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THE STERN VIEW: Fightnight Reports From FS1 Cali Card

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On Friday night August 22nd, a sold out crowd of close to 1200 filled the Allan Witt Sports Center in Fairfield, CA and watched junior featherweight prospect Manuel ‘Tino’ Avila and heavyweight prospect Gerald Washington emerge victorious on a FOX Sports 1 televised card presented by Golden Boy Promotions, Don Chargin Production and Paco Presents.

Fighting in his hometown, Manuel Avila, 16(7)-0, shined and displayed a rising confidence befitting a boxer turning into one of the top prospects of his division.

Gerald Washington’s struggle with veteran Nagy Aguilera, 19(13)-9, left questions of his ability to advance to the elite level.

Fairfield’s Manuel ‘Tino’ Avila entered the ring in bright white attire and to the crowd’s refrain of “Tino’s House.” Bouncing on his toes awaiting the signal from the TV broadcast that the fight could begin, Avila’s face was frozen in concentration. Sitting on a chair outside of the ring was his trainer, Al LaGardo. LaGardo has trained Avila since he was an amateur. Health issues prevent LaGardo from entering the ring, but he relays his instructions to his assistant coaches, all of whom hail from the Vacaville PAL, which Al runs with an iron fist. LaGardo can be seen at amateur shows operating the same way, often warming up elementary school age boxers while sitting in a chair using his hands as punch mitts.

Avila normally begins a fight sitting back, getting a read on his opponent and looking to counter. This night, Avila stalked his opponent, Sergio Frias, 15(8)-4-2, of Guadalajara, Mex, from the start. Working behind a sharp, fast jab, and showing Frias no respect, Avila was seeking to destroy. Avila dropped Frias with left hook and then dropped him a second time with a series of right cross, left hooks. Tino looked to finish off Frias in the final 10 seconds of the first, throwing a lot of punches and injuring his left hand in the process.

Frias collected his wits well in between rounds and began the 2nd looking to fight his fight, but Avila was just superior. From the 2nd through 4th round, Avila controlled the fight with his crisp jab and his counters, favoring either a 2-3 or a 3-2 thrown tight, quick and compact. Somewhere in the 4th Avila injured his right hand. From the 5th through 7th, Avila changed tactics and let Frias chase him around the ring, stinging Frias with his jab while mostly working defense.

Worn down from the early punishment, the energy expended chasing Avila and the damage from repeatedly eating a hard jab on the chin all night, Frias began the 8th with no choice but to go for it. After opening up on Avila early in the round, Frias stumbled after getting hit a jab. Sensing Frias had nothing left, Avila drove Frias to the ropes with a flurry and put him down with a digging left hook with the body. Frias’ corner threw in the white towel just as the referee called off the fight.

With this fight, Manuel ‘Tino’ Avila may have entered a new phase of his career. He is no longer a young fighter transitioning from amateur boxing to professional. At 22 years of age, he is now a professional with full confidence in his abilities and operating under the realization that he can and should, even if injured, dispatch lesser men. Avila is ready to climb.

The supporters of heavyweight Gerald Washington, 14(10)-0, wear shirts with “Champion on the Rise” emblazoned on the back. A former USC Trojan football player and fringe NFL tight end, Washington is looking to buck the trend of former football players who turn out to be failed heavyweights. Having boxed as a youth and with backing from Al Haymon, maybe Gerald Washington will be different. After his anemic eight round unanimous decision victory over Nagy Aguilera, Gerald Washington has much more work to do if he plans on reaching his goals.

Washington is a good athlete who utilized decent footwork to evade Aguilera’s constant pressure, but he pushes his punches instead of snapping them, has issues with activity and stamina, and brings his jab hand back to his waist each time he throws. His constant circling off brought catcalls and boos from the crowd. Nagy Aguilera was correct in his prediction that he would have to knock Washington out in order to get a victory.

The television star of the night was Manuel Avila. The actual stars of the actual event, held in a building that functions as a community center, were the members of the local Northern California boxing community, who were given the opportunity to celebrate themselves.

Ricardo Carrillo, a garbage truck driver, who has spent almost every day after work for over 20 years running the Woodland Boxing Club, who has taught thousands of kids their first punch, and who has trained an Olympian, gets to work the glove table, don a sports coat and catch a glimpse of himself in the ring on national television. Local professional boxers not fighting that night get to be guests of honor, walk tall, see the young men who they spar with compete, talk to each other about their next fight or the frustration of finding a next fight, and talk about their careers with the few people who have witnessed them and care about their journeys. In the ring, at the conclusion of each bout, promoter Paco Damian, in charge of the nuts and bolts of the promotion under the tutelage of Hall of Famer Don Chargin, can be seen expressing his authenticate appreciation to each of the boxers, from the main event fighter to the four round boxers who will never progress beyond a few fights at these local shows.

And the fans themselves starred. Most of the crowd was young and minority, coming from communities where boxing still matters, wearing shirts in support of the boxer from their neighborhood, their boxing gym or their family. ‘Team Rhino’, ‘Kennel Boxing Club’, ‘Gallo Negro’, ‘Tino’, ‘Team Robb’, ‘No Luck, All Hustle’ all represented. For each fight, there was a sizeable group emotionally invested in the result. There were very few pure spectators.

After winning his fight, dressed in his street clothes, looking younger than his age, 20 year-old boxer Chris Bautista climbed up the bleachers and quietly and respectfully shook the hands of each of the elders that came to see him. He then departed with his friends.

In other action, Sacramento junior lightweight Guy Robb, 14(6)-1, bolstered his reputation as one of the most exciting fighters in Northern California after he knocked out previously undefeated Ronell Green, 10(5)-1, in the 3rd round. Robb made Green pay for his bad habit of bending at the waist. When Green bent over, Robb pounded the sides of his body, waiting for Green to raise his head. Green raised his head and Robb was ready with short right hand followed by a left hook that robbed Green of his consciousness.

San Jose, CA lightweight Andy Vences, 9(5)-0, defeated Cesar Martinez, 4(1)-3-2, when the ringside physician stopped the bout after the 2nd due to cuts in Martinez’s mouth. Martinez, who was dropped once in the fight, appeared fit to fight and was visible upset by the doctor’s call. Vences has the ability to fight as a pure boxer, but he loves to exchange. His identity as a pro has yet to be established.

Los Angeles featherweight Manny Robles, Jr., 6(2)-0, boxed with the poise and technique one would expect from a boxer with a father who trains elite amateurs. Mexico’s Sergio Najera, 8-15-2, gave Robles multiple looks and was slippery enough to force Robles to work hard in earning a 60-54 unanimous decision.

Vacaville, CA cruiserweight Ryan Bourland went to 4(3)-0 after stopping San Francisco’s Philip Smith, 0-1, in the 2nd round. There are plenty of professional boxing matches that are mismatches or that are fought at a basic level, but rarely do you see a fight where you immediately know that one of the boxers has no business being in the ring and your concern turns from reporting on the action to concern for the participant’s health and safety. This was such a fight. Philip Smith has no business being in a ring. The referee thankfully stopped the action in the 2nd, not because any particular punch rendered Smith helpless, but because he was helpless and in danger of being seriously injured by Ryan Bourland, a professional boxer.

Middleweight Maurico Zavaleta, 1-2, lost to William Walters, 2-3, in a fight Zavaleta was well in control after the ringside physician stopped the fight due to a cut in his mouth.

Junior middleweights Joe Siapano, 0-1-1, and Jesus Sanchez, 1-0-1, fought to a majority draw in a rematch of their professional debuts.

Chris Bautista, 3-0, earned a four round unanimous decision over Percy Peterson, 0-4-1, who didn’t appear interested in engaging after suffering a bruising and competitive defeat just three weeks before.

All in all, if you knew nothing else, walking into arena that night, you would think boxing was doing just fine.

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Junto Nakatani Turns in Another Masterclass on Saturday’s Tripleheader in Tokyo

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In a rather odd juxtaposition, several of boxing’s best little men were on display today at Japan’s National Sumo Arena in Tokyo. The best of the lot, Junto Nakatani, improved to 27-0 (20 KOs) while tearing away the WBC world bantamweight title from Tijuana’s Alexandro Santiago (28-4-5) who was making the first defense of the title he won in Las Vegas in May when he upset Nonito Donaire.

It was a one-sided beatdown. Nakatani, who had a 5-inch height advantage, won every round before ending the contest in the sixth. The end came at the 1:12 mark when Nakatani terminated the affair with his second knockdown. The first came earlier in the round, the result of a straight left hand. The finisher was a big right hook.

With the victory, Nakatani became a world title-holder in a third weight class. He’s an outstanding talent, worthy of pound-for-pound consideration, and would be favored in a unification fight with Takuma Inoue.

Inoue, the younger brother of pound-for-pound king Naoya “Monster” Inoue, did his part to bring the match to fruition with a ninth-round stoppage of Filipino veteran Jerwin Ancajas in the main event. Inoue (19-1, 5 KOs) was making the first defense of the WBA diadem he won with a wide decision over Venezuela’s mildewed Liborio Solis. That title was conveniently vacated by Takuma’s renowned brother.

This figured to be the most competitive match on the card and Ancajas (34-4-2) had his moments before Inoue ended the contest at the 0:44 mark of round nine with a four-punch combination climaxed by a shot to the liver. Heading in, Ancajas, who had a long title reign at 115, was 9-2-1 in world title fights and hadn’t previously been stopped.

In the first of the three title fights, 29-year-old Kosei Tanaka became a four-weight belt-holder in record time with a unanimous decision over Mexicali’s stubborn but out-classed Christian Bacasegua “Rocky” Rangel. At stake was the vacant WBO junior bantamweight title.

Tanaka, who previously held belts at 105, 108, and 112, started slow but the outcome was never in doubt after he knocked “Rocky” to the canvas in the eighth frame. The judges had it 119-108, 117-110, and 116-111. With the victory, Tanaka improved to 20-1 (11). In his only defeat, he was stopped by countryman Kazuto Ioka. He hunkers for a rematch but, if it happens, he might wish that it hadn’t. Ioka is long in the tooth – he turns 35 next month – but is very good and shows no signs of slowing down. Rangel (22-5-2) had won nine straight heading in, but against questionable opposition and was making his first start outside Mexico.

The Teiken Promotions card was presented in association with Top Rank and aired in the U.S. on ESPN+.

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Rising Contenders Gor Yeritsyan and Cain Sandoval Stay Unbeaten at Chumash

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Rising Contenders Gor Yeritsyan and Cain Sandoval Stay Unbeaten at Chumash

Two Southern California-based fighters cracked the top 10 list on Friday in Central California on the 360 Promotions card.

Armenia’s Gor Yeritsyan (18-0, 14 KOs) captured the WBC Continental Americas welterweight title with a steady and persistent attack against defensive-minded Quinton Randall (13-2-1, 3 KOs) of Texas at Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, California.

“This is my first step,” said Yeritsyan (pictured with promoter Tom Loeffler). “Remember my name.”

Yeritsyan was always on attack but had prior knowledge and preparation under trainer Freddie Roach for the counter-punching style of Randall. He pounded away while rarely unleashing more than three-punch combinations. It was effective.

Randall was never over-run by the strong Armenian fighter but he rarely stepped into an offensive mode. That cost him over the 10 rounds and all three judges scored for Yeritsyan who captured the WBC title and will now be ranked in the top 10.

“My opponent was a very good boxer,” Yeritsyan said of Randall.

In a super lightweight match, young firebrand Cain Sandoval (12-0, 11 KOs) met former contender Javier Molina (22-6, 9 KOs) and had his knockout streak snapped, but still won by unanimous decision. The Sacramento fighter now has the WBC Continental Americas super lightweight title.

Molina has never been stopped and showed why over the 10 rounds. In his 15-year career despite facing knockout punchers such as Jesus Ramos Jr., Amir Imam, and Artemio Reyes, none of his losses were via knockout.

Despite a consistent Sandoval battering from the third round on, nothing seemed to penetrate Molina’s defense. But when Sandoval directed his blows to the body it opened up more opportunities and the Sacramento fighter maintained control.

After 10 rounds all three judges scored in favor of Sandoval by unanimous decision, but his knockout streak was stopped. Molina’s streak pf never being knocked out continues.

“I thought I would stop him,” said Sandoval. “I just want to win.”

Other Bouts

Central California’s Jorge Maravillo (9-0, 8 KOs) out-fought Santa Ana’s Jesus Gonzalez (7-2-1) in a six-round super welterweight fight. Maravillo, who is trained by Max Garcia in Salinas, used crisp rights to batter the gritty Gonzalez especially inside.

Maravillo was sharp throughout the fight and though his knockout streak was snapped it took a determined Gonzalez to gut out the fight after being dominated in the fifth round. All three judges scored it 60-54 for Maravillo.

Upland, California’s Daniel “Chuckie” Barrera (5-0-1) floored veteran Jonathan Almacen (7-10-3) twice in the second round with lefts. The end came at 2:35 of the round when Barrera knocked out the Filipino fighter with a left hook in a super flyweight match.

Cuba’s Osvel Caballero (5-0, 4 KOs) was too sharp and too strong for Jason Buenaobra (10-10-3) and won by stoppage at 2:22 of the fourth round in a featherweight fight.

A super bantamweight clash saw Mexico’s Alfredo Castro (10-0, 7 KOs) and Riverside, California’s Ezekiel Flores (4-3) engage in a back-and-forth battle for six rounds. Castro could not miss with the right cross and Flores could not miss with uppercuts. But two knockdowns by Castro proved the difference and he won by unanimous decision after six exciting rounds.

Photo credit: Lina Baker

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 274: Yeritsyan vs Randall at Chumash Casino, Japan and More

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Violence of an organized nature begins in the rustic and peaceful surroundings of Santa Inez, California as welterweights Gor Yeritsyan and Quinton Randall headline a 360 Boxing Promotions card at Chumash Casino on Friday.

Hours later, three world championship fights erupt in Japan. And hours after that, super middleweights tangle in Florida.

All will be streamed.

Undefeated Yeritsyan (17-0, 14 KOs) meets Randall (13-1-1, 3 KOs) for the WBC Continental Americas title on Friday, Feb. 23, at Chumash Casino. UFC Fight Pass will stream the 360 Boxing Promotions card.

Others on the card include undefeated super lightweight Cain Sandoval (11-0, 11 KOs) meeting Javier Molina (22-5, 9 KOs) in a battle set for 10 rounds. It’s a stronger test for Sandoval who has blasted out every opponent. Molina is one of the fighting twin brothers who both were Olympians.

Javier was an Olympian in 2008 for the USA and Oscar Molina an Olympian for Mexico in 2012.

“I’ve been hearing about Cain for a while, but I know my skills and experience will give me the victory,” said Molina who fights out of Los Angeles.

Sandoval, 21, last November won by knockout in Madison Square Garden in New York City.

“Javier is a very good veteran who has had many more fights than me, but he’s never felt my power before,” said Sandoval who fights out of Sacramento.

Chumash Casino is located near one of the old California missions and built by the Spaniards in 1804. You can see open land for miles with the next nearest town of Solvang a short driving distance away.

Over the decades I’ve seen some memorable fights including Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley’s wild victory over Manuel Garnica in 2007 and Seniesa “Super Bad’ Estrada’s pro debut win in 2011 against Maria Ruiz.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Tokyo Hosts Three World Title Fights

It’s a triple-header in Tokyo for real fight lovers.

Early Saturday morning at 1 a.m. (Pacific Time) three world title matches headed by WBC bantamweight titlist Alexandro Santiago (28-3-5, 14 KOs) of Mexico defending against Japan’s Junto Nakatani (26-0, 19 KOs) take place.

Santiago defeated legendary champion Nonito Donaire last July in Las Vegas in an upset. He also fought to a draw against Filipino slugger Jerwin Ancajas who is also on this card.

Nakatani is a big hitter and two-division world champion. He is very familiar with Mexican fighters and often trains in Southern California. I saw him in Maywood, California a year ago. He’s quite a fighter.

In the other co-main event WBA bantamweight titlist Takuma Inoue (18-1, 4 KOs) defends against former super flyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas (34-3-2, 23 KOs) of the Philippines. Its speed against power.

A third co-main features WBO super flyweight titlist Kosei Tanaka (19-1, 11 KOs) defending against Mexico’s Christian Bacasegua (22-4-2, 9 KOs).

ESPN+ will stream the card live on Saturday.

Matchroom in Orlando

It’s a showcase for contenders.

Brooklyn native Edgar Berlanga (21-0, 16 KOs) “the Chosen One” meets United Kingdom’s Padraig “the Hammer” McCrory (18-0, 9 KOs) in the super middleweight main event on Saturday, Feb. 24. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card from Orlando, Florida.

Berlanga, of Puerto Rican descent, burst on the pro boxing scene by knocking out 16 consecutive foes. But ever since 2021 he has been unable to win by knockout. Five consecutive opponents went the distance.

Can Berlanga still punch?

Facing the Boricua slugger will be McCrory a 35-year-old from Northern Ireland who remains undefeated. To put it into perspective, the United Kingdom is filled with very good super middleweights and none have beaten McCrory so far.

Also on the card is Cuban Olympic gold medalist Andy Cruz (2-0) defending a regional lightweight title against Mexican southpaw Brayan Zamarripa (14-2, 9 KOs). Cruz has blistering speed and an aggressive style as a pro.

Other interesting fights feature bantamweight prospects Antonio Vargas (17-1) and Jonathan Rodriguez (17-1-1). Both can punch but each lost via knockout. Whose chin will prove sturdier in this clash?

Fights to Watch (all times Pacific Time)

Fri. UFC Fight Pass 7 p.m. Gor Yeritsyan (17-0) vs Quinton Randall (13-1-1)

Sat. ESPN+ 1 a.m. Alexandro Santiago (28-3-5) vs Junto Nakatani (26-0).

Sat. DAZN 4 p.m. Edgar Berlanga (21-0) vs Padraig McCrory (18-0).

Photo: Tom Loeffler is flanked by Javier Molina and Cain Sandoval. Photo credit: Lina Baker

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