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Avila Perspective, Chap.192: Ryan Garcia and Another Look at the HOF

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Twenty-two years ago, two talented Southern California fighters baptized the Staples Center sports arena for prizefighting with a performance hard to top. Can Ryan Garcia equal or surpass their performance?

It’s a lot to ask of anyone.

No longer called the Staples Center, the newly dubbed Crypto.com Arena will be a staging area for Garcia (22-0, 18 KOs) who fights Javier Fortuna (37-3-1, 26 KOs) for a regional lightweight title on July 16. Tickets are on sale for the Golden Boy Promotions card streamed on DAZN.

Back on June 2000, Oscar De La Hoya and Sugar Shane Mosley became the first prizefighters to perform at the arena located on 11th and Figueroa Ave. Their match was never topped by any other in that building in terms of excitement and electricity.

When Mosley and De La Hoya traded blows, they were already world champions so its not fair to compare Garcia to either. But the De La Hoya-Mosley fight did set the standard for all future prize fights in Los Angeles.

Garcia (pictured) has a California cool and honesty that’s more associated with tennis pros than prizefighters. His feathers don’t get ruffled when asked about a former mate’s comments or when potential foes deride his former opposition.

When it comes to star power, even the best recognize that Garcia has all the important ingredients like the back of a Kellogs’ cereal box. In the case of the Victorville boxer with the quick snap left hook, the small almost unreadable print would say very, very few professional boxers have all the same ingredients as Garcia.

If you need a more vivid example simply look at the promoter Oscar De La Hoya. No other fighter possessed the same formula as the former fighter from East L.A. who began a Hall of Fame career by winning an Olympic gold medal in the 1992 Barcelona Games.

Though De La Hoya would later win a world title at age 21, there were slips and trips suffered by the Golden Boy such as knockdowns by Narciso Valenzuela and Giorgio Campanella. He obliterated both after the knockdowns, but many reporters questioned his chin. Of course, after his career was finally over, no one questioned his ability to take a punch after he won world titles in six weight divisions. Not once was he knocked out by a blow to the head.

De La Hoya sees many comparable traits in young Ryan Garcia.

“Ryan Garcia’s performances have proved over and again why he belongs on the global stage with the best,” said De La Hoya who possessed many of the same physical traits and became one of boxing’s biggest attractions in history.

When Garcia faces former world champion Fortuna in the center stage it’s essentially the Southern California fighter’s debut as a main event fighter in the city of Los Angeles. Though he’s fought four times before in the L.A. area, he was never the main event.

This is essentially the big stage debut for the fighter called “KingRy.”

“I’m hungry to show the world I’m the best fighter,” said Garcia. “I’m just eager to show people I’m more than meets the eye when you’re in the ring with me.”

Fortuna, a former world champion, has repeatedly talked about using a win over Garcia to springboard back into world title competition.

“I’m going to knock him out,” said Fortuna.

Garcia doesn’t blink an eye at the prediction made by Fortuna. He’s heard it all before. It’s boxing.

“After I obliterate Fortuna, I hope they support me when I fight Gervonta Davis and support me when I obliterate both of them,” said Garcia about boxing fans.

It’s been 22 years since Mosley and De La Hoya lit up the same arena with their Hall of Fame ability. Will Garcia be the next big thing?

“With Ryan Garcia’s star power and with the promotion behind him we expect a sell-out,” said De La Hoya.

Is this just the beginning?

Looking Back at HOF Inductions

It’s been a few weeks since the Boxing Hall of Fame formally inducted the newest group to its prestigious roster at Canastota, New York. They all deserve to be acknowledged once again. However, due to the ongoing pandemic all three years were lumped together and that’s too many to review in one look.

For the next three weeks I’ll go over their boxing careers briefly.

This week it’s the class of 2020 with Bernard Hopkins, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Sugar Shane Mosley.

I’ll start with Mosley simply because of his Los Angeles roots. When “Sugar Shane” began hitting the boxing circuit it was first as an amateur that people took notice. Though he was an amazing amateur boxer his style was always more suited for the pros.

I remember watching him trade blows with pros like the late Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez and Zack “Attack” Padilla in various L.A. gyms. They were ferocious wars and foretold their abilities as superior fighters. All three would become world champions.

Mosley’s big moment was a showdown with Oscar De La Hoya at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. How big was their fight?

That night Hollywood stars and sports celebrities combined to watch their epic clash including Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Jack Nicholson, Salma Hayek and sports legends Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali.

It doesn’t get bigger than that.

We all know that Mosley would win that night by a razor slim margin and go on to collect world titles in three weight divisions. He came close to knocking down Floyd Mayweather when they fought. I’ll never forget that night. I was sick and barely able to keep my head up after suffering food poisoning. but didn’t dare miss that fight.

The fighter from Pomona, CA. never ducked anyone and was amazing as a lightweight.

His dad Jack Mosley was named Trainer of the Year in 2000 and still works with fighters.

Bernard Hopkins.

The fighter from Philly was one of those angry guys early on who despite being a world champion, felt ignored. Then came his invitation by promoter Don King to the big dance in the form of a middleweight tournament between world champions. That opened the door for Hopkins.

Puerto Rico’s great and popular Felix “Tito” Trinidad had departed the welterweight division and moved up two divisions to the 160-pound middleweights. He knocked out William Joppy in five rounds. Hopkins defeated Keith Holmes by decision and the stage was set.

The original date was September 15 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. With just four days until fight day, the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center took place and the world stopped. After much discussion the fight was moved to September 29 at Madison Square Garden.

I remember arriving in Manhattan to a seemingly empty city with smoke from the ruins still visible. The area near the ruins of the World Trade Center was still blocked off. People were friendly and eager to resume their lives as they were before the devastating tragedy.

The night of the fight several other major stars like Mexico’s Ricardo “Finito” Lopez performed on the Don King fight card. When the main event was finally announced the fan’s cheers erupted when their hero Tito Trinidad appeared. Many boos were heard when Hopkins appeared.

That night belonged to Hopkins.

The Philly fighter was locked in and took apart the Puerto Rican slugger. Each round seemed to get worse for Trinidad who never stopped trying to land the big blow but was thwarted repeatedly by the defensive moves of Hopkins.

It was apparent that Hopkins felt comfortable and began to pick apart Trinidad. In the 12th round Hopkins was punishing Trinidad and the fight was stopped by Tito’s father. Hopkins was finally recognized as one of the sport’s best fighters. He would later win a light heavyweight world title at age 49. He retired at age 51. Remarkable.

Mexico’s Marquez

Juan Manuel Marquez had fought for years in Los Angeles and was known very well by those fans and in his native Mexico City. Little did I know that his last fight against Mike Alvarado at the Inglewood Forum in May 2014 would be his last.

Ironically, it’s the same arena where Southern California fans first saw him fight. It also is where I almost didn’t make it out alive. At the time I was suffering from a brain bleed and didn’t know it. I could barely walk out of the arena and would soon be hospitalized for a month.

Marquez was known as a scientific boxer and had been molded by Mexico’s Nacho Beristain. I was at his first attempt at a world title bid in September 1999 when he clashed with Freddie Norwood in Las Vegas. He lost by unanimous decision and was furious by the scorecards. Ironically, Floyd Mayweather was also on the card and defended the super featherweight world title.

The skill level and punching prowess of Marquez led many to avoid him at all costs. It would take four years until he got another shot at a world title when he fought fellow Mexican Manuel “Mantecas” Medina and knocked him out for the vacant IBF featherweight title in 2003.

A year later Marquez would begin a four-fight journey with another legend, Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao. We all know how that transpired. Four of the most competitive fights ever seen at the championship level. His one-punch knockout of PacMan in 2012 was the pivotal moment in their battles.

I remember watching the two battling when another journalist yelled at me from the other side of press row to get my opinion of who was winning. I motioned with my hand stop so I wouldn’t miss the action. Glad I did, because Marquez suddenly unleashed that right cross that left Pacman unconscious.

Big lesson: never turn your head during a fight, even if you are a journalist. You might miss one of the most iconic knockout finishes in boxing history.

Big Dan

Several promoters also were inducted too. Kathy Duva, Lou DiBella and Dan Goossen were all voted into the 2020 class. All three put on some great fight cards in their time with Duva and DiBella still going strong.

Goossen passed away in 2014. We became friends over the years as our paths crossed many times. While I was in a hospital in May 2014, I received a call from Goossen who wished me well. I was barely conscious but spoke briefly with him, not knowing he was suffering from cancer at the time. When I finally recovered, I expected to see him at a function in early August that year. He didn’t show and I knew something was wrong. A month later the great man had passed away.

It was a big loss to boxing and to his many friends. The Goossen family still has members involved in the sport and remains beloved by all who know them. Big Dan Goossen was one of the best human beings I ever met in the sport. He is truly missed by his friends and family.

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Andy Ruiz and Filip Hrgovic on the Road to Oleksandr Usyk

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Mexican-American Andy Ruiz and Croatian Filip Hrgovic were instructed by the IBF to begin negotiations for their fight for the Interim heavyweight title, which consequently provides the winner with the opportunity to face the champion Oleksandr Usyk who also holds the WBO and WBA super champion belts.

Ruiz (35-2, 22 KOs) and Hrgovic (15-0, 12 KOs) have 30 days, expiring on February 19, to reach an agreement. Otherwise, the IBF will hold a public auction to see who will promote the bout.

The IBF decision took into account the fact that Hrgovic is the top-ranked contender, while Ruiz is ranked third. The second slot is vacant.

About a year ago, the IBF had confirmed the fight between Ruiz and Hrgovic, with the intention of defining a mandatory challenger for southpaw Usyk (20-0, 13 KOs), but the American withdrew from negotiations due the fact that he was recovering from an alleged injury.

Thirty-three-year-old Ruiz from Imperial, California was victorious in his last two bouts, the most recent on September 4th in Los Angeles by unanimous decision against Cuban southpaw Luis “King Kong” Ortíz (33-3, 28 KOs).

After the victory over Ortíz, Ruiz stated that his immediate goal is to face former world champion Deontay Wilder (43-2-1, 42 KOs) as a victory over Wilder would provide him with the opportunity to face Brit Tyson Fury (33-0-1, 24 KOs), the current WBC champion.

A few weeks later, Ruiz received a boost from the WBC, which confirmed at their 60th annual convention in November that the winner of the fight between Ruiz vs Wilder would face the winner of Fury vs Derek Chisora  ​​(33-13, 23 KOs).

Fury, thirty-four years old, had no difficulty in defeating Chisora by way of chloroform in the tenth round on December 3rd at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London.

However, now after the IBF mandate, Ruíz’s long-awaited confrontation with Wilder remains in limbo. Recently, Malik Scott, Wilder’s coach, expressed that although Ruíz is a strong adversary, he is not on the same level as Wilder.

Scott stated, “Andy Ruiz is a serious test. Not just for Deontay but for anybody. But for a disciplined Deontay, in my opinion, Andy Ruiz doesn’t even come close to being in the same league as him. Because what beats Andy Ruiz? Discipline! An old [Chris] Arreola gave him trouble just with discipline. Andy’s problem is he can’t beat disciplined fighters. I had Arreola winning by two rounds. Against Deontay, Andy is going to reach, he has to, we’re taller, and when he reaches, he’s going to pay like he’s never paid before.”

Prior to Ruiz’s recent two victories, he lost by unanimous decision to Brit Anthony Joshua on December 7, 2019 in Saudi Arabia. Only six months had passed since Ruiz knocked out Joshua in the seventh round and seized the IBF, WBA and WBO belts from him on June 1 at New York’s legendary Madison Square Garden.

Hrgovic, three years younger than Ruiz and born in Zagreb, Croatia, comes off a difficult win against Chinese southpaw Zhilei Zhang (24-1-1, 19 KOs) at the Superdome in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Although the three officials handed in scorecards of 115-112 (2x) and 114-113 in favor of Hrgovic, Zhang had sent the European to the canvas in the opening round.

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Álvarez in Spanish.

Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

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Artem Dalakian, Sunny Edwards, and the Most Storied Title in Boxing

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When the mighty Roman Gonzalez departed the 112lb division in 2016 he vacated the title and broke the longest remaining lineage in the sport. In a moment of quiet heartbreak for the boxing aficionado, the final direct link with boxing’s glorious past was cut forever.

That lineage had begun back in 1975 with perhaps the greatest flyweight champion, Miguel Canto.  Canto cleaned house that year, shading the wonderful Betulio Gonzalez and the evergreen Shoji Oguma, part of a calendar year that saw him go 6-0 and establish his absolute pre-eminence in the deepest of flyweight divisions. In 1979, old in the face, Canto was out-worked and even in some ramshackle way out-jabbed by a swarming, aggressive Korean named Chan Hee Park. Park was a good fighter, Shoji Oguma lay in wait to send him tumbling with counter-rights, taking his turn in an impressive second tour. In 1981, the new generation asserted itself in the form of Antonio Avelar.  Avelar seemed, briefly, to be the real deal but he was unseated by a murderous punching Colombian, Prudencio Cardona, who inflicted upon Avelar the most violent knockout in flyweight history.

This heralded the advent of a series of caretaker champions, good fighters, all, but no great ones as the early eighties evaporated while the hot-potato flyweight championship passed from Fredy Castillo to Eleoncio Mercedes to Charlie Magri and others, none of them holding it for more than a matter of months. When the mighty Sot Chitalada wrestled it from the last caretaker champion in 1984, Canto finally had a descendent who could be named a peer. In two spells, Chitalada held the title into the 1990s whereupon it was ripped from him by the Thai Maungchai Kittikasem who then dropped it to an early emergent of the Soviet and former Soviet schools in Yuri Arbachakov.  Arbachakov was the first flyweight whose legacy was to suffer at the hands of the ABC title-belt madness, his record-breaking spell as champion marred by matches with WBC-nominated journeymen. Despite his lengthy title reign, Yuri managed to fight men who were held to belong in the top ten just twice as champion.

Less than a year after the lineal title and Arbakachov were parted, it would be wrapped around the waist of a youngster named Manny Pacquiao, who had crushed Chatchai Sasakul in eight who had in turn outpointed Arbachakov. From the madness of the alphabet soup to the emergence of one of the greatest fighters of our time, the story of the flyweight lineal championship is the story of modern boxing untrampled by titular uncertainty. The history of the championship, of the divisional king, can be traced back to a time when Muhammad Ali ruled the world and so a fistic tendril connects Ali, a hero to his people, to Pacquiao, a hero to his. Pacquiao nearly ruined it all though.  Manny missed weight for his 1999 match with Boonsai Sangsurat and had he won that fight, the title would have been vacated as he departed the weight forever, but fortunately, a weight-drained mess, he was crushed in three rounds.

Pongsaklek Wonjongkam then, when he lifted the title in 2001, became the latest great to trace his lineage back to Canto. Wonjongkam’s reign was as modern as can be imagined, dictated thoroughly by ABCs, fought almost exclusively in his backyard, and despite amassing an astonishing twenty title defences in two spells as king, his win resume underwhelms. A list of the worst ever lineal title challengers would draw heavily from Wonjongkam’s opposition.

Wonjongkam made way for Sonny Boy Jaro of The Philippines who made way for Toshiyuki Igarashi and Akira Yaegashi, both of Japan, underlining what has always been the most international of championships. And finally, at the end of the longest road in modern boxing, the title was lain at the feet of a great fighter from Nicaragua, the wonderful Roman Gonzalez.

Roman Gonzalez was my favourite fighters for years, I watched his boxing obsessively. More than a decade ago, I wrote an article predicting his eventual enshrinement as a pound-for-pound number one and his likely vanquishment by a southpaw, even going so far as to predict this would occur up at 115lbs, all of which came true. But it cut me when he stepped aside in 2016, the lineage that had begun with Canto destroyed, a lineage that had run through four different abdications and coronations at 160lbs, that ran all the way back to the last golden age of the flyweight division.

From the ashes, finally, a phoenix menaces. Far from stipulated, certainly not sure, but stirring. On Saturday night, Ukrainian Artem Dalakian (pictured) came to London to meet David Jimenez on the undercard of the Artur Beterbiev-Anthony Yarde fight. Dalakian-Jimenez is one of those rare and wonderful fights British and American fans are sometimes treated to, elite combat athletes who struggle to secure rewarding purses fighting low on a card which a just sport might see them headline. Jimenez, the challenger for Dalakian’s strap, refutes befuddlement with aggression, boxable but brutal, left floundering early in the biggest fight of his career against Ricardo Sandoval only to button up and fire forwards, hard-scrabbling enough rounds to conquer his more cultured foe. This would be his approach, too, against Dalakian. Dalakian is a fighter of no small culture whose activity suffered during those COVID months but with a legacy that stretches back to the last generation of top flyweights and a victory over Brian Viloria. Having boxed just twenty rounds in three years he was now bringing an unfortunate mix of rust and, at thirty-five years old, age.

Nevertheless, for me he dominated Jimenez. The younger man was reasonably quick-handed and tried to remain ambitious in his rushes, but Dalakian was never less than the cleaner puncher and rested on a steeper bank of experience that saw him nullify his more aggressive foe inside while consistently out-scoring him outside. It was a thoroughly impressive performance that confirmed Dalakian’s remaining superiority over most of the rest of the division. Jimenez, in just his thirteenth fight, had established himself firmly in the divisional top five and likely has a future at 112lbs if he wants it. This was a crossroads fight only in the sense that it tested the last generation with the new, and the new was found wanting.

This victory, a unanimous decision over twelve, was a significant one for Dalakian, however. For me, it establishes him as the number one flyweight in the world but at worst he is the number two. The man with whom he shares the top table is one Sunny Edwards, a London boy and very much the division’s coming man. Edwards has boxed nearly as many contests in the upper echelons of the division as Dalakian, and Dalakian’s victory over Viloria aside, Edwards probably has the most meaningful victory of the two having defeated the ageing Moruti Mthalane in early 2021. The recency of his important victories is the source of the tension concerning the number one divisional flyweight currently.

Sunny

Sunny Edwards

The hope is the two will settle this in the ring.

While it is not unusual for a fighter to arrive from foreign shores and never be seen in a British ring again, it is more often the case that they arrive with targeted opposition when they are boxing at title level, and from Dick Tiger to Zolani Tete, Britain welcomes foreign winners with open arms. It is likely that Dalakian has been brought to Britain to tease a fight with the only man in the division that might be seen as his better and in the only fight either man could hope to box and be similarly enriched. Some promotional tensions exist, but what would be unusual money for a flyweight contest might tip the scales.

And if they settle it in the ring, as the number one and number two flyweight contenders, they will start a new lineage, a new passage of the flyweight title. More than that, the fight would be a fascinating and evenly matched contest between Dalakian, a technician who will likely be forced to box with pressure as a result of his physical limitations and Edwards, a quick-footed slickster who will nevertheless have to commit to outworking maybe the only fighter in the division with superior straight punches. That is not to say that Mexican Julio Cesar Martinez will be excluded – clearly the division’s number three, he may yet have a say.

But if a new and meaningful lineage is to begin it is Dalakian and Edwards, the two best flyweights on the planet, who must seed it.

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Emanuel Navarrete Aims to Become Champion in a Third Weight Class on Friday

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Champion in both the super bantamweight and featherweight categories, the strong Mexican puncher Emanuel Navarrete will try to be champion at 130 pounds on Friday, February 3, when he faces Australian Liam Wilson at the Desert Diamond Arena in the city of Glendale, Arizona. ESPN will be broadcasting the fight.

For Navarrete (36-1, 30 KOs), who has a 31-fight winning streak since his one and only setback in July 2012, the duel with Wilson will be his debut into the super featherweight division.

Navarrete, 28 years old and born in San Juan Zitlaltepec, defeated his countryman Eduardo Báez with a sixth-round knockout last July in San Diego, California, where the winner made his third successful defense of the WBO featherweight title.

Subsequently, Navarrete decided to seek the WBO championship at 130 pounds which had been vacated after the talented American southpaw Shakur Stevenson (19-0, 9 KOs) was unable to make weight on the scale before unanimously defeating Brazilian Robson Conceicao on September 23rd in New Jersey.

The WBO accepted Navarrete’s request to fight for the vacant title and opened the doors to fellow Aztec Oscar Valdez (30-1, 23 KOs), ranked second by the WBO and third by the WBC.

But in December, Valdez’s camp announced that he was withdrawing from the fight after undergoing a medical evaluation. Australian Liam Wilson (11-1, 7 KOs), ranked third by the WBO, was designated to take Valdez’s place.

A confident Navarrete stated: “This is my opportunity to become a three-division world champion. I am going for that crown. Liam Wilson is a good fighter, but this is my moment, and everyone will see a much more complete ‘Vaquero’ Navarrete that has a lot of thirst for victory. My ideal weight is 130 pounds, and that will be demonstrated on February 3rd when I become world champion for Mexico and San Juan Zitlaltepec. Wilson will not get in the way of my dream.”

Navarrete began his string of 31 wins after losing in four rounds against his compatriot Daniel Argueta on July 26, 2012, at the José Cuervo Hall in the finals of the XVIII Gold Belt Tournament. Despite the setback, Navarrete was the one declared champion of the contest, as Argueta failed to show up for the mandatory weigh-in.

Although he is on the verge of conquering his third championship in a third weight division, Navarrete has not defined what his immediate steps will be.

“Let’s see how things evolve,” Navarrete said. “We will see how I feel (at 130 pounds), and then make the right decision. It all depends on how I perform in February and analyze the result. How my body assimilates to the new weight class and things like that.”

Likewise, Navarrete confirmed that he was having difficulty making 126 pounds and that during his career in both the super bantamweight and featherweight divisions he had tried to unify the titles with the other champions without success.

“You know that I have been seeking unification fights in other weight classes,” stated Navarrete. “That is what I want, and what I’m looking for. I hope I can unify in this weight class (130 pounds). But first I hope to win against Wilson, and then we will decide.”

When analyzing his possibilities in the super featherweight division, Navarrete said that he has a tall stature which can benefit him. In the same sense, he considered that now at 130 pounds he will not have to wear himself out to make weight so he will be strong.

Wilson, 26 years old, won the vacant WBO International belt against Argentine Adrián Rueda (37-2, 32 KOs) on June 29th of last year in Brisbane, Australia. Wilson’s lone loss came from Filipino southpaw Joe Noynai (20-3-2, 8 KOs), who knocked him down once in the 1st round, twice in the 4th round, and again in the fifth round on July 7, 2021, in Newcastle, Australia, before referee Phil Austin stopped the lopsided match.

Wilson, however, got even eight months later in a rematch where he chloroformed Rueda in the second round and regained the WBO Asia-Pacific title.

For his upcoming fight, Wilson has set up a seven-week training camp in Washington DC at Headbangers Boxing Gym where Isaac Dogboe trains. Dogboe has fought Navarrete twice and can hopefully provide some valuable insight. “I’m only going off YouTube footage, so to get the advice off Isaac and his trainer over here, they’ve been in the corner against him, they’ve seen him in person, up close, so I have to take their advice onboard,” Wilson added.

Wilson is confident going into this fight, even though he has less professional experience. “He’s been in these fights so many times before. This is my first 12-rounder,” Wilson said. “In a sense, he has every reason to overlook me – I’ve only been in 10 rounders, he’s been 12 rounds multiple times, he’s a two-division world champion and for him it’s just another fight, for me it’s what I’ve dreamed of. I think I’ll be the bigger, stronger fighter. I believe I’ll be the biggest puncher he’s fought.”

Article submitted by Jorge Juan Álvarez in Spanish.

Please note any adjustments made were for clarification purposes and any errors in translation were unintentional.

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