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From Jack Johnson to Deontay Wilder, L.A. Has Heavyweight Ties

David A. Avila

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Wilder vs Fury

Once upon a time Los Angeles was the foraging ground for heavyweights including the emergence of the Black prizefighter on the fistic world.

Deontay Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) looks to continue that lineage when he defends the WBC heavyweight world title against United Kingdom’s Tyson Fury (27-0, 19 KOs) on Saturday Dec. 1, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Showtime pay-per-view will televise.

On Wednesday, with several hundred members of the American and international media in attendance at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, the two gargantuan heavyweights stood next to each other like a pair of giant scarecrows long arms and all.

“What I care about is showing people what I’m all about it. I’m showing you each and every time and I’m giving you a knockout,” said Wilder, 33. “America has a mighty man in me. America has the baddest man on the planet.”

Fury, 30, trained entirely in Southern California for this momentous fight to recapture the titles he won by knockout over Wladimir Klitschko in 2015.

“I am the people’s champion and I am the man who gives the people hope. I’m not just fighting for myself. I’m fighting for the millions of people around the world who look to me for inspiration,” said Fury the lineal champion whose hold on the title can be traced back to the very first world champion John L. Sullivan.

Most fans today are familiar with Sullivan the “Boston Strong boy” whose victory and reign began the modern era and the rules we know today. After Sullivan won in 1885, four others would claim the title before a heavyweight title fight took place in Los Angeles 112 years ago.

Here is where the ties to heavyweight boxing in Los Angeles began.

Naud Junction and Hazard’s Pavilion

Tommy Burns won the heavyweight world title back in 1906 against champion Marvin Hart at the Naud Junction Pavilion in L.A. Today, that location on Alameda and Ord Street is where the Original Philippe’s restaurant now sits. Munch on that while you eat one of their famous French dip sandwiches.

Burns stood about 5’7” in height or about a foot shorter than either Wilder or Fury. He must have liked fighting at the old Naud Junction Pavilion as he performed there four times in his prime. The boxing arena was eventually torn down in 1913.

Jack Johnson was also fighting in Los Angeles in the same time frame.

It was Jack Johnson who defeated Burns thus becoming the first African American heavyweight to win the title and set the boxing world topsy-turvy.

Burns and Johnson both met in Los Angeles and it makes sense that they saw each other’s fights. The size of the town back in the early 1900s was a mere 102,000 people, not 3 million as it is today within the city limits. Johnson and Burns probably developed a rivalry watching each other’s fights in L.A. and eventually agreed to fight each other for the world title. But in those days it was difficult to match Blacks with Whites even in Los Angeles.

Johnson had been fighting frequently in Los Angeles in the 1900s. It’s where he won the Black heavyweight championship against Denver Ed Martin on February 1903 at Hazards Pavilion. The site of that arena is where the Biltmore Hotel now is located on Fifth Street and Olive Avenue in downtown.

Burns and Johnson probably debated openly about who was better. But back in the early 1900s it was difficult to match Blacks or Mexicans against Whites. Mexican fighters had to change their name to Solly Smith and Joe Rivers. Black fighters were basically forbidden from fighting against White fighters especially for the world title in 1908. So the two heavyweights moved their fight to Australia where Johnson defeated Burns by decision in the 14th round when police stopped the fight. Johnson became the first Black fighter to win the heavyweight world title.

Before winning the world championship Johnson fought a total of eight times at Hazards Pavilion in L.A. but after winning the world title he never fought in L.A. again. In the 1920s he often visited the old Main Street Gym. Newsboys would gather around the old champ whose devil-may-care attitude was considered outlandish for those days and times. One of those newsboys was my grandfather who staked out a corner on Second Street and Main to sell papers in the 1920s. It was right across the street from the Main Street Gym that was torn down in the mid-1980s.

Over the next 100 years only a handful of heavyweight world title fights have ever taken place in Los Angeles. It’s as rare as a total eclipse.

Here we are again 112 years after Burns became the first to defend the heavyweight world title in Los Angeles. It’s Wilder’s turn and in Fury he faces another undefeated fighter ready to showcase the heavyweight division.

“There’s no way I’m going to let a man come from another country and take what I’ve been building,” said Wilder.

Fury has the lineal title that can be traced back to Jack Johnson and Tommy Burns who both fought on Los Angeles boxing cards more than a century ago.

“I’m the lineal champion. If Deontay wins, he will be the best, but he’s not going to beat me. I’m the best heavyweight alive, and there’s only one way to get that title. You have to come take it from me. There’s never been a man who could better me in a fight,” said Fury.

One can’t help but feel similar words were exchanged more than 100 years ago when Jack Johnson and Tommy Burns both met in Los Angeles to discuss their heavyweight clash.

Some things don’t change.

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Pico Rivera Summer Fights See Cruz, Vega and Flores Win

David A. Avila

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Pico-Rivera-Summer-Fights-See-Cruz-Vega-and-Flores Win

PICO RIVERA, Ca.-Along the San Gabriel River on a soft summer evening, Red Boxing Promotions brought another slew of hot local prospects to the forefront on Saturday.

Chino’s Daniel “Cuetito” Cruz (3-0) burst into the fight like an energy bomb and simply overwhelmed southpaw Phillip Bounds (0-4) with lightning combinations to win by unanimous decision. More than 700 fans saw the Red Boxing fight card.

Though it was only his third pro fight, the high intensity prizefighter Cruz (pictured on the left) exhibited a level of confidence that allowed him to attack with impunity for the first two rounds.

Cruz switched to southpaw and had even more success against the lefty Bounds. The speed of Cruz proved too much to overcome for Bounds who tried different approaches but couldn’t find an antidote for Cruz who won by unanimous decision 40-36 on all three cards in the super lightweight match.

“I’m excited, I wanted to put on a good show,” said Cruz, 20. “I’m coming for all of the big names. Cuetito is here.”

Andre Marquez (2-1) overwhelmed the much taller Alvin Brown (0-8) from Louisiana with a whirlwind style that ended in a knockout in the fourth and final round of their super featherweight match. A left hook caught Brown flush and Marquez followed up with four more blows, forcing Brown to take a knee at 1:41 of the fourth round. Marquez was ruled the winner by knockout by referee Sharon Sands.

“My plan was to work his body,” said Marquez. “It worked out perfectly.”

Welterweights Bradley Pena (0-0-1) and Ed Nunez (0-0-1) blasted each other for four rounds, with Pena starting fast and Nunez ending strong. No knockdowns were scored in the fight that started the night and ended in a draw.

Main Bouts

A light flyweight clash saw Axel Vega (13-2-1, 8 KOs) of Ensenada, Mexico knock out Tijuana’s Giovanni Noriega (2-5-2) with a triple left hook in the second round. Vega, 19, trained out of Compton for this fight.

Welterweight prospect Steven Rodriguez (8-0) suffered a cut on his forehead due to a clash of heads but still managed to out-perform Las Vegas fighter Ryan Picou (3-12-1) after four rounds. All three judges scored the fight 40-36 in favor of Rodriguez. But Picou gave a stubborn defense against the constant rushes of Rodriguez and was able to score on occasion.

Santa Barbara’s Angel Flores (6-0, 4 KOs) defeated Mexico’s Roberto Almazan (9-12) by unanimous decision after six rounds in a super lightweight contest. Flores knocked down Almazan twice in the last round to clinch the win and get the victory by a landslide.

In the audience was former world champion Arturo Frias of East Los Angeles who won the WBA world lightweight title in 1982 and fought numerous times at LA’s  fabled Olympic Auditorium. Also in attendance was current super flyweight contender Adelaida “La Cobra” Ruiz of Los Angeles who is scheduled to fight on October 12 at the same Pico Rivera Sports Arena. Red Boxing Promotions will be staging the event.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Fast Results from Russia: Kovalev KOs Yarde in the 11th

Arne K. Lang

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Fast-Results-from-Russia-Kovalev-KOs-Yarde-in-the-11th

The consensus of opinion regarding tonight’s fight at Chelyabinsk between Sergey Kovalev and Anthony Yarde was that….well, there was no consensus, save that it would not bode well for Yarde if both fighters were still standing at the final bell. Fighting in his hometown, and with a monster payday reportedly looming against Canelo Alvarez should he win, “Krusher” was unlikely to get the worst of it if the fight went to the scorecards. But there would be no controversial decision. In a fight that started slowly and then shifted Yarde’s way, Kovalev stemmed the momentum, took charge in the 10th, and then closed the show in the next round with a scorching left hand that left Yarde flat on his back, gasping for air.

In handicapping the fight, Kovalev certainly had more check marks in the plus column. A former three belt champion and the reigning WBO 175-pound title-holder, Kovalev would be appearing in his 16th world title fight, his second with Hall of Fame trainer Buddy McGirt, with whom he had great rapport. By contrast, Yarde, although undefeated (18-0), had answered the bell for only 51 rounds and had defeated only nine fighters with winning records. Moreover, the Englishman had fought only 12 amateur fights before turning pro.

However, at age 36, Kovalev was getting long in the tooth and in some of his more recent fights he had stamina issues. Moreover, there was a school of thought that Yarde was a beast. In his 30 fights, amateur and pro, he had scored 28 knockouts.

Yarde’s first good round was the seventh and he followed that up with a very strong eighth in which he hurt Kovalev and had the Krusher looking tired. But the assumption that he had paced himself brilliantly proved to be a mirage. As the bout moved into the home stretch, it was the younger man that was more fatigued.

Kovalev backed Yarde against the ropes and hurt him in the 10th. The Russian repeatedly had success with his hard left jab (shades of Larry Holmes) and it was a jab that ended it. Yarde was too exhausted to make it to his feet and was counted out.

Kovalev reportedly has already agreed to meet Canelo in November or December. Tonight he may have added an extra zero to his purse.

Kovalev vs. Canelo, likely at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, will be a blockbuster. Let the hype begin.

Co-Feature

The co-feature between knockout artists Aleksei Papin and Ilunga Makabu wasn’t expected to last the distance, but it went the full 12 and was a highly entertaining affair climaxed by a great 12th round. When the smoke cleared, Ilunga, who went to post a slight favorite, improved to 26-2 (24) by dint of winning a majority decision. It was the second straight win on Russian soil for the Congolese southpaw who fights out of Johannesburg. In his previous go, he stopped Dmitry Kudryashov in the fifth round at Ekaterinburg.

Papin was 11-0 going in with 10 knockouts but the 31-year-old Russian, a former kickboxing champion, was moving up in class against Makabu, a former world title challenger. In the 12th, Makabu scored a knockdown with a straight left after buzzing Papin with a left-right combination, but Papin wasn’t badly hurt and came back to rock him in the final seconds. The knockdown seemingly spelled the difference as two judges had it 115-113 with the third scoring it even (113-113).

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Tanaka and Hatanaka Stay Undefeated in Nagoya

Arne K. Lang

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Tanaka-and-Hatanaka-Stay-Undefeated-in-Nagoya

Kiyoshi Hatanaka, the former world super bantamweight champion, now runs a boxing gym and promotes fights in his hometown of Nagoya. The top fighters in his gym are 24-year-old Kosei Tanaka, who has already won world titles in three weight classes, and Kento Hatanaka, Kyoshi’s 21-year-old son. Both were in action today and both were victorious, but not without anxious moments.

Tanaka, the reigning WBO 112-pound champion, improved to 14-0 (8 KOs) with a seventh-round TKO of Jonathan Gonzalez (22-3-1) in an action-packed bout. There were five knockdowns in all, four by Tanaka, before the referee waved it off with merely a second remaining in the seventh stanza.

Gonzalez took a knee after being hurt by a body punch in round three. But he returned the favor, knocking Tanaka down with a counterpunch in the next stanza, and seemingly had the fight in hand when he dominated the fifth. But Tanaka regained the momentum and scored three knockdowns in Round 7 to close the show.

Kosei Tanaka is overshadowed as a sports personality by countryman Naoya “Monster” Inoue, but is carving out quite a legacy. At age 19, in only his fifth pro fight, he defeated WBO minimumweight (105 pound) champion Julian Yadras of Mexico. He then gathered in titles at 108 and 112, accomplishing the hat trick in only his 12th pro fight, tying Vasiliy Lomachenko’s record.

With only a few pounds separating each of the lowest weight classes, Tanaka likely isn’t done jumping up in weight. There’s already talk of a showdown with 115-pound title-holder Kazuto Ioka. But Tanaka has indicated that he wants to expand his opportunities overseas, following the example of Inoue. There are still holes in his defense, but that makes for exciting fights and a match between him and someone like “Chocolatito” Gonzalez would be worth the price of admission.

Jonathan Gonzalez, a southpaw with a good amateur pedigree, had fought his previous three fights in Kissimmee, Florida. When in his native Puerto Rico, he trains in the same gym as former super bantamweight and featherweight champion Juan Manuel Lopez. We certainly haven’t seen the last of him.

The 10-round co-feature between super flyweights Kento Hatanaka and Jaysever Abcede was also a crowd pleaser that saw both combatants score knockdowns. Hatanaka improved to 10-0 but was extended the distance for the first time in his pro career. Abcede, a noted spoiler from the Philippines, saw his winning streak end at four and fell to 19-9. The scores were 95-93, 96-93, and 96-92.

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