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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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Johnny Famechon was a Hero in Australia Where Willie Pep Had a Bad Night

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Willie Pep was good at boxing. He wasn’t so good at math. Ah, but hold the phone; we are getting ahead of ourselves. This isn’t a story about Willie Pep, but about former world featherweight champion Johnny Famechon who passed away last Thursday, Aug. 4, in Melbourne, Australia, at age 77.

Famechon was five years old when his parents left his birthplace in Paris and settled in Melbourne. He came to the fore in an era when boxing was still a mainstream sport and home-grown champions were national idols. The locals turned out in droves for the parade in Johnny’s honor when he returned to Melbourne after taking the featherweight crown from the Cuban-born Spaniard Jose Legra in a big upset at London’s Prince Albert Hall.

HeraldSun

Famechon’s Welcome Home Parade

Famechon’s first title defense came against Japan’s Fighting Harada. They met in Sydney, Australia, on July 28, 1969.

At age 26, Harada was a battle-tested veteran. He previously held world titles at flyweight and bantamweight and would be remembered as the only man to defeat the great Brazilian boxer Eder Jofre, a feat he accomplished not once, but twice.

Only two boxers in history – Bob Fitzsimmons and Henry Armstrong – had won world titles in three of the eight classic weight divisions. Harada, who entered the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995, was bidding to become the third.

Team Harada insisted on a neutral referee. The British promoters chose Willie Pep. A legend in the sport, Pep had previously shared a ring with another Famechon, having out-pointed Johnny’s uncle Ray Famechon in a featherweight title defense at Madison Square Garden in 1950.

Some thought that Pep would favor Fighting Harada. American referees put a higher premium on aggression than did their foreign counterparts and Harada was a little buzzsaw who rarely took a backward step. But others thought that Pep’s selection favored Famechon, an elusive counterpuncher with whom the Connecticut “Will-‘o-Wisp” could identify; their styles were similar.

Pep had been the third man in the ring for four previous title fights, three in Jamaica and one in Brazil. But this fight would be different. He would be the sole arbiter. If the fight went the full 15 rounds, Willie Pep would be the judge and jury.

During the bout, Famechon scored one knockdown, sending Harada to the canvas in round five, but Harada scored three, knocking Famechon down in rounds two, 11, and 14. The last of the three knockdowns was the harshest, but Famechon made it to the final bell.

The fight ended in a clinch. Immediately upon separating the fighters, Pep raised both of their hands, a signal that the fight was a draw.

Fighting Harada’s handlers were outraged and demanded to see the scorecard. A policeman at ringside was empowered to give it a look-over (Australia had no boxing commission). What the policeman found was that there was indeed a discrepancy. However, it was the opposite of what Team Harada anticipated!

The fight was scored on the antiquated system whereby the winner of a round was awarded five points and the loser four points or less. In the case of an even round, both fighters got five points.

After 13 rounds, Fighting Harada had amassed 59 points on Pep’s card. He won the 14th round, giving him an aggregate total of 64 points. But when Pep added up the numbers “59” and “5” in the column where he kept the aggregate total, he came up with “65.”

Oops.

When Pep signaled that the fight was a draw, people stormed the ring from all sides. Newspaper reports said the belligerents were about evenly divided. Famechon, the Aussie, was the crowd favorite, but Fighting Harada was well-backed in the betting markets, a very big industry in Australia. Many were even angrier when Famechon was summoned back to the ring to have his hand raised.

The Famechon-Harada fight aired live on Japanese television. In Japan, there was a great outpouring of outrage. Pep had been instructed to score a round 5-4 if the round was narrow and 5-3 if there was a clear-cut winner. Despite the knockdowns, Pep scored every round 5-4 or 5-5. In the revised tally, he had Famechon winning 6-5-4 in rounds.

“Harada loses to referee” was the headline in Japan’s leading sports daily. Willie Pep made no friends in Australia either. There were shouts of “Yankee go home” as he left the ring.

Famechon and Harada met again five months later in Tokyo. One would assume that Fighting Harada proved superior and got a fair shake, winning the third title denied him in Sydney. But don’t assume.

Harada was well ahead after ten rounds but faded. On the deck in round 10, Famachon returned the favor three rounds later, knocking Harada down hard with a perfectly placed left hook. Harada was in dire straights when he came out for round 14 and Famechon put him away.

Harada never fought again and Famechon left the sport six months later after losing his crown to Vicente Saldivar. Johnny was only 25 years old, but had crammed 67 fights into a nine-year pro career and said enough is enough.

Famechon’s post-boxing life took a tragic turn in 1991 when he was hit by a car while out jogging on a Sydney highway. He spent several weeks in a coma and several years in a wheelchair but eventually recovered most of his motor skills and regained his speech to the point where he could serve as a boxing color commentator on television. In 2018, a larger-than- life statue of Famechon was unveiled at a public park in the Melbourne suburb of Frankston where he was a longtime resident.

For the record, Johnny Famechon finished his career with a record of 56-5-6 with 20 KOs. We here at The Sweet Science send our condolences to his loved ones.

Arne K. Lang’s latest book, titled “George Dixon, Terry McGovern and the Culture of Boxing in America, 1890-1910,” will shortly roll off the press. The book, published by McFarland, can be pre-ordered directly from the publisher (https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/clashof-the-little-giants) or via Amazon.

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Fast Results from Fort Worth Where Vergil Ortiz Jr Won His 19th Straight by KO

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In a match pushed back from March 19, Vergil Ortiz Jr moved one step closer to a mega-fight with Terence “Bud” Crawford or Errol Spence Jr or Boots Ennis with a ninth-round stoppage of England’s feather-fisted Michael McKinson. The end came 20 seconds into round nine when McKinson appeared to injure his knee as he fell to the canvas, an apparent residue of the body punch that put him on the deck late in the previous stanza. To that point, Ortiz had seemingly won every round.

It was the 19th win inside the distance in as many opportunities for Ortiz who resides in nearby Grand Prairie and was making his first start with new trainer Manny Robles. McKinson was undefeated heading in, but had scored only two knockouts while building his record to 22-0.

Ortiz, ranked #1 at welterweight by the WBA and the WBO, pulled out of the March 19 bout after being diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a muscle disorder associated with over-training.

Ortiz’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, says that Ortiz will fight the winner of Errol Spence vs Terence Crawford next assuming that the fight gets made, and if doesn’t get made, Ortiz’s next fight will be with one or the other. The WBA, which stamped tonight’s fight an eliminator, may push to have Ortiz fight their secondary title-holder, Eimantas Stanionis.

Co-Feature

Houston’s Marlen Esparza (13-1, 1 KO) successfully defended her WBA/WBC world flyweight title with a unanimous decision over plucky 4’11 ½” Venezuelan southpaw Eva Guzman who had won 14 straight coming in, albeit against soft opposition. The judges had it 98-92 and 99-91 twice.

Guzman (19-2-1) was game, but just didn’t have the physical tools to overcome Esparza whose lone defeat came at the hands of talented Seneisa Estrada.

Other Fights of Note

In a 10-round match contested at the catchweight of 150 pounds, Blair “The Flair” Cobbs rebounded from his first defeat with a career-best performance, a wide decision over former WBO 140-pound world titlist Maurice Hooker. It was the second straight loss for Hooker who returned to the ring after a 17-month hiatus and came out flat. Cobbs put him on the canvas in the opening frame with a combination and decked him twice more with straight lefts in round two.

Things got somewhat dicey for Cobbs in round five when he suffered a bad gash on his forehead from an accidental head butt, but Hooker, who had stablemate Bud Crawford in his corner, hesitated to let his hands go and couldn’t reverse the tide. The judges had it 96-91 and 97-90 twice for the flamboyant Cobbs who improved to 16-1-1 (10). Hooker, a consensus 5/2 favorite, lost for the third time in his last five starts and slumped to 27-3-3.

In the opener to the main portion of the DAZN card, Uzbekistan’s Bektimir Melikuziev (10-1, 8 KOs), a super middleweight growing into a light heavyweight, dominated and stopped overmatched Sladan Janjanin. Melikuziev put Janjanin down with a body punch in the opening minute of the fight and scored two more knockdowns before the bout was halted at the 2:18 mark of round three.

This was Melikuziev’s third fight back after his shocking one-punch annihilation by Gabriel Rosado. Janjanin, a well-traveled Bosnian who fought three weeks ago in Massachusetts, declined to 32-12 and was stopped for the eighth time.

Also

Chicago welterweight Alex Martin (18-4, 6 KOs) overcame a first-round knockdown to win a unanimous decision over 38-year-old Philadelphia journeyman Henry Lundy. The judges had it an unexpectedly wide 98-91, 97-92, 97-92.

Martin was coming off a points loss to McKinson and this bout was his reward for taking that fight on short notice. Lundy (31-11-1) has lost five of his last seven.

Floyd “Austin Kid” Schofield, a lightweight who appears to have a big upside, advanced to 11-0 (9 KOs) at the expense of Mexican trial horse Rodrigo Guerrero whose corner wisely pulled him out after five one-sided rounds. It was the ninth straight loss for Guerrero (26-15).

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Conlan Wins His Belfast Homecoming; Breezes Past Lackadaisical Marriaga

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“The Return of the Mick” was the label attached to tonight’s show at the SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The reference was to local fan favorite Michael “Mick” Conlan who returned to his hometown in hopes of jump-starting his career after suffering his first pro loss in a brutal encounter with Leigh Wood.

In that bout, a strong “Fight of the Year contender, Conlan was narrowly ahead on all three cards heading into the 12th and final round when the roof fell in. Wood, who was making the first defense of his WBA world featherweight title on his home turf in Nottingham, knocked the favored Conlan unconscious and clear out of the ring.

This was the sort of fight that can shorten a man’s career. Hence the intrigue in Conlan’s homecoming fight tonight against Miguel Marriaga. On paper, the Colombian, a three-time world title challenger, was a stern test considering the circumstances.

To the contrary, Marriaga had no fire in his belly until the final round when he hit Conlan with a shot that buckled his knees. But, by then Conlan was so far ahead without overly exerting himself that there was virtually no chance of another meltdown.

While Conlan won lopsidedly, the scores – 99-89 and 99-88 twice – were somewhat misleading. True, “Mick” had Marriaga on the deck in rounds 7, 8, and 9, but the punches that put him there did not look particularly hard.

Conlan, 30, improved to 17-1 (8). Marriaga, 35, declined to 30-6.

After the fight, Conlan expressed the hope that Leigh Wood would give him a rematch.

Other Bouts of Note

In an entertaining 10-round welterweight scrap that could have gone either way, Belfast’s Tyrone McKenna (23-3-1, 6 KOs) rebounded from his defeat in Dubai to Regis Prograis (TKO by 6) with a hard-fought unanimous decision over 33-year-old Welshman Chris Jenkins (23-6-3). The judges favored the local fighter by scores of 97-94 and 96-95 twice.

Jenkins, a former British and Commonwealth title-holder, had the best of the early going, working the body effectively while frequently finding a home for his uppercut, but he could not sustain his advantage.

Thirty-four-year-old Belfast super middleweight Padraig McCrory who got a late start in boxing, scored the most important win of his career with a fifth-round stoppage of Marco Antonio Periban, a former world title challenger. McCrory had Periban on the deck three times – once in the second and twice in the fifth – before the bout was halted at the 2:14 mark of round five.

It was the fourth straight win inside the distance for McCrory who improved to 14-0 (8 KOs). Mexico’s Periban, who returned to the sport in April after missing all of 2020 and 2021, fell to 26-6-1.

Highly-touted welterweight Paddy Donovan improved to 9-0 (6) with an 8-round unanimous decision over Yorkshireman Tom Hall (10-3). The referee scored every round for Donovan, an Irish Traveler trained by Tyson Fury’s bosom buddy Andy Lee, the former world middleweight title-holder.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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