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It Was TV Mogul Michael King, Not Don King, Who `Discovered’ Dominic Breazeale

Bernard Fernandez

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Dominic Breazeale

The late Michael King obviously had an eye for talent. One of six siblings who inherited a failing television syndication company, King World, from their father Charles King in the early 1980s, Michael and his similarly prescient older brother Roger believed they could go international with a Chicago talk-show host with a strictly local audience. Oprah Winfrey is now arguably the most powerful woman in the entertainment industry, and a billionaire. But Oprah wasn’t the only beneficiary of Michael King’s vision of what American viewers might like to see; he also shepherded such modest little game shows as Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! to iconic status, making Pat Sajak, Vanna White and Alex Trebek, among others, hugely popular and highly compensated celebrities.

Not that Michael King, whose income from his deceased father’s company at the time he and Roger took over was $150 a week from Little Rascals reruns, was satisfied with being a king- (and queen-) maker for daytime TV. After he made his vast fortune, Michael, a rabid sports fan and New Jersey native, became a minority stakeholder in the New York Yankees, New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets and New Jersey Devils. Still, it troubled him that the United States had ceased, or was in the process of doing so, to be the world’s foremost power in Olympic boxing, particularly a heavyweight division that once was dominated by the likes of American gold medalists and future pro superstars Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

King, who was 67 when he died on May 27, 2015, from complications arising from pneumonia (Roger, then 63, had passed away on Dec. 8, 2007), decided he had the determination and deep pockets necessary to restore his country’s ebbing place in that particular global world order. He founded All American Heavyweights in 1986 in Carson, Calif., with the idea of recruiting large and talented athletes from other sports, primarily football and basketball, if their dreams of making it in the NFL or NBA were not fulfilled.

“A great athlete in any sport can pick up another sport faster than most people,” King – who sold King World to CBS in 1999 for $2.5 billion in stock – said of his grand scheme to produce a pugilistic version of Oprah, and maybe even several of them. “It (America’s receding place at the heavyweight table) really all stems from a lack of talent and lack of apprenticeship for trainers. The pipeline is dead … It’s not an NCAA sport, so it’s totally dependent on the Olympic program, and that NGB (USA Boxing is its national governing board) does not have a lot of resources.

“Instead of getting some thug off the street, why not tap into the greatest talent pool in the United States? You’re talking about elite athletes who are in great shape, who are really big, who are unbelievably coordinated, and they are articulate college graduates.”

About 3,000 recruited candidates eventually bought into King’s sales pitch, or at least those made on his behalf by talent scouts who fanned across the nation in search of diamonds in the rough. With one exception, all were found wanting in one way or another. The sole survivor of the now-defunct All American Heavyweights, Dominic Breazeale (20-1, 18 KOs), gets his second crack at his sport’s most prestigious prize when he takes on WBC champion Deontay Wilder (40-0-1, 39 KOs) in the Showtime-televised main event Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The 6-foot-7, 255-pound Breazeale, now 33, previously challenged IBF heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua on June 25, 2016, before a sellout crowd in Joshua’s hometown of London. Although Breazeale became only the second of Joshua’s 17 opponents to that point to last more than three rounds, his relative inexperience at the elite level – not surprising for someone who didn’t even take up boxing until he was 23 – was evident and he was dropped twice in the seventh round, at which point the fight was stopped by referee Howard John Foster.

Since then Breazeale, the U.S.’s super heavyweight representative at the 2012 London Olympics, has put together three straight victories, all inside the distance. He said he is a much improved version of himself than the one who gamely took a licking from Joshua. Not only that, but he opined that Wilder, his -900 favoritism (a bettor would have to wager $900 on him to win $100) notwithstanding, isn’t nearly as polished as Joshua, who has added the WBA and WBO titles to his now three-belt collection. Breazeale is convinced he will delay or even end speculation about a Joshua-Wilder unification showdown by upsetting Wilder, preferably by knockout, and thus earn the do-over with the big Briton he has wanted since he suffered his first and only pro defeat.

“I don’t see any fundamental skills,” Breazeale, who will be making his first ring appearance with new trainer Virgil Hunter, said of Wilder, the Tuscaloosa, Ala., native who took a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “He hasn’t grown. He hasn’t changed. Yeah, he’s got a big right hand, but don’t we all in the heavyweight division? We all have knockout power.

“It’s going to be an explosive night. You’ve got two 6-7 guys. I’m super-excited to be involved in the event, and I’m super-excited to get a big KO win. I think I’m walking into a fight where I’m the more-skilled, more-athletic fighter.”

Trash talk is the coin of the verbal realm when it comes to hyping high-visibility boxing matches, but the animosity between Breazeale and Wilder, despite their commonality as American Olympians, gives no hint of being manufactured. The bad blood between them dates back to Feb. 25, 2017, when they both appeared on the same card at the Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Ala. Wilder defended his IBF title with a fifth-round stoppage of Gerald Washington in one of his periodic return bouts in his home state, with Breazeale knocking out Izuagbe Ugonoh in the fifth round as the lead-in. There was a later confrontation at the hotel where both fighters and their entourages were staying, the blame for which depends on who’s telling the story.

“He insulted my wife in a situation that was not boxing-related,” Breazeale said. “The gratification of getting my personal revenge, knocking out Deontay Wilder, is a lot bigger than a win or a KO on any other given night.”

Not surprisingly, Wilder claims it was he who was the aggrieved party. He said Breazeale’s brash prediction is just so much hot air.

“I’m going to smash this fly,” vowed Wilder, who will be making his ninth title defense. “This is a personal fight for me. When I take a fight personal, something magical is going to happen. I haven’t been this excited about destroying an opponent since Bermane Stiverne (in their first fight, in 2015).

“I’ve already stated what I want to do, and I’m gonna do what I say I’m gonna do, just like I do all the time. But with this particular opponent I’m gonna make sure I do it in the most painful way possible.”

If it is Breazeale whose hand is raised, however, it is fairly certain he will acknowledge someone who is no longer around, a would-be maker of miracles who lost, by his estimation, “tens of millions of dollars” on All American Heavyweights but still somehow might hit it big from beyond the grave.

Michael King.

“The idea (of Brezeale trying his hand at boxing) first came across in a phone call,” Breazeale recalled. “I told the gentleman that called, Joe Onowar, who was the recruiter, that he was crazy. There was no way in hell I was going to pick up boxing at 23 after I’d done football, basketball, track, baseball, hockey, wrestling, all that as a kid. I had never set foot in a boxing gym. Besides, I thought I was at the end of my athletic career. Honestly, at the time I thought it was a dumb, dumb idea.

“Three months later I had my first amateur fight. Eighteen months after that I was a U.S. Olympian (losing in the first round, 19-8, to Russia’s Magomed Omarov). Now, 10 years later, I’m fighting for the WBC world title.

“I think Michael King was the smartest man on the planet. For me to be the one to come out on top from 3,100 athletes who went through that the door … I thought Mr. King trying to turn Division I athletes into professional boxers was crazy then, but now I think it was a phenomenal idea.”

Breazeale, from Glendale, Calif., almost certainly wouldn’t have given boxing a try had he been a better NFL prospect. He had some good moments during his two seasons as Northern Colorado’s quarterback, and he admits having entertained thoughts of latching on with an NFL team. But he went undrafted and came to realize that dream was never going to be realized. That’s when another dream, Michael King’s, became his dream as well.

Asked if he would ever have considered boxing had he been a good enough pro football prospect to be drafted in, say, the first three rounds in 2008, Breazeale said, “No way. I was pursuing the NFL. Things didn’t pan out the way I wanted, but Michael King was still there when the NFL door closed. I thought, `I’m a big man, I’m powerful, I’m aggressive.’ That type of thing.  So why not?”

What Breazeale did not realize – not then, anyway – is that he had a genetic connection to boxing that had nothing at all to do with Michael King. It was New Year’s Eve, the last day of 2015, and Breazeale was training for a Jan. 23 fight with Amir Mansour at the Staples Center in Los Angeles when he was told that his mother, Christina “Tina” Breazeale, 56, had suffered a massive heart attack. Shortly after her son arrived at the hospital, she died.

As Breazeale and his three siblings went through his mother’s possessions, he found boxes containing boxing items from the biological father, Harold Lee Breazeale, he barely knew, including a Golden Gloves state championship belt, boxing shoes, a mouth guard and some news stories.

“I can’t believe she didn’t tell you,” a family member told Dominic.

“I have the pedigree, and I didn’t even know it,” Breazeale said in describing the moment to the Los Angeles Times. “I guess it’s natural to me. It’s in blood.”

Another thing: when a much younger Dominic, who had tried his hand at just about every sport and was good at all of them, asked his mom if it would be all right for him to go to a boxing gym with some of his friends to see if he’d like it, she put her foot down. She told him to “stick to football and basketball.”

“It makes sense now,” said Breazeale, who considers his stepfather, Terry, to be his dad of choice. “There was no explanation, just a `No, you’re not doing it.’ She was a huge supporter of what I do, but she wanted to keep me away from boxing.”

It’s funny how things work out sometimes. It might even be the perfect scenario, should Breazeale, the ex-quarterback, wind up shocking Wilder, the former star wide receiver for his high school football team. Breazeale would necessarily have to be the guy pitching most of the leather, with Wilder the target for all those bombs.

Might even be good enough for Breazeale to wangle a guest shot on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Somewhere, somehow, you’d have to think Michael King would approve.

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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The Bones Adams Story (Part Two)

Arne K. Lang

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The-Bones-Adams-Story-Part-Two

When Bones Adams retired from boxing, he was still in his mid-twenties. The kid from Henderson, Kentucky, now lived in Henderson, Nevada, a suburb of Las Vegas, and before leaving the sport he had made enough money to go on a home-buying spree.

Real estate in the form of rental homes was a sound investment, or so everyone told him. But that was before the Great Recession, a scourge that clobbered real estate speculators and new homeowners, hitting Las Vegas especially hard.

“Suddenly,” says Bones, looking back, “a house next door to one of my mine, a house that looked a lot like mine,” was on the market for half the price that I paid for mine. I didn’t have the equity to ride out the storm.”

One of Bones’ best friends worked as a limousine driver for Charles Horky. The friend suggested that Bones join the team. Horky, a big fight fan, hired him in a flash.

Horky was an American success story. Starting with one limousine, he built a mini-empire. His fleet serviced the MGM Grand properties, of which there were eight on the Las Vegas Strip. Many of his regular clients were celebrities.

A town like Las Vegas attracts a lot of predators. Charles Horky fit right in. The FBI would allege that he didn’t merely turn a blind eye when his drivers supplied hookers and drugs – cocaine, meth, Ecstasy – to his customers, but that he encouraged it and demanded a cut of the action. Then there was the little matter of unauthorized charges on credit cards, a common scam in Vegas, particularly in “gentleman’s” clubs. “What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas,” goes the slogan, and what often stays is a lot more money than a visitor remembers spending.

On Dec. 13, 2012, the FBI arrested Charles Horky and eight of his employees or associates, including four limousine drivers, on racketeering charges. Clarence “Bones” Adams, identified in the papers as one of the limousine drivers, was caught up in the sting.

“I did some stuff I shouldn’t have,” Bones acknowledged when this reporter broached the subject. But he says he wasn’t a limousine driver except on his first day of work because Horky thought he was more valuable out in the field working as a starter, a person that works with the concierge at a hotel. (In Las Vegas, a taxi driver is prohibited from carrying more than five passengers. For larger parties, it’s often cheaper to hire a limo than taking multiple cabs.)

At his initial hearing, Bones pleaded not guilty. The attorney he hired, confident that he would receive only a slap on the wrist, got him to change his plea. Indeed, probation was what the prosecutors recommended. But the judge thought otherwise and Bones would serve six months at the federal correctional institution in Taft, California.

– – –

When we caught up with Bones Adams last week, he had just returned from shepherding his three youngest children to school (Bones has a daughter, Alexa, from a previous marriage). It entailed three stops – a high school, a middle school, and an elementary school. The school buses don’t service his neighborhood, an upper-middle-class neighborhood in the southwest part of Las Vegas.

The home that Adams shares with Millette, his wife of 14 years, and their children has a very deep back yard. Situated at the end of the long driveway is a 3,200-square foot building that houses a two-car garage and the boxing gym. The previous owner was a custom glass maker. This was his workshop.

Bones Adams doesn’t speak well of his former manager Cameron Dunkin, but Bones concedes that Dunkin did him a big favor when he sold his contract to James Prince. The change-over was made shortly after Bones’ first match with Paulie Ayala.

Prince, the Houston-based rap music mogul, was previously involved in the careers of Floyd Mayweather Jr, with whom he had a big falling out, and Andre Ward, among others. Today he is connected to a stable of boxers in Las Vegas who compete under the Prince Ranch insignia, the most notable of whom is former U.S. Olympian Michael Hunter who meets undefeated Sergey Kuzmin at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 13 in a match that will leave the winner well-positioned for a shot at a world heavyweight title.  Undefeated super bantamweight Raeese Aleem (pictured with Bones) is one of several rising contenders.

The gym that sits in Bones’ backyard was designed for Prince Ranch fighters but isn’t exclusively for them. “Basically,” says Bones, “whenever there is a really big fight in town, one of the fighters comes here.” Amir Khan used the gym to put the final touches on his preparation for Canelo Alvarez. Daniel Jacobs did likewise. More recently, Manny Pacquiao and his trainer Freddie Roach were here during the final days preceding PacMan’s fight with Keith Thurman. Tucked away in a quiet residential neighborhood, the gym offers a marquee fighter a level of privacy he is unlikely to find elsewhere.

pac

pac

When Khan was here in May of 2016, Bones Adams wasn’t yet immersed in the daily routine of a trainer. It would be more accurate to say that he was the facility’s caretaker. But he and Khan forged a relationship and when Khan was in the market for a new trainer – having left Virgil Hunter, who trained him for his bout with Terence Crawford — he thought of his new buddy back in Las Vegas.

Amir Khan is no longer an “A side” fighter in the United States. Canelo Alvarez starched him with one punch and he was flayed on social media for his weak showing against Crawford. But Khan, an Olympic silver medalist for England at age 17, remains one of the most well-known sporting personalities in the U.K. His supposedly tempestuous relationship with his attractive American-born wife has been a steady source of fodder for the tabloids.

Bones spent two-and-a-half weeks with Khan in Khan’s hometown of Bolton and another two-and-a-half weeks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where Khan finished his training for his fight with Billy Dib, a late sub for India’s Neeraj Gorat who had to pull out after being injured in a car crash. The fight was hyped as a landmark event that would pave the way to a succession of bigger fights in Saudi Arabia.

The Arab nation has been in the news lately and we asked Bones for a few tips on the unlikely chance that we would ever go there. “I was told that I shouldn’t strike up a conversation with a woman I didn’t know, but what I found was that things had loosened up,” he said. “However, ‘no touching’ is still the rule (a no-no that covers everything from a handshake to a hug). The people over there were very warm. We were treated very well.”

Late in his boxing career, Bones’ hairline began to recede. The recession has now completed its journey, perhaps with a little assistance from a barber, and Bones is fashionably bald. But he looks younger than his age; the muscles in his arms are taut, fittingly so for a man who preaches that a boxing-themed workout is the best workout of all for a man that wants to stay physically fit.

Capture

When Bones looks back on his boxing career, he thinks about what might have been if those that had influence over his career had done a better job of looking out for his interests and if the deck hadn’t been rigged against him in several of his most important fights. But the bitterness has long since dissipated, usurped by an understanding that there were times when his life could have spiraled completely out of control and an appreciation for those that reeled him back in. Foremost is his wife Millette, whose name Bones spells out to make certain the reporter gets it right.

It’s been a bumpy ride for Clarence “Bones” Adams, but he is now in a good place. Back in the day, the WBA stripped him of his title for no good reason other than they could, but looking back Bones can see that owning all the title belts in the world wouldn’t have amounted to a hill of beans if he hadn’t met Millette who has stood by his side through thick and thin.

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Mexican Stalwarts Navarrete and Magdaleno Break-in the Banc of California

David A. Avila

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Mexican Stalwarts Navarrete and Magdaleno Break-in the Banc of California

LOS ANGELES-A new stadium got its boxing baptismal with two brutal Mexican wars to re-introduce Los Angeles fans to international prizefighting on Saturday evening.

WBO titlist Emanuel “El Vaquero” Navarrete of Mexico City retained the world title by knockout and former champion Jessie Magdaleno proved pure violence still prevails in Mexican style boxing in front of 3,944 fans at Banc of California Stadium.

Soccer took a back seat on Saturday.

It was baptism under fire as Navarrete (28-1, 24 KOs) roasted fellow Mexican Francisco “Panchito” De Vaca (20-1, 6 KOs) who was willing to jump into the flames but found it too hot to withstand. However, he did try.

De Vaca arrived with only six knockout wins in 20 fights but that didn’t stop him from exchanging with the slightly taller and aggressive Navarrete. From the opening sound of the bell each traded blows, with Navarrete landing two vicious left uppercuts to punctuate the first round.

Though Navarrete won the round, De Vaca proved to have a sturdy chin.

The challenger from Phoenix erupted in the second round with a more aggressive attitude, but quickly discovered he was on the floor looking up after absorbing a sidewinder right cross from Navarrete. He got up and renewed the attack.

De Vaca never wavered from exchanging blows with the champion but it proved to be futile as the harder hitting Navarrete seemed to move the challenger back with each connected blow. De Vaca was hurt but refused to submit as Navarrete pummeled him with blows from multiple angles. After what seemed like a minute filled with machine-like blows, referee Raul Caiz stopped the fight though De Vaca never went down at 1:54 of round three to give Navarrete the win by knockout.

“De Vaca showed his fighting heart. He gave 100 percent in the ring tonight,” said Navarrete, who hopes to return to Los Angeles. “I want to continue the tradition of Mexican boxing in Los Angeles. I want to fill arenas and follow in the footsteps of Mexican legends.”

Top Rank’s Bob Arum said Navarrete will be returning to the boxing ring next month in Las Vegas on the same fight card as lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury on Sept. 14.

Magdaleno

Former super bantamweight world champion Jessie Magdaleno (27-1, 18 KOs) won by technical decision over Tijuana’s Rafael Rivera (27-4-2, 18 KOs) in a fight stopped due to an accidental elbow slicing a cut on the Las Vegas fighter.

“He’s an aggressive fighter, he’s a warrior as we say in boxing,” said Magdaleno, who did not think it was an intentional elbow.

Magdaleno, a southpaw, breezed through three rounds with his slick boxing and power shots to the body. Rivera found it difficult to find openings until a clash of heads caused a cut on Magdaleno’s nose. Rivera was able to capitalize on the former super bantamweight world champion’s concern over the blood running down his nose.

In the next three rounds Magdaleno began targeting the body with strong lefts and rights. It seemed to visibly slow down Rivera. A left cross in the seventh round staggered Rivera who was barely able to stay on his feet.

Rivera gutted out the pain and battled back in the eighth round with renewed vigor. It looked like he was willing to go down swinging.

Magdaleno expected Rivera to come out smoking in the ninth round and he did not disappoint. Both slugged it out in the corner, with Magdaleno decking Rivera with a short left cross but the Tijuana fighter beat the count and returned to the battle. During another exchange, an inadvertent elbow by the Mexican fighter sliced the side of Magdaleno’s right eye. Blood spewed out and referee Tom Taylor, on the advice of the ringside physician, stopped the fight at 2:55 of the ninth round.

The fight was decided by the score cards with two judges at 89-81 and a third at 88-82, all for Magdaleno.

“It felt great, I felt strong, better than ever,” said Magdaleno about fighting in the 126-pound featherweight division. “I took off the ring rust. We fought smart. We put on our boxing shoes and out-boxed him.”

The former WBO super bantamweight who lost the title to Isaac Dogboe last year, now feels his victory over Rivera should open the door to a world title fight in the featherweight division.

When asked who he would like?

“I want them all, it don’t matter,” Magdaleno said.

Other Bouts

Super lightweight prospect Arnold Barboza (22-0, 9 KOs) was too big and too strong for Filipino Ricky Sismundo (35-15-3, 17 KOs) and battered the willing fighter for all four rounds. A three-punch combination by South El Monte’s Barboza dropped Sismundo in the third round who beat the count and tried battling back. In the fourth round, Barboza continued the attack and at the end of the fourth round referee Ray Corona stopped the fight as Sismundo dropped to a knee at the end of the stanza.

Barboza was coming off a knockout win over former world champion Mike Alvarado and may be ready for a world title shot.

Kazakhstan’s Janibek Alimkhanuly floored Canada’s Stuart McLellan twice before ending the fight with a flourish of blows that forced referee Rudy Barragan to end the fight at 2:51 of the fifth round.

Alimkhanuly retains the WBO Global and WBC Continental America’s middleweight belts. He fights out of Los Angeles and is trained by Buddy McGirt.

A welterweight clash saw South Africa’s Chris Van Heerden (28-2-1, 12 KOs) win by unanimous decision over Russia’s Aslanbek Kozaev (33-3-1, 8 KOs) in a bloody eight round war. The fight started slowly with Van Heerden hitting and moving but after cuts suffered by both fighters, the two began exchanging heavy blows to the delight of the crowd. Both bled heavily for the last four rounds but let loose with everything just in case the fight was stopped. After eight rounds two judges saw it 79-73 and a third 78-74 for Van Heerden.

After a close two rounds, Javier Molina (20-2, 8 KOs) put some distance between himself and Manuel Mendez (16-6-3, 11 KOs) to win by unanimous decision in a super lightweight match. Molina was able to take control with some nifty counter punches that caught Mendez walking in. It was never an easy fight as Mendez battled through each round. But after eight rounds two judges scored it 79-73 and a third 78-74 all for Molina.

“I moved down to 140 pounds and it felt comfortable,” said Molina, a former 2008 US Olympian who fights out of Norwalk, Calif. “It felt good to be back in the ring.

Dominican southpaw Elvis Rodriguez dropped lefty Jesus Gonzalez with a short right hook in the first round of their super lightweight bout. The Texan got up and was caught with a jab left cross and down he went again. Referee Rudy Barragan halted the fight at 1:40 of the first round. Rodriguez is trained by Freddy Roach.

Russian lightweight Dmitry Yun (2-0) survived two knockdowns to win by decision over Austin’s Javier Martinez (4-7, 3 KOs). The Texan floored Yun with the first blow he landed –a right cross – in the opening round, then repeated it with a counter right cross in the third round. But problems with his mouthpiece and lack of footwork kept Martinez from gaining ground on the fleet but light punching Yun. Two judges scored it 57-54 and a third 56-54, all for Yun.

New Mexico’s Brian Mendoza (18-0, 13 KOs) brutalized Miami’s Rosemberg Gomez (20-8-1, 16 KOs) with body shots and eventually ended the fight at 2:12 of the first round in their welterweight clash.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams for Top Rank

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WBO Title-holder Emanuel Navarrete Defends at Banc of California Stadium

David A. Avila

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WBO Title-holder Emanuel Navarrete Defends at Banc of California Stadium

LOS ANGELES-World champions are gathering at a busy street corner of Los Angeles that has been the site of numerous heroic, villainous and emotional moments in the history of the second largest city in the USA.

Two full scale riots erupted and flamed out on that corner of Martin Luther King Boulevard and Figueroa Avenue in the 60s and 90s.

A presidential debate took place between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon on those same grounds when they were running in 1960.

NBA superstars Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Michael Jordan performed their magic on that corner too.

On Saturday, WBO super bantamweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete (27-1, 23 KOs) defends against Arizona’s Francisco De Vaca (20-0, 5 KOs) in the main event at the sparkling new Banc of California Stadium. ESPN will show the Top Rank fight card.

The stadium stands on the same location where the LA Memorial Sports Arena once stood proudly until it fell into disarray and was torn down several years back.

Sixty years ago, the first world championship boxing match was held on these same grounds and fans saw France’s Alphonse Halimi lose to Mexico’s Jose Becerra by fifth round knockout at the LA Memorial Sports Arena. Seven months later they fought again next door at the LA Coliseum and Becerra won by knockout again.

That was only the beginning, others like Muhammad Ali, Archie Moore, Sugar Ray Robinson, Bobby Chacon, Jerry Quarry, Danny “Lil Red” Lopez, Ruben Olivares, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and Amir Khan all fought on those same grounds.

Imagine, when Navarrete (pictured above) rises from his corner to fight Phoenix’s De Vaca on Saturday, he will be continuing the ever-growing streak of civil and professional fights that took place on that same historic street corner.

WBO Super Bantamweight Title

Navarrete erupted on the fight scene like a ghost when he first defeated Isaac Dogboe last December at Madison Square Garden. It was supposed to be a Broadway opening for Dogboe, but instead turned into a horror story as those long arms of the Mexican fighter proved perplexing. The rematch was even more horrific for Dogboe.

Now the Mexico City fighter meets little known challenger De Vaca, who comes from an area that has recently been developing boxing talent in the desert city of Phoenix.

“The truth is that it doesn’t matter who is my opponent. I always prepare 100 percent for each of my fights, and this was no exception,” said Navarrete, 24, who is making his second defense of the WBO title. “We already did the hard work in the gym, and we are ready for a great fight. If De Vaca comes to fight hard, I am prepared to go even harder. I’m ready to give a great battle to all the fans.”

Can De Vaca do what Navarrete did to Dogboe last year?

“I wanted to fight for a world title since I was 5 years old, and now that we have the opportunity, we are going to make our dream come true this Saturday,” said De Vaca, 24, who fought once in Southern California back in 2016. “Come Saturday, there will be a new world champ for Phoenix and Michoacán. I’m coming for that world title.”

Co-Main

Former super bantamweight titlist Jessie Magdaleno (26-1, 18 KOs) meets Rafael Rivera (27-3-2, 18 KOs) in a featherweight match set for 10 rounds. After struggling to make the 122-pound super bantamweight limit, the Las Vegas southpaw now fights at 126 pounds. It’s made a difference.

“He’s a totally different person at 126 pounds,” said Frank Espinoza who manages Magdaleno. “Even the way he talks and thinks is different. Who would have thought four pounds would make such a difference.”

Magdaleno, the former WBO super bantamweight titlist, now meets Tijuana’s Rivera who never fails to provide high intensity fisticuffs.

“I don’t take none of these guys lightly. Every opponent is difficult. He’s fought great fighters. He’s been in there with great fighters and done a hell of a job. I can’t overlook him because he’s here to put on a great show as well,” said Magdaleno, 27. “He throws a lot of punches, and he’s quick. That’s what I am, and that’s what is going to make a hell of a fight for this fight card.”

Rivera fought featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz earlier this year. Though he lost by decision, he gained fans for his ferocity.

“I’ve been fighting against top-level fighters for a long time, so I feel confident and secure that whether it’s against a world champion or a former champion, I’ll put up a good fight,” said Rivera, 25. “Jessie is a good fighter. I’ve seen him fight before. He’s an aggressive fighter, but I’m just here to do my work.”

It’s a rather strong and lengthy fight card to baptize the new stadium into the world of prizefighting. Expect a lengthy line of fans on the same corner where many historic events have taken place.

Boxing has returned to the same street corner where legends like Ali, Sugar Ray, Quarry and Schoolboy Chacon previously performed. It’s a corner with many memories, both pleasant and notorious.

Photo credit: Hector De La Cruz

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Good-Night-Sweet-Pea
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Good Night, Sweet Pea

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Mad Max and Manny

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Three Punch Combo: Three Makeable Fights Certain to Entertain and More

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