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Avila Perspective, Chap. 79: Boxing 101 (Part One)

David A. Avila

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 79: Boxing 101 (Part One)

In a dusty room in a loft-style apartment in Montebello began my adventure into the world of prizefighting as a journalist.

A very small throw-away newspaper that was circulated in the San Gabriel Valley area of Southern California was looking for a writer. The publisher had been printing left wing newspapers for more than a decade when he realized there was no financial reward.

One day this publisher ran into me at a supermarket and asked if I would be interested in writing for his brand-new publication. The content, he added, would be left to my whim.

For about a week I thought about what content would suit his readers. The newspaper was going to be circulated at night clubs, bars, restaurants and fast food joints in Pasadena, East L.A. Rosemead, San Gabriel and Montebello.

Catching the eye of the reader was key and I also needed a topic that wouldn’t date so quickly. After eliminating a few sports, I realized that boxing suited this new newspaper perfectly. Most of the people reading would be Latino and most Latinos love boxing. It’s also a sport that is based on big moments and big events.

It was April 1985 and one of the lesser known stars of the boxing world was a light flyweight world champion named Jung Koo Chang. His other moniker was the “Korean Hawk” and he would terrorize the world of 108-pounders from 1983 to 1989. I wrote my first feature on this little-known terror.

But in that same month a tantalizing fight was taking place in Las Vegas between Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns on April 15. It would be the first actual prize fight that I would sit down and write an analysis on. That epic fight was my baptism into the world of boxing journalism. It remains one of the greatest three-round fights in history.

For two years I scavenged sports pages of newspapers, magazines and other throw-away newspapers looking for boxing material. Our newspaper was doing pretty good and the publisher was pleased by the results. According to him the owners of the clubs and restaurants saw people going into their places of business looking for our newspaper. They wanted to read about boxing.

In 1984 the legendary Main Street Gym closed its doors and in 1987 the world of boxing lost Aileen Eaton who passed away in November. She had promoted boxing for decades and following her death the Olympic Auditorium no longer produced weekly shows.

With the departure of the Main Street Gym and Eaton, the local Los Angeles newspapers virtually eliminated the sport of boxing from their beats. In 1989 the Herald-Examiner shut its doors and with no stiff competition the Times had no real rivals to keep them headed in the right direction.

For five years I wrote for the L.A. Times and during that span it was always a battle convincing sports editors that boxing was not dead just because the Main Street Gym and Eaton were no longer around. Sports editors always think they know best. Usually, they have no actual sports background aside from journalism. Most definitely they have no expertise other than dabbling in sports here and there. And when it comes to boxing, they have zero knowledge other than watching it on television once in a while. It’s not completely their fault.

From birth I was raised in boxing. I’ll get to that later.

The Second Golden Boy 

Around 1993, Oscar De La Hoya arrived on the pro boxing scene and with him began a reboot for boxing on the West Coast as his success and popularity increased.

When girls of all ages begin flocking to boxing cards it sparks interest from all sectors. Even the sports editors take notice from behind their dusty desks and myopic mind sets.

De La Hoya’s media success was slow at first as newspapers and television networks drudgingly got up off their butts to cover his fights. Though he was born and raised in East Los Angeles and was the only American to win an Olympic gold medal in boxing at the 1992 Barcelona Games, the media was slow to cover his ascent.

I was reporting news for the Times but not sports news. One of the editors knew about my East L.A. background and asked me to do a feature on De La Hoya’s influence at his old stomping grounds. That was my actual re-introduction to covering the boxing world in 1993.

Because of this feature on De La Hoya, I connected with the original Golden Boy, another East L.A. fighter named Art Aragon. During his span of success from the 1940s to 1960s, the original Golden Boy could pack an arena like the Olympic Auditorium and Hollywood Legion Stadium. He was gold.

At first Aragon poo-pooed the Golden Boy label given to De La Hoya. Seven years later he nodded that De La Hoya was indeed an even better Golden Boy than he had been after winning several division world titles and selling out the Staples Center that had just opened in October 1999.

Though De La Hoya was beaten by split decision against Shane Mosley, his popularity and financial drawing power made him a powerful force not only in boxing, but the sports world period.

Since 1993 the sport of boxing has flourished and grown to unimaginable levels never seen before in Southern California. More than 100 gyms fire up their lights and host dozens of fighters each day of the week except Sundays.

Boxing has become an invisible force in the Southern California landscape and has now spread to Texas, Arizona and Nevada like radiation spread from an Atomic blast. Prizefighting permeates like a blanket over the entire Southwest region of the US and not in niche sport fashion.

Back in the 1990s you could count on one hand the number of boxing gyms in Los Angeles. Las Vegas was another place where three or four gyms provided a place to train. Today both areas have more than four dozen gyms each within their city limits.

Branching Out

De La Hoya started his own promotion company Golden Boy Promotions in 2002 and continues to succeed. He has the top earner in prizefighting with Mexico’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez who signed a $365 million dollar deal with DAZN.

From Golden Boy promotions spawned Premier Boxing Champions after Al Haymon split from the L.A.-based company and began his own boxing organization.

One of the key directions PBC took was reinvigorating the East Coast and African American prizefighting. They had taken a severe hit when it came to getting exposure in the fight game. Most of the action was taking place in Las Vegas and very little in New York City or the surrounding region.

In 2010, Haymon had several fighters including Chris Arreola. But soon he was signing multiple boxing prospects, especially after the 2012 London Olympics. Suddenly young fighters like Errol Spence Jr. Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, Deontay Wilder and Daniel Jacobs were showing up on fight cards.

Some fighters failed but most proved to be very talented.

The best of the Haymon-advised fighters was, of course, Floyd “Money” Mayweather who was toppling the older generation of champions and now headed to a collision course with Canelo Alvarez in a battle of undefeated fighters.

Mayweather and Alvarez met in the boxing ring on September 14, 2013.

(Part 2 begins next week)

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The Hauser Report: Garcia-Redkach and More

Thomas Hauser

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Boxing made its debut at Barclays Center on October 20, 2012, with a fight card headlined by four world title bouts. Danny Garcia, Erik Morales, Paulie Malignaggi, Peter Quillin, Devon Alexander, Danny Jacobs, and Luis Collazo were in the ring that night. The franchise grew nicely. Fans who went to Barclays saw good featured fights with solid undercard bouts. But as of late, the arena’s fistic offerings have faded.

Barclays cast its lot with Premier Boxing Champions. And PBC has moved its prime content to greener pastures (green being the color of money). There were five fight cards at Barclays Center in 2019. Each one struggled to sell tickets.

January 25 marked the thirty-ninth fight card at Barclays. The arena was half empty. The announced attendance was 8,217 but that included a lot of freebies. There were six fights on the card. As expected, fighters coming out of the blue corner won all of them. That’s what happens when 6-0 squares off against 2-10-1.

Three of the fights were televised by Showtime Championship Boxing, which has also been diminished as a consequence of a multi-year output deal with PBC.

In the first of these bouts, Stephen Fulton (17-0, 8 KOs) and Ukrainian-born Arnold Khegai (16-0, 10 KOs) met in a junior-featherweight bout. Each had fought the usual suspects en route to their confrontation. There was a lot of holding and rabbit-punching which referee Steve Willis ignored. Eventually, Fulton pulled away for a unanimous-decision triumph.

Next up, Jarrett Hurd (23-1, 16 KOs) took on Francisco Santana (25-7, 12 KOs).

Hurd is a big junior-middleweight who held the WBA and IBF 154-pound titles until losing to Julian Williams last year. Santana is a career welterweight who had lost three of his most recent four fights and had won only three times in the last five years.

Hurd was expected to walk through Santana. But he was strangely passive for much of the fight, which led to the strange spectacle of Santana (the noticeably smaller, lighter-punching man) walking Jarrett down for long stretches of time. Francisco is a one-dimensional fighter and was there to be hit. When Jarrett let his hands go, he hit him. But he fought like a man who didn’t want to fight and didn’t let his hands go often enough.

By round seven, the boos and jeers were raining down. Hurd won a unanimous decision but looked mediocre. That’s the most honest way to put it. One wonders what tricks losing to Julian Williams last year played with his mind.

Also, it should be noted that, when the winning fighter thanks God in a post-fight interview and the crowd (which supported Jarrett at the start of the bout) boos at the mention of The Almighty, there’s a problem.

“The crowd didn’t love it,” Hurd acknowledged afterward. “But you gotta understand; I got the unanimous decision and I did what I wanted to do.”

The main event matched Danny Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs) against Ivan Redkach (23-4-1, 18 KOs).

Garcia had a nice run early in his career, winning belts at 140 and 147 pounds. But later, he came out on the losing end of decisions against Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter. Other than that, he has gone in soft for the past five years.

Redkach is a junior-welterweight who had won 5 of 10 fights during the same five-year time frame.

There was the usual pre-fight nonsense with Garcia telling reporters, “We picked Redkach because he’s dangerous and we knew he’d be tough.” But in truth, Redkach had been whitewashed by Tevin Farmer at 135 pounds and was knocked out at the same weight by John Molina Jr (who never won again).

Garcia, like Hurd, was a 30-to-1 betting favorite.

Redkach fought a safety-first fight. Also, safety second and third. There wasn’t one second when it looked as though he had a realistic chance of winning the fight or fought like he did.

One of the few proactive things that Ivan did do was stick out his tongue from time to time when Garcia hit him. Then, at the end of round eight, he bit Danny on the shoulder while they were in a clinch. At that point, one might have expected referee Benjy Esteves to disqualify Redkach. But Esteves seemed to not notice.

Rather than go for the kill after the bite, Garcia eased up and cruised to a unanimous decision. Meanwhile, by round eleven, the crowd was streaming for the exits. Most of the fans were gone by the time the decision was announced.

Garcia and Hurd had set-up showcase fights scheduled for them. And neither man delivered the way he should have.

Meanwhile, a final thought . . . Sunday, January 26, would have been Harold Lederman’s eightieth birthday.

Harold was the quintessential boxing fan and loved the sport more than anyone I’ve known. He never missed a fight at Barclays Center unless his health prevented him from coming or he was on the road for HBO. He died eight months ago.

As Saturday night’s fight card unfolded, I imagined Harold sitting beside me. He would have had a kind word for everyone who came over to say hello and loved every minute of it. Harold Lederman at the fights was a happy man.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book — A Dangerous Journey: Another Year Inside Boxing — was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. On June 14, 2020, he will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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Fast Results from Brooklyn: No Surprises as Garcia and Hurd Win Lopsidedly

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight, Philadelphia’s Danny Garcia made his eighth appearance at Barclays Center. Garcia’s 2017 fight with Keith Thurman drew 16,533, the attendance high for a boxing show at the arena. A far smaller crowd was in attendance tonight to see Garcia take on Ivan Redkach in a non-title fight slated for 12 rounds.

Redkach, a 33-year-old LA-based Ukrainian, is a southpaw. That’s no coincidence. Garcia hopes to land big-money fights with Errol Spence and/or Manny Pacquiao, both southpaws.

Redkach (23-4-1 coming in) turned his career around in his last fight with a career-best performance, a sixth-round stoppage of former two-division title-holder Devon Alexander, a 15-year pro who hadn’t previously been stopped. But there was a class difference between he and Danny Garcia, a former WBA and WBC 140-pound world title-holder and former WBC 147-pound champion.

Garcia (35-2, 21 KOs) was simply sharper. His workrate slowed late in the fight, allowing the game Redkach to steal a few rounds, but at the final gun he was relatively unmarked whereas Redkach was conspicuously bruised. The scores were 118-110 and 117-111 twice. The crowd booed at intervals, understandable as they were subject to a drab 6-fight card that was even less interesting than it was on paper.

Co-Feature

In the 10-round co-feature, Jarrett Hurd, making his first start since losing his WBA/IBF super welterweight title to Julian Williams last May, went on cruise control from the opening bell and jabbed his way to a lopsided 10-round decision over Francisco Santana. Hurd, who improved to 24-1, finally let loose late in the 10th frame, putting Santana (25-8-1) on the canvas with a succession of left hooks, but by then many in the crowd had probably nodded off.

This was Hurd’s first fight with new trainer Kay Koroma who has drawn raves for his work with America’s elite amateurs. The scores were 97-92 and 99-90 twice. SoCal’s Santana has now lost five of his last eight.

The opening bout on the main TV portion of the card was a 12-round super bantamweight contest between Philadelphia’s Stephen Fulton and fellow unbeaten Arnold Khegai who currently trains in Philadelphia.

Fulton (18-0, 8 KOs) simply had too much class for Khegai (16-1-1), a Ukrainian of Korean heritage. Although Khegai frequently backed Fulton into the ropes, the Philadelphian had an air-tight defense and connected with many more punches. The fight went the full 12 with Fulton prevailing by scores of 116-112 and 117-111 twice.

If the WBO has its way, Fulton will proceed to a fight with Emanuel Navarrete, but don’t hold your breath as Navarrete is promoted by Bob Arum who undoubtedly wants to extract more mileage from him before letting him risk his belt against a crafty fighter like Stephen Fulton.

Photo credit: Amanda Westcott / SHOWTIME

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Sacramento Honors Diego ‘Chico’ Corrales

Arne K. Lang

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Tonight (Saturday, Jan. 25) former two-division world boxing champion Diego “Chico” Corrales will be posthumously inducted into the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame at the organization’s eighth annual induction ceremony at the Thunder Valley Casino Resort.

Corrales, who grew up in Sacramento, the son of a Columbian father and a Mexican mother, turned pro at age 18 and went on to compile a record of 40-5 (33 KOs). He won his first title in 1999 with a seventh-round stoppage of previously undefeated Robert Garcia. Now recognized as one of boxing’s top trainers, Garcia was making the fourth defense of his IBF 130-pound title.

Five years later, Corrales won the WBO world lightweight title with a 10th-round stoppage of Brazil’s previously undefeated Acelino Freitas. That set up a unification fight with the WBC belt-holder Jose Luis Castillo.

Corrales and Castillo met on May 7, 2005, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. To say they put on a great fight would be an understatement. The boxing writers in attendance will tell you that this was the greatest fight of all time. It was named Fight of the Decade by The Ring magazine.

The final round, the 10th, was unbelievable. Heading into the round, Corrales was ahead on two of the three scorecards, but his left eye was swollen nearly shut and during the round he was knocked down twice. No one would have faulted referee Tony Weeks for stopping the fight after the second knockdown. But, somehow, Corrales was able to rally, pulling the fight out of the fire with a barrage of punches that had Castillo out on his feet when Weeks waived it off.

Two years to the very day of this iconic fight, Diego “Chico” Corrales died in a motorcycle accident in his adopted hometown of Las Vegas when he rear-ended a car while traveling at a high rate of speed. He was 29 years old.

Corrales was a thrill-seeker. In a 2006 profile, Las Vegas Review-Journal boxing writer Kevin Iole enumerated these among Castillo’s hobbies: jumping out of planes from 14,000 feet, bungee jumping from 400 feet, snowboarding in treacherous terrain and scuba diving amid a school of sharks. “He lived his life the same way he fought,” said his promoter Gary Shaw, “with reckless abandon.”

It might seem odd that it took so long for Corrales to be recognized by the Sacramento Sports Hall of Fame, but there was a period when Corrales’s name was mud in his hometown and perhaps the organization’s founder, Las Vegas sports radio personality T.C. Martin, a Sacramento native, thought it appropriate to let old wounds heal.

In 2001, shortly after suffering his first pro loss at the hands of Floyd Mayweather, Corrales pled guilty to felony domestic violence in the beating of his first wife and would serve 14 months in prison. “The whole family has worn a black eye for it,” Diego’s brother Esteban Corrales told Sacramento Bee reporter Marcos Bretan.

For all his recklessness, the incident didn’t jibe with his persona. In the company of Las Vegas sportswriters, the soft-spoken and well-spoken Corrales came across as polite and humble.

Corrales, one of five inductees in the 2020 class, joins three other boxers already installed in the Sacramento Hall: Pete Ranzany, Loreto Garza, and Tony “Tiger” Lopez.

Ranzany, a welterweight, fought four former or future world champions and was a fixture in Sacramento rings in the late 1970’s. Garza wrested the WBA super lightweight title from Argentina’s Juan Martin Coggi in France and successfully defended the belt here in Sacramento with a one-sided conquest of Vinny Pazienza. Lopez, Sacramento’s most popular fighter ever, made the turnstiles hum at the city’s largest arena where he fought eight of his 14 world title fights beginning with his 1988 humdinger with defending IBF 130-pound champion Rocky Lockridge.

Among the speakers at tonight’s confab will be Kenny Adams. Perhaps best known as the head trainer for the 1988 U.S. Olympic team that won eight medals in Seoul, Adams currently trains Nonito Donaire. He was with Diego Corrales for 24 fights, during which Corrales was 23-1, avenging the lone defeat by Joel Casamayor. Festivities start at 7 pm.

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