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Floyd Mayweather, Donald Sterling, and TMZ

Thomas Hauser

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Now that Floyd Mayweather vs. Marcos Maidana is over, boxing fans can refocus their attention on the story that the sports media has fixated on for the past ten days.

On Friday, April 25, TMZ posted a tape of a 9-minute-26-second telephone conversation between Los Angeles Clippers owner, 80-year-old billionaire Donald Sterling, and a 31-year-old woman named V. Stiviano. The conversation was recorded by Stiviano, who was once Sterling’s mistress. The link to the recording is http://www.tmz.com/videos/0_wkuhmkt8/.

In the conversation, Sterling (who is battling prostate cancer) comes across as an unhappy old man. Stiviano appears to be leading, manipulating, and sometimes goading him into making racist comments. Sterling, after some initial resistance, obliges. The worst of Sterling’s comments have been widely reported.

A firestorm of media coverage and protest followed the TMZ post. Barack Obama denounced Sterling’s comments as “incredibly offensive.” On April 29, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced that Sterling had been fined $2,500,000 (the maximum fine that can be levied by the league under the circumstances) and banned for life from entering the team facilities or attending any team practice or NBA game. Silver further declared that, pursuant to the league constitution and by-laws, he would ask the other NBA owners to force Sterling to sell the team.

Stiviano now says that she “never meant to hurt” Sterling, which is a little like John Wilkes Booth saying that he never meant to hurt Abraham Lincoln. It wouldn’t be surprising if her next step is to sell her story to the National Enquirer or pose for Playboy.

The media as a whole seems unconcerned with the fact that Sterling has humiliated his wife with public and private dalliances for years. It has also failed to fully explore numerous other issues.

If Sterling’s remarks had been about Jews or gays, would the national uproar and punishment have been the same? Does anyone really think that Donald Sterling is the only NBA owner who harbors racist sentiments? What about Major League Baseball owners? The National Football League? Before the sports establishment gets a sore arm from patting itself on the back as a consequence of Sterling’s punishment, let’s reflect for a moment on the Washington Redskins, who are owned by Daniel Snyder (the other DS).

Unlike “Blackhawks” and “Braves,” Redskins is a derogatory term. Want proof? Use the term “Redskins” in a sentence that doesn’t carry a negative connotation and is unrelated to the National Football League. Or phrased differently, what would happen if James Dolan suggested changing the name of the New York Knicks to the New York Colored People?

And what about Charles Barkley’s comment on national television that the NBA is “a black league”? I love Charles Barkley as a commentator. But didn’t he step over the line here? Suppose Barkey had called the NBA a “Christian league” or a “straight league”?

Perhaps the most thoughtful public commentary on the Sterling affair came from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who addressed it in an essay for Time Magazine with characteristic dignity and grace.

“The poor guy’s girlfriend is on tape cajoling him into revealing his racism,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote. “What a winding road she led him down to get all of that out. She blindfolded him and spun him around until he was just blathering all sorts of incoherent racist sound bites that had the news media peeing with glee.”

“Racists,” Abdul-Jabbar continued, “deserve to be paraded around the modern town square of the television screen so that the rest of us who believe in the American ideal of equality can be reminded that racism is a disease that we haven’t yet licked. What bothers me about this whole Donald Sterling affair isn’t just his racism. I’m bothered that everyone acts as if it’s a huge surprise. [Sterling’s racist conduct] has been going on for years and this ridiculous conversation with his girlfriend is what puts you over the edge? That’s the smoking gun? And shouldn’t we be equally angered by the fact that his private intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media? The making and release of this tape is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice to the crime.”

“Sterling,” Abdul-Jabbar concluded, “is the villain of this story. But he’s just another jerk with more money than brains.”

That makes for a nice segue to Floyd Mayweather.

On April 29, Mayweather said of Donald Sterling, “I don’t have nothing negative to say about the guy. He’s always treated me with the utmost respect. He has always invited me to games, always. And he always says, ‘Floyd, I want you to sit right next to me and my wife.’”

Malcolm X had a term for people of color who thought like that. And it wasn’t pretty.

Then Mayweather inserted himself further into the Sterling dialogue by saying that he was interested in being part of a group that would buy the Clippers. But he cautioned, “I can’t come in talking about Mayweather only gonna get three percent, four percent. I got to get a solid percentage. Do we want to buy the Clippers? Yes, we do. We are very very interested in buying the Clippers.”

That’s just the ownership the NBA needs after censuring Donald Sterling for racist comments.

Lest one forget; Mayweather was seen worldwide on UStream.com calling Manny Pacquiao a “little yellow chump,” a “whore,” and a “f—-t.” He also said, “Once I stomp the midget, I’ll make that m——–r make me a sushi roll and cook me some rice.” For good measure, Floyd then added, “M——-r Pacquiao, he can’t speak no English.”

Closer to home insofar as the NBA is concerned, Mayweather reacted to the outpouring of media attention that Jeremy Lin received two years ago by tweeting, “All the hype is because he’s Asian.”

Mayweather owning an NBA franchise would also do wonders for the league’s outreach to women.

Over the years, Floyd has had significant issues with women and the criminal justice system. In 2002, he pled guilty to two counts of domestic violence. In 2004, he was found guilty on two counts of misdemeanor battery for assaulting two women in a Las Vegas night club. In 2012, he served two months in prison after pleading guilty to charges relating to another indictment for domestic violence.

Nor are women likely to look fondly on Mayweather’s recent decision to excoriate his former fiancee, Shantel Jackson, by informing the world via social media that she’d had an abortion and posting ultrasound images of “our twin babies” on his Facebook page and Instagram.

Mayweather, of course, had his own TMZ “Oops!” moment on March 12 of this year, when TMZ reported, “Floyd Mayweather allegedly orchestrated a savage attack on two of his employees he suspected of stealing his jewelry. Sources familiar with the situation tell TMZ Sports the two men had been hired to work on Floyd’s Vegas homes. But when jewelry went missing, Floyd pointed the finger at them. We’re told the men claim they were instructed to meet Floyd at an off-site location. When the men arrived, they claim Floyd was waiting for them – along with a number of his ‘people’ who proceeded to beat the living crap out of them with various weapons, including clubs. Our sources say the attack was so brutal the men could have easily died. Both men had broken arms and legs and were hospitalized for several days. We’re told the men are adamant they never took anything from Floyd, and it appears Floyd realizes that now.”

Two days later, TMZ posted a follow-up report that included X-rays purporting to show “a broken arm . . . a snapped pinkie . . . multiple fractures in the left hand that required pins to reset the bones . . . We’re told the left arm was so badly broken, doctors drilled into the bone to attach a titanium plate so it would reset . . . Just a few of the injuries suffered by one of the men allegedly beaten by Floyd Mayweather’s crew.”

Here, it should be noted that TMZ’s Mayweather report was undocumented beyond the unsourced allegations and anonymous X-rays. Unlike the matter of Donald Sterling, there was no tape of the beating. And unlike V. Stiviano, Mayweather’s alleged victims chose to remain anonymous.

On March 24, Laura Meltzer (a public information officer for the Las Vegas Police Department) told the New York Daily News, “We’ve had a variety of reports that have come out stating this event occurred. We have not had a victim come forward to the police to make an official complaint. As of right now, the bureau commander is not aware of any complaint that has been officially filed. If this is a victim who is choosing not to come forward and make a report; then that’s up to the victim. We don’t have any say in that. There is no criminal complaint on file, so there is no reason to go and contact Mr. Mayweather.”

That said; TMZ has a pretty good track record on reports of this nature. And there appears to be a culture of this sort of incident around Mayweather. His Rolls Royce was spotted on the scene after an August 23, 2009, shooting outside a Las Vegas skating rink. One of his associates, Ocie Harris, was indicted on attempted murder charges for shooting at two passengers in another car, one of who had reportedly insulted Mayweather. After the shooting, police searched Mayweather’s house, looking for evidence, and seized handguns, ammunition, and bulletproof vests, none of which were used in the shooting. Harris’ lawyer has said that his client was used as a pawn by police and prosecutors in an effort to link the shooting to Mayweather. Harris subsequently pled guilty to three felony charges and was sentenced to two-to-five years in prison.

Quite possibly, the TMZ report about the beating allegedly administered at Mayweather’s command is unfounded. And Floyd is under no obligation to respond to every rumor about him that surfaces in the media. But the silence of Team Mayweather on the issue so far has been deafening.

It’s also worth noting how little attention the story has received in the mainstream media. If this had been LeBron James, Payton Manning, or David Ortiz (or Mike Tyson), it would have been the lead story on ESPN SportsCenter and on the front or back page of every tabloid in America.

The fact that boxing’s flagship fighter is at the center of these allegations is a problem. The fact that the mainstream media doesn’t seem to care might be a bigger problem. It shows how little Mayweather (and boxing) now matter to the wider audience.

Mayweather-Maidana was a much better fight than it was expected to be. Floyd is still technically brilliant. He still knows all the tricks. Against Maidana, he sat down more on his punches than in the past and showed a fighting heart.

But at age 37, Mayweather is losing his legs. That was evident early in the fight. And his box office appeal appears to be dwindling.

Floyd is a big draw, but he has always needed a dance partner to generate stratospheric numbers. He was only half of the equation for the dollars that flowed from fights against Oscar De La Hoya and Canelo Alvarez. Best estimates are that Mayweather-Maidana (like Mayweather vs. Robert Guerrero) engendered under 900,000 pay-per-view buys. That means Showtime could lose millions of dollars on the event. And one day before Mayweather-Maidana, thousands of tickets were selling on secondary market sites such as TiqIQ.com for as much as 45 percent off list price.

Want more on where Mayweather ranks in contemporary culture?

Two days before Mayweather-Maidana, a Google search for “Floyd Mayweather” brought up 4,310,000 “results.” That’s an impressive number. But that same day, a Google search for “Game of Thrones” brought up 548,000,000 results. In other words, interest in Mayweather ran at less than eight-tenths of one percent of the interest in Game of Thrones.

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book (Reflections: Conversations, Essays, and Other Writings) has just been published by the University of Arkansas Press.

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Fulton Wins Inside War to Win WBO Title and Other Results from Connecticut

David A. Avila

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This time Stephen Fulton passed the Covid-19 test and then out-worked Angelo Leo in a brutal inside war to take the WBO super bantamweight world title by unanimous decision on Saturday.

Philadelphia’s Fulton (19-0, 8 KOs) was supposed to box and move against the body puncher Leo (20-1, 9 KOs) of Las Vegas but instead banged his way to victory with an artful display of inside fighting at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn.

When Leo won the world title during this past summer, he was supposed to fight Fulton, but Fulton showed positive on a Covid-19 test and was forced out of the fight. Not this time. Instead, the Philly fighter would not be denied.

Fulton planted his feet and banged to the body against body shot artist Leo and kept it going toe-to-toe for most of the 12 rounds.

Leo had his moments and was able to start slightly quicker, but by the sixth round it seemed Fulton was the stronger fighter down the stretch.

“He started breathing a little harder,” said Fulton. “I pushed myself to the limit in training.”

It showed.

Fulton took control for the last four rounds and just seemed fresher and more active to win by unanimous decision. Despite fighting primarily inside, the Philly fighter seemed comfortable.

“The game plan was to box at first. But I had to get a little dirty,” Fulton said. “I made it a dog fight.”

All three judges scored it for Fulton: 118-110 and 119-109 twice. TheSweetscience.com scored it 115-113 for Fulton who now holds the WBO super bantamweight world title.

“I’m the only champion Philadelphia has,” said Fulton.

Aleem KOs Pasillas

A battle between undefeated power-hitting super bantamweights saw Ra’eese Aleem (18-0, 12 KOs) knock down East L.A.’s Vic Pasillas (16-1, 9 KOs) multiple times before ending the fight in the 11th round.

“I believe I put an exclamation point in my victory,” said Aleem who trains in Las Vegas but is a native of Michigan.

Aleem showed off his quickness and power in both hands that resulted in knock downs of Pasillas in the second, sixth, ninth and 11th rounds. It seemed that Pasillas never could figure out how to combat the awkward looping blows and quickness of Aleem.

Pasillas had a few moments with his ability to score with counter lefts and right hooks from his southpaw stance. But every time he scored big Aleem would rally back with even more explosive blows.

As Aleem mounted a large lead, Pasillas looked to set up a needed knockout blow but was instead caught with an overhand right to the chin and a finishing left that forced the referee to stop the fight at 1:00 of the 11th round.

Aleem picks up the interim WBA super bantamweight title. It’s basically a title that signifies he is the number one contender.

Lightweights

Rolando Romero (13-0, 11 KOs) floored Avery Sparrow (10-3, 3 KOs) in the first round and then exhibited his boxing skills to win by technical knockout.

It looked like the fight was going to end early when Romero caught Sparrow with a left hook. But Philadelphia’s Sparrow survived the first round and the next few rounds to slow down the attacking Romero. Things settled down but Romero kept winning the rounds.

Sparrow dropped to the floor during an exchange of blows in the sixth round which the referee quickly ruled “no knockdown.” Noticeably in pain Sparrow was under full assault from Romero and resorted to firing low blows. The referee deducted two points from Sparrow for the infraction.

The Philadelphia fighter limped out with a still gimpy knee to compete in the seventh round but within a minute Sparrow’s corner signaled to the referee to stop the fight. The stoppage gave Romero the win by technical knockout at 43 seconds into the round.

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Boxers Fighting the Best and Doing It Again for the First Time: Part Two

Ted Sares

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Boxers Fighting the Best and Doing It Again for the First Time: Part Two

As mentioned in Part One, the phrase “cherry picking” gained meaningful traction during the time “Money” Mayweather was making his run. A new and very simple business model seemed to fuel it; namely, make the most money the quickest way with the least amount of risk and that translated into fewer fights. The change was almost imperceptible.

WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. (31-1) has fought once a year sine 2014. WBO middleweight king Demetrius Andrade (39-0) started out fast but then fell into a less active mode. Wlad Klitschko began to pick his spots with more caution as he met the likes of Francesco Pianeta and Alex Leapai. Shane Mosley slowed down towards the end and even Guillermo Rigondeaux (20-1) has faded from the headlines after being stopped by Vasyl Lomachenko.

Back to the Future

Suddenly, however, a twist has emerged that suggests a new model may well be in the offing; to wit: make the most money the quickest way but with lesser regard to risk. Perhaps Daniel Dubois fighting Joe Joyce last November was an example. Translated, it could mean that the best will fight the best as they did in days of yore. If so, Mega- possibilities await.

“I Want All The Belts, No Easy Fights, I Want To Face The Best.” –Virgil Ortiz

Ryan “King Ry” Garcia (21-0) has called out everyone and anybody and it appears he might get his wish in Devin “The Dream” Haney (25-0) or maybe the exciting Gervonta “Tank” Davis (24-0).

The new breed of Davis, Garcia, Haney and Teofimo “The Takeover” Lopez is being is being compared to the “Four Kings” (Leonard, Hearns, Hagler, Duran) but a flattered Devin Haney wisely notes “those guys fought each other.”

In this connection, writer James Slater nails it as follows: “Right now, in today’s boxing world, Haney, Lopez, Davis and Garcia could all do well, they could win a title or two and they could pick up some huge paydays, without fighting each other. This is the state the sport is in these days. It’s up to the fighters to really WANT to take take the risks, to take on their most dangerous rivals. The ‘Four Kings’ did it, time and again, and this is what added enormously to their greatness.”

Teofimo Lopez did it. After shocking Richard Commey, he beat Vasyl Lomachenko in an even more shocking outcome and now wants George Kambosos, Jr. to step aside for a Devin Haney fight.

It doesn’t get any better than the specter of Errol Spence Jr. (27-0) fighting “Bud” Crawford (37-0) unless it’s Tyson Fury (30-0-1) meeting Anthony Joshua (24-1.) If Covid 19 is under control, they could do this one in front of 100,000 fans.

Josh Taylor has talked about challenging Lopez even if it means dropping down to lightweight, and then moving up to 147 to challenge Crawford or Spence.

Dillian Whyte rematching with Alexander Povetkin is another highly anticipated fray and has the added dimension of being a crossroads affair. Oleksandr Usyk will likely face off with Joe Joyce in Usyk’s first real test as a heavyweight.

In late February there’s a big domestic showdown in New Zealand between heavyweights Joseph Parker and Junior Fa. On that same date In London, Carl Frampton squares off with slick WBO 130-pound champion Jamel Herring.

And Juan Francisco Estrada rematching with a rejuvenated Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez has everyone’s attention.

Super exciting Joe Smith Jr. meets Russia’s Maxim Vlasov for the vacant WBA light heavyweight belt. What’s not to like?

The showdown between Miguel Berchelt (38-1) and Oscar Valdez (28-0) is the best on the February docket and could end up being a FOTY.

Speaking of FOTY’s, the prospect of Naoya “Monster” Inoue vs. Kazuto Ioka is as mouthwatering as it can get and has global appeal.

Meanwhile, Artur Beterbiev looms and it’s not a question of opponents as much as it’s a question of who wants to contend with his bludgeoning style of destruction.

Claressa Shields, Marie Eve Dicaire, Katie Taylor, Amanda Serrano, Delfine Persoon, Jessica McCaskill, and Layla McCarter are prepared to make female boxing sizzle. In the final analysis,  when Vasyl Lomachenko becomes an opponent, you know something is very different.

You can read Part One HERE

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Vic Pasillas: An East L.A. Fighter

David A. Avila

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When East L.A.’s Vic Pasillas enters the prize ring this weekend he follows a path that many from his area have trod before. Not all were successful, but those that succeed become near legendary.

But it’s definitely not easy being from East L.A.

Pasillas (16-0, 9 KOs) meets Michigan’s Raeese Aleem (17-0, 11 KOs) for the vacant interim WBA featherweight title on Saturday Jan. 23, at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. Showtime will televise live.

Once again, a fighter from East L.A. stands pivoted for greatness. Can Pasillas go all the way?

For the past 130 years, prizefighters from East Los Angeles have developed into some of the best in the world if you can get them into the prize ring. Oscar De La Hoya and Leo Santa Cruz are two who were able to duck drugs, crime, street gangs and longtime allegiances that can often mislead aspiring boxers toward deadly endings.

One of the first featherweight champions in history lived in East L.A. Solly Garcia Smith won the world championship in 1893. He was the first Latino to ever win a world title.

There are many others from “East Los” who were talented prizefighters that were sidetracked into oblivion. Talented pugilists like brothers Panchito Bojado and Angel Bojado were derailed by mysterious obstacles that East Los Angeles presents. Others like Frankie Gomez and Julian Rodriguez showed dazzling promise but disappeared.

It’s almost as if a curse hangs over East L.A. area like a blanket of smog.

Many were surefire champions. But for some reason East L.A. or East Los as it’s called by those living in the 20 square mile radius, seems to have a dark lingering spell that makes it extra difficult for prizefighters to succeed.

Back in the 1950s a supremely talented fighter named Keeny Teran was skyrocketing to fame when heroin dropped him like an invisible left hook. Celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Danny Kaye were his biggest backers. Yet, not even they could help Teran.

Drugs almost took Pasillas too.

The fighter known as “Vicious” Vic Pasillas could have tripped into one of those sad stories from East L.A. you often hear about from your abuelitas. The streets can easily claim you if you let your guard down. Who is a friend and who is a foe are not often clear as the colors brown or white. It’s a potholed journey to navigate the barrio streets that look tame during the day, but ominous when the darkness arrives.

Barrio Life

Growing up with parents who were incarcerated led Pasillas to find loyalty from the vatos on the street. They treated him well and gave him protection and a sense of family, but often led to being involved in petty and major crimes.

“I moved out of the neighborhood. I had to get away from my friends. No disrespect to them but I knew that I would end up in jail,” said Pasillas who moved to Riverside, Calif. which is 60 miles east of East L.A. “Nobody knew where I was.”

One thing certain: prizefighting was his gift. All that he encountered recognized his boxing ability.

“He was always a gifted fighter,” said Joe Estrada, who would often take him to tournaments around California or in other states. “Every tournament he entered he won. He has always had speed, power, and defense. He’s always been a great boxer, but trouble was always around him.”

Gangs had always been a part of Pasillas life. He was born into gangs in South El Monte and even after moving to East L.A. it was not an escape. It was vatos locos that took him under their wing and showed him love and respect. They took care of him; some were also boxers.

East L.A. is an area much like a spider web. You can travel a quarter mile in one direction and suddenly you are in enemy turf. Gangs are everywhere. If you are an adult male you can’t simply walk outside a door without looking in all directions. It makes you razor sharp in recognizing danger. You always look out for danger.

Pasillas loved boxing and loved his friends, the big homies, but cutting off one for the other was the most difficult decision. He would train, fight, and win but then hang with the homies and end up being arrested with the rest of them.

“The cops would come and everybody would run so I would run,” said Pasillas. “I didn’t do anything, but I would get busted with everybody else for trying to evade the police.”

Things remained the same until he met his wife. The streets never had a chance. Once married he moved to the Riverside area. It was 2011 and newly married he needed to make a decision on whether to try and make the Olympic team or turn professional.

“I was ready to go to the Olympics. First, I was going to smash everybody but my wife got pregnant at 2011. It forced me to get a job at a warehouse. I was making 50 dollars a week. Pennies,” said Pasillas. “I got a call from Cameron Dunkin and Top Rank. They offered me a fight on the third Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez fight. That was my pro debut.”

Sadly, the streets reclaimed him again.

Reckoning

A move to northern California seemed to change things but the struggle to stay outside the grasp of the streets remained real even hundreds of miles away. Despite the dark times Pasillas still had friends and admirers.

Seniesa Estrada, who holds the interim WBA flyweight title and is poised to fight for a world title in March, remembers sparring with Pasillas when she could not find girls to spar.

“Vic was always very good. He would take it easy on me, of course, but I would learn so much from sparring with guys like him and Jojo Diaz and Frankie Gomez,” said Estrada, who grew up and still lives in East L.A.

Pasillas, 28, had more than 300 amateur fights. He lost only eight times. Anyone who ever saw him fight immediately recognized his immense talent.

“Vic is one of the best fighters I ever saw,” said Joe Estrada. “Everyone knew that when he’s in shape he can’t be beat. Just so much talent.”

That talent will be tested on Saturday when he meets Michigan’s undefeated Aleem. Whoever wins their battle will meet the winner between Angelo Leo and Stephen Fulton who fight for the WBO super bantamweight title.

“I want to fight the best now, and Pasillas is one of the best fighters in the division. I’m not ducking or dodging anyone. I’m going to be a world champion by all means necessary,” said Aleem who now fights out of Las Vegas.

Pasillas doesn’t doubt that Aleem has talent.

“I don’t want to give up my game plan but best believe I’m going to do whatever it takes to win this fight. If he wants to bang, then we’ll bang, if he wants to box, we’ll box. I’ve seen so many different styles in the amateurs, there is nothing that he brings that I haven’t seen. My power is what he’s going to have to deal with,” Pasillas said.

It’s been an incredible up and down journey so far for Pasillas; a lifetime of dealing with hidden traps on East L.A. streets that have toppled many previous fighters now long forgotten.

Or will those same streets show the way to glittering success as former champions De La Hoya, Santa Cruz, Joey Olivo, Richie Lemos, Newsboy Brown and Solly Garcia Smith discovered.

One thing Pasillas already discovered was his own family.

“People invite me all the time to events and parties but I tell them I already have plans with my family,” said Pasillas who has a wife and two elementary age children. “I never really had a family like other people.”

Now he has his own family. Something he didn’t have during his youth due to drugs and the streets.

“It’s just a domino effect. I’m making sure I’m going to stop that s—t,” says Pasillas. “It’s going to be good for East Los. I’m a born and bred fighter from East Los.”

Sometimes the streets can break you or make you.

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