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Mark Kram Jr, Author of a New Bio of Joe Frazier, Pays Homage to his Father

Rick Assad

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Mark Kram Jr, Author of a New Bio of Joe Frazier, Pays Homage to his Father

When it comes to writing about sports, the Kram duo, father and son, have produced many notable works.

The late Mark Kram, whose byline ran in Sports Illustrated from the mid-1960s through the late-1970s, delivered some of the most melodic prose this side of Red Smith.

His son has followed in his footsteps. Known as a longform specialist and a columnist, Mark Kram Jr. is also the author of several books. “Like Any Normal Day: A Story of Devotion,” won the 2013 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing, and he is the author of the recently-released biography, “Smokin’ Joe: The Life of Joe Frazier.”

Having a successful father can sometimes be daunting for the offspring. Has the last name opened more doors than it’s closed?

“It’s been far more of a help than a hindrance,” Kram Jr. (pictured) said in an e-mail. “Of course, we shared the same byline for years while I worked in newspapers. That led to some awkwardness. Understandably, people would call thinking I was him. When I began writing for Philadelphia magazine in the 1990s, I adopted “Jr.” to clarify who was who.

Technically, I am not a “Jr.” He changed his name from “George” to “Mark” three years after I was born in 1956, when he started covering high school sports for the Baltimore Sun.”

Kram Jr., whose efforts have appeared in “The Best American Sports Writing” series and in “The Great American Sports Page: A Century of Classic Columns From Ring Lardner to Sally Jenkins,” an anthology edited and selected by John Schulian, said that although his father made an impact in journalism, it didn’t necessarily propel him into the business.

“Not particularly,” he said of his ultimate career choice. “When it came to writing, I was very much a late bloomer, as Dad himself had been. He neither encouraged nor discouraged me. When I got to college at the University of Maryland, I told myself that if I could learn to write while I was there, it would be a skill that could keep me gainfully employed in the years to come. So I began working for the college newspaper. But like Dad, I was more or less self-taught.”

The elder Kram passed away in 2002 at age 69. That he accomplished what he did is remarkable, given where he began.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, on December 6, 1932, Mark Kram wasn’t blessed with a silver spoon in his mouth. Books and high-brow literature weren’t laying around the house. The Daily Racing Form and tout sheets were.

Kram was a three-sport athlete in high school who went on to play minor league baseball. His hopes of playing in the big leagues were dashed when he was beaned. He was drafted into the military in 1953 and spent a very short period of time at the University of Georgia.

Kram would find work at Sports Illustrated where he became one of its rising stars.

Boxing was Kram’s primary beat and it coincided with the time Muhammad Ali, along with Joe Frazier and George Foreman, dominated the heavyweight division.

“Well, he came along during a period that is looked upon now as the golden age of Sports Illustrated,” said Kram Jr. “For a young man who had finished tenth from the bottom of his high school class and had no college to speak of, he was on a very fast track when he got to New York in 1964. But he worked very hard to develop his skills and just became better and better.”

Kram Jr. went on: “Along with his boxing pieces, he took on an array of off-beat bonus pieces that enabled him to grow artistically,” he said. “I remember he told me he once had lunch with Joseph Mitchell, the legendary New Yorker writer. Dad was interested in moving over to the New Yorker. Mitchell told him, “That can be arranged. But why would you want to? Everything is happening where you are.”

On some level, it may appear that writing is something that anyone can do. Maybe? But it’s another matter to write well.

“Dad used to say he was as fast as he had to be. For Ali-Frazier I and II, he had an hour to write his stories and he did it,” said Kram Jr., who was a senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily News from 1987 through 2013. “When he was working on something longer, he tended to bleed over every comma. At his office at Sports Illustrated, he would type a few lines, get up and pace the halls, thinking.”

Kram Jr. continued: “As he walked, he would puff on his pipe. By the time he was finished writing, the back of his shirt would be soaked with sweat. Remember, he worked on a typewriter as opposed to a computer screen, which is an inherently slower process. Even so, it would never have come easy for him, just as it would never become easy for me.”

The elder Kram’s piece de resistance was his Sports Illustrated story on Ali-Frazier III filed on deadline from Manila. Titled “Lawdy, Lawdy, He’s Great” (those words were uttered by Frazier about Ali after his trainer Eddie Futch threw in the towel just before the start of the 15th round), it ran as the S.I. cover story on Oct. 13, 1975 and was later expanded into a book, “Ghosts of Manila: The Fateful Blood Feud Between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.”

What prompted Kram Jr., who was also employed at the Detroit Free Press and the Baltimore News American, to write his two books?

“The appeal of that story to me,” he said, referencing his first book, “was how ordinary people found themselves caught up in extraordinary circumstances. The principal subject of the story, Buddy Miley, had severed his spinal cord in a high school [football] game in 1973. I interviewed him for the Philadelphia Daily News in early 1993. He had lived as a quadriplegic for 20 years, his every need seen to by his mother Rosemarie at their suburban Philadelphia home.”

Kram Jr. added: “Four years later after I wrote about him, he was found dead in a Michigan motel room. He had been assisted in his suicide by Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Buddy had talked his younger brother, Jimmy Miley, into taking him to Michigan in what would become an act of complicated love,” he said. “Fearing reprisals from the authorities, Jimmy had kept his role to himself until he sat down with me for a piece in 2006. The story ended up on HBO Real Sports and would become the foundation for the book I would publish in the spring of 2012.”

Kram Jr. added: “‘Like Any Normal Day’ enlarged the struggles of a heretofore anonymous family into something universal. If you looked hard enough at the characters in the book, you could see yourself in one of them. In “Smokin’ Joe: The Life of Joe Frazier,” I was with characters who were just the opposite. Frazier was internationally known. The challenge for me was to bring to his life a certain degree of intimacy.”

Regarding his father’s famous story, this is what Richard Deitsch, a longtime Sports Illustrated writer and current scribe at The Athletic, tweeted on June 4, 2016, the day after Ali passed away at age 74. “I consider this Mark Kram piece on Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier the best piece in the history of @SI.com.”

“Simply, it is a lovely piece of skillful writing,” said Kram Jr. “The opening sequence of it is haunting; Ali and Frazier had placed their bodies on the line, had given every ounce of their resolve, and now they were both exhausted and battered. From there, the story shifts perspective and point of view almost line by line; you can feel the energy in it building to a crescendo. Reflecting upon it as a piece of event reporting, a Sports Illustrated editor called it ‘the apotheosis of the form’. I would agree.”

There is a link between father and son when it comes to Frazier. It seems that because of Ali’s towering presence, Frazier has been somewhat overlooked.

“Is he? I think you have to judge athletes in the context of their era,” Kram Jr. pointed out. “To my way of thinking, the 1960s and early 1970s were the golden age of heavyweights. The talent pool was very, very deep. Frazier was on the smallish side for a heavyweight – far smaller than his chief rivals, Ali and Foreman – yet he was the consummate overachiever who never backed up an inch. Though Ali and Foreman both beat him twice, he acquitted himself with courage even in defeat. I have no idea how he would have fared against Jack Dempsey or Joe Louis or Rocky Marciano. No one else does either.”

Father and son are wonderful story tellers. What makes one so? “Curiosity; the desire to tug at loose threads until you come across one that leads somewhere intriguing; the ability to subordinate yourself to the subject you are writing about,” Kram Jr. said. “Nothing gets me to put a story down faster than the overuse of the first person. Generally, your presence in a piece of writing should be felt, not seen.”

Kram Jr. added: “Plus – and this is paramount – you have to have patience, the willingness to take the necessary time to get something the way it should be. There is a sign I keep over my desk that says ‘Things of Quality Have No Fear of Time.’”

Kram Jr. edited and chose a collection of his father’s best work titled, “Great Men Die Twice: The Selected Works Of Mark Kram,” published in 2015.

Looking back, is Kram Jr. glad he initiated the project? “Very much so,” he said. “Few journalists have written as gorgeously as he did. Some of his sentences are pure poetry. He was quite deserving of a collection. I only wish it had been longer.”

The last time father and son saw each other was June 8, 2002 when Lennox Lewis knocked out Mike Tyson in the eighth round of their title fight with three belts on the line.

“(Dad) had done a Playboy interview with (Mike) Tyson and figured that Tyson was worthy of a book,” Kram Jr. said. “I joined him in Memphis for the fight. We had both arranged for credentials, but when we showed up in the press tent to get them, there was only one for Mark Kram. I remember it was funny. The young fellow handing out the credentials looked at Dad, then looked at me and said, ‘so there ARE two of you!’ We had a lot of fun that week in Memphis driving around and hitting the spots. But the fight was awful. Even from our seats up in the stands, it was clear that Tyson was finished. Lewis wiped the floor with him. Five days later Dad died of a heart attack back in Washington.”

What does Kram Jr. think his father would want people to most remember about him?

“Like I tend to think about Joe Frazier, a good but not a perfect man,” he said. “That is perhaps the best any of us can do.”

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The Bones Adams Story (Part Two)

Arne K. Lang

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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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