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TSS CLASSIC: “Corazon”

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MayweatherCotto Hogan 95 The heart of the sport can be seen, immense and healthy, at shows like the one Joe Rein reported on back in 2003.

“Reports of my death are grossly exaggerated,” Mark Twain said… The same’s true of boxing, if you'd seen the army straining to get into the Grand Olympic Auditorium in L.A. for Oscar de La Hoya's “Boxeo de Oro.”

It was only 5 P.M. on a workday and ticket holders were in a ragged line stretching well around Grand Ave. — looked like the Oklahoma land rush just before the gun went off.

These were largely roll-up-your-sleeves guys, from what I could tell, Latino. They'd earned their faces and were in good spirits — with maybe a head start on a drink or two. They knew the niceties of the game, but they came to see guys fight, to see someone bite down and show “Corazon.” Heart….Somebody they could identify with… root for.

When the floodgates opened, the mob poured in, sweeping aside the ticket takers.

It was impossible being jostled along in those narrow, sweating corridors, not to have the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, imagining Enrique Bolonas, Jose Becerra, Ruben Olivares, Mando Ramos and Bobby Chacon battling in this very ring, defining Aztec warrior and the legacy of the Olympic.

Management gave it a new paint job, new seats, but this is the gladiator pit that dates back to the ‘30s…where Al Jolson and “Bugsy” Seigel arrived by limo to sit just a few feet from me to watch “The Brown Bomber” and Henry Armstrong. The reverence was palpable.

Not a bad sight line in the place.

The arena was filling quickly, electricity charging the air and bringing the legends to life.

On the main floor behind the 15-20 rows of ringside seats was a portable bar. “All American beer! No Mexican beer!” shouted the bartender. A curious marketing ploy, considering. It didn't seem to hurt sales; a quick look around confirmed.

It was one large extended family: A reunion of stand-up guys. The badges of the trade marking every beaming face — balcony to ringside. Much backslapping, ribbing, dirty laughter, intros, and lots and lots of beer all ‘round.

They yelled, stamped their feet and pounded the air when the action heated in the ring. A Godzilla-sized promotional bottle of Miller Lite, with a poor soul inside, was being led blind through their midst by a guy with a rope…and threatened to tip over at every step, much to the delight of all.

The only things missing from the “old school” picture were: The smell of cigars and the cloud of smoke that made it all look like film-noir.

The early KO's by the super middleweight Andrade brothers had everybody toasting and the beer flowing.

Librado Andrade, in a ring overrun by press, was bursting with pride accepting the first Miller Lite Golden State Award for the outstanding performance of the evening, for his emphatic KO of Errol Banner.

Watching Andrade clutch that sculpture, being turned in every direction for pictures and interviews, and standing on the bottom strand of the ropes trying to stretch to the balcony to share his excitement with friends from La Habre, it was easy to see, he was going to have no trouble dedicating himself to winning a world title.

Security was having no luck trying to clear revelers out of the aisles. No sooner did a group reluctantly disperse than they re-assembled larger and louder.

Raven-haired Pamela Anderson wannabes with painted-on jeans and as much cleavage as they could engineer trolled ringside endlessly in hopes of catching the eye of some mover-n'-shaker for a taste of the “good life”. The hotties acted offended at the whistles and street remarks, but never failed to retrace their routes.

Some ringsiders slipped their tickets to buddies who scampered down from the cheap seats to claim them over the mezzanine wall when a guard wasn't looking. And then, like cats with cream on their whiskers, nonchalantly flashed the ducats at security and disappeared among the heavy hitters, like children let loose in a candy factory.

The fans got an extra glimpse of skin in the prelims prior to the televised fights. The round-card girls jiggled and waved and threw kisses in Band-Aids and floss that lost the struggle to contain the Jell-O inside. The building rocked in appreciation of the generous scoops of dessert served up on stiletto heels.

The PG-rated TV bouts had the same girls in gym shorts and halters, looking more like an aerobics class. Their more-modest garb drew a collective groan. Spice is what they wanted, not health food.

Fernando Vargas, not the least surly or ill-at-ease at a Golden Boy promotion, lounged at the ring apron in tinted shades and an open silken shirt, basking in adulation all around him.

A hulking figure–standing just off to the side of Vargas– in an oversize football jersey–arms locked across his chest, expressionless, with menacing dark glasses, clocking anything to do with Vargas–was the lone reminder of his recent headlines.

Watching two of Vargas's homies shuttle the adoring to and from him between rounds was damn impressive; it had all the precision of a military operation. One mother gingerly handed Vargas her baby. He cradled it and smiled, while she snapped a picture that might inspire a future ring career.

It looked like the line to sit on Santa's lap at X-Mas in a department store.

Two strikingly beautiful women swathed in Calvin Klein and Armani stole away from their escorts and flirtatiously snuggled-in for a picture with Vargas, who grinned and encircled them with his arms. It was good to be the king.

A smarmy guy in a Hawaiian shirt over a paunch and shoe black on his hair was pressing the flesh of anybody-and-all a few rows from Vargas, showing his barely-teenage stable of fighters in the $250 seats what it would be like when they hit it big. With their Marine haircuts and wide eyes, the young fighters looked like goslings plunked down from another planet.

A Nell Carter look-alike, in a scarlet lamp-shade-of-a-dress and lots of 'tude, invaded a row of celebs and got each one up to pose with her for a picture, handing the camera to whoever was closest. And if the flash didn't go off, she insisted on another. Then she passed around a boxing glove to be signed, instructing each what to write. She just waved off any objection. With her in my corner, I could get a title shot.

When Julio Gonzalez and “Panchito” Bojado were spotted, they both were unfailingly gracious–and genuinely touched–under the onslaught of fans for handshakes, pictures with them, a word or two, or a signed program or a blouse front. Some nearly fell out of the stands just for a touch as they went by.

Bojado circulated all around the arena, always in the center of bodies clawing at him; his posse trying to screen him, as best they could. Eventually, he stood right below me; he looked no more than 16. Like bees to honey, everybody descended on Bojado, climbing over each other and the wall to get to him.

When I asked the guys in front to sit down, I couldn't see, Bojado poked his head through the jam: “I'm terribly sorry for the interruption. I apologize,” and he drew the mob away, like the Pied Piper. Pretty classy. He made a fan out of me.

Just to the left of my aisle seat, a guy looking like he was doing a bad-drunk imitation swayed precariously at the top of the stairs, with beer sloshing out of his cup, about 10 feet above the concrete floor. In what seemed like slow motion, he lost his hold on the railing. I just managed to grab his wrist before he fell, and some others pitched in immediately to pull him back. The drunk's friends were all over me with 'Thanks' in rapid-fire Spanish; their beers punctuated every word. I was sure I was in for a shower.

Bobby Chacon wove his way through the crowd, shaking hands, just a hint unsteady on his pins–oddly small, considering what a giant he was in the ring–with that same signature grin plastered on every sports page when he roared off the streets of Compton to shake the Olympic to the rafters and insure his place in the hearts of these fans. He should have been saluted at center ring; he left so much of himself there.

A fellow in his 20s, next to me, tapped my arm and pointed to Chacon, with the respect reserved for an idol, and went on in Spanish about him. His tone said it all. The guy behind me leaned in, expressing the same sentiments, and offered me some tortilla chips.

The heir apparent to Chacon may be “Mighty” Mike Anchondo; nearly the same size as Chacon, with the same schoolboy good looks, masking a killer instinct and a flare for the dramatic.

Anchondo fought the semi wind-up 10 rounder against Nicaraguan Roque “Rocky” Cassiani (23-4-1), who looked like a mini Marvin Hagler when he doffed his brocaded robe. The similarity ended with the muscles.

Anchondo has 21 fights and 17 KOs, is not tall for a 130-pounder, but he has the mark of a veteran: totally relaxed in the ring; his combinations so fluid they belie the speed and power; and almost on cue, he responds to the urging of the crowd with the kind of vicious salvos that seem over-the-top in a movie.

After some confusion at the end of the 9th round, where it looked like referee James Jen-Kin stepped in to stop it– with Anchondo raining unanswered blows on a helpless Cassiani sagging against the ropes–the ref, inexplicably, allowed it to continue.

It was bedlam before the 10th round. The crowd smelled blood and tore the roof off. They were on their feet, chanting “Mighty Mike! Mighty Mike!” …Anchondo didn't disappoint. At the bell, he attacked and kept firing until the ref called a halt. Then, in unbounded joy, he leaped into the arms of his handlers, who held him aloft while he punched the sky repeatedly, and the building shook.

Cassiani was made to order for Anchondo, with his relentless, one-dimensional, search-n'-destroy mind-set. Cassiani threw with bad intentions, and pressed and pressed, and took it, and took it, and took it…until the ref decided he should take no more. He went out on his shield.

After the Anchondo fight, while the ref was standing against the ropes congratulating Anchondo, a woman producer for HBO shoved the ref aside, yelled something in his face, and yanked Anchondo –literally– across the ring to the color commentator, barking orders to clear the way, and glaring. Roberto Duran couldn't have been more menacing.

Anchondo came back out after changing. He was greeted with the adulation one sees only at the Plaza De Toros after a brave kill.

“Mighty Mike! Mighty Mike!” It was deafening. Anchondo signed and flung gloves with all the strength he could muster to the top of the balcony. The place was in a frenzy. Had some fans not been caught by the ankles at the last moment, they'd have sailed off the balcony diving for a glove.

Some months ago, I was impressed with Anchondo's sparring at the Wild Card Gym, and wanted to interview him, so I looked for an interpreter, without any luck. I approached Anchondo, with some hesitation: “DO…YOU…SPEAK…ANY…ENGLISH? I…DON'T…SPEAK…ANY SPANISH.”

“I don't either,” he said, laughing. “It happens to me all the time.”

He's a very engaging, open-faced, unlikely looking executioner, who connects with the barrio, like Art Aragon used to. Plus, the personality to make him a media favorite. It's about time they start beating the drum for him. He could headline the card and pack the place.

The main-go was won convincingly by Jose Navarro over Jorge Luis “Speedy” Gonzalez, for the IBA Continental Americas junior bantamweight title. Navarro is not what you think of when the image of a Mexican fighter comes to mind: Chango Carmona or “Bazooka” Limon.

Navarro is a well-balanced, unflappable ring technician, who fires from the port side like a surgeon. He keeps sticking broomsticks in your face, and threads the needle up and down– stinging, stinging, stinging, keeping pressure at the end of his long arms. He's an educated boxer, and though he doesn't fire the blood, it's going to take a special fighter to take him out of his game.

Gonzalez was outclassed, but he kept throwing bricks and finally his body, in wave after kamikaze wave against the Gatling gun that was strafing him. Freddie Roach, Gonzalez's trainer, must have told him before the last round: 'Son, you need a knockout!'

At the bell, Gonzalez bolted out at full gallop, flailing and swinging, trying to will himself past those whirring blades to land the one shot that would turn the tide. Gonzalez fell short, but he gave it all of his heart and won the heart of the crowd doing it.

Most walkout bouts are just that. People can't get to their cars fast enough, but quite a few stayed and were treated to a very spirited six-round junior featherweight go that Kahren Harutyunyan won by a split decision over Marinho Gonzalez.

It's not a given that a taller man will out jab a shorter one. Harutyunyan proved that. He looked like he was going to need a ladder to reach Gonzalez, but he always got there first…and often. Though Harutyunyan was the only non-Latino on the card, what few that remained didn't begrudge him his props.

Harutyunyan has been a hard luck fighter, and far better than his record indicates (9-1-3). When he got the nod, most of the Armenian community of Glendale jumped into the ring and danced and embraced him. When he came down the ring steps with a grin as big as he was, the Wild Card regulars showed him how they treated their own.

Spilling out into the downtown night with fathers and sons still animatedly buzzing about the fights in Spanish, my step quickened with the pride of inclusion in this fraternity that spans generations and language. It was no different than the old Garden or St. Nick's; and though boxing is relegated to the back page of the sports section, this invalid still has a lotta life in it. It's all about “Corazon.”

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Jake Paul vs Tommy Fury on Feb. 26 in a Potential Pay-Per-View Blockbuster

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It’s now official. The twice-postponed “grudge match” between Jake Paul and Tommy Fury will come to fruition on Sunday, Feb. 26, at Riyadh in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. An 8-rounder contested at a catch-weight of 185 pounds, the match and several supporting bouts will air in the U.S. on ESPN+ PPV at a cost of $49.99.

The hook for this promotion – a come-hither that will be hammered home incessantly in the coming weeks – is that Jake Paul will finally touch gloves with a legitimate professional boxer. Paul’s previous opponents were a fellow YouTube influencer (AnEsonGib), a retired NBA player (Nate Robinson), and three former MMA champions: Ben Askren, Tyron Woodley, and Anderson Silva. He fought Woodley twice.

Tommy Fury, the half-brother of reigning WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, made his pro debut in December of 2018 in a four-round bout in his hometown of Manchester. He was two fights into his pro career when he became a contestant on the TV reality show “Love Island.” An enormously popular show in Great Britain, especially among the coveted 18-34 demographic, “Love Island” was in its fifth season.

Fury was paired with supermodel Molly-Mae Hague with whom he finished second. They developed a great chemistry, on and off the set, became engaged, and purportedly welcomed a baby girl this week.

What about Tommy Fury the boxer? How legitimate is he?

Fury’s record currently stands at 8-0 (4 KOs). His first opponent was a professional loser from Latvia whose current ledger reads 10-113-3. His next six opponents were a combined 4-73-2. Finally, in his last fight, which occurred in April of last year, he met an opponent with a good record, Poland’s Daniel Bocianski, who was 10-1. But look closer and one discovers that all but one of Bocianski’s 10 triumphs came against opponents with losing records. The exception was a 6-round decision over a fellow Pole whose record currently stands at 18-16-1 and who has been stopped 13 times.

Fury bloodied Bocianski and won a wide 6-round decision, but his performance was underwhelming. “Fury had the Hollywood teeth, tan, and diamante-colored shorts,” wrote Chasinga Malata of the London Sun, “leaving only his performance without sheen and sparkle.”

There is nothing in Tommy Fury’s background, aside from his biological pedigree, to suggest that he has the tools to become a world-class boxer. If he were a member of the Three Stooges, he would be Shemp.

Jake Paul, by contrast, may actually be legit. Those in the know that have watched him train have come away impressed. It says here that Paul isn’t moving up in class on Feb. 26; it’s the other way around.

In the co-feature, Ilunga Makabu (29-2, 25 KOs) will make the third defense of his WBC world cruiserweight title against Badou Jack (27-3-3, 16 KOs). A Congolese-South African, Makabu is the older brother of heavyweight contender Martin Bakole. Jack, four years older than Makabu at age 39, formerly held world titles at 168 and 175 pounds.

Although Badou Jack was born in Sweden and keeps a home in Las Vegas where he has long been affiliated with the Mayweather Boxing Club, he will have the home field advantage in Saudi Arabia where he has cultivated a loyal following. A devout Muslim, Jack will be making his fourth straight start in the Persian Gulf Region. In his last outing, he outpointed Richard “Popeye” Rivera at Jeddah, winning a 10-round split decision.

Badou Jack

Badou Jack

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 223: A Lively Weekend in SoCal with Three Fight Cards in Two Days

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Big money prizefighting returns to the Los Angeles area with back-to-back shows. First, Serhii Bohachuk heads a 360 Promotions card on Friday and then Alexis Rocha is featured on Saturday in a Golden Boy Promotions production. And on the same day Riverside’s Saul Rodriguez fights in his hometown.

Bohachuk, Rocha, and Rodriguez are aggressive big hitters.

Ukraine’s Bohachuk seeks to regain footing in the super welterweight division. He was rapidly climbing up the ratings ladder when first he was defeated by Brandon Adams two years ago. And then the invasion of his home country Ukraine stalled him even more.

On Friday Jan. 27, at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello, Calif. Bohachuk (21-1, 21 KOs) meets Nathaniel Gallimore (22-6-1, 17 KOs) in the main event. UFC Fight Pass will stream the 360 Boxing Promotions card.

Few fighters are as well-liked outside of the prize ring as Bohachuk. Always amiable, he’s one of the handful of fighters that always smiles. Inside the ring, he’s a killer. No one leaves without someone getting knocked out.

Gallimore, 34, is no slouch. He has a knockout win over former world titlist Jeison Rosario and has battled almost all of the top super welterweights. He is a veteran and very crafty.

The Quiet Cannon venue is not very large, but it does have a patio and good food and drink. Most of the crowd ventures from all over Southern California to attend the fights at that venue. It gets packed.

Golden Boy in Inglewood

Welterweight contender Alexis Rocha headlines the Golden Boy Promotions card on Saturday, Jan. 28, at the brand new YouTube Theater in Inglewood, Calif. DAZN will stream the fight card.

Rocha (21-1, 13 KOs) faces George Ashie (33-5-1) in the main event set for 12 rounds. Finally, there is an opponent for the left-handed fighter from Santa Ana. It didn’t look like he was going to fight after opponent after opponent fell out for one reason or another.

“You have to be ready for anybody they put in front of you. If it’s you or George Ashie, I have to prepare for it. I have to focus on what I can do,” said Rocha.

Others on the card include super middleweight Bektemir Melikuziev (10-1) vs Ulises Sierra (17-2-2) set for 10 rounds. Also, good looking lightweight prospect Floyd Schofield (12-0, 10 KOs) meets Alberto Mercado (17-4-1).

Schofield fights out of Austin, Texas and looks like someone to watch.

Doors open at 3 p.m.

Neno Returns in San Bernardino        

Garcia Promotions stages a boxing card on Saturday Jan. 28, at the Club Event Center in San Bernardino. Garcia Promotions is associated with trainer Robert Garcia and family whose training compound is located in nearby Riverside.

A primarily local fight card featuring all fighters from Garcia’s gym will be performing.

Headlining is Saul “Neno” Rodriguez out of Riverside, California.

It’s been nearly three years since Rodriguez (24-1-1, 18 KOs) last fought and he faces Mexico’s Juan Meza Angulo (6-1, 3 KOs) in the co-main event.

At one time Rodriguez was a big fan favorite because of his fast work and knockout ability. Once he got to the top plateau he ran into another knockout puncher in Miguel Angel Gonzalez and lost by stoppage.

Prizefighting is a tricky road. One loss can mean difficulty in finding a big-time promoter or it can mean discovering what you need to do to re-establish your skills. A fighter can go the road of Kermit “The Killer” Cintron and find out other ways to win without a kill-or be-killed style. Or they can travel the road of Marco Antonio Barrera who was knocked out by Junior Jones but adapted a more boxer-puncher style that allowed him to defeat Erik Morales twice and Prince Naseem Hamed.

Rodriguez, 29, still has time to make a good run for a title bid. It all starts on Saturday.

Others on the Garcia Promotions card are fighters who are part of trainer Garcia’s stable including Gabriel Muratalla, Leonardo Ruiz, Jose Rodriguez and others.

Doors open at 4 p.m. with amateurs opening the boxing program.

Fights to Watch

Fri. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Serhii Bohachuk (21-1) vs Nathaniel Gallimore (22-6-1).

Sat. ESPN+ 11:30 a.m. Artur Beterbiev (18-0) vs Anthony Yarde (23-2).

Sat. DAZN  5 p.m. Alexis Rocha (21-1) vs George Ashie (33-5-1).

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Artur Beterbiev: “I’d prefer to fight Bivol because he has the one thing I need”

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Russian Artur Beterbiev, triple champion of the 175-pound division, is the only current world champion who, thanks to the enormous power he wields in his fists, has won all his fights inside the distance.

Beterbiev has 18 victories by way of chloroform since he debuted as a professional fighter in June 2013 when he anesthetized retired American, Christian Cruz, in the tenth round at the Bell Center in Montreal where Beterbiev currently resides.

Beterbiev, who turned thirty-eight last Saturday, will defend his WBC, IBF, and WBO titles against Brit Anthony “The Beast from the East” Yarde (23-2, 22 KOs) on Saturday, January 28th at the OVO Arena in London.

Beterbiev obtained the WBO belt on June 18th this past year when he defeated American Joe Smith (28-4, 22 KOs) in the second round at Madison Square Garden. This was Smith’s second defense of the belt.

Earlier, in November 2017, Beterbiev won the vacant IBF belt after defeating German Enrico Koelling (28-5, 9 KOs) by knockout in the twelfth round in Fresno, California.

Two years later, Beterbiev seized the WBC belt from Ukrainian Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-1, 14 KOs) in Philadelphia. Three knockdowns in the tenth round forced referee Gary Rosato to stop the lopsided bout with 11 seconds remaining in the round.  Beterbiev maintains that although his intention is to win each fight, in no way does he want to harm his rival and that his greatest wish is for both of them to leave the ring healthy.

Referring to his upcoming matchup, Beterbiev told BoxingScene that “after the fight, I just hope he (Yarde) is okay.”

He acknowledged that he does not know much about the British boxer, although he has watched several of his fights: “He’s a good fighter, has good experience as a professional and he’s a boxer. He’s dangerous so I have to prepare for this fight like I always do.”

Beterbiev said that his main motivation is to successfully defend the three belts he owns and that is why he will try to be one hundred percent ready and then it will be evident who is the better fighter.

Regarding his knockout streak, Beterbiev emphatically denied that he enjoys knocking out his opponents: “No. There’s no pleasure in it. I just hope everything is OK with them. I just want to do good boxing, not hit people.”

Beterbiev smiles enigmatically and stares at the horizon when they ask him to what he attributes the strength of his fists to. “I know for sure, 1000 percent, that the secret to my power is somewhere in my boxing gym but I don’t know exactly where,” he adds. “I don’t know which exercise or bag gave me this secret. I don’t know where it comes from. I wasn’t always like this either, it has come from working every day. But really my dream is to be a good boxer one day.”

Aside from the upcoming fight with Yarde, Beterbiev acknowledges in each interview that his goal is to be the undisputed champion of the division, which means facing (and defeating) the undefeated Russian Dmitry Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs), who holds the WBA light heavyweight super championship belt.

“I need Bivol,” Beterbiev admits. “I’d prefer to fight Bivol because he has the one thing I need. I hope I fight him in 2023 but the hold-up is not from my side, it’s from their side. In the last three years he always says he will fight me next but in this time we’ve done unification fights against Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Joe Smith. We’ve done that whereas he has just been talking about it.

Beterbiev recalled that he was with Bivol on the Russian national team where they were amateurs. “I knew him then, but he is younger than me. We haven’t talked for 10 years now. He was 75kg back then, too small for me. We were never friends.”

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Alvarez in Spanish.

 Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

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