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Avila Perspective, Chap. 80: Boxing 101 (Part Two)

David A. Avila




Little did I know, not everyone was taught how to jab at three years old or put in boxing rings to spar other kids.

Welcome to my life.

On one side of my family – my mother’s side that hailed from Arizona – was a great grandfather, Battling Ortega, who fought more than 70 professional fights beginning in 1916. My great grandmother’s side also produced one world champion, Manuel Ortiz, who fought in the 1930s to the 1950s.

My father’s side was not as decorated in boxing as my mother’s family, but beginning with my grandfather Jesus Avila in World War I, the prize ring was where he made extra money while working for railroad companies in the east coast. His sons would also box during World War II but not professionally. My father Amado was the only professional boxer on his side of the family.

When I was three years old my father Amado “Mara” Avila was boxing at the Olympic Auditorium and would teach me how to stand, throw combinations and block punches. After spending the mornings at the Main Street Gym in Los Angeles with his trainer Harry Kabakoff, he would return home and teach me boxing skills as my mother prepared dinner.

It was decided early for me that I be taught boxing so as not to be bullied by other kids on the East L.A. playgrounds. My mother had seen kids push me around in the sand box and was frustrated by my failure to respond. My mom, bless her, grew up in East L.A. and knew what to expect on the streets.

Boxing became part of my daily world as each day was spent working on combinations and defense. By the time I was four years old my father put me in the boxing ring against older kids. I lost almost every fight in every tournament for three years.

Maybe losing is what made baseball so appealing to me. While I lost most of my bouts in boxing to older kids, in baseball I was above average as a pitcher from an early age. But my father wanted me to continue boxing and I did. I got better as I got older. By the time I was nine years old I stopped losing. But it was not my sport of choice.

By the age of 14 I had grown rather tall and at nearly six feet in height and 135 pounds I had a tremendous advantage in boxing. My father had stopped boxing because of a head injury suffered after a fight at the Olympic Auditorium. Though naturally a featherweight, during a scheduled fight he failed to make weight and instead of canceling his slot, he opted to fight a lightweight and was promptly knocked down by the bigger fighter. After the knockdown he tried to continue fighting but suffered blindness that lasted for several minutes. He never boxed again.

By the time I was 10 years old baseball consumed most of my time away from school. Though I kept boxing occasionally on smokers, it was baseball that was my true passion as I played year after year in City Terrace Park and Belvedere Park both in East L.A.

When I was 14 I attended a fight card at the Olympic Auditorium. Later, at a restaurant on Figueroa in downtown L.A., my father’s former trainer Harry Kabakoff approached me with an offer to train me professionally.

I turned him down.

Though I was now winning all of my fights, I knew that boxing on a professional level was quite different. It’s a very unforgiving sport and even with advantages in height, speed or power, it’s not enough. Prizefighters are a different breed. The good ones have a killer instinct and a very high degree of pain tolerance.

Some guys shrink into a shell when they are hit with a painful blow, other’s draw into a survival mode. And still others wake up suddenly more alert than ever as if a light was turned on. And a small few can see the road starkly clearer as time seems to slow down and they slip into a higher fighting mode. These are your champions.

As a member of a boxing family we would spend Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s sitting on sofas watching television and talking about the fight game. It was a favorite subject of my great grandfather who spoke about fighting Benny Leonard, Soldier Bartfield and many others. Our family consisted of boxers on all sides so it was the natural topic.

Of course, I had no idea who Benny Leonard was but according to my great grandfather, he was the best fighter he had ever faced. And he fought dozens of world champions in a day when there was only one world champion, not four to six world champions like today. His stories about the old days were pretty interesting. They made good money in those days even though it was 100 years ago. Prizefighting was extremely popular. It helped him buy a house in East L.A. down the street by the old Resurrection Gym. It’s now where Oscar De La Hoya Animo High School stands.

The stories we shared around the dinner table were engrained in me along with my own experiences in the boxing ring. For years I forgot all about them until boxing returned to my life and something woke up in me.

Boxing reclaimed me.

2010s the Decade of Growth

One of the worst economic downturns in world history failed to kill the sport of prizefighting. Instead, boxing remained one of the main attractions utilized by Las Vegas casinos to lure customers through their glitzy doors.

Floyd Mayweather picked up the baton from Oscar De La Hoya as the money-maker for the sport in the 2010s and was the fighter everyone wanted to face. His ascent to the top as a gate attraction began with a victory over Zab Judah in 2006 and was steadily moving upward monetarily.

By 2010, Mayweather was the top star along with Filipino superstar Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao. One of the top fights that year was his battle against Sugar Shane Mosley at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Mayweather escaped after absorbing a big right hand bomb from the Pomona fighter.

Later that same year, Mosley fought Sergio Mora to a disputed draw at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

East L.A.’s Mora had been one of those fighters I spotted early in his development. During his first pro bout at a boxing card in Anaheim, I could see he had a different fighting style along with athleticism that was going to be hard to beat. I predicted in his fourth fight that he would one day be a world champion. When he fought Vernon Forrest, I predicted Mora would win and he did. To my knowledge, only Doug Fischer and I predicted the victory.

As a boxing journalist it’s important to watch young fighters develop early. Anyone can predict greatness for someone winning an Olympic gold medal, but there’s always someone who sneaks in through the cracks and makes it to the top. Those are the real stories in prizefighting.

Another guy named Sergio was slipping through the cracks from South America. He was a super welterweight named Sergio Martinez. 2010 was a spectacular year for the slick fighting Argentine named “Maravilla” as he defeated Kelly Pavlik in April and knocked out Paul Williams in the second round of a November fight. He was named the Fighter of the Year by the WBC and was recognized as such in a ceremony in San Bernardino along with Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley for an extremely good year.

The biggest grossing fight of all time took place when Mayweather and Pacquiao finally met on May 2, 2015. After years of debate the two stars met in Las Vegas and their pay-per-view fight generated more than 4 million buys. It remains the most successful pay-per-view boxing match of all time. Mayweather’s victory set him apart as the most successful fighter in terms of financial gain. He has cleared more than $1 billion as a prizefighter according to Forbes Magazine.

Around this time another middleweight was stirring up things in the boxing world after moving from Germany to Big Bear, California. His name – Gennady Golovkin.


Big Bear, California had been a favorite spot for prizefighters for several decades. Oscar De La Hoya, Mike Tyson, Fernando Vargas, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and many others throughout the years had prepared for mega fights in the mountain resort spot popular for skiing at its 12,000-feet elevation. It’s located in the Inland Empire area east of Los Angeles County.

Abel Sanchez, a building contractor and boxing trainer, had personally built a compound at Big Bear and was preparing fighters down the street from Sugar Shane Mosley’s training site.

When K2 Promotions signed Golovkin it was Tom Loeffler who brought Golovkin to Sanchez and together they all made history and a lot of money with their “Mexican style” boxing.

Loeffler invited me to see Golovkin train at the mountain headquarters and his power and skills were instantly impressive. It took a few years for the rest of the world to catch on and believe in GGG.

Over the decades my experience as a boxer and as a journalist gave me insight into what separates great fighters from normal fighters. With Golovkin it was the pure power in his fists for a man his size. There was a certain sound when he hit a heavy bag that was different. His skills were also pretty sound, he didn’t have flaws in his technique that I often see with other fighters. Some drop their hands during combinations, others expose their chin to counters and still others telegraph their punches so badly a blind man can see them.

Golovkin was tight from the start.

Before he fought in front of American audiences on HBO it was clear Golovkin was going to be a star. It just took a little time for the rest of the world to be convinced.

Around this same time another fighter moved into the Inland Empire area named Mikey Garcia. He had purchased a house in Moreno Valley, California and moved from Oxnard to set up shop. Within a couple of years his family would follow including brother Robert Garcia and father Eduardo Garcia.

It was a move that would soon change the boxing landscape as the Garcias opened a gym in Riverside, California. Soon, many top fighters from around the country and world would sign with the Garcias and begin training in the hills of Riverside.

More and more boxers were arriving to the many gyms throughout the Inland Empire from all over the world. An explosion of talent arrived and very few outside of the elite had any idea it was transpiring.

Fighters like Golovkin, Mikey Garcia, Tim Bradley, Shane Mosley, and even Terence Crawford and Andy Ruiz were working out in the Inland Empire gyms.

Because of its 60 miles or more distance from Los Angeles few reporters covering the sport made the trek to visit the more than 35 gyms scattered throughout the Inland Empire.

Social Media

Though my own beginning as a boxing journalist began with newspapers, it’s not difficult for me to point out the poor coverage and ineptitude of those covering the sport for print.

The development of boxing web sites easily took over coverage of the sport with various names like, House of Boxing, Fight News and The Sweet Science to name a few. Now there are literally hundreds of boxing sites throughout the world.

Most coverage is devoted to the top echelon of the sport of prizefighting, but a few make a determined effort to trace the beginnings of pro boxers as they make their journeys.

Only one newspaper, the Riverside Press-Enterprise was at ringside when Saul “Canelo” Alvarez made his American debut at Morongo Casino in Southern California.

When Alvarez fought Mayweather in 2013, his journey was well-documented by most boxing web sites, but newspapers – aside from the Riverside Press-Enterprise – were forced to play catchup.

Mayweather easily defeated Alvarez on points and though he never hurt the Mexican redhead, he did deliver an important teaching lesson that “Canelo” and his team never forgot. Defense was equally important as offense and it served them well.

Eddy Reynoso, the trainer for Alvarez, has never wavered from expressing how much they learned from that fight against Mayweather in September 2013.

“From people like Mayweather, we learned a lot. It wasn’t for nothing, he was the best in the ring,” said Reynoso last month. “Fighting against Mayweather you learn a lot of different levels. The loss teaches you to do better.”

Now, seven years later, Canelo Alvarez reigns as the top money-maker and a multi-divisional world champion.

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Re-visiting the Walker Law of 1920 which Transformed Boxing

Arne K. Lang




One hundred years ago this week, on March 24, 1920, a boxing reform bill sponsored by Sen. James J. Walker passed the New York State Senate. The bill ultimately became law and its provisions came to be adopted by law-makers in other states, bringing some uniformity to the most anarchic of popular sports. And what better time to re-visit this transformative legislation than now, the centennial?

Prizfighting was an outlaw sport in the Empire State until 1896 when the legislature passed the Horton Law which allowed bouts up to 25 rounds with five-ounce gloves in buildings owned or leased by a chartered athletic club. New York was a beehive of world class boxing during the days of the Horton Law, but the hubbub was short-lived. A spate of fixed fights and ring fatalities sparked a cry for reform and the law was repealed in 1900.

The Lewis Law, which supplanted the Horton Law, reduced the maximum number of rounds from 25 to 10 and stipulated that no decision would be rendered. The Lewis Law also restricted patronage to members of the athletic club sponsoring the event.

The Frawley Law of 1911 re-opened the fights to the general public but otherwise left the provisions of the Lewis Law pretty much intact. The most important fight in New York during the Frawley Law days was Jess Willard’s defense of his world heavyweight title against Frank Moran at Madison Square Garden in 1916. The fight went the distance, the full 10 rounds, and Willard had the best of it although you wouldn’t know that from the official decision as there was none.

During the last years of the nineteen-teens, several boxing reform bills were presented to the New York legislature. In fact, the Walker Bill was one of four that was taken under consideration. When it finally came to pass, the no-decision rule had been struck down by a 1919 amendment to the Frawley Law that gave the referee the authority to designate the winner.

A key feature of the Walker Law was that everyone involved in a boxing match — from the lowliest spit-bucket carrier to the promoter — had to be licensed. This included managers, matchmakers, referees, judges, ring doctors; even the ring announcer. The licensees were accountable to the boxing commission, a panel appointed by the governor. The commission had the power to approve matches, assign the officials, and establish and collect fees.

The Walker Law approved matches up to 15 rounds and allowed official decisions. Two judges would determine the winner and if they disagreed, the referee would act as the tie-breaker.

Previous laws allowed prizefighting under the guise of sparring exhibitions. The Walker Law made no distinction and this took the police out of the equation. Historically, it was the Sheriff’s responsibility to determine if a bout should be stopped because it had become too one-sided; too brutal. And if, pray tell, one of the contestants died as a result of blows received, his opponent and his opponent’s chief second and perhaps others would be arrested and charged with manslaughter.

Under the Walker Law, the decision of whether to stop a match rested with the referee or the ring physician or the highest-ranking boxing official at ringside. A boxer could now fight full bore without worrying that he could be charged with a crime.

After passing the Senate, the Walker Law passed the Assembly by a margin of 91-46. It was signed into law by Gov. Al Smith on May 24, 1920 and took effect on Sept.1. This ignited a great flurry of boxing in the Empire State. By March of 1924, the state had licensed 6,123 boxers.

The Walker Law became the template that lawmakers in other jurisdictions followed when they introduced their own boxing bills. Cynics would have it that the most attractive feature of the Walker Law to those that embraced it was the tax imposed on gate receipts. In New York under the guidelines of the Walker Law, it was 5 percent.

This wasn’t too far off the mark. The drive to legalize boxing picked up steam in the Depression when state coffers were depleted and new sources of revenue were needed to cushion the fallout. By 1934, boxing was legal in every state in the union, but not in every county. Nowhere was the Walker Law adopted word for word – every politician had to put his own little spin on it, tweaking this and that – but the map of boxing, from an organizational standpoint, became less disjointed.

For the record, the first boxing show under the imprimatur of the Walker Law was held on Sept. 17, 1920 at Madison Square Garden. Joe Welling fought Johnny Dundee in the featured bout. It was the eighth meeting between the veteran lightweights. Welling won a unanimous decision, which is to say that both judges gave the bout to him (their scores were not made known). Ten weeks later, after two intervening bouts, Welling returned to Madison Square Garden to face lightweight champion Benny Leonard. This would go into the books as the first title fight under the Walker Law. Welling was stopped in the 14th round.

James J. “Jimmy” Walker spent 15 years in Albany, the first four as an Assemblyman, but would be best remembered as New York City’s flamboyant Jazz Age mayor. He served two terms, defeating his opponents in landslides, but was forced to resign before his second term expired, leaving office in disgrace. In January of 1941, at the third annual dinner of the Boxing Writers Association, Walker was honored for his “long and meritorious service” to the sport and in 1992 he would be enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Walker (pictured) was a fascinating man, the big city version, in many respects, of Louisiana’s colorful Huey “Kingfish” Long. In a future article, we’ll peel back the layers and take a closer look at the man who did so much to popularize boxing.

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Think you know boxing? Then Man Up and Take Our New Trivia Test

Arne K. Lang



Thin-you-know-boxing?-Then-Man-Up-and-Take-Our-New Trivia-Test

Beneath his salty exterior, Roger Mayweather had the soul of a scholar when the subject turned to the history of boxing. We suspect that Mayweather, who left us on March 17, would have fared pretty well on this 15-question multiple-choice trivia quiz and we dedicate it to him.

All good trivia tests should have a connecting thread. Here the common theme is “places,” more exactly U.S. cities and towns.

This isn’t an easy quiz. We have too much respect for our readers to dumb it down. Get more than half right and give yourself a passing grade. Twelve or more correct answers and proceed to the head of the class.

Here’s the catch: To find the correct answers, you need to go to our FORUM (Click Here). There this trivia test will repeat with the correct answers caboosed to the final question.

  1. In 1970, Muhammad Ali returned to the ring after a 43-month absence to fight Jerry Quarry in this city:

(a) Miami

(b) Atlanta

(c) Houston

(d) Landover, Maryland


  1. Rocky Kansas and Frank Erne, recent inductees into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the Old-Timer category, were products of this city:

(a) Buffalo

(b) Hartford

(c) Scranton

(d) Portland, Maine


  1. The July 1, 1931 match between heavyweight title-holder Max Schmeling and Young Stribling was the icebreaker event in the largest stadium ever built to house a baseball team. What city?

(a) Detroit

(b) Cleveland

(c) St. Louis

(d) Milwaukee


  1. Jake LaMotta was from the Bronx, but he acquired his most avid following in this city where he lifted the world middleweight title from Marcel Cerdan.

(a) Detroit

(b) Chicago

(c) Cleveland

(d) Syracuse


5.  Jess Willard was called the Pottawatomie Giant because he hailed from Pottawatomie County. What state?

(a) Oklahoma

(b) Kansas

(c) Montana

(d) West Virginia


  1. There is a statue of former welterweight champion Young Corbett III, born Raffaele Giordano, in this California city.

(a) Oakland

(b) Bakersfield

(c) Anaheim

(d) Fresno


  1. Elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2011, this iron-chinned bantamweight was stopped only once in 163 documented fights. Fill in the blank:

______ Pal Moore.

(a) Laredo

(b) Memphis

(c) Peoria

(d) Pasadena


  1. More of the same. Fill in the blank.

(a) George Lavigne, the ______ Kid            Boston

(b) Jack Johnson, the ______ Giant            Joplin

(c) Jeff Clark, the _______     Ghost           Saginaw

(d) Jack Sharkey, the _______ Gob            Galveston


9. In the 1930s, there was a second Madison Square Garden in this southwestern city. Future light heavyweight champion John Henry Lewis had several of his early fights here:

(a) Albuquerque

(b) El Paso

(c) Pueblo

(d) Phoenix


  1. Match the fighter with his nickname.

(a) Max Baer                  (1) Astoria Assassin

(b) Paul Berlenbach      (2) Fargo Express

(c) Billy Petrolle            (3) Livermore Larruper

(d) Bud Taylor              (4) Terre Haute Terror


  1. Match these boxers with the city with which they are associated.

(a) Fritzie Zivic and Charley Burley         (1) San Francisco

(b) Johnny Coulon and Ernie Terrell       (2) New Orleans

(c) Abe Attell and Fred Apostoli               (3) Chicago

(d) Pete Herman and Willie Pastrano      (4) Pittsburgh

12. The first great prizefight in Nevada, pitting James J. Corbett against Bob Fitzsimmons, was held here:

a. Goldfield

b. Carson City

c. Reno

d. Las Vegas


13. On March 28, 1991, Sugar Ray Leonard headlined a boxing show at the new Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY. Who was his opponent?

(a) Larry Bonds

(b) Wilfred Benitez

(c) Donny Lalonde

(d) Floyd Mayweather Sr.


  1. Match these Hall of Fame boxing writers with the city in which they spent the bulk of their newspaper careers:


(a) Jack Fiske                   (1) New York

(b) Michael Katz              (2) Philadelphia

(c) Jerry Izenberg            (3) San Francisco

(d) Bernard Fernandez    (4) Newark


  1. Match these Hall of Fame boxing promoters with the city that served as their headquarters:

(a) Herman Taylor         (1) Boston

(b) Rip Valenti               (2) Philadelphia

(c) Sam Ichinose           (3) Los Angeles

(d) George Parnassus    (4) Honolulu

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A Chain of Fistic Violence in Southern California in the ‘70s

Ted Sares




 The decade of the 1970’s was a great one for boxing and the Southern California scene was especially a hotbed. Throw a dart and you’d come up with a fan-friendly sizzler at the Inglewood Forum, the Olympic Auditorium, the Convention Center in Anaheim or even the Valley Music Theater in Woodland Hills. Throw that same dart at the following fighters and you would land on fighters who made the West Coast scene a special one.

Men like Danny “Little Red “ Lopez, the star-crossed Bobby “Schoolboy” Chacon, Jose Napoles, the legendary Ruben Olivares, the underrated Ernie “Indian Red” Lopez, Armando Muniz, Rafael Herrera (who beat the great Olivares twice), Carlos Palomino (who made one of the greatest comebacks in boxing history), Carlos Zarate, Art Hafey, Shig Fukuyama (who had that one big moment against “Little Red” in 1974), Octavio Gomez, Rudy Robles, Frankie Baltazar (who practically lived in the Olympic where he had 31 of his 43 career bouts), and Alberto Sandoval who had 37 of his 38 career fights in the Olympic Auditorium!

Many of the above were world champions; six are in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

The following fights are representative of this super exciting and very violent time:

Chacon vs. Olivares (June 1973)

This one was at the Forum in Ingleside, California and the Associated Press report said it best:

“Former world bantamweight champion Ruben Olivares of Mexico ruined the perfect record of local featherweight hero Bobby Chacon, scoring a 9th round knockout. Chacon, 126, appeared strong in the first two rounds, but Olivares dramatically changed the complexion of the fight in the 3rd and didn’t lose another round. Olivares, 125 3/4, knocked Chacon down with a straight right in the first ten seconds of the 9th and then pounded the San Fernando fighter unmercifully for the remainder of the round. During the intermission, Chacon’s manager, Joe Ponce, asked referee Dick Young to stop the fight, which had been scheduled for 12 rounds and for the NABF featherweight title.”

The pin-point exchanges in the ninth were non-stop and raised the bar for ring malice; it was legal assault and battery.

The two met twice more.

In June, 1975, Olivares met Chacón who was then the WBC’s world featherweight champion. Olivares won the fight by savage stoppage in round two and became a world champion for the fourth time.

The trilogy ended in August 1977 when Chacon won a UD at the Forum.

However, the equally adored Olivares dominated the bantamweights and retired with a record of 89-13-3 with an astonishing 79 wins coming by knockout.

Lopez vs. Chacon (May 1974)

Danny “Little Red” Lopez was 23-0 when he faced off with Bobby Chacon (then 23-1) at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles in front of 16,000 screaming fans. Both fighters personified excitement; in fact, Little Red was a “Gatti before Gatti” as he often would come back in dramatic fashion to snatch victory from certain defeat.

As for drama both inside and outside the ring, no one ever topped Chacon. His career against the toughest opposition imaginable included historic fights against Cornelius Boza- Edwards and four thrillers against Bazooka Limon against whom he was 2-1-1. His name was synonymous with “Fight of the Year” but so was Danny’s. He was all heart and all action; you had to staple him down to the canvas if you wanted to keep him down. His only loss prior to the Lopez fight was against the aforementioned Ruben Olivares (71-3-1 at the time).

LA Times sportswriter Steve Springer recalled that fight in a story that ran in the Times on April 28, 1995:

“In the early rounds of that memorable night in 1974, both fighters absorbed and delivered a terrifying amount of punishment. If not for the breaks between rounds, there would have been no time to breathe. But by the end of the fourth round, having seen and survived the best Lopez had to offer, Chacon took command…Chacon maneuvered Lopez into the ropes. Lopez dropped his hands and Chacon moved in for the kill. But referee John Thomas stepped in and ended it.”

It was not quite malevolence but it was something pretty close. The fans got what they paid for and more. Sadly, Bobby would pay a terrible price, but he kept his sense of humor almost until the end. When questioned about his failing memory, he would smile that smile that would stop you in your tracks and say, “I forgot I forgot.”

Bobby Chacon, like Ruben Olivares, was adored by his fans in a special kind of way.

Lopez vs. O’Grady (February 1976)

There was never a time where I thought I was going to be anything other than a boxer…” – Sean O’Grady

Now it was Danny Lopez’s turn to prevail against the young but talented and undefeated Sean O’Grady who had run up 29 straight wins until he met “Little Red” at the Inglewood Forum. In 1975 alone, the upstart, who turned pro at age 15, fought 26 times with 22 stoppages (but mostly against weak Oklahoma-style opposition which ill-prepared him for the likes of “Little Red” who was honed on Southern California-type opposition).

O’Grady instinctively chose to brawl with the gritty and hard-hitting Lopez rather than use fundamentals and technique and while it was a good fight for as long as it lasted, the youngster absorbed serious punishment prompting his “corner” which was composed of father, manager, mentor and trainer Pat O’Grady to toss in the towel after four rounds, saving Sean for another day.

It would prove to be an extremely wise decision as the youngster would later have great success. O’Grady won the WBA lightweight title in 1981 and finished his career at 81-5 with 70 wins coming by way of stoppage, an eye-popping KO percentage of 81.4 %.

While the 70s were considered the golden age for heavyweights, serious fans and historians know that the smaller men should receive the same level of respect. They also know that Mexico’s bantamweights of the 50s were nothing less than sensational, building the platform for the chain of sizzlers that delighted Southern California fight fans in the 70s.

Ted Sares can be reached at

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