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Team DSG: Beyond the Boxing Ring

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THE DANNY GARCIA STORY BY SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT LUIS CORTES III – “Success is one thing, impact is another,” is a quote attributed to former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. These words spoken by the greatest inside linebacker in NFL history give a clearer insight to the story between current WBC welterweight champion Danny Garcia and the community where he was born and raised: North Philadelphia.

While North Philadelphia is home to several urban neighborhoods with different demographic makeups, it is the predominantly Latino Kensington section where Team DSG (Danny “Swift” Garcia) originates from.  It’s where their humble beginnings as a family have shaped both the man and the champion that Danny Garcia has become.  As one looks closer at this tale one begins to take notice that this story runs deep for all of the players involved. – a tight- knit family, team, and community.  Team DSG has become proof that success and a positive impact are indeed possible if you hail from Kensington.

Garcia fights Keith Thurman on CBS this Saturday. It’s customary that during the continuous promotion for a fight of this magnitude that fans are treated to an in-depth look at the back story of the combatants — what shapes them as men, which in turn tells us why they fight in the fashion that they do.  In the case of Garcia, his family’s struggles have been the focus:  Having a father (Angel Garcia) that lived a “gangster” lifestyle that included narcotics distribution that resulted in his incarceration. Trying to survive with his mother and siblings in a rough community while his father served his time.  Garcia’s reconnection with his father, upon his father’s release from prison.  Starting his boxing training at the tender age of ten and realizing early through the guidance of his father and trainer that this sport is serious business.  To understand at an early age that in order to be successful and fulfill his dreams, dedication to the craft ruled supreme over every other aspect of life.

Which brings this tale to the role played by the aforementioned neighborhood, Kensington, a neighborhood that was omnipresent in the lives of the Garcia family.  During the 90’s, when Garcia was a child, Kensington was best known for being home to many drug addicts and dealers.  Crack cocaine hit this working class neighborhood hard.  As a result, all of the social ills that come with the drug culture plagued the streets.  Unfortunately that is something that still is the case within the confines of the Kensington neighborhood.  Currently it is the heroin epidemic that has its tight grip on many members of the community.

Success is defined as being able to accomplish an aim or goal.  In the case of many that call Kensington home, success is being able to avoid the awful pitfalls to which many succumb.  So for Garcia making it through his adolescence alive is success in itself.  Garcia took what many may think is a small example of success and parlayed it with staying focused on his goal of becoming a professional prizefighter.  He was able to do this by having several interests aside from the boxing gym.  While the pugilistic art form has always been his primary focus, he spent many hours as the local barber for his friends and family.  A love for music and playing around with Hip Hop music was also strong and consumed his time as an escape from both boxing and the neighborhood.  Garcia continued this formula throughout a successful amateur career that reached its crescent when he was named an alternate on the 2008 US Olympic boxing team.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise when Team DSG purchased a building on a plot of land right outside of Kensington in the Juniata Park section of the city. What followed was the creation of a home base or corporate headquarters for all things Danny Garcia.  Upon visiting the complex recently, I got the feeling that Garcia fully understands that while he is a two division champion and in the prime of his career at just 28 years of age, his time inside the ring will not go on forever.  He has positioned himself for life after boxing as a brand that is dubbed DSG.

The DSG complex is home to a beautiful barbershop, a private recording studio for his friends and twin sisters (who are singers), a detailing and minor repair body shop, a full time apparel store (set to open soon) and, of course, his own boxing gym.  Another form of success and impact is that with all of these business ventures it means one thing for the community:  jobs.  His barber shop has nine full time barbers.”Danny has set the bar so high, he has my respect and everyone’s in here.” states Haz, the manager of his barber shop.  “The gym is open to the public daily, when he is not training for a fight.”  This means that many of the youth from the same neighborhood that he once called home can find their solace from the streets at the DSG gym — much in the same way that Garcia did at the Harrowgate boxing gym years ago.

Danny Garcia’s impact on the sport of boxing goes beyond his accomplishments inside the ring.  Already a two division champion, a victory on Saturday against Keith Thurman will make him the recognized lineal champion at welterweight.  As the first Latino champion in the rich history of boxing in Philadelphia, Garcia is on pace to becoming the best Puerto Rican fighter from mainland United States in history.

If you take a look at the list of all the Puerto Rican title holders, ten names pop off the list in a special way, while four are in a class of their own.  Seven of these ten fighters, while born in Puerto Rico, moved to the mainland at an early age and called boxing gyms in the United States home, mostly in New York City.  These boxers include Jose Torres, Carlos Ortiz, Eric Morel, Kermit Cintron and, of course, Hector Camacho.

Wilfred Benitez was born in New York and learned to box in gyms throughout the city.  However as a professional he spent a huge portion of his time on the island.  Currently Benitez has the distinction of being the best Puerto Rican fighter from mainland Unites States.  Luis Collazo, also from New York and Jason Sosa from Camden, New Jersey are also on the list with Danny Garcia.  It is a small list, but one that should continue to grow.

“For me, Danny is already the best Puerto Rican fighter from mainland U.S.A in history, no matter whatever happens in his career from here on out” quips Haz.  Matthew Urrutia, who runs a local bar just minutes away from the DSG complex, loves what he sees happening.  “Since his fight against Khan, every time Danny fights we get big crowds.  It’s crazy cause these crowds have positive vibes.  Everyone is together pulling for him to get the win, cause he represents Puerto Ricans from Philadelphia.”  Urrutia brought up a solid point when he stated the following. “Is Oscar De La Hoya less Mexican cause he was from L.A?  No, he isn’t.”  What is happening on the east coast regarding mainland Puerto Rican fighters is similar to what has happened out west with Mexican-American fighters from states like California, Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico.  New York, now Pennsylvania and New Jersey, are on the list of states with Puerto Rican champions from the mainland.

You get the sense that even a state like Florida, the home of Keith Thurman, is going to be added to that list in no time.  Puerto Ricans are set to overtake Cuban-Americans as the largest Latino demographic in Florida in the near future.  “To say that there are currently no real Puerto Rican champions because there isn’t one from the island is just disrespectful.”  says Urrutia.  “Here is the rub.  I’m not even a big fight fan, but I like Roman Gonzalez cause my father is from Nicaragua.  I support Danny though, cause he is from Philly and most of my customers are Rican.”

Impact can be a fickle thing.  For all the things one can do to positively affect people and a certain place,  all of that can be neglected by people outside of your community if the only thing people hear about regarding you or the members of your team is a negative that occurs from a mistake. This seems to be the case with what occurred at the well documented Garcia-Thurman pre-fight press conference in January.  (The situation has already been discussed at length, so I won’t hash over the details.)

To his credit, Angel Garcia has gone on record stating that he shouldn’t have said what he did.  But if you’re from an area like Kensington in a city like Philadelphia where, as mentioned before, success is something as fragile as staying alive, then when you feel as though you are being disrespected by someone, you strike back.  Many times it’s an issue of survival.  However what Angel said can’t be excused despite the forum in which it was used.

Moving forward, Danny Garcia is on the cusp of super stardom — something he and his team have to be aware of as they continue with the remaining portion of Danny’s career.  With a vacancy on the short list of stars that carry the sport into the future, a  victory on Saturday night can go a long way for Team DSG to fill that void.  “My wish is that he wins and hopefully fights Cotto.  If Chavez and Canelo can fight to see who is the best Mexican, why can’t Cotto and Garcia fight to see who the best Rican is? Plus, it will mean big business for me,” says Urrutia.

Whatever the future holds for Danny “Swift” Garcia,, this much is certain: He is a true success to have made it out of the conditions that he faced as a child growing up in a place like Kensington.  His impact on the community can’t be denied and his impact on the sport he loves may be just getting started. Maybe these simple few words from Haz sum it up the best: “Danny’s type of success story doesn’t happen every day, especially when you’re from where he is.”

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.

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Former World Bantamweight Champion Richie Sandoval Passes Away at Age 63

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Richie Sandoval, who won the WBA and lineal bantamweight title in one of the biggest upsets of the 1980s and then, not quite two years later, suffered near-fatal injuries in a title defense, has passed away at the age of 63.

News circulated fast in the Las Vegas boxing community on Monday, July 22, the grapevine actuated by a tweet from Hall of Fame matchmaker Bruce Trampler: “Boxing and the Top Rank family lost one of our own last night in the passing of former WBA bantamweight champion Richie Sandoval. It hurts personally and professionally to know that Richie is gone at age 63. RIP campeon.”

Details are vague but the cause of death was apparently a sudden heart attack that Sandoval experienced while visiting the Southern California home of his son of the same name.

Richie Sandoval put the LA County community of Pomona, California, on the boxing map before Shane Mosley came along and gave the town a more frequently-cited mention in the sports section of the papers. He came from a fighting family. An older brother, Albert “Superfly” Sandoval, became a big draw at LA’s fabled Olympic Auditorium while building a 35-2-1 record that included a failed bid to capture Lupe Pintor’s world bantamweight title.

Richie was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic boxing team that was stranded when U.S. President Jimmy Carter (and many other world leaders) boycotted the event as a protest against Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan.

As a pro, Sandoval’s signature win was a 15th-round stoppage of Jeff Chandler. They fought on April 7, 1984 in Atlantic City. Chandler was making the tenth defense of his world bantamweight title.

Despite being a heavy underdog, Sandoval dominated the fight, winning almost every round until the referee stepped in and waived it off. Chandler, who was 33-1-2 heading in and had avenged his lone defeat, never fought again.

Sandoval made two successful defenses before risking his title against Gabby Canizales on the undercard of Hagler-Mugabi in the outdoor stadium at Caesars Palace. In round seven, Sandoval, who had a hellish time making the weight, was knocked down three times and suffered a seizure as he collapsed from the third knockdown. Stretchered out of the ring, he was rushed to the hospital where doctors reduced the swelling in his brain and beat the odds to save his life. This would be Richie’s lone defeat. He finished his pro career with a record of 29-1 (17 KOs).

Bob Arum cushioned some of the pain by giving Richie a $25,000 bonus and offering him a lifetime job at Top Rank which Richie accepted. And let the record show that Arum was good to his word.

A more elaborate portrait of Richie Sandoval was published in these pages in 2017. You can check it out HERE. May he rest in peace.

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Amanda Serrano and Jake Paul Vanquish Overmatched Foes in Tampa

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Amanda “the Real Deal” Serrano mowed through knockout puncher Stevie Morgan in less than two rounds on Saturday and Jake Paul soundly defeated bare knuckle champion Mike Perry by knockout too.

Paul and Serrano move on to bigger things.

“It’s feels great, it feels amazing. My 50th fight, my 31st knockout, I’m super blessed,” said Serrano.

Despite jumping up three weight divisions Serrano (47-2-1, 31 KOs) showed more than 17,000 fans and Morgan (14-2, 13 KOs) at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, how she was able to win seven weight divisions.

Fans and perhaps Katie Taylor breathed a sigh of relief that Serrano is truly back. In Serrano’s last fight she was forced to withdraw back in March due to an accident to her eye moments before a fight. Now the Puerto Rican and Irish super stars will meet in Texas on November 15.

Fans can expect a rematch of one of the greatest fights of all time.

Tonight, before walking into the boxing ring, Morgan had commented that of all the top female fighters Serrano was low hanging fruit. The Puerto Rican legend merely shrugged her shoulders and replied that she lets her fists do the talking.

Both fighters hesitated touching gloves but did. After that, Serrano immediately went into assassin’s mode and moved forward while punching like a finely tuned hemi-engine. Morgan tried to keep up but discovered Serrano was not easy to hit.

Serrano moved forward smoothly while slipping and punching. A stiff looking Morgan, whose legs seemed unbent, tried to fend off the Puerto Rican champion’s blows but was smacked repeatedly in the first round with lefts and rights.

When the bell rang to end the first round, it was obvious that Morgan was overmatched.

As the second round commenced Serrano immediately slipped into attack gear behind her southpaw defensive guard. Once again, she fired combinations while moving quickly forward against the taller Morgan.

It was even worse than the first round as Serrano unloaded a dozen unanswered blows forcing the referee to stop the fight at 38 seconds of the second round.

“I think these girls were mistaking my kindness for weakness,” said Serrano. “If you’re not on my level that’s what happens.”

Morgan quickly learned she’s not on the championship level.

“Stevie Morgan just started a little while ago. I knew it would have been a little too much for her,” said Serrano. “My hat goes off to her. It’s not easy.”

Now it’s on to Katie Taylor.

Jake Paul KOs Mike Perry

In the co-main event Jake Paul (10-1, 7 KOs) floored Mike Perry (6-1) the Bare Knuckle Champion in the first and second round of the cruiserweight fight. And then battered the smaller fighter with a jolting jab to the body and head that opened up cuts on the former MMA fighter.

Paul continued to show improvement and proved once again that whether its MMA or Bare Knuckle fighting, his boxing skills are superior to their combat champions.

“Man, he’s tough as nails. I’m sorry it took so long. Respect man. He’s the king of violence,” said Paul about his fallen foe whose nickname is the “King of Violence.”

Paul attacked the body with a strong left jab while circling slowly left and right. Perry stood straight up with a low guard and his chin up. Paul hit that chin repeatedly and eventually cracked it in the fifth round.

Perry survived.

In the sixth round the bigger blonde fighter Paul bludgeoned Perry with another left jab and then opened with a barrage of blows that blasted the bare knuckle fighter to the canvas. Though he beat the count, he stumbled and the referee stopped the fight at 1:12 of the sixth round.

“I kind of expected that,” said Paul.

Perry was honest about the outcome.

“I tried man, but the kid hit me hard,” said Perry.

Now it’s on to Mike Tyson on November 15 in Arlington, Texas.

“Mike. I love you. But this is my sport now. I’m so honored but I’m going to take your throne.”

Other Bouts

A lightweight battle between undefeated fighters saw Canada’s Lucas Bahdi (17-0, 15 KOs) lose every round until he unloaded a three-punch combination that rendered Ashton Sylve (11-1, 9 KOs) unconscious before he hit the canvas.

Sylve utilized his speed and counters for five rounds and seemed to cruise for five years. But Bahdi showed a good chin especially against lightning uppercuts that sneaked through the guard.

“He’s very twitchy and very quick. I was trying to get to his body early on,” said Bahdi. “He’s very fast and has good counter punches.

In the sixth round Sylve was opening up a little more with his hands down and Bahdi saw the opening and quickly launched a right followed by a left hook that knocked out Sylve before he hit the floor at 2:27 of the sixth round.

“I knew his head’s there in the center all the time,” said Bahdi. “I think I stole the show tonight.”

Prelim Bouts

A rematch between lightweights saw Corey Marksman (10-0-1) win by majority decision against Tony Aguilar (12-1-1) in a back-and-forth battle. Marksman out-worked Aguilar with an especially effective counter-right that scored repeatedly. Their first encounter last February ended in a draw.

Shadasia Green (14-1, 11 KOs) stumbled a bit but got the win against Natasha Spence (8-5-2) to win by unanimous decision in a super middleweight. It was her first fight since losing to Franchon Crews-Dezurn for the world title.

Green was cruising for most of the fight behind a sharp jab and rights to the body but during an offensive out burst Spence caught her with a counter right and floored her in the seventh. It was half punch and half slip, but she was knocked down.

Though Green did not get a knockout she emerged with the win 78-73, 77-74 twice.

“I had fun in there tonight,” said Green. “I belong at the top with the best.”

Alexis Chaparro (2-0) knocked out Kevin Hill (1-2) with a five-punch combination at 2:01 of the second round in a middleweight fight.

Angel Barrientes (12-1) defeated Edwin Rodriguez (12-9-2) by majority decision after six rounds in a super bantamweight fight. The scores were 57-57, 60-54 twice for Barrientes who resides in Las Vegas.

Photo credit: Esther Lin / MVP Promotions

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Nakatani Strengthens his Pound-for-Pound Credentials: Blasts Out Astrolabio

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Junto Nakatani is the best 118-pound boxer in the world. Tonight, in Tokyo, he reinforced that judgment with a first-round knockout of Vincent Astrolabio at Japan’s national sumo arena. A short left to the solar plexus left the Filipino writhing on the canvas. He tried to rise but fell back down, forcing referee Tom Taylor to waive it off. It was all over in less than three minutes, 2:37 to be precise. Nakatani (28-0, 21 KOs) was making the first defense of his WBO bantamweight title after previously winning title belts at 112 and 115.

Tall for the weight class at five-foot-seven-and-a-half, the 26-year-old Japanese southpaw produced his second highlight reel knockout in his last four fights. The first come in May of last year at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas where he scored a frightening, 12th-round one-punch knockout of Andrew Moloney.

Nakatani won’t have to travel far to unify the belt. The other three current bantamweight champions are also Japanese. Down the road, potentially, is a showdown with countryman Naoya Inoue. That match, should it transpire, would be the biggest domestic fight in Japanese boxing history. Astrolabio, who had been stopped only once previously and was making his second stab at a world title, declined to 18-5.

Other Title Fight

LA’s Anthony Olascuaga, a stablemate of Nakatani (both train in LA under the tutelage of Rudy Hernandez), won the vacant WBO flyweight title with a third-round stoppage of Riku Kanu. A left uppercut put Kano (22-5) on the deck for the full count. The official time was 2:50 of round three.

Olascuaga (7-1, 5 KOs) was rucked out of obscurity in April of last year when he dropped down a weight class and performed far better than expected, albeit in a losing effort, against Kenshiro Teraji, a fight that he took on 10 days’ notice. Despite his inexperience and the locale, the LA fighter entered the ring a consensus 3/1 favorite over Kanu.

Also

In his first 10-rounder, ever-improving Tenshin Nasukawa (4-0, 2 KOs) stopped U.S. invader Jonathan Rodriguez in the third round. Five unanswered punches climaxed by a straight left ended matters at the 1:49 mark. The bout was contested at a catchweight of 120 pounds.

Nasukawa, a baby-faced, 25-year-old southpaw, transitioned to boxing after becoming famous in Japan for his kickboxing exploits. His first foray into boxing was an exhibition with Floyd Mayweather who knocked him out in the opening round, but he’s made considerable progress since then.

Against Rodriguez, Nasakawa was dominant from the get-go. Rodriguez was in dire straits as the second round ended. The first fighter from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley to fight in Japan, Rodriguez (17-3-1) joins the ranks of one-hit wonders. He scored a shocking first-round KO of former title-holder Khalid Yafai, but then lost his very next fight en route to this affair.

The promotion lost a bit of luster when the title fight between WBO 115-pound belt-holder Kosei Tanaka and Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Rodriguez (no relation to Nasukawa’s opponent of the same name) fell out when Rodriguez weighed a staggering six pounds over the limit.

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