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Boxing Movies We Hope to See: Suggested Storylines from 50+ Boxing Notables

Ted Sares

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The Fourth Quarterly TSS Survey: Part One (A-K) — The question for our final survey of 2019 was not an easy one. “If you were to make a boxing movie, what would the subject be? How might you title it (optional)?” There was an excellent collection of inputs from a larger than normal number of respondents, including many former fighters. Hence, we are running this story in two parts. The respondents are listed in alphabetical order.

BONES ADAMS — former world super bantamweight champion, elite trainer: A movie about me and my complex life. How many white guys do you know from Kentucky who went on to become a world champion?

RUSS ANBER — elite trainer, cornerman, and owner of Rival Boxing Equipment: Provided it would be given the budget it deserved, my movie would be called “On God’s Side” as it tells the tale of the parallels of both the Louis vs Schmeling fights and the rise of the Nazi regime and eventually World War II, while the world watched both intently.

I’d follow that with “No Quarrel,” the story of Ali’s stand against the establishment and the Viet Nam war, his subsequent suspension, the social divisiveness, and Ali’s subsequent return vs Joe Frazier in the most politically important fight since Louis vs Schmeling.

MATT ANDRZEJEWSKI –TSS boxing writer: I’d make a movie about Archie Moore. I’m surprised one has not yet been done. It would be a great story to tell the world of perseverance and determination. I’d title it “The Old Mongoose.”

DAVID AVILA — TSS West Coast Bureau Chief: I’d do a story on a guy named Luis Magana. He passed away 10 years ago in his late 90s. He was a former PR for the Olympic Auditorium and his dad was a PR for the Olympic when it was first built. He had so many stories to share about guys like Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis and Mexican fighters like Baby Arizmendi and Art Aragon. He was also a sort of playboy who knew many Hollywood starlets. Incredible guy.  “.…if you don’t know who Luis Magana is, then you’re not a real boxing writer”: Hector Zapata, Los Angeles Reporter

BOB BENOIT — former professional fighter, current pro referee and judge: It was the 60’s, and New England Pro boxing was roaring with a fight or two every week in New England.  Worcester- Portland – North Adams – Boston – and New Bedford were SOME of the fistic hotbeds. Our fighter, a 20-year-old white male from rural Maine was called on every week. Short on money and long on need, he had amassed 27 fights in 18 months. The last one was a brutal affair with Gene Cyclone Herrick. Following a bad beating and after paying his cornerman, he went home with $40. Then, Sam Silverman, the Promoter, needed to fill in a fight card at the last moment in Boston and called the fighter but received no answer. He had died from a brain injury 2 days after the Herrick fight. “Nobody Answered the Phone.”

JEFF BUMPUS — former fighter and writer: Danny “Little Red” Lopez was of Ute Indian, Mexican, and Irish heritage. He had been moved from one foster home to another, and coming off a Ute Indian Reservation in Utah, to become the WBC featherweight champion. Obvious title: “Little Red.”

TRACY CALLIS — eminent boxing historian: I’d make a movie about James J. Jeffries and use the book, “A Man Among Men,” by Kelly Nicholson, as the guide. Jeffries was a great champion and lost the only fight of his career in a comeback contest after a long five-year layoff.

STEVE CANTON — the face of boxing in South Florida: I’d do a documentary about the difference between Old School boxers and current boxers, the difference between old training methods and new, the difference between old trainers and current trainers and illustrate the demise of the technique of the Sweet Science with a plea to bringing back the old tried and proven methods.

GUY CASALE — former fighter and retired policeman/lawyer: Mine would concern Organized Crime’s continued influence on boxing. My title would be “Owned.”

MONTE COX — former fighter; noted boxing historian: Sam Langford. Since his most well-known nickname, The Boston Tar Baby, might not translate well in today’s world, and his other nicknames such as “The Boston Terror” might have someone thinking of the Boston marathon bombing, I’d just call it “Feared, the Sam Langford Story.” One of the most avoided boxers in history, he was never given the opportunity because he was too black and too good. Even Jack Johnson drew the color line against him once Sam hit the peak of his powers. Langford had 126 knockouts with nearly all the top heavyweights of his era on the victim list.

MICHAEL CULBERT — former super middleweight contender: I’d make a movie about the life and times of Hector Camacho and call it: “Too Macho.”

JOEY “TANK” DAWEJKO — heavyweight contender: It would be about all the bad stuff that goes on in the boxing world! Title: “Corruption.”

DAVID DIAMANTEring announcer, actor, tv host, and sports announcer: Sam Langford. Call it “Fight to the Finish.” Keep it gritty and real, in the vein of “Fat City”.

JILL DIAMOND — WBC International Secretary; “WBC Cares” Chair: One of the greatest and most interesting champions and a hero whose legacy was tarnished by a questionable suicide; Alexis Argüello.

CHARLIE DWYER– former fighter, pro referee, and member of Marine Corps Boxing Hall of Fame: My story would be about Arturo Gatti and would be called “Blood and Guts.”

STEVE FARHOOD – TV commentator, former editor The Ring magazine and 2017 IBHOF inductee: Two movies: One, a biopic of Matthew Saad Muhammad. Two: A boxing parody, making fun of all the things in boxing that deserve to be made fun of (there are so many!).

MATT FARRAGO — former fighter and founder and President of RING 10: “When the Last Blow Lands.” The subject would be whether boxers suffer from CTE like in football or do they just end up Punchy which doesn’t sound so bad? I could pick 20 big name fighters that faded away to nothing and nobody said anything. My last trainer was Emile Griffith and I witnessed his deterioration into oblivion and death. Totally forgotten. The Quarry brothers. Same thing.

RICK FARRISfounder and President, West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame: I’d make a film like the cool one of which I am now a part; namely, a documentary about the Olympic Auditorium. And I am beyond excited about Steve DeBro’s brilliant film, “18th & Grand” which is in post-production and which is the Olympic Auditorium Project. As an aside, I’d never do an Ali-type film or a Rocky fantasy.

BERNARD FERNANDEZ — TSS mainstay and lifetime member of the BWAA: Flicks about two Philly fighters—Matthew Saad Muhammad and Bernard Hopkins—with terrific backstories that immediately come to mind. Saad was abandoned on a city street as a toddler by a relative, grew up to be a light heavyweight champion and one of the great action fighters. B-Hop did a prison stretch, lost his pro debut but went on to become the most enduring of champions, in two weight classes. But if push comes to shove, I might go with Craig Bodzianowski who lost his left leg from the knee down in a motorcycle accident, got fitted for a prosthetic leg and returned to the ring and did well enough to earn a shot at a cruiserweight title. See: https://tss.ib.tv/boxing/featured-boxing-articles-boxing-news-videos-rankings-and-results/17009-later-gator-bodzianwski-1-legs-a-1-big-heart.

JERRY FITCH — Cleveland’s Mr. Boxing; author, historian: I’d make a movie about Jimmy Bivins with the same title as my book “James Louis Bivins….The Man Who Would Be Champion.” Actually in 1999/2000 a couple from New York came to Cleveland several times and interviewed the family, Jimmy Bivins and me, shot a lot of footage, tracked down surviving opponents, etc. They were planning on doing a documentary film on Jimmy. Then, just like that, they disappeared. It would have been interesting as there were many neat side stories. 

SUE TL FOX — former world class female boxer, founder/president of WBAN™ and IWBHF: If I were to make a boxing movie, I would title the movie, “The Fighter Within.” It would be about the life and struggles of the 1970s to 1980s female boxer Lady Tyger Trimiar who struggled not only to be recognized inside the ring—- but outside the ring as she made countless efforts to get women’s boxing to be recognized and to improve the sport for not only herself but others.

JEFFREY FREEMAN — TSS writer: Having your words published, like entering a ring, puts your talent on display. And there’s nowhere to hide. The truth is revealed. And sometimes, the results can be disastrous.” ~ Erik Kernan Jr., Resurrecting The Champ. There needs to be a proper film made about the history of boxing writers. From Liebling to Collins to BFern and beyond, there is a very colorful story to be told about those who have penned boxing’s most colorful stories. The only other time such an endeavor was attempted was in 2007’s Resurrecting The Champ, an honest movie told through the eyes of a young fictional sports writer assigned to cover boxing while also uncovering some of its essential hidden truths.

CLARENCE GEORGE — writer and historian: Many years ago, there was talk of a movie on “Two Ton” Tony Galento, with Burt Young in the title role. It never came to pass, unfortunately, but I think it should. After all, Tony’s easily among boxing’s most colorful characters. As Young’s rapidly approaching 80, however, it would have to star somebody else. Not sure who, but I’m open to suggestions.

BUDDY GIBBS — author and historian: My movie would be on the great trainer Harry Wiley from the streets of Harlem; he fought as an amateur boxer until he became a trainer. Harry worked as a water boy for Jack Dempsey, worked in the camp of Harry Wills, and gawked at Sam Langford during his fighting days. As a trainer, Wiley molded Ray Robinson into arguably the greatest fighter that ever lived. Harry was also the reason why the Mob did not have their foot on Robinson’s throat during his career. He worked with Ambers, Armstrong, Baby Joe Gans, Ali, and many others. In 1932, he became the first African-American to train a U.S. Olympic boxing team; unfortunately, due to racial discrimination, he was replaced before the start of the event. He battled against prejudice as a matchmaker and promoter and even tried to help arrange bouts for Ali during his exile. He stood up against racial injustice in boxing, stood his ground against the Mob, helped mold some of the greatest fighters of all-time, and remained humble through it all.

HENRY HASCUP — boxing historian and President of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame: There are so many so I just can’t pick just one. Sam Langford, Harry Greb, Mickey Walker and Archie Moore would be the ones I would like to see. They all grew up in hard times and overcame problems that no fighter today would even think of. When we go over the best fighters of all-time, most young people don’t even know who these fighters are, so we should educate them by putting their stories up on the BIG screen!

CHUCK HASSON — historian, author. “HE FIGHTS FOR A LIVING.” A story about a club fighting journeyman who travels the country (and world) fighting everywhere he can get a fight. The experiences he encounters, both good and bad, and his chances of winning a close verdict are slim and none.

JACK HIRSCH — former President and now lifetime member of the BWAA: It’s amazing that a movie has never been made about one of the most flamboyant fighters in history, Sugar Ray Robinson. I’d make one and call it “SUGAR RAY.”

CRAIG HOUK — Founder/CEO Indiana Boxing Hall of Fame; fought 110 pro bouts: I’d do one called “Legacies,” and it would be about the price of fame if you really chase greatness.

BRUCE KIELTY — booking agent; boxing historian: For me, the obvious choice is a biopic of Stanley Ketchel

1) man who lived every minute like it was his last.

2) A man who had cojones as large as bowling balls.

3) A man who had a good heart for his family

4) A man who brought massive excitement every time that he entered a ring.

5) A man who reportedly was a ladies man of the first order.

6) A man who departed this world at only 24 (violently) yet is still remembered today.

7) A title has to sell a film to the public, so I’d title it “CRAZY STANLEY.”

STUART KIRSCHENBAUM — Boxing Commissioner Emeritus, State of Michigan: “ROXY”…the story of John Roxborough…a leading gambling racket boss, helped operate a policy and numbers business in Detroit. His $10 million annual business was at the center of a scandal that led to the indictment, prosecution and prison sentences of street hustlers, police officers as well as former Mayor Richard Reading of Detroit…all served prison time. “Roxy” co-managed world heavyweight champion Joe Louis whom he met in 1931 when the “Brown Bomber” was a teenager learning to box at Brewster Recreation Center

MARK KRAM JR — multi-award-winning feature writer and author: My aim is to arrange for the development of a limited series based on my book, “Smokin’ Joe: The Life of Joe Frazier.” From his childhood in the Jim Crow South to his wars in and out of the ring with Muhammad Ali, Joe lived an extraordinarily eventful life, one that was populated by an array of colorful characters such as Gypsy Joe Harris, Yank Durham, Eddie Futch and so on. Far more complex that even his fans understood him to be, his story is far larger in scope than a single biopic could comfortably accommodate. Given his signature style of never backing up, I’d call it “RELENTLESS.”

Editor’s Note: The photo is of Kirk Douglas from the 1949 RKO movie “Champion.” Douglas turns 103 on Dec. 9.

Ted Sares is a member of Ring 8 and a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame and a lifetime member of Ring 10 which in 2019 honored him with the first annual Harold Lederman Award for Historian. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). He still competes as a power lifter in the Master Class.

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Carlos Morales and Mercito Gesta Fight to a Technical Draw in L.A.

David A. Avila

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LOS ANGELES-Two of L.A.’s most popular prizefighters collided with Mercito “No Mercy” Gesta and Carlos “The Solution” Morales matching wits and crowds before an accidental clash of heads ended the lightweight fight in a technical draw on Thursday night.

It was fun while it lasted.

Gesta (32-3-3, 17 KOs) and Morales (19-4-4, 8 KOs) tested each other before a sold out crowd at Belasco Theater. Both combatants brought their small armies of supporters to the downtown entertainment venue. It was colorful and it was loud.

Behind a small coterie of fans carrying blue, white and red flags, Gesta walked into the boxing ring with a well-known resume that includes two world title challenges. Morales walked with banda music playing loudly as he trotted into confidently to meet the classy Filipino fighter. The crowd was anxious.

Both fighters found it tough to connect against each other. Their defense was tight and their punches tighter. But soon Morales began finding the range and began shooting rights to the body and head.

Gesta, 32, a southpaw who moves smoothly on his toes, needed a little time before he began finding the range with body shots and shorter punches. In the third round, as the fight was heating up, a clash of heads occurred during an exchange of blows. Morales emerged with a small cut above his left eye. It would not go away.

For three more tense rounds the two popular fighters tested each other’s defense and neither could surge ahead to any definitive advantage. At the end of the sixth round the ringside physician looked at Morales and ruled he could not continue. According to California State Athletic Commission rules the fight was stopped because of an accidental cut and would go to the scorecards.

“The ref said the cut was too deep. I had trouble seeing out of my left eye. The medicine kept getting in my eye, and I kept trying to get it out,” said Morales, 29.

One judge saw Morales winning 58-56, but two others saw it 57-57 to make it a technical majority draw.

“I wanted to keep going, and I know he wanted to keep going,” said Gesta. “But that’s the way it is. This is boxing, and it happens. We can definitely do this again if the fans want it.”

Other Bouts 

Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Oquendo (31-6, 19 KOs) shut out Charles Huerta (21-7, 12 KOs) a local fighter by winning every round in their 10 round super featherweight showdown fought mainly in the trenches.

After a close opening round that saw Oquendo barge in and hold, Huerta seemed to be unable to match the Puerto Rican fighter’s energy. He was always a step behind in every round as Oquendo barreled his way inside and simply out-hustled Huerta. It was a surprising display for the local fighter from Paramount who has a large fan base.

All three judges correctly scored it the same 100-90 for Oquendo.

“I knew he was the kind of fighter who likes to trade and I think I used that to my advantage,” said Oquendo.

Texas super welterweight Travell Mazion (16-0, 12 KOs) won a hard fought 10 round bruising battle by unanimous decision over Mexico City’s Diego Cruz (19-8-2, 15 KOs). Both landed crushing blows against each other from the opening bell but it was the taller Mazion who was able to use his skills and size to his advantage. Surprisingly there were no knockdowns despite crushing blows from Cruz left hooks and Mazion right hand scud missiles.

Cruz had never been knocked out and though Mazion clobbered him with some bombs he also took a few himself to show he also has a pretty good chin. After 10 rounds one judge saw it 98-91 and two others 99-90 all for Mazion. Both hugged it out after the war.

“He was really tough. I knew he was going to come in with some hell of a shots, and he did, but I knew I was going to come up top,” said Mazion who fights out of Austin.

A battle between southpaws saw Evan Sanchez (6-0, 5 KOs) blast out Mexico’s Hector Hernandez (2-2, 1 KO) in a mere 23 seconds of their welterweight clash. If you blinked it was over as California’s Sanchez and Hernandez immediately exchanged and the undefeated lefty landed a crisp right hook and left cross combination that delivered Durango’s Hernandez to the floor. Though he beat the count, referee Raul Caiz saw that Hernandez was unsteady on his feet and stopped the contest giving Sanchez the win by knockout.

Undefeated lightweight Oscar Acevedo (6-0), a southpaw, had a little trouble with Darel Harris (3-18-1) but was able to pull out the win by landing the stronger punches. Harris gave problems with his skittish movements but only landed touch punches and seldom connected with any power. It works in the amateurs but not in the pros with judges that are looking for punches with force. After four rounds one judge scored it 39-37 and the other two 40-36 all for Acevedo who hails from Kansas.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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New Zealand Heavyweights Fa and Ahio Have a Home Field Advantage in Utah

Arne K. Lang

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Go West, young man,” said Andrew Greeley, a New Hampshire man by birth best remembered as the founder and publisher of the New York Tribune. Boxing promoter Lou DiBella, a hard-shell New Yorker, is the latest to heed Greeley’s famous admonition. This Friday, Nov. 15, DiBella is anchoring his long-running Broadway Boxing series in Salt Lake City.

With heavyweights Junior Fa and Hemi Ahio appearing in the main bouts, the Utah city was a natural destination. Fa (18-0, 10 KOs) and Ahio (15-0, 10 KOs) are New Zealanders, but their family roots are in the kingdom of Tonga.

Approximately one in every four Tongan-Americans resides in Utah. There are more than 9,000 Tongans in Salt Lake County, roughly a third of whom reside in Salt Lake City proper.

The presence of a large body of Tongans in Utah is a residue of the work of Mormon missionaries in Polynesia in the late 19th century. The population of Tonga is now about 60 percent Mormon. As a percentage of the population, Tonga ranks #1 in Mormons (more formally members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). Regional rival Samoa is #2.

It figured that when land became hard to acquire in Tonga, an agricultural nation, many emigrants would choose to settle in Utah where they knew they would be welcome.

In Utah, Tongan and Samoan males are noted for their prowess on the football field. The best high school players in the Beehive State are disproportionately Polynesian, and overwhelmingly Polynesian in the offensive and defensive lines. There’s now a fierce tug-of-war for their services between Utah’s two major universities and out-of-state schools, particularly schools in Washington, Oregon, and California. The head football coach at BYU, Kalani Sitake, was born in Tonga, but even he has had limited success in slaking the scattering of standout Polynesian players to out-of-state schools.

Tonga is a small country, so it’s no surprise that few Tongans have made their mark in professional boxing. Paea Wolfgramm was an Olympic silver medalist whose pro career never did gain traction. He retired with a pro record of 20-4 after getting stopped by Corrie Sanders. Samson Po’uha, who fought out of St. George, Utah, was a great prospect who lacked the discipline to maximize his potential. He was stopped by journeymen Jesse Ferguson and Craig Payne and by Andrew Golota.

As weird as it sounds, if Junior Fa and Hemi Ahio are looking for a former boxer to serve as a role model, we would suggest Vai Sikahema. Yes, the same Vai Sikahema who set NCAA records for punt returns at BYU, was a great special teams player in the NFL and, in retirement, settled into a nice career as a TV personality in Philadelphia.

Sikahema, who was born in Tonga, boxed in the amateurs. In 2008, 15 years after he left the NFL, Sikahema was matched against former baseball star Jose Canseco in a celebrity fight in Atlantic City. Sikahema gave away seven inches in height and 40 pounds, but he blew right through Canseco, knocking him down twice before the bout was stopped in the very first round.

Of the two Kiwi heavyweights on DiBella’s Salt Lake City show, Junior Fa is the most advanced. As an amateur, Fa, now 30 years old, split four fights with fellow New Zealander Joseph Parker who went on to win the WBO version of the world heavyweight title. He twice represented Tonga in the Commonwealth Games and had eight bouts in the semi-pro World Series of Boxing where he defeated highly touted Arslanbek Makhmudov and lost a 5-round decision to Oleksandr Usyk.

In his last two starts, Fa knocked out Neufel Ouatah, a hapless Frenchman, in the opening round and was extended the full 10 by ancient Dominic Guinn. For the Guinn fight, he carried 259 ½ pounds on his six-foot-five frame.

On Friday, Fa is matched against Toledo’s Devin Vargas, a former U.S. Olympian. As a pro, Vargas’s career was moving along smoothly until he was stopped in the sixth round by Kevin Johnson. By all appearances, Vargas then lost his passion for boxing. Fighting sporadically, he’s 4-4 since then with all four losses coming inside the distance. But in his last fight in August in Massachusetts, Vargas stopped house fighter Niall Kennedy so perhaps his enthusiasm for boxing has been re-kindled.

Hemi Ahio, 29, kas fought once previously in the United States, stopping unnoteworthy Ed Fountain on a DiBella show in Columbus, Ohio. His last start was in Saudi Arabia where he knocked out an undefeated (7-0) fighter from Germany who had previously fought only cadavers.

Short for a modern era heavyweight at 6’0”, Hemi’s torso coupled with his aggressive style of fighting has led some to anoint him the Tongan Tyson. He’s matched against fluffy Joshua Tufte (19-3, 9 KOs) who hails from Kernersville, North Carolina, and probably would have no stronger chance of winning if the fight were being held in Kernersville.

The Nov. 15 edition of Broadway Boxing will be live streamed on UFC Fight Pass starting at 8 pm PST/11 pm EST. Topping the undercard is a 10-round welterweight contest between Brooklyn-based-Ukrainian Ivan Golub (17-1, 13 KOs) and Columbia’s Janer Gonzalez (19-2-1, 15 KOs).

There’s something intrinsically magnetic about an undefeated heavyweight who may have a big upside, even if he’s being thrust against an opponent with scant chance of causing a derailment. On Friday we get two for the money and considering the venue, it’s a safe bet that both will bring their “A” game.

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Avila Perspective, Chap 73: Gesta vs Morales, Celebrity Boxing, Liston and More

David A. Avila

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One of the rewards for journalists following smaller boxing cards is watching new talent emerge. Every so often you spot the gold nuggets among the heap.

Some fighters stand out immediately before even stepping in the prize ring. Others walk in hesitantly with dirty towels wrapped around their shoulders.

On Thursday, Carlos “The Solution” Morales (19-4-3, 8 KOs) and Mercito “No Mercy” Gesta (32-3-2, 17 KOs), who arrived on the hard road of boxing, meet in a lightweight match set for 10 rounds at Belasco Theater in downtown L.A. DAZN will stream live.

Two classier guys you will never meet than Gesta and Morales.

Gesta, a southpaw from Cebu, Philippines, arrived in 2007 and immediately found work on casino fight cards in Arizona, California and Nevada. His athleticism was obvious and he raced through competition till he met Mexico’s Miguel Vazquez for the IBF lightweight world title.

In that first loss, fans learned what Gesta was all about. He was gracious in defeat and fans loved his character. From that point on more people wanted to see the Filipino lefty perform. After Top Rank let him go, Golden Boy Promotions picked up his contract and he became a staple on the Southern California fight scene.

Win or lose, fans adore Gesta who was trained by Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Boxing club in Hollywood but now works with Marvin Sonorio. A decision loss to WBA lightweight titlist Jorge Linares at the Inglewood Forum did nothing to diminish Gesta’s fan base.

“I need challenges and I like challenges,” said Gesta during an interview with Beto Duran on Golden Boy’s Ring Side show. “I still feel great and still feel in the game.”

How could you not like a fighter like Gesta?

On the opposite corner at Belasco Theater will be “The Solution” Morales.

When Morales first entered the professional fight scene he stumbled a bit with a loss then three consecutive draws. I saw all four fights in person. The Mexican-born fighter needed about two years to figure out what worked for him.

He’s found it.

Morales, a gym rat if I ever saw one, purchased his own gym in the Alhambra area. He’s a family man, worker and businessman all rolled into one. The Mexican fighter needed time to discover his assets in the ring and use them in a productive manner.

Though he’s lost three of his last six fights they all came against top competition such as world champion Alberto Machado, ranked contender Rene Alvarado and current star Ryan Garcia. In each and every one of those fights Morales was up to his neck in battle.

“I definitely need a win over a name like Mercito Gesta,” said Morales. “He’s been in the game a long time.”

In local gyms he spars with many of the best and on occasion they understand what “the Solution” is all about.

“He is very, very good,” said one visiting Japanese fighter who witnessed Morales knock out a sparring partner in one particular session. “A very professional style.”

Both Gesta and Morales represent the side of Los Angeles most fans don’t get to see. Once upon a time, matchups like these were common in the L.A. area. Golden Boy Promotions has been slowly building up these local fighters and if you have paid attention you know this will be a firecracker of a show.

This is a 1930s kind of match you used to see at the old Olympic Auditorium or Hollywood Legion Stadium when guys like Speedy Dado, Baby Arizmendi, Chalky Wright and Newsboy Brown would fight each other and fill the arena. Dado would bring the Filipino crowd, Arizmendi the Mexican crowd, Wright the African- American fans, Newsboy Brown the Jewish fans and so on.

Gesta versus Morales has that 1930s flavor. If you close your eyes you might expect a ghost or two from boxing’s past to be in attendance at Belasco Theater. It’s an old venue where famous bandleaders like Duke Ellington once played. It’s got a lot of history and this fight was tailor-made for the old stylish building.

Celebrity Boxing

Nowadays celebrities come from different directions.

Last week, celebrities who gained fame via social media avenues like YouTube.com, Twitter and Instagram, arrived at the Staples Center in Los Angeles with hands wrapped, gloves on and a license to box professionally.

Their names were not familiar to regular boxing fans, but to millions of youngsters and young adults who do not normally follow boxing, these guys named Logan Paul, KSI and Joshua Brueckner were super stars.

It was a massive hit according to DAZN and Matchroom Boxing, the promoters.

I walked around the arena to take a look at the people arriving to see the boxing card. What I saw were moms and their sons and daughters, groups of girls in their early teens, and pale boys who normally don’t see much sun because they’re usually planted behind a computer playing video games. They all had a blast.

Most of these fans had never seen live boxing and got their first glimpse of prizefighting at a high level when Ronny Rios defended his WBA Gold super bantamweight title against Colombia’s Hugo Berrio. The Santa Ana fighter Rios came out firing thudding body shots that echoed in the arena. You could hear the responses from the new fans who openly expressed their amazement with a roar of applause at the display of power.

It’s one thing to see a fight but a whole new thing to hear power shots bouncing off another human being. Rios pummeled Berrio up and down and eventually knocked out the Colombian with a three-punch combination in the fourth round. Fans were awestruck.

You never forget your first live prizefight. It burns in your memory forever. All of these new fans will never forget watching a live boxing card.

Watching the responses of the new kind of crowd was an experience in itself. Many of these fans will return for more. Their excitement was pure and untainted.

Showtime

A feature documentary visiting the life of Sonny Liston called “Pariah: The Lives and Deaths of Sonny Liston” makes its debut on Friday Nov. 15 on Showtime at 9 p.m. (PT).

Liston was one of the most mysterious and feared heavyweight champions of all time. Read the story by Bernard Fernandez to get a preview of what to expect from the documentary. It’s riveting stuff: https://tss.ib.tv/boxing/featured-boxing-articles-boxing-news-videos-rankings-and-results/61445-from-womb-to-tomb-the-fate-of-sonny-liston-was-seemingly-preordained

Though Liston died 49 years ago in December 1970, he’s still discussed by boxing people especially in Las Vegas where he lived and died.

Fights to Watch (all times Pacific Coast time)

Thurs. DAZN 7 p.m. Mercito Gesta (32-3-2) vs Carlos Morales (19-4-3).

Fri. ESPN+ 12 p.m. Rocky Fielding (27-2) vs Abdallah Paziwapazi (26-6-1).

Fri. Showtime 7:30 p.m. Erik Ortiz (16-0) vs Alberto Palmetta (12-1).

Sat. ESPN+ 12 p.m. Lee McGregor (7-0) vs Kash Farooq (13-0).

Photo credit: Kyte Monroe

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