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L.A. Sports World Loses “Chiquilin,” Photographer Extraordinaire

David A. Avila

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Chiquilin

One of the icons of Los Angeles sports journalism, Jose “Chiquilin” Garcia Martinez, passed away last week. Though not very tall in physical height, he wielded a powerful influence on those who knew him.

“Chiquis,” as some called him, always wore a baseball hat adorned with medals and trinkets. And he almost always placed it backwards on his head, the better to take fast action shots of boxers, baseball players and other sports figures.

For one half century Chiquilin crossed paths with sports figures like Ruben Olivares, Fernando Valenzuela, Hugo Sanchez, David Beckham, Kirk Gibson, Magic Johnson, Oscar De La Hoya and Kobe Bryant.

Or maybe they crossed paths with Chiquilin?

No other sports journalist, especially a sports photographer, ever wielded as much influence as Chiquilin who could convince a much revered sports athlete to come out of hiding or an entire team to give a gathering of reporters a few minutes of time. He always seemed to be everywhere for every event.

Ironically, he never drove or owned a car in Los Angeles.

Always dressed in humble attire Chiquilin was an integral part in building the Spanish newspaper La Opinion into a force in Southern California. It was one of the leading Spanish language newspapers in the entire U.S. for a number of decades.

Fernando Paramo, the former sports editor for La Opinion, said when he became sports editor in the early 1980s he joined forces with Chiquilin to scour the sports world for their readers. Los Angeles was the center of sports as the Olympics arrived, Dodgers fought for pennants, Lakers won titles and the soccer world began arriving along with large influxes of Latinos from other countries.

“We were there when Julio Cesar Chavez won a record 100 wins, when he beat Meldrick Taylor and when he lost to Frankie Randall. We were there when jockey Laffit Pincay got seven wins and when Kirk Gibson hit the home run in the World Series. Any of the large events Chiquilin was there taking photos that we sent all over,” said Paramo. “We were like the Associated Press.”

When Fernando Valenzuela became an instant phenomenon in 1981 as a young teen-age pitcher for the Dodgers, one of the first to greet the Mexican southpaw was Chiquilin.

“He took Fernando Valenzuela around the area to help find him a house when he first arrived,” said Paramo. “Valenzuela was very shy.”

Bill Caplan, a sports publicist for many decades, said for as long as he can remember Chiquilin was a revered and beloved photographer who hardly ever spoke English but could communicate almost magically.

“We had our own kind of language. I don’t know how to explain. I don’t speak much Spanish and he didn’t speak much English but we always understood each other,” said Caplan laughing at the memory of their conversations.

Caplan said it was Chiquilin that helped introduce Dodger great Valenzuela to the late great newspaper columnist Allan Malamud who would go on to introduce the Mexican star to the English-speaking world.

Over the years Caplan saw the influence and recognition that the hustling Chiquilin had with major sports stars and his knowledge of the sports world.

“Once I was hired to do publicity for Julio Cesar Chavez in Arizona during his comeback and I asked Chiquilin if anybody would come to the fight,” said Caplan. “He told me it was going to sell out. It did. There were not even seats for the press, the promoter had sold them.”

“Hijo”

Chiquilin’s influence crossed borders as well.

Ricardo Jimenez, a former reporter for La Opinion and now a publicist, said when working with Chiquilin it was like an adventure. And, that the sports photographer seemingly knew everyone.

“Once we had to cover an event in Mexico City and we were on deadline and I asked him how we were going to send it? Don’t worry hijo,” said Jimenez. Hijo means son in Spanish. “He always called everyone hijo.”

Jimenez said that night in Mexico City, Chiquilin walked with him out of the stadium and crossed a few streets and took him to a dark building and then into offices where people greeted Chiquilin by name and allowed them to send the stories and photos to Los Angeles.

“He knew everybody,” said Jimenez. “And everybody knew him.”

Jimenez also said he had a strong sense of duty as a journalist.

“Chiquilin would always say we have to cover all the major sports,” said Jimenez, who was an intern at the Los Angeles-based newspaper when he first met Chiquilin. “When we began covering the Lakers they used to put us in the rafters and he would be shooting from way up there at the Forum. Pretty soon they (Lakers organization) knew we were serious about coverage and we were sitting down below. Chiquilin would leave early and take the bus to the office to process the photos. He never drove. He knew all the bus routes.”

Nobody hustled like Chiquilin.

ChiquiTron

He was a one-man army if necessary. Sports was in his blood and he did whatever it took to move the needle forward. One way he covered his own costs was obtaining tickets from athletes and selling them for money and favors.

“He sold so many tickets to people we used to call him ChiquiTron,” joked Paramo in reference to Ticketron.

Eventually an undercover officer caught Chiquilin selling tickets for an event and he was forced to go to court in front of a judge, explained Paramo.

“Once at a big fight an undercover cop got him for selling four ringside tickets. He goes to court and was asked by the judge: how do you plead? Chiquis said: ‘no contest with an explanation. I’m a photographer, I send pictures to Mexico. People over there asked me to get them some tickets for the fight. So I bought them. But they couldn’t make the fight. I make $4.50 an hour and the tickets cost so much, that’s almost half of my week’s salary and so that is the reason I have to sell them.

Judge says ok. We’ll wave off any fine. Can I see you in the chambers? So Chiquilin goes and meets the judge who asks him for tickets to a big game, so he sold them to the judge. That’s the kind of guy Chiquilin was.”

Paramo said that super stars like Muhammad Ali and power executives like Peter O’Malley would accommodate Chiquilin. Even in the cutthroat world of boxing he was known and trusted.

“When Tommy Hearns fought Pipino Cuevas they left the purse money with Chiquilin. That’s how much trust they had in him,” said Paramo adding that he put the cash in his photography bag.

Joel De La Hoya, the older brother of Oscar De La Hoya remembers meeting Chiquilin during the return from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

“I remember him asking for a team uniform when we were in Big Bear for one of our first training camps at our compound,” said De La Hoya. “I gladly obliged. Every camp there after I would hook him up with DLH apparel. He was very grateful and we were as well for those famous Chiquilin shots. He always got the shot.”

The Master

During these last few years Chiquilin’s health deteriorated and he was unable to scramble for photos on the boxing apron or chase the action photo of a lifetime.

“Once after an important soccer game someone asked him did you catch the ball going through the net?” said Paramo. “No, he answered, but not even the goalie did. That was Chiquilin.”

Caplan said a few years back he renewed his vows with his wife and asked Chiquilin to be the photographer and he obliged. After hours of taking photos of the family event which included boxing great George Foreman as a guest, he met with the photographer to pay him.

“Chiquilin wouldn’t take any money, no matter what,” said Caplan. “He was such a great guy. If I talk anymore I’m going to cry.”

Speaking for myself, I met Chiquilin around 1993. He was always very giving of his time and through the years he would greet me as a kind of fellow hustler, someone who like himself, tried to cover everything. We crossed paths so many times I couldn’t possibly put a number on it.

One time, about 20 years ago, I was involved in a heated discussion with a person who had several accomplices at a boxing event. Words were exchanged and other reporters could see it was a dangerous situation about to explode. I expected the worst but I wasn’t going to retreat and they weren’t going to retreat. More challenges were made and I countered those challenges and was willing to accept whatever came regardless if it was me against six. Suddenly, I hear a voice next to me and it’s Chiquilin asking me “hijo, you need help?”

I never forgot that. Of all the people there who knew me and could see trouble about to erupt, only Chiquilin stepped up to assist me if necessary. The smallest guy was willing to go up against these massive guys. That’s the kind of man he was.

I will never forget Chiquilin as I’m sure many others will never forget the massive heart of this great human being and a grand master to us all. It’s the end of an era and he will be greatly missed by those who knew him.

Chiquilin was the father of two daughters and lived with his wife in Huntington Park.

Memorial Services information

The memorial services take place on Saturday March 2, at Guerra Cunningham Bagues 6351 Seville Ave. Huntington Park, Calif. 90255. The viewing begins at 11 a.m. Rosary takes place from noon to 1 p.m. Viewing ends at 3 p.m. For more information call (323) 582-6197.

Photo: “Chiquilin” is flanked by La Opinion colleagues Fernando Paramo (l) and Rigo Cervantes

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Introducing Top Prospect Raeese Aleem, the Pride of Muskegon

Arne K. Lang

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At age 29, Raeese Aleem has yet to appear in a 10-round fight, but that will almost assuredly happen this year. The undefeated (15-0, 9 KOs) super bantamweight from Muskegon, Michigan, takes another step in that direction on Friday, Feb. 14, when he opposes San Antonio’s Adam Lopez (16-3-2) at Philadelphia in a bout that will air on “ShoBox,” the long-running SHOWTIME series that’s been a springboard for 81 fighters who went on to win world titles.

Aleem earned a black belt in karate before taking up boxing and becoming a four-time Michigan Golden Gloves champion. As an amateur, he and his coach Terry Markowski did a considerable amount of traveling between meets to find good sparring. Grand Rapids, an amateur boxing hotbed, was just down the road, but Detroit and Chicago were a good three hours away and on occasion they went on an even longer excursion into Ohio.

Aleem turned pro in 2011 and had his first 10 fights on the Midwest circuit, venturing as far north as Green Bay and as far south as Cincinnati. At the time, he worked in the produce department of Meijer’s, a regional rival of Walmart. His bosses, he notes, were generous in letting him juggle his work schedule around his boxing assignments.

For a boxer with designs on winning a world title, the Midwest circuit is like a bicycle with training wheels. Aleem had to shake free of it to see how far he could go. Besides, getting fights was getting tougher and tougher. There’s a 28-month gap in his pro timeline that includes all of 2013. He had several fights fall out during this frustrating quiescence.

If you’re an aspiring film actor, you go to Hollywood. If you’re an aspiring boxing champion, you go to Las Vegas. Not a week goes by without a young fellow turning up here to test his mettle in one of the many local gyms with the hope of attracting the eye of one of the major promotional firms.

“When I came to Las Vegas,” says Aleem who has a daughter back in Michigan, “I had no family here, no friends.” He was directed to Barry’s boxing gym, run by ex-boxer Pat Barry and his wife Dawn, retired Las Vegas police officers, and started training under their son-in-law Augie Sanchez. But Sanchez, the last man to defeat Floyd Mayweather Jr (accomplished when they were amateurs), had other priorities. He is an assistant coach with Team USA which obligates him to spend a good deal of his time at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

Things started looking up for Aleem when he joined the Prince Ranch stable under the management of Greg Hannley. At the Prince Ranch Gym, where the head trainer is Bones Adams, he has sparred with such notables as Nonito Donaire and former WBO 122-pound champion Jessie Magdaleno.

Aleem doesn’t miss the weather in Muskegon, a lakefront city where sub-freezing temperatures are the norm in the dead of winter and snow is forecast for all of next week. But he still has one foot in his hometown, as evident by his unbroken bond with Terry Markowski. In an era when some boxers appear to change trainers as often as they change their underwear, Aleem has remained loyal to Markowski who has been in his corner for all of his pro fights and will be there again on Feb. 14.

Markowski, who teaches boxing at the Muskegon Rec Center, is a protégé of Muskegon’s most esteemed boxer, the late Kenny Lane. The epitome of a crafty southpaw, Lane, a lightweight and junior welterweight, was a three-time world title challenger during a 100-fight career that began in 1953.

The relationship between Raeese Aleem and Terry Markowski dates back to 2003 when Aleem resided in the nearby village of Ravenna, where Aleem’s father, the patriarch of a large blended family, planted Raeese and his siblings to get them away from the temptations of Muskegon which has several blighted areas. “It was a culture shock for me when I started going to school in Ravenna,” says Aleem, looking back, as none of his schoolmates looked like him.

This will be Aleem’s fifth fight in Pennsylvania where he has made four of his last five starts. The connecting thread is Reading, Pennsylvania gym operator-turned-promoter Marshall Kauffman who has been credited with keeping boxing vibrant in the Keystone State.

This being Aleem’s national television debut, it’s important that he make a good showing. His Las Vegas trainer Bones Adams, a former world champion in Aleem’s weight division, expects nothing less. “I’m confident he will be a world champion someday,” says Adams.

Photo credit: Mario Serrano / Prince Ranch Boxing

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A Bouquet for Danny Garcia in This Week’s Edition of HITS and MISSES

Kelsey McCarson

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Two-division champion Danny Garcia had the spotlight all to himself over the weekend in a stay-busy fight against Ivan Redkach on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It was the main event of a Showtime Championship Boxing tripleheader that had the odd privilege these days of not being counterprogrammed by a Top Rank show on ESPN or any other kind of boxing card on DAZN.

So Garcia, 31, from Philadelphia, had the chance to remind people how excellent a fighter he is in full force, which would help him greatly in his effort to secure an unlikely bout against WBA champ Manny Pacquiao or remain first in line to face WBC and IBF champ Errol Spence whenever the Texan recovers from the injuries he sustained in a car accident in October.

But did Garcia pull it off? Here’s the latest edition of HITS and MISSES.

HIT – Danny Garcia’s Pristine and Precise Technique 

The best parts about Garcia were on full display against Redkach. That was made easier by Redkach’s lack of anything that might have given Garcia any real problems, but nonetheless Garcia was able to show the lovely footwork and balanced countering ability that made him so formidable at junior welterweight. There’s just something special about seeing Garcia fight. The economy of his movement inside a boxing ring is something that is just plain different than just about any other world-class fighter in the world today. In a fight that most people probably would have preferred he just skipped, and one that didn’t turn out to be any different than everyone expected, at least Garcia’s beautiful boxing was on display.

MISS – Showtime Sparring Sessions

In addition to Garcia-Redkach, Showtime rounded out its tripleheader with undefeated junior featherweight Stephen Fulton taking on former Muay Thai fighter Arnold Khegai and former unified junior middleweight champion Jarrett Hurd taking on career welterweight Francisco Santana. While Fulton’s fight against Khegai seemed like a legitimate prizefight, there was something about the other two bouts that screamed sparring sessions. That was especially the case for Hurd’s bout. Not only was Hurd in there with a middling welterweight, but he also used the rounds of the fight to work on vastly different boxing techniques than what made him so popular in the first place. Showtime might not have the pull they once had with the people over at the PBC offices, but they for sure need to get more involved in vetting matchups if they hope to remain afloat within the competitive boxing landscape of today.

HIT – Stephon Fulton’s Title Chances at 122 Pounds

Fulton is a very solid boxer who digs to the body and has a fast, clean jab. Khegai was the perfect kind of opponent for the 25-year-old. He was very game and never stopped trying to win. Additionally, his background in Muay Thai offered some different looks to Fulton that should help him on his way toward world title contention. In the end, Fulton outworked Khegai to hand the tough 27-year-old the first loss of his career. Now let’s hope Fulton is off to bigger and better things such as challenging for a world title. He’s ready right now.

MISS – Andy Ruiz’s Continued Soap Opera

The best thing former unified champion Andy Ruiz could have done after blowing the rematch against Anthony Joshua in December is getting right back to work in the gym. What better way to show trainer Manny Robles that he was taking responsibility for his actions than to get right back to work with the same team he had just let down so badly? Instead, Ruiz fired Robles and is considering other trainers. That would make more sense if there had been some sort of tactical error in the fight. But Ruiz already admitted he simply didn’t train for arguably the biggest fight of his life, and that’s not anyone’s fault but his own.

HIT – Former Middleweight Titleholder Andy Lee’s Second Act

It appears former WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee found his second act in life as a trainer, which makes a ton of sense if you followed Lee’s career under the tutelage of the late Emanuel Steward. Lee, 39, left Ireland after his amateur days to live with Steward in Detroit and train at Kronk. The two had a very close personal relationship and that experience ultimately helped Lee win the world title in 2014 two years after Steward’s passing. Now, Lee is passing on what he knows in the same way Steward did with him to other fighters. He trains and manages Irish upstart Paddy Donovan, is guiding Jason Quigley back to contention and even helped orchestrate distant cousin Tyson Fury bringing on Javan “SugarHill” Steward for the heavyweight’s upcoming rematch against Deontay Wilder.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott

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The Hauser Report: Garcia-Redkach and More

Thomas Hauser

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Boxing made its debut at Barclays Center on October 20, 2012, with a fight card headlined by four world title bouts. Danny Garcia, Erik Morales, Paulie Malignaggi, Peter Quillin, Devon Alexander, Danny Jacobs, and Luis Collazo were in the ring that night. The franchise grew nicely. Fans who went to Barclays saw good featured fights with solid undercard bouts. But as of late, the arena’s fistic offerings have faded.

Barclays cast its lot with Premier Boxing Champions. And PBC has moved its prime content to greener pastures (green being the color of money). There were five fight cards at Barclays Center in 2019. Each one struggled to sell tickets.

January 25 marked the thirty-ninth fight card at Barclays. The arena was half empty. The announced attendance was 8,217 but that included a lot of freebies. There were six fights on the card. As expected, fighters coming out of the blue corner won all of them. That’s what happens when 6-0 squares off against 2-10-1.

Three of the fights were televised by Showtime Championship Boxing, which has also been diminished as a consequence of a multi-year output deal with PBC.

In the first of these bouts, Stephen Fulton (17-0, 8 KOs) and Ukrainian-born Arnold Khegai (16-0, 10 KOs) met in a junior-featherweight bout. Each had fought the usual suspects en route to their confrontation. There was a lot of holding and rabbit-punching which referee Steve Willis ignored. Eventually, Fulton pulled away for a unanimous-decision triumph.

Next up, Jarrett Hurd (23-1, 16 KOs) took on Francisco Santana (25-7, 12 KOs).

Hurd is a big junior-middleweight who held the WBA and IBF 154-pound titles until losing to Julian Williams last year. Santana is a career welterweight who had lost three of his most recent four fights and had won only three times in the last five years.

Hurd was expected to walk through Santana. But he was strangely passive for much of the fight, which led to the strange spectacle of Santana (the noticeably smaller, lighter-punching man) walking Jarrett down for long stretches of time. Francisco is a one-dimensional fighter and was there to be hit. When Jarrett let his hands go, he hit him. But he fought like a man who didn’t want to fight and didn’t let his hands go often enough.

By round seven, the boos and jeers were raining down. Hurd won a unanimous decision but looked mediocre. That’s the most honest way to put it. One wonders what tricks losing to Julian Williams last year played with his mind.

Also, it should be noted that, when the winning fighter thanks God in a post-fight interview and the crowd (which supported Jarrett at the start of the bout) boos at the mention of The Almighty, there’s a problem.

“The crowd didn’t love it,” Hurd acknowledged afterward. “But you gotta understand; I got the unanimous decision and I did what I wanted to do.”

The main event matched Danny Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs) against Ivan Redkach (23-4-1, 18 KOs).

Garcia had a nice run early in his career, winning belts at 140 and 147 pounds. But later, he came out on the losing end of decisions against Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter. Other than that, he has gone in soft for the past five years.

Redkach is a junior-welterweight who had won 5 of 10 fights during the same five-year time frame.

There was the usual pre-fight nonsense with Garcia telling reporters, “We picked Redkach because he’s dangerous and we knew he’d be tough.” But in truth, Redkach had been whitewashed by Tevin Farmer at 135 pounds and was knocked out at the same weight by John Molina Jr (who never won again).

Garcia, like Hurd, was a 30-to-1 betting favorite.

Redkach fought a safety-first fight. Also, safety second and third. There wasn’t one second when it looked as though he had a realistic chance of winning the fight or fought like he did.

One of the few proactive things that Ivan did do was stick out his tongue from time to time when Garcia hit him. Then, at the end of round eight, he bit Danny on the shoulder while they were in a clinch. At that point, one might have expected referee Benjy Esteves to disqualify Redkach. But Esteves seemed to not notice.

Rather than go for the kill after the bite, Garcia eased up and cruised to a unanimous decision. Meanwhile, by round eleven, the crowd was streaming for the exits. Most of the fans were gone by the time the decision was announced.

Garcia and Hurd had set-up showcase fights scheduled for them. And neither man delivered the way he should have.

Meanwhile, a final thought . . . Sunday, January 26, would have been Harold Lederman’s eightieth birthday.

Harold was the quintessential boxing fan and loved the sport more than anyone I’ve known. He never missed a fight at Barclays Center unless his health prevented him from coming or he was on the road for HBO. He died eight months ago.

As Saturday night’s fight card unfolded, I imagined Harold sitting beside me. He would have had a kind word for everyone who came over to say hello and loved every minute of it. Harold Lederman at the fights was a happy man.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book — A Dangerous Journey: Another Year Inside Boxing — was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. On June 14, 2020, he will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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