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Proposals for Boxing Movies: Part Two (L-W) of Our Latest TSS Survey

Ted Sares

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The question for our final quarterly survey of 2019 was this: “If you were to make a boxing movie, what would the subject be? How might you title it (optional)?” This question touched a nerve with many of our respondents as it generated our best response ever; nearly 60 people made suggestions, some very detailed. The turnout dictated that we publish the results of the survey in two parts. If you missed Part One, check it out here.

JIM LAMPLEY– linchpin of the HBO announcing team for 31 years; 2015 IBHOF inductee: The heavyweight nineties, from Tyson-Spinks in ‘88 to Lewis-Tyson in ‘02, with all the characters and the crazy ups and downs that subject entails.

ARNE LANG-TSS editor-in-chief, author, historian: The great sportswriter John Lardner authored two magazine pieces that are among the most anthologized stories in all of sports. His story about the Dempsey-Gibbons debacle in Shelby, Montana, ran in the The New Yorker in 1948. Lardner’s profile of Stanley Ketchel, the Michigan Assassin, appeared in True magazine in 1954. Both have the makings of excellent movies. If forced to choose, I might go with “Shelby.” This would be the perfect vehicle for George Roy Hill who directed “The Sting” with Paul Newman and Robert Redford, one of my all-time favorites. Unfortunately, Mr. Hill is deceased.

JIMMY LANGE — former fighter and promoter: I’d do a movie about a professional “opponent”…. someone who is a legit pro who knows he is brought in to lose. Not a fixed fight but a fight to help a prospect along. There are many interesting journeymen like Emanuel Augustus, Gerald Reed, Bruce “The Mouse” Straus, Reggie Strickland and hundreds more. This also would provide insight into the business of boxing.

RON LIPTON — member of NJ Boxing Hall of Fame, former fighter, retired police officer; pro referee: The movie I want to be made is one that WILL be made on my book still in progress, which is private and copyrighted intellectual property. Part of my book embraces the visceral behind-the-scenes accounts of my career as a referee in professional boxing, what I have witnessed as to what influences the assignment making process in big fights, the politics involved and how it has influenced the outcome of the big fights, along with in-the-ring experiences. There is also an interest in a separate high-profile documentary as to the actual boxing backgrounds of the people involved, how they arrived in that position and how they personally handled it. All on invulnerable legal ground buttressed with actual film footage.

PAUL MAGNO — author, writer and boxing official in Mexico: There are lots of movies to be made, lots of interesting characters and stories. I’ve always imagined, though, a great movie coming from the life and times of “The Drunken Master” Emanuel Augustus. What a character, what a career! I’d want the movie to touch on everything—fixes, robberies, triumphs, and the real-life battles of a fighter who never had the “right” connections and who kept getting pulled to the side of the road on his ride to the top.

DON MAJESKI — matchmaker, historian and affiliated with RING 8 and the NYSBHOF: I’d do a movie about Joe Gans. He was considered, by many, as greatest lightweight of the first half of the 20th Century and on par with Duran, Benny Leonard and the undefeated Packey McFarland as the greatest lightweight of all time. His bout with Battling Nelson in Goldfield, Nevada was one of the most historically significant in boxing. It was a $40,000 promotion where film rights were essential to the gate and it ushered in the career of Tex Rickard. He was victimized by racism, was involved in a notorious alleged “fix” against Terry McGovern, was the highest paid athlete in America at one point and died at the age of 37 – one of the most revered boxers of all time.

ADEYINKA MAKINDEU.K. barrister, author and contributor to the Cambridge Companion to Boxing: I’d make a movie on Frankie DePaula, the Jersey City-born pugilist who was murdered in 1970. It would be a stunning, true-life drama of hubris, corruption, betrayal, and murder set against the backdrop of the sport of boxing and the world of the Mafia. DePaula was the archetypal juvenile delinquent; a kid from “Dead End” who is good-looking and charismatic. A street fighter cum pro-boxer who numbers Sinatra among his admirers. Frankie Valli and Joe Namath are close friends. But he’s a tortured soul and prone to trouble. Add in the mix a cast of characters such as the Humphrey Bogart-look-a-like priest who seeks to reform the adolescent wastrel, the physically irresistible ‘Mafia Princess’ who effortlessly lures him to his doom, ‘Jimmy Nap’, the gambling kingpin who is a force in the boxing world in the 1960s, and FBI agents who probe his involvement in a fixed world title bout and we have a dramatic rendition of the ‘American Dream’ gone wrong. Based on the book “JERSEY BOY: The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula,” a movie would bear the raw components of “Rocky” meets “Raging Bull” on the “Mean Street(s)” of Jersey City.

SCOOP MALINOWSKI — boxing writer and author, Mr. “Biofile”: “Andrew Golota: The Uncrowned Champion.” A Don King quote after the Ruiz and Byrd robberies. A fascinating, intriguing character in and out of the ring. Maybe the understatement of the decade.

LARRY MERCHANT– HBO boxing commentator emeritus; 2009 IBHOF inductee: I’d want a feature-length documentary on Tyson Fury. His life as an Irish Traveler (gypsy), raised in a clan of fighters. His professional career, climaxed by fights vs. W. Klitschko and D. Wilder (including rematch to come). His problems after Klitschko: addiction, weight. His difficulty adapting to social norms of Britain after gaining fame. His big, colorful personality. His comeback.

ROBERT MLADINICH — writer, author, former fighter. I have two choices. One would be called “Hard Luck,” about the travels and travails of the fighting Quarry family. The second would be “Misdemeanor Homicide,” about the circumstances surrounding heavyweight Tim “Doc” Anderson shooting to death his manager, Rick “Elvis” Parker.

ERNEST MORALES (aka Geno Febus) — former fighter, writer: The events and controversy leading up to the one of boxing’s most famous and scariest knockouts of our time. Marquez vs Manny 4 and aftermath!! First a review of the rivalry, the three close/controversial endings, including the national pride and opinions of both countries and heritages before the fight. Then the AFTERMATH in the ring and dressing rooms, the scenes of the fighter, fans and Mexicans celebrating and the teams, fans and country in mourning after the final, forever-remembered fight.

HARRY OTTY – boxing historian; his newest book is “The Tragedy of the Hogue Twins”: I would have to go with Charley Burley – uncrowned welterweight and middleweight champion of the
world who campaigned from 1936 to 1950.

The life of Burley – who campaigned from 1936 to 1950 – is a great story. As a star amateur, he was
invited to box-off for a berth at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. However, he declined to take part due to the
racial and religious persecution taking part in Nazi Germany at the time. He attended an alternate event in Barcelona and ended up being one of the first Americans to be in the middle of the Spanish Civil War.

Originally fighting out of Pittsburgh, Burley beat local favorites Fritzie Zivic (twice) and Billy Soose and fought many of the top black fighters of the day, including Archie Moore – dropping Archie three times en-route to a comfortable 10 round win in Hollywood in 1944.

Burley was avoided by many top-flight fighters as he was deemed a high-risk for a low reward. He eventually had to take on a job with the city and worked as a garbage man for many years. Burley was the
inspiration for Pittsburgh playwright August Wilson’s main character (Troy Maxon) in the play ‘Fences’  – recently made into a movie with Denzel Washington in the lead role.

CARLOS PALOMINO– former World Welterweight Champion and 2004 IBHOF inductee: I have a deal with a production Company to do my life story. The title is “Palomino.”

GENE PANTALONE — historian, writer and author of “Boxing Ring to Battlefield: The Life of War Hero” Lew Jenkins: Lew Jenkins. Hall of Fame writer W.C. Heinz, who died in 2006, kept trying to get someone to do it, he thought Clint Eastwood would be best. Heinz was in touch with Jenkins’ family until the end. John Huston wanted to do it in the 60s. Also, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, and James Garner met with Jenkins to discuss a movie, but it never happened.

DENNIS RAPPAPORT — former co-manager of Gerry Cooney, among others; elite promoter: These are just a few from the top of my head. The Hitman’s Son, the story of former heavyweight Jack O’Halloran, boxer, actor and son of Albert Anastasia. The Pearl of the Ghetto, the life and times of Benny Leonard. The Fighting Hobo, the Jack Dempsey Story, the Fighting Socialite, the Gene Tunney Story. The Collector, The Life and Death of Sonny Liston. Sweet as Sugar, The Ray Robinson Story. And from Hell And Back-The Orphan; The World Champion; The Scintillating Drama and The Return to Heartache, Heartbreak and Agony; that was The Living Nightmare—the Story of Saad Muhammad.

JOHN RASPANTI– lead writer/editor for MaxBoxing; author: A movie about the colorful and talented Billy Conn would be fantastic. Billy not only came close to beating Joe Louis, but fell in love at first sight, and also got into a fist fight with his future father-in-law! (among other things). Most people have forgotten that Billy was light heavyweight champion of the world. He beat Melio Bettina, Gus Lesnevich, Bob Pastor, Lee Savold and Tony Zale. His love affair with future and forever wife Mary was extraordinary. They were completely devoted to each other. His friendship with Louis endured till Louis passed away. His life had many ups and downs, but Conn fought till the end. ​​Carmine Vingo, who fought Rocky Marciano in 1949, and almost died, is also someone who’s a movie in the making. I’m likely going to write about him.

FRED ROMANO — boxing historian, author and former HBO Boxing consultant: A biography of Sugar Ray Robinson is long overdue. Perhaps the greatest boxer ever, he had a dynamic personality, and was also a WW 2 vet and a fair entertainer to boot. It defies logic as to why his story has not made it to the big screen. Although a couple of Louis films have been made, it has been a remarkable 65 years since the last. Like Robbie, his story is begging to be told by the modern filmmaker. Title would be “Pound for Pound.”

LEE SAMUELS — legendary Top Rank publicist; 2019 IBHOF inductee: A movie about Caesars Palace the Home of Champions – with mega fights held for years in a 24,000 outdoor arena headlined by Muhammad Ali, Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hitman Hearns with Hagler vs Hearns arguably the best, most heated brutal action fight of our time. Title would be “Hail Caesar!”

TED SARES — TSS writer: Tony Veranis often sparred with Joe “The Baron” Barboza, Eddie “Bulldog” Connors, Jimmy Connors (Eddie’s brother), Rocco “Rocky” DiSiglio, George Holden, and Americo “Rico” Sacramone. Southie’s Tommy Sullivan also found his way into this mix. The thing about these guys was that in addition to being well known Boston area boxers, each was brutally murdered between 1966 and 1976. Tony was an extremely active fighter but also brash. He mouthed off once too often and was blown away by James Martorano-aka “The Basin Street Butcher.” The twists and turns in this one match those of “The Friends of Eddie Coyle.” Title: “The Friends of Tony Veranis.”

ICEMAN JOHN SCULLY — all things in boxing: I’d like to see a movie about Alexis Arguello and his involvement in fighting against the powers in Nicaragua. Title: “The Humble Warrior”

PETER SILKOV — writer and keeper of “The Boxing Glove”: There are many untold stories in boxing and I think the film industry tends to go for the more mundane stories.  If I had to choose just one fighter for a biopic/film, it would be Matthew Saad Muhammad, and I’d call it something like ‘Saad: The Story of Boxing’s Miracle Fighter”…  close second would be Bobby Chacon “The School Boy”..

MIKE SILVER — author, historian: There is a great movie (documentary) to be made of my book, “The Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science”–but I’d re-title it for the movies as, “What the Hell Happened to Boxing!”

ALAN SWYER — filmmaker, writer, and producer of the acclaimed El Boxeo: I’d depict the life of a great boxer who was forced by politics to relocate to another country and reinvent himself from Cuban to Mexican, all the while demonstrating how and why boxing is called “The Sweet Science.” The man? Jose Napoles. The title? “Mantequilla.”

DON TRELLA — boxing Judge, member of CT Boxing Hall of Fame: I’d say Arturo Gatti. He was a fan favorite because of his lion sized heart in the ring. The ending of course would continue to leave us in suspense as to what really happened to end his life. Hard to believe that a fighter such as Gatti who never had any “quit” in him would take his own life. Maybe the title should be “Never Say Die – the Arturo Gatti Story”

HAROLD WESTON — former fighter and two-time world title challenger: Two people that a movie should be told: My “big brother” Emile Griffith and me, Harold Weston. Two great stories are there waiting to be filmed.

PETER WOODauthor, writer and former fighter: The film’s title: Broken Boxers. Two eight-year-old boys—innocent Raoul, (growing up in Tehran, Iran), and happy-go-lucky Jack, (growing up in Topeka, Kansas)—meet 15 years later in a boxing ring. Neither boy is still innocent or happy-go-lucky–or emotionally healthy. Why? Raoul is the victim of an American drone attack in Tehran, and Jack is the casualty of a heinous terrorist attack in Topeka.  Raoul is now missing half his left arm, and Jack is missing his right leg. Despite their grim handicaps, both boys were drawn to boxing in order to learn how to fight and, to purge the poison of anger, hate, fear and sadness within themselves. Two nations—and the entire world—watch as these two damaged, yet gallant men, advance to the finals of a bloody boxing match. The bell rings! At the end of the fight, these two broken boxers embrace each other, and become an inspiration to the world. Their fight, somehow, goes a long way to purge the political poison of anger, hate, fear in the world.

Observations: No particular fighter or story stood out although Mathew Saad Muhammad, Sugar Ray Robinson, Sam Langford, Alexis Arguello, and Arturo Gatti were mentioned more than once.

The seedy side of boxing (and the business of boxing) got its “due.” Bob Benoit’s response captured this dimension perfectly.

Ted Sares is a lifetime member of Ring 10, a member of Ring 8, and a member of Ring 4 and its Boxing Hall of Fame. He also is an Auxiliary Member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). In 2019, he received Ring 10’s Harold Lederman Award for Historian. 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

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in The Fight Forum CLICK HERE

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