Inland Empire 3 Days: Shane, Arreola, Salcido

BY David A. Avila ON October 01, 2008
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As Sugar Shane Mosley spoke to the press following his captivating last-second knockout of Nicaragua’s Ricardo Mayorga, it flushed back memories of watching the Pomona prizefighter in his younger days when only a handful of boxing writers or fans recognized his talent.

Mosley was one of the first truly successful pro boxers to come out of the area known as the Inland Empire, a place located east of Los Angeles County that has grown rapidly with people looking for more affordable housing and to escape the riots that had fired up following the Rodney King trials.

You can say the Inland Empire, or “I.E.” as its called, grew along with Mosley’s fame.

Today there are numerous prizefighters emanating out of the I.E. and with it an explosion of boxing gyms that equal those in Los Angeles.

Last week the country focused on three prizefighters from the Inland Empire including heavyweight Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola, lightweight prospect Dominic Salcido and future Hall of Fame candidate Mosley. All three live in the I.E.

Pomona is the last outpost for L.A. County and actually if the county lines were divided up geographically, it should be part of San Bernardino County because of the hills that border the town’s west boundaries. Years ago it was a farming community and during World War II it was the location for a prison camp.

Mosley wasn’t the first Inland Empire boxer to win a world championship, that honor goes to bantamweight great Manuel Ortiz who won the world championship during the 1940s. He wasn’t even the first Pomona boxer to win world titles. Mike Weaver, Alberto Davila and Richie Sandoval beat him to it.

But Mosley is the first to win titles in different weight classes and that’s a great achievement considering that he’s only about 5-8 in height. Ever since he stepped in a ring as a pro he’s been electrifying. Now he has a few of his friends following his footsteps.

Many felt Mosley was going to trounce Mayorga because the Nicaraguan had been knocked out by Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad. But they forget he beat Fernando Vargas in a pretty good scrap a year ago and still had a lot left.

If Mosley is a Porsche in boxing, then Mayorga is a pothole. He can mess up anybody with his unorthodox style of fighting and defending. One thing I had predicted was a knockout. I just wasn’t sure who would knock out who.

Skill-wise Mosley still has the weapons that have propelled him to the elite class. Mentally he can out-think most opponents and strength-wise he is one of the strongest fighters I’ve ever seen.

However, what worries me is the size of his heart. It’s too big.

“I said I’m a warrior,” said Mosley about his thrill-the-crowd style. “That’s what the fans wanted to see.”

It’s never been Sugar Shane’s style to fight safety-first a la Floyd Mayweather Jr. Sure he could have fought in that mode and use his exceptional speed to eke out decisions. He’d rather go for the knockout with guns blazing and defense can go to hell.

Mosley is a warrior and an entertainer.

I can recall when he was still an amateur that Mosley would go to gyms in East L.A. that were dominated by Mexican and Mexican-American fighters like the now extinct Brooklyn Gym and wage war every day.

Fighters like former world champions Zack Padilla, Genaro Hernandez, Julio Cesar Chavez and many others traded blows with Mosley in gym wars that were never seen, but talked about among the few who witnessed it. And that was just early in his career.

Mosley has had countless ring wars with bigger, heavier and just as strong boxers like William Joppy, Carl Daniels, Peter Manfredo Jr., Leroy Brooks, Danny Perez, and others who felt his punches or punched him. That’s a lot of punishment taken by the Pomona boxer.

The point is Mosley should be thinking of retiring. Not because he doesn’t have it any more. Oh yes, he can still fight. But there are a lot of monstrous welterweights out there that could hit him in the wrong spot and damage him permanently.

Sure that’s a risk that any pro fighter faces, but the older you get, the bigger the hole of misfortune becomes.

Years ago there was another fighter who fought his heart out and kept fighting. His name is Bobby “Schoolboy” Chacon. The former featherweight and junior lightweight world champion kept fighting and kept enduring punishment. He looked great, but the punches caught up to him and now it’s difficult to understand Chacon when he talks. Mentally he is sharp as ever, but the punches damaged his ability to speak clearly. Chacon was one of my favorite boxers and still is. So is Mosley.

The world wouldn’t be saddened to see the great Pomona prizefighter hang up his gloves. He’s given boxing fans amazing moments. It’s time to gracefully bow out Shane. You’re still on top and have a wonderful family and a wonderful life. Enjoy it champ. Nobody can ever accuse you of not having the biggest heart in boxing.

Heavyweights

Chris Arreola, who comes from the city of Riverside, a quaint but growing town that has a population over 250,000, is considered by HBO as the great American hope of the heavyweight division. And with those lofty expectations come pressure, pressure and more pressure.

When Arreola, 27, arrived in the sweltering ring with temperatures hovering above 90 degrees, there were sportswriters from the New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times and others watching the budding star. Despite weighing the most in his very young career at 258 very visible pounds, the Mexican-American hopeful blasted out New York City’s Israel “King Kong” Garcia like an annoying fly on the screen door.

“Truthfully, I was very concerned,” said Henry Ramirez who trains Arreola and a number of other excellent boxers from Riverside. “But everything worked out.”

Many of the sportswriters present felt Arreola was given a “set up” to look good in front of the national television audience. Garcia’s promoter Lou DiBella truly felt his fighter had a great opportunity for a win moments before the fight.

“We have a window of opportunity,” said DiBella after the weighing results found Arreola far from his real fighting weight of 238 pounds. “Now I only hope Israel can take him at least five rounds.”

It took Arreola three rounds of sizzling uppercuts from combinations that broke down Garcia’s defense and solid chin.

Sitting ringside were a couple of elite heavyweight contenders James “Lights Out” Toney and Lamon Brewster who both know what it takes to win a world championship.

Toney, for example, is a gym rat who needs to be chased out of the gym. But he’s also shown a weakness to let his own weight balloon until recently. Against Hasim Rahman in Temecula a few months ago a slimmed down Toney battered the Baltimore fighter, something he was unable to do with excess weight in their first fight.

He was walking around with a white t-shirt looking pretty near his fighting weight at Soboba Casino last Thursday.

Arreola will probably face the toughest test of his career on Nov. 29 when his promoter Goossen-Tutor Promotions puts him against a heavyweight contender and WBO welterweight titleholder Paul Williams in co-main events. There are rumors that the fight card could end up in Southern California.

Lightweights

Dominic Salcido, who grew up and lives in Rialto, a small town bordering Fontana on one side and Colton on the other, was cruising along at hyper-speed against former Olympian Vicente Escobedo when he ran into a dreaded left hook. Up until that blow in the sixth round, Salcido was proving that his hand and foot speed are something special.

But speed alone won’t win a fight against the elite boxers and maybe Escobedo is about to enter that realm that four years ago many predicted he’d be a part of.

During the match between Escobedo and Salcido the trainers in both corners were in a chess match. Joel Diaz who teaches Salcido wanted his charge to fire combinations. In the other corner the order from Nacho Beristain was to wait for the right moments to counter. Escobedo performed his duty perfectly with a well-timed left hook that gave him the opening he needed to shut the door on Salcido.

It was a crackling contest between two well-trained lightweight prospects. Escobedo has now earned the right to move up to the contender class where he will meet world championship caliber opponents.

For two years Escobedo, 26, seemed to be lost in a fog of indecision. But last Friday at Morongo Casino he woke up and proved he’s ready for the next plateau.

Salcido just needs a little more focus and the ability to harness his speed and exuberance.

Three days in the Inland area proved that the shift of power is slowly extending from Los Angeles County to Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. It’s all about the numbers. With more people coming into the Inland Empire from the Los Angeles area that means more boxing. The Boxing world already has a full taste of Inland Empire boxing with Mosley, Arreola, Salcido, WBC junior welterweight titleholder Timothy Bradley, Julio Diaz, Antonio Diaz, Josesito Lopez and many others appearing on televised boxing cards.

Fights on television

Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Brandon Rios (18-0) vs. Manuel Perez (12-4).

Fri. Showtime, 11 p.m., James De La Rosa (17-0) vs. Tim Coleman (14-0-1).

Sat. HBO, 10:05 p.m., Alfredo Angulo (13-0) vs. Andrey Tsurkan (26-3).

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