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The Avila Perspective Chap. 34: Boxing Crowds Braved Bad Weather in Cali

David A. Avila

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boxing Cancio

It was a remarkable weekend in February as two massive fight cards scarcely 130 miles apart drew large crowds on the same night despite television and streaming. And one more thing; it was raining and that’s enough to shut down anyone’s plans in California.

Wake up newspaper editors. You are losing readers by the hundreds every day. Boxing can save you. I’ll explain later.

Rival promotion giants Premier Boxing Champions and Golden Boy Promotions slugged it out in Southern California with shows near the ocean at Carson and in the desert town of Indio. Fans by the thousands showed up at both venues despite the threat of bad weather.

Fantasy Springs Casino hosted the Golden Boy show that featured its strongest fight card in years. WBC super bantamweight titlist Rey Vargas was floored by virtually unknown Venezuelan slugger Franklin Manzanilla in a frustrating fight for fans. Vargas turned MMA fighter and clinched his way to victory with the aid of point deductions against Manzanilla. In the other world title fight Andrew “Chango” Cancio upset Puerto Rico’s Alberto “Explosivo” Machado for the WBA super featherweight world title.

Cancio floored Machado three times after first hitting the deck himself. The crowd erupted in hysteria after his surprise win.

“I don’t know why people underestimate me,” said Cancio calmly with a shrug.

I met Cancio around 2005. His trainer called up the sports editor and asked if there was any interest in a story about his gym located in remote Blythe, California. Decades earlier I had passed by the small town in the 80s with my family on our way to Arizona. I also met twin brothers from Blythe while attending UCLA. It caught my interest so I told the trainer over the phone to expect us.

My photographer at the time had just bought a PT Cruiser and we packed up and drove the 180 miles to the small agricultural town that borders Arizona and the Colorado River. It was not just hot, it was flaming hot like one of those commercials about canned chili beans.

In the center of town was the gymnasium where basketball along with boxing took place. Kids were venturing into the sweltering heat and didn’t seem to mind the 100 degree heat at all. The trainer introduced us to a number of youth but seemed extremely high on one teen and that was Andrew Cancio.

Cancio was either nervous or a very serious-minded teen at the time. He spoke one sentence at a time and had that steely-eyed look of determination. Of course he had the odds stacked against him because small towns don’t offer much competition for sparring. He would soon depart for bigger desert towns like Coachella and Indio.

Over the years whenever Cancio would fight I’d make it a point to cover his fights. Some fighters just have that certain something you need to get to the elite level; whether it’s speed, power, height, stamina or just plain grit. You have to have one of these ingredients to make it through that championship doorway.

It took 14 years but Cancio finally burst that door open like one of those L.A.P.D. Crash vehicles and snatched the world title from a worthy champion like Machado.

After the fight Cancio was rather numb for words.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do next,” he said while in deep thought.

What a journey it’s been for the fighter from Blythe after all these years.

Tank

Despite the threat of rain more than 7800 fans showed up last Saturday at the formerly named StubHub Center now called the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. a small suburban city that serves as the temporary home of the LA (formerly San Diego) Chargers and the home of LA Galaxy.

Gervonta “Tank” Davis defended a version of the WBA super featherweight world title and demolished Mexico’s Hugo “Cuatito” Ruiz in a mere round.

Davis, a southpaw with power, was scheduled to face multi-division world champ Abner Mares in a match between an upstart youth and veteran champion. That was an intriguing matchup that disappeared when Mares suffered another eye injury and was forced to pull out.

Kudos to Mares’ wife who forced the Huntington Beach resident to get his eye checked when he complained of not being able to see in certain directions. When a prizefighter can’t see properly that’s a recipe for doom.

Boxing doesn’t need another champion fighting for his life like Adonis Stevenson who was moved from Quebec City to Montreal on Tuesday according to his spokesperson Meg Sethi.

Mares pulled out and Ruiz signed in and was roughhoused by a wicked right hook from the lefty Davis around the Mexican’s guard.

“I wanted to go more rounds, but I knew if I got him out of there early I could fight again sooner,” said Davis who is a former IBF titlist and now owner of one of the WBA super featherweight belts. The other WBA version is now possessed by Cancio. A fight between Davis, who is with Mayweather Promotions, and Cancio who is backed by Golden Boy would be a long shot. The companies do not do business with each other.

Davis has an electric punch and an aggressive style that most boxing fans love. Plus he just doesn’t care who he fights and where, though the Baltimore native’s next fight will probably be close to his residence.

Because I was in Indio, I watched the replay of the Davis fight on Showtime and saw the large crowd brave the cold weather in the outdoor stadium that can be cold even on a July summer night.

The emphatic knockout win by Davis over the veteran Ruiz was not as much as shock as it was pure theater, especially with his walk-in dance troupe performing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Fans are still talking about the walk-in production and Davis’s knockout.

Only boxing can bring that combination to life.

Fresno

On Sunday the final punch was thrown with Top Rank televising and streaming its very strong fight card that featured WBC super lightweight titlist Jose Carlos Ramirez making a second defense. More than 14,000 showed up at the Save Mart Arena in Fresno.

That’s an army of fans showing up on a Sunday afternoon.

A number of fights were shown and streamed on ESPN and ESPN+ but the one fight I wanted to watch aside from the world title fight was missing.

Saul “Neno” Rodriguez who recently re-signed with Top Rank after leaving another promotion company blazed his way to a fifth round obliteration over Brazil’s Aelio Mesquita. Both super featherweights boasted knockout ratios that would make any fighter proud.

Rodriguez charged to the forefront and dropped Mesquita several times before electrocuting the Brazilian with a right cross blast that ended the fight. One thing boxing fans like is knockouts. Heck, even MMA fans like knockouts, let’s be honest.

Dismissing Rodriguez to the unseen portion of the card was a crying sin.

Newspapers

Getting back to newspapers, the declining number of readers buying papers can be stopped. It’s been proven time and again that Latinos and Blacks like boxing. You can bring them back into the fold if you give them what they want to read and that’s boxing coverage.

Many Blacks and Latinos do not walk around looking at their phones and scouring the various boxing web sites. There are a large percentage of readers that still read newspapers and would buy them if they could read about boxing.

It’s been proven many times by yours truly.

I’ve actually owned a newspaper and know a lot about the advertisement portion of the business. Ads on the web don’t pay as much as ads in a newspaper. It’s worth a try. Don’t listen to the millennials with their stats; they can’t reach the real backbone of boxing who still read newspapers.

Look at the facts. Despite scant newspaper coverage we saw thousands flock to boxing events from Indio to Fresno in a two day span. That’s hard proof.

If you need more proof give me a call.

Photo credit: Alonzo Coston

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Odds Review for Friday’s Boxing on Telemundo

Miguel Iturrate

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boxing odds
South Florida promoter Tuto Zabala Jr has a seven fight card planned for the Osceola Heritage Center in Kissimmee this Friday, February 22nd that sees three undefeated prospects headline the show. For more than two decades, Zabala Jr has promoted the sport in Mexico and Florida and Friday’s event will air on Spanish language Telemundo in the United States, so check your local listings for start times.
A pair of ten round bouts hold the main event spots as undefeated Yomar Alamo faces veteran Manuel Mendez at welterweight and likewise unbeaten Carlos Monroe takes on Jonathan Tavira in a middleweight bout.
The 23 year old Alamo is from fight hungry Puerto Rico and he is considered a key piece to promoter Zabala Jr’s plans to run shows back on the island. The 28 year old Mendez once carried the ‘prospect’ label as well but Mendez is 1-3-1 in his last five fights. The experience of being in there with the likes of Sonny Fredrickson (19-1) and undefeated Johnathan Navarro (15-0) will make him Alamo’s toughest test to date. The welterweight division is crowded and Alamo is going to need to keep winning beyond Friday to get noticed, but he already banks on the fervent support of his “boriqua” crowd. Promoter Zabala Jr may be wondering if matchmaker Ruben DeJesus picked the right guy in Mendez. Alamo’s record in Puerto Rico looks to have a good bit of fluff. He didn’t face an opponent with a single pro win until his seventh fight. He faced 40 year old vet Edwin Lopez in 2016, but Lopez hurt his hand in the first round and could not continue, so Alamo is largely untested.
Middleweight prospect Carlos Monroe looks to go 12-0 as he steps in to his first bout scheduled for ten rounds. Veteran Jonathan Tavira provides the opposition for the 24 year old Monroe, who turned pro in December of 2017 and notched 10 fights in calendar year 2018. Monroe has been brought along carefully, as the combined record of his 11 opponents stands at 46-98-8. Tavira has been in there with the likes of Arif Magomedov, Dario Bredicean and Esquiva Falcao, all undefeated fighters on the way up. Tavira hits hard but he has been stopped five times in his six losses, so look for Monroe to improve on his eight KOs to date.
2016 U.S. Olympian Antonio Vargas looks to improve to 10-0 in an eight round bantamweight bout against Lucas Rafael Baez (34-17-5). Vargas was originally scheduled to take on Wilner Soto, a veteran with a 21-5 record and he was a big favorite in that match-up.
Below are the current lines as we start off fight week.
Fri 2/22 – Osceola Heritage Center – Kissimmee, Florida
Welterweight 10 rounds –
Manuel Mendez(16-4-1) +160
Yomar Alamo(15-0)         -210
Middleweight 10 rounds –
Jonathan Tavira (17-6)            +550
Carlos Monroe (11-0)             -1050
Bantamweight 8 rounds –
Lucas Rafael Baez        +1150
Antonio Vargas            -2450
(Opponent change for Vargas, line should be similar for new opponent Lucas Rafael Baez)

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Blake Caparello Looks To Grab WBA Regional Belt This Friday

Miguel Iturrate

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Caparello
This Friday night in Australia, light heavyweight contender Blake Caparello returns to action as he faces youngster Reagan Dessaix for the WBA’s Oceania title in the main event of a planned six fight card at The Melbourne Pavilion.
Dessaix currently holds the belt that Caparello held back in 2017, and the 22-year-old is hoping a win on Friday will put him on the international radar. It is where Caparello, who enters this fight as a 32-year-old, has been and hopes to get to again.
Those are the basics of Friday’s main event, the youngster Dessaix making a significant leap in competition level as he looks to get ranked internationally, while the veteran Caparello is hopeful a win will propel him closer to another world title shot.
Caparello laid claim to the IBO’s world title at 175 pounds back in October of 2013 when he won a comfortable unanimous decision over veteran Allan Green. Caparello, who was 17-0-1 at the time of the Green fight, went on to an introductory fight in the United States, and a win there saw him earn an August of 2014 title shot against WBO champion Sergey Kovalev.
Caparello has to feel he was close to a world title as he had the feared Kovalev down in round one before the “Krusher” took him out in round two. Since then, he has fought Isaac Chilemba and Andre Dirrell, extending both ranked veterans the full fight distance. The March of 2018 loss to Chilemba was for the WBC’s world title, and Caparello managed to go 2-0 the rest of the calendar year.
Green, Kovalev, Dirrell and Chilemba. The bottom line is that Dessaix had a solid amateur career in Australia, but there is no one with resumes like the men Caparello has faced when asked to step onto the world scene.
The WBA’s current world champion is Dmitry Bivol (15-0), who is making the fourth defense of his title in March against hard hitting Joe Smith Jr. The veteran Caparello could mount a case for a mandatory shot against either man with a win on Friday, while Dessaix would likely have to keep fighting and winning before earning a shot at a world title.
The co-feature bout is for the Australian title at 154 pounds and sees 31 year old Billy Klimov facing Joel Camilleri. Camilleri is favored as he has had a lot more professional experience than Limov, who turned professional at 29 years old. Strictly regional stuff here.
Both fights have lines at some of the sportsbooks. Check out the numbers as they were at the start of fight week below.
Fri 2/22 – The Melbourne Pavilion – Victoria, Australia
WBA Oceania Title
Light Heavyweight 10 rounds –
Reagan Dessaix(16-1)         +255
Blake Caparello (28-3-1)    -365
Australian Title
Super Welterweight 10 rounds –
Billy Limov (4-0-1)     +200
Joel Camilleri(16-5-1) -280
Check out the link for the live event right here. http://www.epicentre.tv/events/blake-caparello-v-reagan-dessaix/

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Will Fury’s Deal With ESPN Torpedo The Fights That Fight Fans Want to See?

Arne K. Lang

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Fury's deal with ESPN

For the past few weeks, boxing fans have been led to believe that the rematch between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder was ever so-close to being a done deal. But in the world of professional boxing where Machiavellian characters seemingly hold all the positions of power, nothing is ever a done deal until it’s finally finalized. Today’s announcement that Tyson Fury has signed with ESPN is the latest case in point. It’s a three-fight deal that will reportedly earn the Gypsy King $80 million if he can successfully hurdle the first two legs.

As Thomas Hauser has noted, what we have in boxing today is something similar to leagues in other sports. There’s the Top Rank/ESPN League, the Matchroom/DAZN League, and the PBC/Showtime/FOX League. We would add that these are intramural leagues. Occasionally there’s cross-pollination, similar to when the Yankees play the Mets in a game that counts in the regular season standings, but basically the boxers in each league compete against each other.

We have no doubt that WBC/WBA/IBF heavyweight ruler Anthony Joshua will eventually fight Wilder and/or Fury, but it now appears that these matches, when they transpire, will have marinated beyond the sell date. The action inside the ring may mirror the Mayweather-Pacquiao dud.

A match between Joshua and Wilder is already somewhat less enticing than it would have been if it had come to fruition last autumn. The odds lengthened in favor of Joshua after Wilder’s raggedy performance against Tyson Fury on Dec. 1 in Los Angeles.

True, the Bronze Bomber almost pulled the fight out of the fire with a thunderous punch but he was out-slicked in most of the rounds and it wasn’t as if he was fighting a bigger version of Pernell Whitaker. Before that fight, casual fans were less tuned-in to Deontay Wilder’s limitations.

It was reported that the Wilder-Fury rematch was headed to Las Vegas or New York, but that Las Vegas fell out of the running when the State Athletic Commission insisted on using Nevada officials. Fury was the one that balked.

In hindsight we should have seen that this was fake news. No Nevada officials were involved in Fury-Wilder I. The judges were from California, Canada, and Great Britain. The California judge voted against Fury, scoring the fight 115-111, a tally for which he was excoriated. The judge from Great Britain, like many ringside reporters, had it draw. The TV crews, especially the crew from Great Britain, left no doubt that Fury should have had his hand raised and the controversy made the hoped-for rematch more alluring.

So who will be Tyson Fury’s next opponent? Speculation immediately centered on Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev.

Pulev, who turns 38 of May 4, sports a 26-1 record. He was slated to fight Anthony Joshua in October of 2017 but suffered a torn biceps in training and was forced to withdraw. In his most recent bout he outpointed Hughie Fury, Tyson’s cousin. He’s currently ranked #1 by the IBF.

On Dec. 8 of last year, Bob Arum announced that he had hammered out a deal to co-promote Pulev. It was subsequently reported that Pulev’s first fight under the Top Rank/ESPN umbrella would be against Finland’s Robert Helenius on March 23 in Los Angeles. Six days ago, the distinguished European fight writer Per Ake Persson told his readers that the fight had fallen out, ostensibly because the parties could not come to terms.

Tyson Fury is the most charismatic white heavyweight to come down the pike since Gerry Cooney and the big galoot is bigger than Cooney ever was as he has avid followers on both sides of the Atlantic and Cooney didn’t have social media to enhance his profile. I have little doubt that ESPN will recoup their investment in him. However, deals in boxing are never consummated with an eye on uplifting the sport – on patching things up with the disaffected – and here’s yet another example.

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