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Johnny Bey and the Glory Days of Boxing at the Great Western Forum

Arne K. Lang

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Veteran boxing publicist John Beyrooty was inducted into the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame last week. This particular hall of fame is the third boxing hall of fame devoted primarily to boxers and boxing personalities who energized the Los Angeles boxing scene. Its antecedents were the California Boxing Hall of Fame and the World Boxing Hall of Fame.

With this latest honor, John Beyrooty (Johnny Bey to his friends and co-workers) hit the trifecta. He’s been recognized by all three. For good measure, Beyrooty received the 2016 Good Guy Award by the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Beyrooty’s induction called to mind the days when the Great Western Forum (now back to being called the plain old Forum) was a beehive of boxing. Wealthy real estate investor Dr. Jerry Buss then owned the joint as well as the arena’s signature tenant, the Los Angeles Lakers. During the Buss years (1982-1999), there were 302 GWF shows, most of which were held on a Monday. They aired on Prime Ticket, a regional cable network in which Buss had an ownership stake.

Beginning in 1989, Johnny Bey was Jerry Buss’s PR guy for the fights.

JOHN BEYROOTY, NEWSPAPERMAN

A little background. For folks of a certain vintage, John Beyrooty will always be associated with the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. At one time the largest circulation afternoon paper in America, the paper, which could trace its roots to 1903, went belly-up 29 years ago. The last issue rolled off the press on Nov. 2, 1989.

The Herald-Examiner had a great sports section. The rival LA Times could boast of Jim Murray, a wonderful wordsmith, and several other notables, but no one bought the Times just for the sports section. Three Herald-Examiner sportswriters – columnists Allan Malamud and Melvin Durslag and Bob Mieszerski, the horse racing guy, were snatched away by the Times during the end days of the Herald-Examiner.

Beyrooty, who grew up in the LA suburb of Downey (Herald-Examiner sports editor Bud Furillo was a neighbor) joined the paper as a copy boy. After five years in this capacity he became a writer, assigned to the boxing beat. “They gave me boxing because no one else wanted it,” he recalled in a 2010 interview with former Herald-Examiner colleague Doug Krikorian.

The first boxing show Beyrooty covered, on March 15, 1979, at the fabled Olympic Auditorium, was also the first boxing show he ever saw. Alberto “Superfly” Sandoval opposed Eddie Logan in the main event.

During his days as a copy boy Beyrooty moonlighted as a parking lot attendant at the old LA Sports Arena, a job he kept for a time after becoming a boxing writer. One night he worked a double shift, so to speak. In the fashion of Superman changing his costume, he ripped off the colorful shirt that parking lot attendants were required to wear and dashed into the arena to take his assigned seat in the section reserved for the ringside press.

FORUM BOXING, SNAPSHOTS

Twelve fighters promoted by Forum Boxing have been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. For some, the Great Western Forum was their nursery. Juan Manuel Marquez graduated from a preliminary boy to a headliner here. Oscar De La Hoya made his pro debut at the Great Western Forum. John Beyrooty is credited with giving Oscar his nickname, “Golden Boy.”

At the Great Western Forum, good things came in small packages. The great flyweight Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson had most of his early fights in and around his native Washington DC, but came to the fore at the Great Western Forum where he made 14 appearances. Ask John Beyrooty and he would tell you that Mark Johnson in his prime was pound-for-pound the best boxer in the world. An even smaller man, Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez, made the GWF turnstiles hum. “Chiquita” was responsible for five of the 10 largest crowds.

In 1993 and again in 1995, Humberto Gonzalez was involved in the Fight of the Year. His opponents were Michael Carbajal and Saman Sorjaturong.

The first of these fights, co-promoted with Top Rank, was actually held in Las Vegas. Forum Boxing occasionally took its act on the road. This practice became more common when Forum Boxing president John Jackson took a second job as an assistant football coach at UNLV under his longtime friend and mentor John Robinson.

A bizarre moment in the shoddy history of UNLV football – engendering some outrage but mostly horse laughs — occurred on Nov. 2, 2002, when Coach Jackson disappeared with three minutes remaining in a game that was hanging in the balance. Marco Antonio Barrera, who was then the ace of the dwindling Forum Boxing stable, was fighting Johnny Tapia up the road at the MGM Grand. Jackson didn’t want to miss the fight. (UNLV prevailed without him, upending Wyoming 49-48 in overtime).

The Gonzalez-Sorjaturong fight was one of many great wars staged at the Great Western Forum during the Buss years. Among the others, two in particular stand out. The June 27, 1987, match between neighborhood rivals Frankie Duarte and Alberto Davila, won by Duarte (TKO 10), was a savage bloodbath. Two years later, in the first of their three meetings, Paul Banke and Daniel Zaragoza, went hammer and tongs for all 12 rounds. Zaragoza retained his WBA 122-pound title on a split decision.

The April 26, 1993, bout between defending WBA 130-pound champion Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez and Raul Perez warrants a citation as the most disappointing. The highly-anticipated match was over in 28 seconds. A wicked cut wrought by an accidental head butt forced the stoppage.

No arena is going to host that many fights without some rancid decisions. The worst of the worst was the May 20, 1991 match between Victor Rabanales and Greg Richardson. The crowd went berserk when the decision went to Richardson. All three judges were appointed by the WBC. Richardson was promoted by Don King. ‘Nuff said.

JOHN BEYROOTY, FIGHT PUBLICIST

Jerry Buss reportedly lost money with his boxing venture but he wasn’t the sort to pinch pennies. The program that Beyrooty assembled for each show – “Fight Night at the Forum” – was produced on thick, glossy paper stock at considerable cost. Inside the publication, at its core, Beyrooty analyzed the main event, breaking down the principals in terms of their fighting styles and other variables. In most issues, Beyrooty reprised his old Herald-Examiner weekly notes column, a wide-ranging potpourri of fight news and rumors. At his heart, John Beyrooty was still a newspaperman.

The programs – a complete set would be a cool collector’s item — were also chock full of eye candy. The late Dr. Buss had a fine eye for the ladies and that’s putting it mildly as he was in Hugh Hefner’s league as a playboy. The Great Western Forum was continually running tournaments for ring card girls (fans got to choose their favorite from each pod) and full pages were devoted to the lineup.

After the end of his run with Forum Boxing, Beyrooty joined Brener-Zwikel & Associates, a sports public relations firm. He did considerable traveling while handling the SHOWTIME BOXING account, including a trip to China for a fight that was cancelled at the 11th hour. Nowadays, Johnny Bey has been scarce around the office as he deals with a myriad of nagging little health issues. Hopefully this is only a hiccup and he will be back to full speed very soon.

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Avila Perspective, Chap 111: Munguia, Tank and The Monster

David A. Avila

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Avila Perspective, Chap 111: Munguia, Tank and The Monster

Here come some more hardcore fights.

As the end of the year approaches contracts must be honored. That’s a good thing for fight fans even during a pandemic.

Golden Boy Promotions brings a loaded fight card led by Mexican swing-from-the-heels fighter Jaime Munguia (35-0, 28 KOs) moving into the middleweight division against Tureano Johnson (21-2-1, 15 KOs) at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California. DAZN will stream the Friday night fight card on Oct. 30.

Munguia (pictured opposite Johnson) just recently turned 24 years old; a couple of weeks ago. The former super welterweight world titlist out of Tijuana grew out of the division and now is mentored by boxing great Erik “El Terrible” Morales. No more swinging at anything that moves. Now it’s technical savagery.

Johnson, 36, hasn’t fought in over a year but in that last fight he knocked off Ireland’s undefeated Jason Quigley. That was not supposed to happen. The Bahamian native only has two losses and those were stoppages in the last round by Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Curtis Stevens. He has the technique, but does he have the chin?

Another savage battle involves welterweights.

New England’s Rashidi “Speedy” Ellis (22-0, 14 KOs) faces Orange County’s Alexis Rocha (16-0, 10 KOs) a hard-hitting southpaw in a showdown set for 12 rounds. Will it go that long?

Both have power and I doubt the fight goes beyond seven rounds. Both have ended fights in the opening rounds before. If someone blinks at the wrong time it could be over quickly.

Others on the card including super featherweight contender Lamont Roach and super middleweight prospect Bektemir Melikuziev. Also, female contenders Sulem Urbina and Marlen Esparza square off. Opening bout begins at 5 p.m. Pacific Time.

Crazy Saturday

A Matchroom Boxing fight card stemming from England showcases a Southern California-based world champion Oleksandr Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs) meeting Dereck Chisora (32-9, 23 KOs) in the heavyweight main event.

Usyk, now 33, just recently conquered the cruiserweight division and was undisputed world champion and now deigns to move up in weight where the money is much better fighting the big boys. He’s a speedy Ukrainian southpaw who uses plenty of movement and has shocking power when he sets his feet.

Chisora, 36, has fought all of the top European heavyweights including another Ukrainian heavyweight named Vitali Klitschko. Though it hasn’t always been violets and roses for Chisora, he does pack a wallop and if he catches Usyk it could be all over. But his feet are made of stone and he will have problems moving in rhythm with the fleet-footed Usyk.

A co-main event features lightweight contenders Lee Selby (28-2, 9 KOs) pitted against George Kambosos Jr. (18-0, 10 KOs) in a Great Britain versus Australia battle.

Two female bouts with extra power are also on the card as Savannah Marshall (8-0) battles Hannah Rankin (9-4) for the vacant WBO middleweight title; and Amy Timlin (4-0) meets Carly Skelly (3-0) in a battle of undefeated super bantamweights.

The fight card will be streamed on DAZN at 11 a.m. Pacific Time.

Showtime

World champions collide with three-division world champion Leo Santa Cruz daring to move up yet another weight division and challenge the ultimate danger in super featherweight and lightweight world titlist Gervonta “Tank” Davis for his titles.

Danger is written all over this Showtime pay-per-view card on Saturday Oct. 31.

Davis (23-0, 22 KOs) has yet to be truly challenged by anyone. Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs) has always been a risk taker and could be going way over his limit against Tank.

“I’m facing the best fighter in the division. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. I have to go against the best fighter,” said Santa Cruz. “I wanted to challenge myself. I know this is a dangerous fight for me, but I want to test myself.”

If Santa Cruz is still standing after 12 rounds then a big salute to him. Davis won’t allow that to happen. He’s not a guy who looks to win by decision. Tank looks to knock opponents unconscious so he can take pictures of them asleep.

“I don’t think I have to knock him out, I just have to go out there and be great. Forget everything else, I just have to go out there and show everyone that I’m the top guy in the boxing world. That’s my main goal,” said Davis.

Right.

It’s not the only good fight on the card.

Mario Barrios (25-0, 16 KOs) defends the WBA super lightweight title against Ryan Karl (18-2) in the co-main event.

Also, on the same card Regis Prograis (24-1, 20 KOs) meets Juan Heraldez (16-0-1, 10KOs) in a super lightweight matchup. Whoever wins will probably meet Barrios for his title soon after. That’s if Barrios beats Karl.

It’s a boxing card that could see the end of the line for one or two of the fighters.

Monster and Mayer

Japan’s Naoya Inoue (19-0, 16 KOs) defends the WBA and IBF bantamweight world titles against Australia’s Jason Moloney (21-1, 18 KOs) at the MGM Grand Bubble in Las Vegas on Saturday October 31. It will be his Las Vegas debut and will be televised on ESPN+.

Inoue will be a big favorite and how can you blame odds makers when Moloney’s only loss was to Emmanuel Rodriguez who was blown out by the Monster?

But you never know.

“There are a lot of expectations, and I want to meet those expectations. I take those big expectations, and I use them as motivation and power to keep getting better with every fight,” said Inoue.

Inoue’s last fight nearly a year ago was an epic clash against Nonito Donaire in a classic battle that saw both deliver bombs and take them in a 12-round fight that ended in a close but unanimous victory for the Japanese star.

Boy was it close.

Until the 11th round it was nip and tuck as Donaire proved why he is destined to be a surefire Hall of Fame inductee when he retires.

Both punished each other and during their confrontation it was evident that Inoue does indeed have a solid chin. One big question will be if Inoue took too much punishment and can he handle a rough customer like Moloney.

“Every fighter should want to fight the best. That’s why we’re in this sport. My dream and my goal is to be the best bantamweight in the world, and the only way to make that happen is to beat Inoue,” said Moloney.

It should be an interesting match.

Also, female American Olympian Mikaela Mayer (13-0) challenges Poland’s Ewa Brodnicka (19-0) for the WBO super featherweight world title. Expect no quarter given by Mayer who has been gunning for a title challenge for the past two years with most of the titleholders in Europe ignoring her.

Brodnicka expects a tough fight.

“I have a lot of things against me. But I’m ready. I don’t care if she says that she doesn’t respect me. She makes a lot of mistakes, and I’m going to take advantage of all of them,” Brodnicka said.

Mayer is not in a good mood.

“I have been calling out the champs for a while. It’s been something I feel like I’ve been ready for a few fights, but now in hindsight looking back, I think everything worked out perfectly. Like Bob Arum said, I’ve had some really great fights, and I’ve really been able to settle in to my pro style. I’m more ready than ever to take on these world champions. I feel like I’m the best in this division,” said Mayer.

Sunday

A Sunday afternoon boxing card by Thompson Boxing Promotions takes place at the Omega Products International in Corona, CA but will not include fans.

Undefeated lightweights Mike Sanchez (6-0-1, 2 KOs) faces Israel Mercado (8-0, 7 KOs) in the main event on Sunday Nov. 1. It will stream on Thompson Boxing Promotions web page and also on its Facebook page beginning at 4 p.m. PT.

Go to this link to watch the fight card: www.thompsonboxing.com

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Usyk vs. Chisora Sets the Table for a Strong Night of Boxing

Arne K. Lang

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It’s been largely lost in the ragout, at least on this side of the pond, but Saturday’s busy fight docket includes the return of Oleksandr Usyk, the former Olympic gold medalist who left the cruiserweight ranks as a legitimate four-belt champion. The 33-year-old Usyk (17-0, 13 KOs), opposes tough but erratic Dereck Chisora, a 36-year old Londoner by way of Zimbabwe. Chisora (32-9, 23 KOs), has won five of his last six, the setback occurring in his second encounter with arch-rival Dillian Whyte.

Usyk vs. Chisora, a Matchroom promotion, will play out at Wembley Arena with no fans in attendance. The Ukrainian southpaw is ranked among the top three heavyweight contenders by all four major sanctioning bodies although he has fought only once as a heavyweight, turning away under-trained late sub Chazz Witherspoon who was all in after seven frames. Usyk weighed 215 for that contest and is expected to come in about 230 for Chisora.

Usyk, who has anglicized his first name to Alexander on his English-language twitter feed, is a big favorite, but this is a tricky fight for him. The consensus 2018 Fighter of the Year, Usyk has fought only twice since unifying the cruiserweight title with a lopsided decision over Murat Gassiev in July of that year and 55 weeks have elapsed since his last start. If he needs the early rounds to shake off ring rust, he could find himself clawing out of a hole, and sometimes the hole is too deep as Usyk’s stablemate Vasiliy Lomachenko can attest. Moreover, Usyk has yet to face a naturally bigger man who can bang as hard as “Del Boy.”

The Usyk-Chisora card will air in North America on DAZN with the main event ring walks anticipated about 6 pm ET.

The tiff is hitched to an interesting undercard. Once-beaten Welshman Lee Selby, briefly the IBF featherweight champion, tangles with Australia’s undefeated (18-0) George Kambosos Jr. Savannah Marshall, who saddled Claressa Shields with her only amateur loss, meets former Shields opponent Hannah Rankin with a vacant world middleweight title at stake, Belfast’s Tommy McCarthy opposes Belgium’s Bilal Laggoune for a domestic cruiserweight title, and then there’s the heavyweight fight attracting buzz between popular Yorkshireman David Allen and Christopher Lovejoy.

The buzz surrounds the mysterious 36-year-old Lovejoy who is 19-0 as a pro with all but two of those KOs coming in the opening round.

All of Lovejoy’s fights were staged in Tijuana. Only one of his opponents brought a winning record. For a certain stripe of fighter, Tijuana is the equivalent of a feed lot, a place where livestock go to get fattened up before they are sent off to the slaughterhouse. David Allen is limited, but the most likely scenario in this fight is that it ends with Lovejoy sitting on his stool.

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Diego Magdaleno is Locked and Loaded for Saturday’s Fray in San Antonio

Arne K. Lang

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Diego Armando Magdaleno, the son of a former semi-pro soccer player, was named for Argentine soccer star Diego Armando Maradona. But Diego’s father Jesus is hardly disappointed that his son devoted his energies to a different sport than soccer as Diego, the oldest of Jesus’s three boys, has carved out a nice career as a boxer. On Saturday, he faces Isaac Cruz at the San Antonio Alamodome and a win could thrust him into a third crack at a world lightweight title. Magdaleno vs. Cruz will be televised as part of a SHOWTIME PPV event anchored by a battle between title-holders Gervonta “Tank” Davis and Leo Santa Cruz.

The bookies don’t know what to do with the Magdaleno-Cruz matchup. One can find odds on fights of lesser importance, but with the fight only four days away the pricemakers were in quandary. Team Magdaleno, however, is approaching the fight as if they are the “B” side. Mexico City’s Isaac Cruz, who boasts a 19-1-1 record and is undefeated in his last 15 starts, has a fan-friendly style and is only 22 years old. In theory, he has more value to the promoter going forward than Magdaleno (32-3, 13 KOs) who turns 34 this week.

Magdaleno relishes the underdog role. He was the “B” side in his most recent fight when he opposed Austin Dulay in Dulay’s hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, and he carved out a clear-cut 10-round decision. Dulay, the younger man by nine years and less experienced at the pro level, was in over his head. Their fight was nationally televised on FOX.

Diego Magdaleno was born in Beverly Hills, California, but unlike many folks born there wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. “We were more like the Beverly Hillbillies,” says Diego, a reference to the popular sitcom that ran on CBS from 1962 to 1971.

For many years, Diego’s father, an immigrant from Sahuayo in the Mexican state of Michoacan, worked at the flagship West LA branch of an iconic Greater Los Angeles hamburger chain. Diego’s parents now manage a 7-11 in Las Vegas.

When Magdaleno first laced on the gloves it was at the Brooklyn Avenue boxing gym in the gritty Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles, the same gym where Oscar De La Hoya trained for the Olympic Trials. He continued with the sport after his family – he has three older sisters – moved to Las Vegas.

Diego influenced both of his younger brothers to become boxers. Jessie Magdaleno surpassed him in name recognition when he upset Nonito Nonaire in November of 2016, earning him the WBO world super bantamweight title. Jessie lost the belt in his second defense, succumbing to Isaac Dogboe, but has won three straight since that mishap, advancing his record to 28-1. The youngest Magdaleno brother, Marco, was 4-0 as a pro when he abandoned the sport, having secured a job with good pay and benefits in the construction field.

Diego has applied some of his ring earnings toward a real estate investment in Scipio, Utah, where he owns a parcel of land adjacent to a pioneer home. Scipio is a four-hour drive from Las Vegas and figuratively a million miles away. What does one do for fun in Scipio, pop. 288? The first thing that popped up in our internet search was to go grab a sandwich at the Burger Barn.

There’s a back story there. The pioneer home, built in 1886, was recently purchased by Diego’s fiancée Shannon Torres, a descendent of one of Scipio’s founding families. She and Diego are restoring it. Diego professes to be amazed at the craftsmanship. “When we pulled up the carpets,” he said, “the original hardwood floors were still in great condition.”

Shannon Torres has a boxing background, having fought as an amateur and having sparred with the likes of Mia St. John. She is also a nutritionist. Diego confesses to having a sweet tooth, being fond of cheesecake and anything with peanut butter. “She knows how to make those things for me so they are not as unhealthy,” he says.

Magdaleno’s first loss came in April of 2013 when he lost a split decision to Ramon Martinez in Macau. Diego thought he won the fight, but only one of the judges concurred. At stake was Martinez’s WBO 130-pound world title. His second world title opportunity came against WBO lightweight champ Terry Flanagan on Flanagan’s turf in Manchester, England. That didn’t go well.

“When I got in the ring, it felt like there was sand under my shoes,” said Diego. “My right foot was sliding underneath me. I overcompensated and that caused me trouble.” Magdaleno loaded up on his punches, a fatal mistake, and was knocked out in the second round.

Top Rank dropped Magdaleno after that fight but would eventually bring him back to fight their rising star Teofimo Lopez. His fight with Austin Dulay was his first fight back after his loss to Lopez (TKO by 7) and his first with new trainer Bones Adams (pictured on the left) in his corner.

Mag

Isaac Cruz poses a different threat than Dulay partly because Cruz, who stands only 5’4 ½”, is a lot shorter. But Magdaleno is confident the result will be the same.

“His style is attack, attack, attack; it’s one-dimensional,” says Diego. “I have been in there and done things that this kid has never seen. I am a big step up for him.”

Unlike many prizefighters, Diego Magdaleno knows where he is heading after his career is finished; he is already a licensed real estate salesman with one listing to his credit. He’s bi-lingual despite having spent only three months living in Mexico, that as a first-grader, and his linguistic versatility will come in handy in his second career. “I know just enough Spanish to get by,” he says, but having heard him speak in his parents’ native tongue we can attest that he’s being much too modest.

For the time being, however, Diego isn’t looking past Saturday night. Magdaleno vs. Cruz is expected to go first on the four-fight PPV portion of the card which kicks off at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT.

Magdaleno/Dulay photo credit: Stephanie Trapp

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