV Undercard

Lightweight Teofimo Lopez, whose highlight reel knockouts and brash demeanor have made him arguably the most exciting young prospect in boxing, found a new way to conclude a fight tonight, collapsing Edis Tatli in the fifth round with a body punch. Lopez, who was born in Brooklyn and raised in a suburb of Miami (his parents are from Honduras and Spain), improved to 13-0 with his 11th knockout. Tatli, a Kosovo-born Finn making his U.S. debut, suffered his third loss in 34 starts. A two-time European lightweight champion, Tatli hadn’t previously been stopped.

Fast rising featherweight contender Shakur Stevenson, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist from Newark, simply outclassed former world title challenger Christopher Diaz, winning the 10-round bout on scores of 100-90, 99-91, and 98-82. The 21-year-old southpaw, now 11-0, was too fast and too busy for his Puerto Rican adversary who fell to 24-2.

In the first of the four PPV bouts, lightweight Felix Verdejo won a unanimous 10-round decision over Bryan Vasquez. Verdejo, a 2012 Olympian for Puerto Rico once touted as the island’s next Felix Trinidad, was returning to the site where he suffered his lone defeat, succumbing to heavy underdog Antonio Lozada whose unrelenting aggression ultimately wore him down, resulting in a 10th round stoppage.

Vasquez appeared to injure his left shoulder near the midpoint of the battle, an advantage to Verdejo, now 25-1, who started slowly but outworked Vasquez down the stretch, winning by scores of 98-92 and 97-93 twice. Costa Rica’s Vasquez, the husband of prominent boxer Hanna Gabriels, falls to 37-4.

Other Bouts

 Super welterweight Carlos Adames, who hails from the Dominican Republic but has been training with Robert Garcia in Riverside, California, made a strong impression with a 4th round stoppage of Brooklyn’s Frank Galarza. The undefeated Adames, now 17-0 (14 KOs), knocked Galarza (20-3-2) to the canvas with a hard left hook and then went for the kill, pinning Galarza against the ropes with a series of unanswered punches that compelled referee Benjy Estevez to intervene. The official time was 1:07.

 Super welterweight Edgar Berlanga, a 21-year-old New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent, needed only 46 seconds to dismiss 38-year-old Brazilian trail horse Samir dos Santos. Berlanga, who began his pro career in Mexico, has now knocked out all 10 of his opponents in the opening round.

Super welterweight Vikas Krishan, a two-time Olympian, improved to 2-0 with a 6-round unanimous decision over Noah Kidd (3-2-1). The scores were 59-55 and 60-54 twice.

A 27-year-old southpaw who as a job waiting for him as a police officer, Krishan is the second notable boxer to emerge from India, following on the footsteps of Top Rank stablemate Vijender Singh.

Bantamweight Lawrence Newton, a Floridian who has been training at Terence Crawford’s gym in Omaha, won his 12th straight without a loss with a 6-round unanimous decision over Jonathan Garza (7-3). The scores were 60-54 and 59-55 twice.

In a 6-round junior welterweight match that was one-sided but yet entertaining, Lawrence Fryers won a unanimous decision over Dakota Polley. Fryers, wh is from Ireland but resides in New York, improved to 10-1. The 20-year-old Polley, from St. Joseph, Missouri, fell to 5-3.

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Allen (KO 3) and Chisora (UD 10) Victorious in Heavyweight Action in London

Arne K. Lang

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Heavyweights Allen & Chisora win

A pair of heavyweight battles topped the card at London’s 02 Arena. Both favorites won, but neither bout played out as expected.

Fan favorite David Allen, a 27-year-old Yorkshireman, continued his ascent from the lower depths of the boxing firmament with a one-punch knockout of Australia’s  heavily-tattooed Lucas Browne. Allen caved in Browne with a body punch in the third round that brought a sudden end to a bout that the Aussie appeared to be winning.

Browne, who turned 40 this month, made history when he became the first Australian to win a world heavyweight title (WBA version) when he scored a 10th round stoppage of Ruslan Chagaev in Russia. But, in hindsight, that win was a fluke. A gassed-out Chagaev was widely ahead on the cards when his roof fell in. Browne’s tenure was brief. He was stripped of the belt after testing positive for clenbuterol.

Allen, nicknamed the White Rhino, has now won four straight beginning with an upset of previously undefeated Nick Webb. His reputation is that of a common brawler, a fighter willing to take two punches to land one, but, regardless, he positioned himself for a nice payday or two going forward. Browne lost his second straight after opening his career 28-0.

The maddeningly inconsistent Dereck Chisora, who engaged in two barnburners with Dillian Whyte, snoozed his way to a 10-round unanimous decision over milquetoast Senad Gashi. The 35-year-old Chisora, a Zinbabwe-born Londoner, improved to 30-9 but did nothing to improve his stock. The well-traveled Gashi, born in Kosovo and now residing in Spain, declined to 17-3 while acquiring the patina of a trial horse.

Other Bouts

Welterweight Josh Kelly, a 2016 Olympian, won a lopsided 10-round decision over stubborn Przemysla Runowski. Kelly (9-0, 6 KOs) had Runowski on the canvas in rounds two, nine, and 10, but the previously undefeated Pole (now 17-1, 3 KOs) stayed the course. Kelly appeared to hurt his hand early in the fight. That may knock him off the Joshua-TBA card on June 1 at Madison Square Garden.

Joe Cordina, a Welshman, now holds the British and Commonwealth lightweight titles after scoring a 6th round stoppage of Yorkshireman Andy Townend (22-5). Cordina started slowly but gradually picked up the pace and scored three knockdowns before the referee waived it off. A 2016 Olympian, Cordina (9-0, 7 KOs) was a heavy favorite despite a dearth of pro experience.

Conor Benn the 22-year-old son of Nigel Benn, was extended the distance for the third time in his last four fights but had little difficulty advancing his record to 14-0 (9) at the expense of Josef Zahradnik (10-3) of the Czech Republic. The referee awarded Benn every round in this 8-round welterweight affair.

Middleweight Nikita Ababiy, a hot prospect with a big upside, was extended into the second round for the first time in his young pro career but eliminated Dmitri Faltin after only 26 seconds of round two. A 20-year-old Brooklynite of Russian extraction, nicknamed White Chocolate, Ababiy (4-0) excelled in all manner of combat sports as teenager. In the ring he doesn’t pussyfoot around. He won his pro debut in 28 seconds. Faltin, a 37-year-old Finn, fell to 2-4-1.

John Harding Jr., a 34-year-old middleweight, improved to 7-0-1 with a one-sided 6-round decision over Miroslav Juna (1-2). A protégé of Dillian Whyte, Harding started his pro career late after serving several stints in prison.

Cruiserweight Sam Hyde (14-1-1, 7 KOs) rebounded from his first defeat in fine fashion, blowing out Slovakia’s Josef Jurko (5-2) in the opening round.

Super bantamweight Sam Cox (4-0) won a 4-round decision over Bulgaria’s Georgi Georgiev.

In a woman’s fight, British bantamweight Shannon Courtenay (2-0) outpointed Bulgaria’s Roz Mari Silyanova (1-5-1). The ref gave Courtenay all four rounds.

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