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Avila Perspective Chap. 54: Quakes, Super Middleweights and the Globe Theater

David A. Avila

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Avila Perspective Chap. 54: Quakes, Super Middleweights and the Globe Theater

Earthquakes or not, the flood of prizefighters into Southern California boxing gyms continues.

They come from all points of the globe and train in places like Oxnard, Northridge, Hollywood, South Central Los Angeles, Maywood, East L.A., Norwalk, Azusa, Pomona, Riverside, San Bernardino, Big Bear, Indio and San Diego.

Many boxers from other parts of the world experienced their first major quake on Thursday. Although the epicenter for the temblor was nearly 100 miles away, at 6.4 it could be felt throughout Southern California from Salinas to San Diego. Many even felt it in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Every gym seems to be at full tilt in preparation for looming battles.

One visiting fighter, Chicago’s Mike Lee (21-0, 11 KOs), has been training in Los Angeles and has a world title challenge against IBF super middleweight titlist Caleb Plant (18-0, 10 KOs) on July 20, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The fight will be shown on pay-per-view on the Manny Pacquiao vs Keith Thurman card.

“I’m excited. This is an incredible opportunity and I will make the most of it and I think I’m going to shock a lot of people,” said Lee, 32, a former football player with the Notre Dame Irish. “I know that this is my moment and as moments get bigger and bigger, I perform better and better.”

Lee will be trying to shake loose the world title from the slick fighting Plant who grew up near Nashville, Tennessee, and is making his first defense of the title he wrangled from Jose Uzcategui last January in Los Angeles.

“I’m gunning for him more than I was gunning for Jose (Uzcategui),” said Plant of Lee.

Plant, 26, seems perturbed by the fact Lee has been given the opportunity to challenge over other contenders. When they met for a press conference at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Plant was overtly heated and seemed insulted that Lee was his opponent.

“(Lee) hasn’t accomplished or done some of the things that some of the other guys I fought have,” said Plant who trains in Las Vegas. “He’s delusional. He’s never faced anybody like me. He’s never even come close.”

Last January at the Staples Center, the quick-fisted Plant showed off his defensive skills against the always attacking Uzcategui. In the second round, during one of the Venezuelan fighter’s charges Plant cracked him with a perfect check hook and dropped him. He repeated the tactic in the fourth round. It led to a quick lead on the judge’s score cards that despite a late rally by Uzcategui, proved to insurmountable to overcome. Plant won the world title by unanimous decision.

Lee, despite being undefeated, has not faced a top 10 contender since he made his pro debut in May 2009. But a win a year ago against Jose Hernandez, whose best win was against Jose “Shibata” Flores, helped garner the vacant NABO light heavyweight title. Now he’s dropping down in weight to meet Plant.

“When I got the phone call about this specific opportunity, I was all about it. I knew 168 wouldn’t be a problem and I knew I could bring my power and my speed down to this weight class and rehydrate the right way,” said Lee. “So when a world title comes, you say ‘yes’ and especially when I know that I can win.”

Plant shakes his head in disgust at the thought of losing to Lee.

“He’s going to learn a lesson July 20, one that he can’t be taught. One that can only be taught by me,” Plant says.

Lee smiles at Plant’s assertions.

“It only takes one punch,” counters Lee.

Top Rank

Speaking of shaking up things, last week’s boxing card at Pechanga Resort and Casino by Top Rank was pretty electric.

A super featherweight battle saw local fighter Saul “Neno” Rodriguez engage in a firefight with Mexico’s Miguel Angel Gonzalez (not the same guy who held the super lightweight world title and lost to Oscar De La Hoya in the 1990s) and get knocked out viciously during a furious exchange in the third round.

Rodriguez, 26, was caught with his feet squared up by Gonzalez who fired a left from a southpaw stance that caught the Riverside fighter with his chin exposed. It was two defensive errors by Rodriguez that were capitalized by the Mexican slugger Gonzalez.

A pretty large crowd showed up mostly to support Rodriguez who has gained a large fan base in the area throughout his past eight years in the pros.

Another fight saw IBF lightweight world titlist Richard Commey eventually blast out former lightweight world champion Raymundo Beltran in the eighth round. Both departed with faces only a mother could love.

Top Rank already has plans to stage another boxing card at the rather new venue at Pechanga Resort and Casino. No date has been set.

L.A.’s Globe Theater

Inland Empire super welterweight prospect Darious Harris (6-0) appears on the KO High Boxing Promotions card on Sunday July 7, at the Globe Theater located at 740 S. Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. The boxing card doors open at 6 p.m. (213) 489-1667.

Harris, 28, has fought most of his first half dozen professional fights on the other side of the Mexican border. In his last appearance he defeated Earl Henry by majority decision in Burbank.

Trained by Riverside’s Henry Ramirez, known for working with Chris Arreola, Josesito Lopez and Joshua Conley, the super welterweight resides in Rialto and had a successful amateur career that saw him win the Golden Gloves, Blue and Gold and Desert Showdown tournaments.

“I’d call myself a boxer puncher,” said Harris while at his gym in Riverside on Friday night. “I’m an orthodox fighter.”

Harris and his brothers were introduced to boxing by his father at age nine but he stopped boxing for a dozen years before his return.

“I love everything about boxing,” says the amiable prizefighter Harris.

After his victory in Burbank various promoters have come calling.

“Once your foot is in the door you get called,” Harris realizes.

Harris is scheduled to fight Chad McKinney a southpaw from the state of Washington.

“We’ll see what happens in there,” said Harris about fighting in Los Angeles.

After speaking to Harris on Friday evening, Southern California was hit by several more monster quakes at 6.9 and 5.0 on the Richter scale. Wonder if that’s a sign?

Photo credit: Nashville Post

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Pradabsri Upsets Menayothin, Ends the Longest Unbeaten Streak of Modern Times

Arne K. Lang

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During the wee hours in the Americas, a big upset was brewing in Thailand. In Nakhon Sawan, a city roughly 150 miles north of Bangkok, Panya Pradabsri (aka Petchmanee CP Freshmart) out-pointed Wanheng Menayothin (aka Chayaphon Moonsri) in a domestic clash with international significance. Manayothin entered the bout with a 54-0 (18) record and was making the 13th defense of his WBC world minimumweight title.

Pradabsri had been defeated only once in 35 previous starts, but only 11 of his 34 victories had come against fighters with winning records. According to ringside reports, he kept Menayothin at bay with good fundamentals, a stiff jab, and good lateral movement. All three judges had it 115-113. The fight wasn’t without controversy as Menayothin finished stronger and many folks scoring off the live video thought that he had done just enough to retain his title.

How good was/is Menayothin? That’s a question that serious boxing fans will likely debate for decades.

In the summer of 2019, Menayothin signed a co-promotional deal with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. At time, GBP president Eric Gomez described him as one of the best fighters in the world. “We really want to bring him to the U.S. so people can see how talented he really is,” Gomez told England’s Sky Sports.

Menayothin was expected to make his U.S. debut in April of this year, but the pandemic ruined that plan. Earlier this year, he announced his retirement, but rescinded it after only two days.

Scottish boxing historian Matt McGrain, who has an exclusive arrangement with this web site, had lukewarm opinion of the Thai mighty-mite although he rated him the second-best 105-pound boxer of the decade, trailing only his countryman Thammanoon Niyomtrong (aka Knockout CP Freshmart).

“He is disciplined, strong, brings good pressure and is armed with a very decent range of punches,” said McGrain, “(but his record) is comprised mostly of men any competent fighter would be expected to beat.”

Although only one boxer from Thailand has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (Khaosai Galaxy, class of 1999), the Southeast Asia nation has produced some outstanding boxers over the years – Chartchoi Chionoi, Sot Chitalada, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai to name just a few. The difference between these fighters and Wanheng Menayothin is that they all left the comfort zone of their homeland to score one or more important wins on foreign soil.

Menayothin may yet display his wares in a U.S. ring. But at age 35, an advanced age for small fighters in particular, we won’t get to see him at his best and now that his bubble has been burst, disinviting further comparisons to Mayweather and Marciano, the curiosity factor has been tempered.

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Yoka vs. Hammer Kicks Off the Thanksgiving Weekend Slate on ESPN+

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PRESS RELEASE— Tony Yoka, the dynamic heavyweight punching Parisian, aims to impress in his ESPN platform debut. Yoka, who won a super heavyweight gold medal for France at the 2016 Rio Olympics, will fight veteran Christian Hammer in a 10-rounder Friday at H Arena in Nantes, France.

Yoka-Hammer will stream live and exclusively this Friday, Nov. 27 in the United States on ESPN+ beginning at 2:55 p.m. ET/11:55 a.m. PT.

The ESPN+ stream will also include the return of unbeaten 2016 French Olympic gold medalist Estelle Yoka-Mossely against Pasa Malagic in an eight-round lightweight bout. Yoka and Yoka-Mossely, who have been married since 2018, welcomed their second child in May.

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Earlier this year, Yoka inked a promotional agreement with Top Rank, which will co-promote him with Ringstar France.

“Tony Yoka’s potential is limitless, and he is a grounded young man who is motivated to be a great professional fighter,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “France has never had a world heavyweight champion, and I believe Tony is the one to bring the sport’s biggest honor home.”

The 28-year-old Yoka’s stellar amateur run included a berth at the 2012 London Olympics and gold medals at the 2015 World Championships and 2010 Youth Olympic Games. Before his triumph in Rio, he’d already defeated the likes of former heavyweight world champion Joseph Parker and current undefeated prospects Joe Joyce and Ivan Dychko. At the Rio Olympics, he defeated Croatian standout Filip Hrgović in the semifinals and edged Joyce in the gold medal match.

As a professional, Yoka (8-0, 7 KOs) made his debut in June 2017 with a second-round stoppage over the previously undefeated Travis Clark. Apart from a decision win over Jonathan Rice in his second outing, Yoka has stopped every foe, including durable Englishman David “White Rhino” Allen and former European champion Alexander Dimitrenko. He made his 2020 debut Sept. 25 and stopped former world title challenger Johann Duhaupas in one round.

Hammer (25-6, 15 KOs) has fought many of the leading heavyweight names during his 12-year career, falling short against Tyson Fury, Luis Ortiz and Alexander Povetkin. He’s notched myriad upset victories, including a highlight-reel knockout over David Price and a 2016 split decision over Erkan Teper for the WBO European belt. In March 2019, he went the 10-round distance against Ortiz and has not been stopped since Fury forced him to retire on his stool after eight rounds in their February 2015 clash.

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 115: Macho, Freddie and More

David A. Avila

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Camacho me and Mia

“Macho.”

That single word is how Hector Camacho presented himself when introduced. It was the only word needed for the three-division world champion from Puerto Rico who was raised in Harlem, New York.

The first time I met Camacho was in a dark and packed Las Vegas nightclub in the MGM where he was a guest of Oscar De La Hoya back in March 2001. Though it was difficult to see, when Camacho was introduced, I could see the large gold medallion with the word “Macho” in letters six inches high.

Showtime network will be presenting a documentary called “Macho: The Hector Camacho Story” on Friday, December 4 at 9 p.m. on Showtime. It sparks memories of how a fighter in the lower weight classes grabbed the attention of the boxing world.

Camacho was more than flash or words, he was an electrifying boxer who stood out in the 1980s, an era dominated by the “Four Kings” Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard. Oh, and also a guy named Mike Tyson.

The fast-talking Camacho was a phenomenal fighter who swept aside opponents with his blinding speed and shocking power. It was against Los Angeles-based fighters like Refugio Rojas and Louie Loy that I first read about his exploits. Both were knocked out.

A third Southern California fighter John “Huero” Montes was thought to be the one to give Camacho a real challenge. The fight was televised to a national audience in February 1983. At the time I was watching it on a tiny black and white television and at 1:13 into the first round Camacho unleashed one of those lethal uppercuts and Montes was out-for-the-count.

Camacho arrived that day.

From that point on few could withstand the speedy southpaw’s blinding charges. Six months later he stopped Mexico’s “Bazooka” Limon to win the vacant super featherweight title.

One fighter who heard the final bell was Freddie Roach who could take a punch and knew a thing or two about fighting southpaws.

“I liked fighting southpaws,” said Roach via telephone. “My dad taught me early to keep my foot on the outside and lead with right hands.”

Roach had never lost to a southpaw. The winner that day between Camacho and Roach in Sacramento, on December 1985, was supposedly going to fight Puerto Rico’s heavy-handed Edwin Rosario.

Using his surefire method of fighting southpaws, Roach managed a knockdown of Camacho with the help of his foot. But it was not enough.

“He was very difficult. Lot of people raved about how fast his speed was. You didn’t really realize until you got into the ring with him,” said Roach. “I wasn’t the slowest, but wasn’t the fastest. I just couldn’t keep up.”

Despite using roughhouse tactics against the lefty speedster, Roach said that Camacho invited him to dinner after the fight.

That pretty much explains Camacho, a talented and big-hearted guy.

Last Stages

The last time I ran into Camacho was at the Pechanga Resort and Casino when he and Mia St. John were about to fight on the same boxing card in 2009. He was much heavier but still able to defeat middleweights.

How good was Camacho?

He defeated two of the Four Kings when he beat Roberto Duran twice and stopped Sugar Ray Leonard by knockout when they fought in 1997. Yes, Leonard was 41 and had not fought in six years, but this was Sugar Ray Leonard.

“I didn’t think he would ever beat Leonard,” said Roach.

Neither did Leonard.

“I just felt that I was a bigger man. I was smarter, stronger, all those things, but the first time he threw a punch, it was like, Pow! And I said, ‘Wow, that hurt,’” said Leonard about their encounter. “I tried the best I could to just go the distance. When he was at his best, he was a thing of beauty.”

What I remember after Camacho beat Leonard was how sincerely apologetic he was after the victory. He could talk the talk and walk the walk but inside he remained the kid from Harlem who was given extraordinary talent. And he was humbled by it.

Roach remembers their dinner together after their fight.

“That night he took me out to dinner with his friends and said you fought a good fight,” said Roach adding that Camacho was a very likeable guy. “I saw him along the way in his career.”

Roach, who would later train another astoundingly fast southpaw named Manny Pacquiao, said he never fought anyone again as talented as Camacho.

“You hear rumors of drug problems and training problems. But when he fought me, he was in for 10 and I tried every trick in the book but it didn’t work. He was in a higher class than I was,” Roach said. “He was one of the best fighters in the world.”

Don’t miss this Showtime documentary next week.

Jacobs and Rosado

Speaking of Roach, the famous trainer will be working the corner of Gabe Rosado (25-12-1, 14 KOs) when he meets Daniel Jacobs (36-3, 30 KOs) on Friday, Nov. 27, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Florida. DAZN will stream the Matchroom Boxing card.

It’s Philly versus Brooklyn.

Rosado has long proven to be a real professional who keeps adding elements to his fight game. Paired with Roach he has further developed under the guidance of the Southern California-based trainer. Plus, Rosado can plain fight.

Jacobs, a former world champion, has proven to be an elite middleweight and looks just as comfortable as a super middleweight.

Expect the kind of prize fight they used to show in the Golden Age of boxing in the 1950s when you had guys like Johnny Saxton fighting Denny Moyer. It should be that kind of battle of wits and skill. I’m looking forward to it.

Photo: Hector Camacho, David Avila, and Mia St. John. Photo credit: Al Applerose

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