Torres and Tapia both live in different parts of the United States, but both are Mexican born MMA fighters. That usually means a historic link to fighting whether its MMA or boxing, fighting is in their blood.
Despite living thousands of miles apart, their stories are quite similar.
Tapia became enamored for the new sport when he saw Royce Gracie plying his skills against bigger and more physically imposing specimens during the early days of MMA. Though he was interested in boxing, he veered toward learning Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
“I saw Royce choking everybody out,” said Tapia.
Torres said he was interested in boxing first, but it didn’t pan out.
“I was always a fan of boxing but there was no boxing available in my hood,” said Torres who lives in East Chicago, located in Indiana. “The community was giving free karate lessons for a month. I was mystified by MMA.”
The extremely tall bantamweight mystified most experts when he literally crashed on the WEC scene with a total domination over former champion Chase Beebe. Torres was predicted to be a mere opponent that night in Las Vegas. Now many consider him one of the best fighters pound for pound in the world.
“Miguel is the ultimate fighter,” said Tapia, who lives in Rancho Cucamonga a middle class suburb located near Ontario and Fontana in Southern California. “I’m ready for anything.”
MMA has recently seen a number of Mexican fighters emerge on the fight scene and it makes sense that the two best MMA fighters are at the lower weights where boxing has always had more than its share of lower weight world champions from Mexico. Now MMA is seeing the same scenario with Tapia and Torres.
Tapia is a hard-hittting banger with more than capable Brazilian Jiu-jitsu skills. But he will be facing one of the best on the ground.
During a tour of Mexico recently, both Tapia and Torres rode side by side in the streets of Mexico City where hundreds of years ago stood the capital of Tenochtitlan, the home of the warrior Aztec empire.
Slowly, Mexican fans are beginning to appreciate MMA.
“When I first started people would boo when it (fighting) went to the floor,” said Torres who began fighting in underground fights during the early 1990s. “Now they are getting educated.”
Tapia and Torres became friends on the Mexico trip but expect only hostility inside the cage.
“We went on tour together in Mexico City. He’s (Torres) a cool dude,” said Tapia who sports bleached hair in is fights. “We’re friends outside of the ring, but when we step in he’s going to try an knock my head off and I going to try knock his head off.”
Torres whole-heartedly agrees and doesn’t expect a blow out.
“He’s undefeated, a former King of the Cage champion. It’s going to be great to fight somebody from California,” said Torres who has twice defended his title. “Especially because he likes to set up and bang with people. Were gong to be able to showcase our standup skills.”
And, also, because Tapia s a fellow Mexican MMA fighter.
“In this fight we’re going to see who is more Mexican and who will have to eat more beans,” joked Torres.
Now 61, Ronald “Butch” Lewis can afford all the pricey, hand-tailored shirts he wants. His company, Butch Lewis Productions, still has somewhat of a presence in boxing, but it’s his music and film production companies that constitute his heaviest revenue flows. When Lewis drops names and speaks of having had telephone conversations with “Denzel,” it’s a good bet he’s not referring to some Police Athletic League boxer who wants Lewis to turn him into the next Michael Spinks.
But old habits die hard, and for Lewis there is nothing quite as satisfying as strutting toward the ring with a fighter who is either a world champion or is challenging for a title, especially if many millions of dollars are involved. That’s a rush music and movies can’t duplicate for someone who insists that, in his heart of hearts, he’s first and foremost a boxing guy.
“No matter what other things I do in business that pays my rent, once you’ve got that jones for boxing, you’ve got it forever,” Lewis said from his offices in New York. “That’s just how it is. When I’m in it, I’m in it.”
Lewis, however, isn’t in it to the extent he once was. In the mid- to late-1980s, he took Michael Spinks to light heavyweight and heavyweight championships. He also had Michael’s older brother, Leon Spinks when, in only his eighth pro bout, Leon shocked Muhammad Ali to win the WBC and WBA heavyweight titles on Feb. 15, 1978. But Leon was much less disciplined and more unpredictable than Michael, creating as much or more exasperation than exultation for Lewis. Leon lost the rematch with Ali seven months later and faded into obscurity.
A one-time vice-president of Top Rank who bolted in 1978 to form his own company on a wing and a prayer, Lewis’ break from the safety net of an affiliation with a successful corporation was very much like the scene in (ital) Jerry Maguire (end ital) when Tom Cruise, in the title role, announces he is taking one goldfish, one female assistant and one client into an unknown future.
There really wasn’t a goldfish in the equation, but Lewis’ company consisted of a small Manhattan office, a receptionist and that one loyal client, Michael Spinks, the Cuba Gooding Jr. equivalent who believed he would receive more personal attention from Lewis than he could get in Top Rank’s more expansive operation.
And as was the case for Jerry Maguire, success for Lewis didn’t come immediately. His early shows were splashed with red ink. He wasn’t always sure he could afford the rent or the secretary, and what would he have done had Michael Spinks taken a hike? For a time, Lewis helped fill his undercards with a midget wrestler called Ed “Too Small” Jones. Things didn’t get any easier when, immediately after his first bout under Lewis’ promotional banner, Spinks suffered a knee injury that kept him on the shelf for nearly a year.
But Spinks rehabilitated the knee, unified the light heavyweight title and became a megastar when he upset IBF heavyweight champion Larry Holmes on Sept. 21, 1985, in the process snapping Holmes’ unbeaten streak at 48 , one short of matching the late Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record.
Spinks’ new status as the first light heavyweight champion to win a heavyweight title gave Lewis leverage, which he wielded like a Jedi warrior’s light saber. Remember how much Lewis was criticized when he pulled Spinks out of the heavyweight unification tournament, for which Spinks would have been paid $5 million for a bout with Mike Tyson? But when Tyson claimed all the belts, as Lewis suspected he would, the public demanded the new ruler of boxing’s flagship division be paired with the undefeated conqueror of Holmes and Gerry Cooney who, oh, yeah, was still recognized by many as the linear heavyweight champion.
Lewis negotiated a $13.2 million payday for Spinks to Tyson’s $17 million for their June 27, 1988, showdown, and so what if Tyson, then at the height of his powers, blew away Spinks in a mere 91 seconds. Do the math. Who wouldn’t be placated by a quickie beatdown if the rate of compensation worked out to $145,055 (ital) per second(end ital)?
Lewis and Spinks are still tighter than bugs in a rug, but however profitable their joint business ventures, the allure of boxing kept tugging at them like an attention-seeking child holding onto the coat sleeve of a parent. Lewis had a nice run with in the late 1990s with a modestly gifted heavyweight from Chicago named Vaughn Bean, whose shtick was to wear a pointed Arabian nights hat, like Sinbad the Sailor, into the ring. But while Bean, whose last bout was in 2005, never was as good as Michael Spinks, he compiled a 45-6-1 record with 34 victories inside the distance and, more significantly, got two shots at the heavyweight title. Bean acquitted himself better than most would have anticipated in dropping a majority decision to IBF champ Michael Moorer on March 29, 1997, and then a unanimous decision to WBA/IBF ruler Evander Holyfield on Sept. 19, 1998.
Which brings us to Lewis’ ongoing heavyweight project, Faruq Saleem, who is less a Spinks in the making than someone who, just maybe, can replicate the run that Bean was able to pull off a decade ago.
It’s been a long road for Lewis and the 34-year-old Saleem, who might be the only 38-0 heavyweight in the world to appear at this comparatively late stage of his career in six-round walkout bouts at club venues like the New Alhambra in South Philadelphia. In making his first ring appearance of 2008, and only the fourth since 2004, the 6’7”, 257-pound Saleem hardly looked like a world-beater in scoring a unanimous decision over Willie Perryman (10-17, 7 KOs), a journeyman from Clarksdale, Miss., on Nov. 14 Then again, nobody booed when the final bell rang.
Lewis doesn’t mind admitting that he cajoled promoters J Russell Peltz and the Hands, Joe Sr. and Joe Jr., into accepting Saleem. It was an easy sell, all things considered, because Lewis paid the purses for both his fighter and for Perryman. That meant that Lewis took a hit of a little more than $4,000.
“I asked Butch what the heck he was doing, sticking with Saleem for as long as he has,” Peltz said. “He told me he had so much invested in the kid that he might as well invest a little more.”
That explains the essence of Butch Lewis. He is more realist than sentimentalist, and is well-aware that Saleem is never going to be considered a great heavyweight. But Lewis’ realism extends to the heavyweight division as presently constituted, and there is a little voice that tells him that he has someone with a big body and decent punch who could get lucky in a field mostly populated by has-beens, never-weres and never-will-be’s.
And there is also the little matter of Lewis’ renowned obstinance. If he discouraged easily, he would have bailed from boxing way back when he had to pitch Ed “Too Small” Jones to audiences tinier than the midget wrestler.
Lewis points out that Saleem was world-ranked a few years ago before a string of injuries let the air out of his balloon and brought him back to ground zero.
“I’m thinking he got as high as No. 5, but I do know he was in the top 10 of both the WBA and WBC,” Lewis said. “I can’t remember which one had him in the top five. The IBF may have had him in its top 15.”
So where did it start to go wrong for the Newark, N.J., native?
“Injuries,” Lewis said. “He’s been riddled with injuries. In the gym, in the street. He broke his hand, twice. He had elbow chips. All kinds of stuff, man. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a fighter who was as hurt as this guy is all the time.”
To date, Saleem – whom Lewis has handled since he was a fledgling pro – has been a dry hole into which Lewis and, to a degree, Spinks, have sunk a substantial investment with no return. Which begs a question: Why?
“I won’t send a fighter out there if I feel he has a legitimate injury, and this bleeper-bleeper’s had a lot of them,” said the ever-profane Lewis, which at least explains Saleem’s recent history of inactivity. “He had two or three fights scheduled earlier this year, but something always happened. The other guy pulled out, or Faruq got injured in the gym.
“Now we got a fighter who’s 38-0, with however many knockouts. I’m not prepared to just throw him out there and say, `(Crap) or get off the pot. You’d better get it together, and fast.’ Sure, it would be easy for me to say that. But I’m stubborn. Me and Slim (Spinks) see Faruq go 10 or 15 rounds in the gym and he can look pretty good at times.
“Our intention is to build him back up again, in a way that is in keeping with my style. If we make it across the finish line, fine. If we don’t, I ain’t gonna be happy, but in my heart I’ll know I did it the right way.”
What makes Lewis convinced that Saleem is salvageable is that he is another nomad wandering the heavyweight desert. First man to stumble upon an oasis can become a big deal in a hurry, or so the theory goes.
“If he were a welterweight or a middleweight, I’d be real concerned right now,” Lewis said. “But come on now. We’re talking about the bleeping heavyweight division. Every bleeper-bleeper whose name anybody recognizes is older than 34, damn near. And nobody’s a killer. There ain’t no bleeping killer nowhere. I mean, who’s the killer?
“Faruq hasn’t been in any wars. I think he has to potential to deal with any of these bleeping champions on a given night. That’s not to say how great my fighter is, but it tells you the level of what the division is. We’d go into any championship bout as the underdog, but my attitude would be, `Bleep that. We know we can win this bleeper-bleeper tonight.’”
But if Lewis has enough patience to keep the faith, what about Saleem? He’s also been on a treadmill to nowhere seemingly forever. What if he threw up his arms, without injuring a shoulder, and declared that enough is enough?
“Certainly he’s frustrated,” Lewis said. “He sees what I see. He knows we can beat some of these bleeper-bleepers if we bring our best game. We got a shot. We ain’t out of this.
“What we got to do is get the wins, then step up to where you can kick ass and look good doing it. Hit the right guy on the chin. Then you can pull down some real money.”
So what about the heavyweights generally considered to be the best of the current bunch, WBC champ Vitali Klitschko and his younger brother, IBF, WBO and IBO titlist Wladimir Klitschko?
“They’re bullbleep!” Lewis shouted. “They put you to sleep! And by that I mean by boring you, not by knocking somebody’s ass out. Man, I’m telling you, we can whip those bleeper-bleepers on a given night. We got as good a shot to win the title as any bleeper-bleeper in the top 10.
“With the expertise I think I have in this sport, I believe I can get him ranked again within the next however many months. I’d like to get him a meaningful fight, a 10- or 12-rounder. From there, maybe into a title shot. Who the hell knows? They’re running out of so-called contenders. They can’t keep recycling the same bleeper-bleepers.”
It will be interesting, or at least informative, to see what happens when and if Lewis puts Saleem in with anyone with a discernible pulse. How easy is it to get to 38-0? Well, it’s not as hard as it otherwise would if the stiffs you’ve been pounding had a combined record of 399-897-41, with 492 losses by knockout, at the time you swapped punches with them.
Amazingly, Saleem’s pro debut, on Feb. 28, 1998, came against a veteran with 54 bouts. So how did any state commission sanction such an apparent mismatch? Well, the “seasoned” opponent Saleem bombed out in one round, James Holly, entered the ring with a 4-50 record, all 50 of his defeats coming inside the distance.
What Lewis wants is to find a heavyweight, any heavyweight, who can get people talking again.
“The current heavyweight champions are fighting overseas and can’t always get on American TV,” said Lewis, a point reference to hulking WBA champ Nikolay Valuev and the 46-year-old remnants of Evander Holyfield. “That’s ridiculous. This sport is losing fans because it’s not delivering.
“They say De La Hoya-Pacquiao is a big fight, but come on. It’s a big fight because there’s no heavyweights pulling the bleeping wagon like they ought to. I see people in the street and they say, `Butch, get back in the game. Boxing needs you.’ They must think I got a superstar in hiding somewhere.
“I’m disappointed that the situation is what it is because to me, boxing is the king of sports. It was that way for so long, and now it’s gone, or almost gone. I mean, think about it. You can’t even go into a barber shop any more and hear people talking about boxing. That’s bad, man. It’s sad.”
To reference a movie other than (ital) Jerry Maguire,(end ital) Lewis is a lot like Michael Corleone in (ital) Godfather III.(end ital) Every time he thinks he’s out of boxing, it pulls him back in.
“I got Bean two world title shots,” he recalled. “He didn’t embarrass us. He had limited talent, but he was in the mix for a while, you know?
“I didn’t go looking for Bean. Bean was brought to me. I worked with him and got some decent results. It could be the same with Faruq. Who knows?
“I saw Faruq in a couple of his early fights in Newark because I have friends on the police force there who brought him to my attention. I wasn’t sure I wanted to get involved. But they kept saying, `B, you can do it! You can make something of this guy!’ Next thing you know, I was signing him.
“Right now I’m being pitched a white heavyweight, 19 years old. They say he’s a street kid, never fought professional, but he can fight his ass off. My first reaction was that I didn’t want to get caught up in this bullbleep again, having to develop somebody for three or four years with no guarantee he’ll ever amount to anything.
“But you know what? I’ll probably take a longer look at him because that the way boxing is when it gets in your system.”
Stitch is not the only one who likes Silva’s chances should such a fight ever come off. Many boxing insiders like his chances should Silva try his hand at the sweet science. “If anyone can do it, it’s Silva,” says former boxing and kick boxing champion James Warring.
Whether or not the match is made is a different story. Dana White has repeatedly stated that he will not allow the fight to happen. Silva’s manager, Ed Soares, has stated that Silva is committed to his UFC contract and will not retire early but some close to the MMA star believe he indeed will retire from MMA and that it will come sooner than expected, that it will happen sometime in 2009, which will free up a still prime Silva for a challenge he has not stopped thinking about---a boxing match against Roy Jones Jr.
While warming up for the Irvin match, his mind drifted again to Roy Jones. “He asked all of us in the room how he should fight him,” continued Duran. “He asked Don House, the other UFC cut man, to train him if the fight comes off.”
If Silva does retire from MMA, the match will be much easier to make. With Jones having lost the Calzaghe match earlier this month, a Silva bout might be his most lucrative option. Further adding to the intrigue is the fact that some boxing insiders are not ruling out Silva’s chances.
He has dominated MMA and has proven himself to be an elite fighter, a once in a lifetime talent. He has had two professional boxing matches and is considered a world class Muay Thai specialist. What he would be attempting is not unprecedented. Several Muay Thai champions have won boxing championships. Saensak Muangsurin did so in 1975 in only his third boxing match. More recently, Veeraphol Sahaprom made the switch over to boxing and became world champ in his fourth bout. Kick boxing champions Troy Dorsey and James Warring also became boxing champions. Many speculate that the timing is right for Silva. Jones is no longer the unbeatable force that he once was. James “Buddy” McGirt has already shown the world how to beat Jones in a boxing match. A former champion himself, McGirt masterminded the right plan when he trained Antonio Tarver, who has twice beaten Jones.
“The key with Jones is you have to be on him,” McGirt says. “You have to punch when he punches. Don’t let him get off or else you’re in trouble.” McGirt has never seen Silva fight so he can’t comment specifically on his chances, although he doubts that someone with only two fights could win. “I don’t think it’ll happen. He’s only had two fights. I don’t think any commission would allow it. Boxing will be a laughingstock.”
But it’s happened before. Olympic champion Pete Rademacher challenged Floyd Patterson in 1957 for the heavyweight championship of the world in his pro debut. He came within seconds of scoring an historic upset, dropping the champ in round two before losing in six. In 1975, yet another boxer was allowed to challenge for a world title in his first fight. Rafael Lovera challenged champion Luis Estaba for the junior bantamweight title. While both Rademacher and Lovera lost their fights, Silva has a pair of advantages over Jones that might help him win. He’s bigger and younger than Jones, who is near the end of his great career.
Trainer Emanuel Steward admitted knowing very little about Silva but did mention that the way to beat Jones is with counterpunches. With the physical advantages that he holds over Jones, Silva may be well suited to taking a counter puncher’s approach. At 6’2, he’s four inches taller than Jones and also could benefit from his four inch reach advantage.
Steward’s assistant, Joey Gamache volunteered more. “Jones was once a great boxer and puncher but he’s a different fighter today. He gets hit more. If he is pushed with a non-stop attack, he can not sustain that pace. Of course, if Jones hits anyone right, he can knock them out but, he can be outhustled.” Outworking Jones may be a viable option for Silva, who is in excellent condition. Jones has developed a tendency recently to fight in spurts. If Silva can outwork Jones when Jones is coasting and follow McGirt’s advice to punch with him, he could put himself in position to win a decision.
James Warring cautions that throwing punches for 12 rounds is harder than it looks. “But Silva is ahead of his time. He is the best fighter in the world today, period!” In addition to his championships in kick boxing and boxing, Warring also competed in MMA. He was a finalist at the 1995 World Combat Championships-losing to Renzo Gracie. “The only thing that could beat him is himself in MMA. But boxing is different. MMA is easier than boxing because you have more choices. If your strikes aren’t working, you can kick. If your kicks aren’t working, you can take it to the ground and grapple. But in boxing you only have one weapon. Boxers punch so hard and the punches come so fast that an inexperienced guy won’t know what to do.” Warring continued. “But Silva is a special fighter. I know he has a Muay Thai and boxing background, but I’m not sure what the quality of opposition he faced was. My money would be on Jones but maybe he can knock out Jones, who knows. But I don’t expect Jones to go down from punches as easily as some of his MMA opponents have.”
Howard Davis Jr., boxing instructor for American Top Team and former Olympic gold medalist, agrees that Silva will be facing something he has never seen. “First of all, I don’t think it’ll happen. Remember, Jones was never a huge pay per view draw. The fight they should be talking up is GSP against De La Hoya. I’ve seen GSP in the ring and he can move better than many boxers.” On Silva’s chances he says, “I don’t think his hand work is good enough even against a faded Jones.”
Former boxing champion Wayne McCullough thinks that Silva’s hand work would be less effective with boxing gloves. “I think both should wear MMA gloves. Using smaller gloves, I think Silva has a good chance. He has natural talent and with solid boxing training he probably could do it.”
Ideally, Silva should have a series of fights to develop his boxing skills and acquire the necessary seasoning to compete against top tier boxers over the course of a 12 round fight. His lack of experience is a huge disadvantage, although you can argue that Silva is a bigger threat than some of the boxers who challenged Jones for the title were, such as Richard Frazier.
Troy Dorsey, who’s won world championships in boxing, kick boxing and karate, says, “Silva is gonna have to put a lot of pressure on him to win. He’s going to have to impose his will on him.” Dorsey, who’s an avid follower of MMA, points out that many good fighters have come up short when venturing into other fighting sports. “Silva is known for his Muay Thai but his jiu-jitsu can beat you too. I don’t know how he will do strictly boxing but lately, he’s been dropping guys with punches.” Could it be that Silva has been quietly developing his boxing skills behind the scenes?
“It’s not easy,” continued Dorsey. “I was blessed to be able to do it. I don’t think it’s a smart fight for Silva unless it’s for a lot of money. I know his confidence is pushing him but it’s a different sport. It takes A LOT of training.”
Other fighters have risen to the occasion. Silva is a special fighter and in many ways better than some of the fighters that successfully crossed over to boxing. Silva is not calling out boxing’s best either. You could argue that calling out the 2008 version of Jones is like boxer Wladimir Klitschko challenging the present day Ken Shamrock. Nonetheless, it’s still a monumental task, but Silva is a special fighter who just may be up to it. Stitch Duran said, “Worst case scenario, he loses by decision. He won’t embarrass himself.”
A loss won’t hurt his reputation. A win will make him an icon perhaps on the same level as Pele. Warring says it’s worth the risk if Silva can box. “I hope for him that he does win. I did it and Dorsey did it. It’s an amazing feeling.”
For now, Silva can only dream about what it feels like.
But we know what we like, we enjoy the spectacle, and skill, and showcases of strength and will and heart, and we can shrug off the judgments. But when that cable bill comes, that can be harder to shrug off, right?
It’s one thing to hear chops busting, but quite another to get that bill three weeks after you broke down, and ordered that pay per view, and see a bill that is 50% larger than it would be. Everything it seems, has gone up in cost, but unless you are in the fortunate minority, your salary or hourly wage hasn’t kept pace.
But if you want to be in the mix, and truly follow the sweet science, you are resigned to pony up that extra $50 a month, on top of the extra spiff you pay to subscribe to the premium channels, HBO and Showtime, which are the primary homes to the outlaw sport which advertisers are reluctant to touch. Or so we’ve been lead to believe, right?
So then how has Golden Boy been able to secure financing from advertisers which will allow those inclined to purchase Saturday’s Oscar De La Hoya/Manny Pacquiao pay per view for less than the $54.95 suggested retail price?
Coca-Cola and Tecate beer are offering mail-in rebate coupons worth $20 each toward the cost of the pay-per-view telecast, and Cazadores tequila will offer a $10 rebate. Do the math, then. If you get your stuff together, you can stock up on items for your guests on Saturday, and defray the expense. If you are frugal and deceitful, you could even not tell your guests about the coupons, charge them Saturday night, and MAKE A PROFIT. Not that TSS condones that sort of thing!
"We know these are tough times economically," Schaefer said about the coupons. "With the help of these rebates, which we think is unprecedented in pay per view, more fans will be able to afford to see this great event."
Rebate coupons can be found on six-packs of Coke's Full Throttle energy drink and 18-packs of Tecate beer.
Why aren’t other promoters able to pull off the same sort of promotional tie ins? Why do fight fans take it on the chin, and have to pony up $50 a month to effectively follow fightsports, or more if you also watch MMA? Will the economic downturn force promoters and programmers to…say it isn’t so?...actually leave a few dollars on the table, and back off the business model that hammers consumers? Will they finally finally finally get it that they aren’t growing new fans by putting the most attractive bouts on premium channels and on PPV? Further, do they care, or are they simply interested in squeezing every last ounce of blood from the turnip, and could care less about the longterm prospects of the industry?
We get accused of being terminal naysayers sometimes, but let it be clear that I applaud Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer’s effort and Golden Boy and Top Rank’s decision to put the January 24 Margarito-Mosley bout on regular HBO. That’s a sign of comprehension that the powerbrokers need to back off on the PPV pile on, and concede that the pockets of their diehards are bottomless pits. Now, when Schaefer or whoever has the foresight and wherewithal to place a premium fight on regular network TV, maybe on a Saturday night, where MMA has had success, then you’ll be able to hear the sounds of me clapping in Brooklyn all the way in California…
Schaefer and Top Rank boss Bob Arum hopped on a conference call on Monday afternoon to hype the Saturday match, which is either a cynical exercise in money gathering, or a genuinely fascinating match of styles that could result in a history-making upset of the larger man at the hands of the smaller man with the heart of a lion.
The economy, or lack thereof, was a popular reference point on the call. Schaefer particularly, being a banker in his former life, was impressive in his grasp of the national monetary mood, and in his ability to convey it to us keyboard tappers whose degrees make us more suited for watching sporting events and commenting on them than weighing in on matters like gross domestic product and collateralized debt obligations. Over a year ago, Schaefer reminded us, he sounded warning bells on the economy. But today, he said there were some encouraging signs, in the markets, gas prices, retail sales, and entertainment purchase trends. OK, so today actually the Dow tanked like Pavlik at middleweight, but he had us convinced there for the time being…
Back to that cable bill, and the price tag for Saturday’s presentation. Arum said that people should take a page from the Hispanics and Filipinos, who he said gather together groups of people to defray the cost of the event. “Four couples, bring beer, tacos, order Dominos pizza, it’s cheaper than going to the movies and getting a bite to eat after,” Arum said. “I’m very bullish on how this pay per view is going to do.”
In fact, in these leaner times, Arum is still hopeful that the numbers from PPV will surpass the numbers for Oscar/Floyd in 2007, and preliminary indications are that is the case, he said. Of reports that tickets sales aren’t as robust as he might like, he acknowledged that some tix are still available, but that they moved almost $15 million in an hour upon initial release, so he wouldn’t have lowered prices if he’d known four months ago that the economy would be in this state. Maybe, Arum said, he would’ve voted to lower the PPV cost five bucks. That would’ve been a nice gesture, at least, in TSS’ mind…He also refused to shed a tear for ticket brokers, who snapped up a lion’s share of the tickets, and will be stuck selling a big batch at face value.
The two men also touched on the history of bad blood between Top Rank and Golden Boy, which boiled over last year when Pacquiao signed with both companies before deciding to stick with Arum. Since then, they’ve co-promoted Barrera-Pacquiao, Mosley-Cotto, Hopkins-Pavlik and will do Mosley-Margarito next year, so clearly money has helped the principals get over their beef. Schaefer said that De La Hoya is still miffed at Manny for his dealings, and got in a shot at Pacquiao when he said, “Manny has the ability to attract chaos.” Oscar, Schaefer said, “has said more than once that he will make Manny pay.”
Arum contends that he feels strongly that PacMan could win this fight, as does his trainer, and Top Rank matchmakers. He would not put his man in an unwinnable bout, he said. So that spoke to fans and media who think this event is a mismatch. Arum and Schaefer both ascribe much of that negativism to jealousy from promoters and fighters, but didn’t address what would make a fan take this stance…
Schaefer also said that he and Oscar regularly discuss “the end,” and that one never knows, Dec. 6 could be Oscar’s last fight. I cannot guarantee that this will not be Oscar’s farewell, but the man is going to see a 14 foot statue of himself erected at the Staples Center, next to statues of Magic Johnson and Wayne Gretzky, so I can think we can agree his work is done if he so chooses…
Now, TSS Universe, I want to hear from you. Will you be buying the PPV, or taking a pass? Is that because you perceive it to be a mismatch? Is it too pricy? Have you cut back on your PPV purchases in recent months? Or do you simply accept that this is the business model for the sport, and are resigned to shell out premium money for premium product? Weigh in!
First, Williams punished IBF titleholder Verno Phillips (42-11-1, 21 KOs) on his birthday for eight brutal rounds in front of 5,400 fans at the brand new Citizens Business Bank Arena, many of those fans watching their first Las Vegas style fight card.
If you look at Phillips' record you would notice that he has never been stopped in a title fight despite fighting a number of monsters in the welterweight and junior middleweight division for 20 years.
Not this time.
Williams took a butt to the head that caused a two-inch cut on the side of his right eye that poured blood the entire fight. Phillips noticed it and it sparked even more activity from the gutsy fighter from Belize.
“I tried to hit him on the cut,” said Phillips after the fight. “But he covered up pretty good.”
Instead of complaining or falling out of sync, Williams seemed to be telling himself that he was not going to let Phillips do what Carlos Quintana had done a year ago and lull him into an unplanned fight plan.
“That was the first time I bled like that,” said Williams (36-1, 27 KOs) who fought the entire eight rounds with blood blurring his vision. “It’s part of boxing.”
For two rounds Williams began gauging Phillips' sharp blows then around the third round the six feet, three inch Georgia fighter began loading up and firing punches to the body of the junior middleweight. After several blows it was easy to see that Phillips felt the punches.
“I felt the third round was the turning point and I could feel his legs leaving him.”
Every round from the third round was a carbon copy with Williams walking through Phillip’s punches and firing crunching blows to the body. Slowly Phillips began to wilt but kept landing an occasional big blast to remind his taller opponent he still had sting left in his punches.
In the seventh round Phillips stepped up his output and caught Williams with several good blows. It looked like the smaller boxer was going to win another round when suddenly Williams slipped into another gear and blasted away at the body. That round seemed to sap the confidence out of Phillips.
Sensing that Phillips was wilting, the WBO welterweight titleholder Williams stepped forward against the brave Phillips and belted him from side to side. Phillips was turned around on a couple of punches but refused to quit. He fired back and just couldn’t muster the energy from the earlier rounds. Williams poured it on.
At the end of the eighth round ringside physician Paul Wallace examined Phillips and advised referee Jon Schorle to stop the fight, for a technical knockout for Williams.
“He wasn’t responding to my questions,” said Wallace.
Williams jumped out of his corner realizing that he had beaten a good champion in Phillips who had never been stopped in a title fight.
Now, Williams seeks another worthy opponent, whether it’s in the welterweight, junior middleweight or middleweight division.
“I’ve been calling out people for 10 years,” said Williams who prefers to fight Antonio Margarito in a rematch. Williams beat the WBA welterweight titleholder in 2007. “I believe I can beat anybody in the world. Bring it on.”
Travis “Freight Train” Walker (28-2-1, 22 KOs) had said all along that he was going to knock Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola out (26-0, 23 KOs).
Man, did he give it a good try.
The heavy-handed Floridian came out winging and landed numerous left hooks and right uppercuts. For most of the first round Walker beat Arreola to the punch repeatedly. Every time Arreola tried to do something Walker would come in blazing and find the mark. Arreola wobbled several times but grabbed to keep the attack under control. In the final 30 seconds Arreola landed a solid left hook that made Walker wobble.
“He’s a strong guy, I felt him right away,” said Arreola, 27. “I wanted to see what he had to offer.”
Walker sensed that he had hurt Arreola and wanted to keep the momentum going. It was a good plan but it was the same plan that the Riverside fighter had too. Unknown to anyone in the arena, Arreola had hurt his left elbow earlier in the week during sparring and complained to his trainer that it was hurting more.
“He told me, 'My elbow is hurting,'" said trainer Henry Ramirez. “I told him you better finish him off quick.”
Instead of finishing him off, it was Arreola who was nearly finished with a right hand to the chin that dropped him to one knee for a knockdown. It was the first time he had ever been knocked down.
“I was thinking I got to get back up and get that point back or win the round or drop him a couple of times,” said Arreola, who took a count of eight on one knee before getting back up.
Bad elbow, bruised chin and bruised ego, Arreola stormed back in the round with his own left hand right cross that wobbled Walker. A lead right hand followed by a left hook dropped Walker for the first time in the fight. The entire crowd, most of them cheering for Arreola, roared in approval for the first time in the fight.
The Florida fighter beat the count and was met with the same right cross-left hook combination and was dropped again. Again he beat the count and the bell rang to end one of the best heavyweight rounds of the year.
“I saw where he was throwing a little lazy jab,” said Arreola about making adjustments in mid round. “I was studying his power and what kind of punches he got.”
With renewed vigor in Arreola’s eyes and more respect in Walkers' posture, the third round saw the Riverside fighter advance quickly to fire a right hand that connected solidly. A blow to the body forced Walker to retreat to a corner where he was met with a right hand and yet another left hook that knocked him down in a heap. Referee Jack Reiss immediately waved off the fight only 13 seconds into the third round for a knockout victory for Arreola.
Walker protested the stoppage.
“I don’t think I was hurt,” said Walker. “I’ll have to see a replay of the tape.”
Arreola jumped on top of the ropes in every corner as the crowd of supporters cheered.
“A lot of people criticized my weight, but all I was worried about was going to war with this guy,” said Arreola.
Many at ringside called it one of the best heavyweight fights since Vitali Klitshcko battled Lennox Lewis 60 miles west in Los Angeles.
Grabbing the microphone, Arreola asked the crowd if it’s one of the Klitschkos that they want to see him fight?
They roared in approval.
Arreola said he would be getting back in the gym quickly to make sure he’s more than ready to test one of the Klitschkos next year. He also thanked Goossen-Tutor Promotions and Al Haymon his manager for picking him out of the club fight circuit.
“They picked me when I was nothing,” Arreola said. “I appreciate that.”
Shawn Estrada wins
Olympic boxing star Shawn Estrada (1-0) of East Los Angeles won his pro debut with a bang. A right hand to the body and a barrage of punches dropped Washington D.C.’s Lawrence Jones (2-2-1), a southpaw, at 1:00 of the first round of the middleweight bout.
Bakersfield heavyweight Manuel Quezada (25-4, 15 KOs) won by unanimous decision over Las Vegas boxer Teke Oruh (14-2-1, 6 KOs) in a slow-paced 10 round bout. No knockdowns were scored in the glacier affair and neither took many chances. In the end, Quezada was busier and won according to the judges 98-92 on all three score cards.
Josesito Lopez (23-3, 14 KOs) plowed through Florida’s Alex Perez (23-32-4) in two rounds and stopped the Cuban fighter with a four-punch combination ending with a left hook. Referee Wayne Hedgepeth stopped the fight at 2:36 of the second round. Lopez had dropped Perez earlier in the round with a left hook to the jaw.
In a welterweight contest, Mike Dallas Jr. of Bakersfield and Jose Lugo of Mexico fought to a six round majority draw. It was Dallas' speed versus Lugos' power in an entertaining back and forth struggle. The scores were 58-56 for Dallas, and 57-57 twice for a majority draw.
The voluble noise grabs Cristobal Arreola’s attention. The groans emanating from the television belong to Eric “Butterbean” Esch as he tangles with Dennis Rodman on the Hulk Hogan Celebrity Championship Wrestling TV show.
The clamour from the television set was the only distraction for Riverside native Arreola as he tuned his body and mind for the heavyweight showdown with Florida’s Travis Walker.
“There’s nothing to do [in Big Bear] but train, sleep and eat,” said Arreola at his lakeside condo two weeks before the fight in Ontario, California. “A couple of days ago [myself and trainer Henry Ramirez] went to a bar at 8:30pm and there was nobody there. If you go to a bar at 8:30 in Riverside it’s packed. There are still people walking around the streets at that time.
“Here, my entertainment is TV, video games and movies. That’s it.”
On Saturday it was the 5,400 crowd at the Citizens Business Bank Arena that was entertained by a dramatic slugfest between Arreola and Walker. Despite being outfought in the first round and felled in the second, Arreola rallied back to stop Walker 13 seconds into the third frame.
The 6’4 Arreola has generally weighed 240 pounds at fight time, but for the Walker fight he scaled in excess of 250 for the second consecutive contest. Arreola looked fleshy and unconditioned and after two and a half rounds of one-sided action his goal of becoming the first Mexican-American heavyweight champion was on the verge of decimation.
The unbeaten Arreola has been accused in some circles of having a lackadaisical attitude to training in conjunction with limited boxing skills and modest punching power.
But on Saturday he proved that despite his physical appearance, his resolve is at peak form as he absorbed the accurate power-shots of Walker and with gritty determination forced his body to engender a series of bone-rattling combinations.
The solitude at Big Bear may have refined Arreola’s strength of mind, but the foundations were solidified at a much earlier stage.
“I got into boxing so I could beat my dad’s ass,” he told the Press Enterprise earlier this year.
Agustín Arreola first brought his son to a boxing gym when Chris was four years old, and some years later when the youngster suggested quitting the sport his proposition was met by a left hook to the jaw. Agustín contends that Chris wanted to leave boxing to join a street gang and admits to weeping when he looks at his son’s first boxing robe.
But the hardest blow Arreola has endured in his 27-year life was no punch.
In October of last year he decided to leave a house party while his best friend, Alex Carranza, remained behind. Soon after, a gunman reportedly opened fire on the attendees. Carranza sought to protect a nearby girl and covered her with his hulking 260-pound frame. But his sizeable physique was no match for the bullets.
Arreola arrived back at the house just in time to watch his companion die.
“I was looking at him and there was nothing I could do to help,” he said.
Arreola, 26-0 (23), claims to feel no fear in advance of fights, but ahead of the Walker showdown he admitted to getting nervous before sparring sessions. Arreola feels under more pressure when training in Big Bear as the lack of diversions focuses his mind on fighting and nothing else.
“I get really nervous before I spar. I get real tense,” he revealed. “In sparring there’s more thinking involved, but in the fight it’s more on instinct. On the day of the fight I love to sleep in. The only thing I have to do is make sure I’ve got new underwear and new socks.”
Arreola hopes to soon get the opportunity to carry out that ritual before a title fight against one of the enormous Klitschko brothers. And he has no qualms about travelling overseas and fighting in a new environment against either of the Ukrainians.
“I’d travel anywhere,” he stated. “It would take me a while to get used to the climate, the time change. I’d go there about a month before the fight, that way I’d have no excuses.”
While Arreola may need to modify his routine in preparation for a fight against Wladimir or Vitali, his fight strategy would remain unchanged.
“You’ve got to back [the Klitschkos] up as much as possible and stay in their chest,” he explained. “I won’t let them stretch their big arms.”
Either of the Klitschko brothers would enjoy a wide advantage over Arreola in every measurable department, from size to skill. But on one intangible Arreola has a clear lead over every active heavyweight; heart.
Because of boxing's violent nature, many throughout history have condemned the sport as a barbaric business that ruins lives. And to the ignorant eye, Estrada’s thumping of Bryant on Saturday could look very barbaric. He did, after all, pound another man to a pulp for money.
But anyone who knows Estrada and his story could not possibly see his lifestyle as anything other than special. Boxing is not a barbaric business, and Estrada’s day-to-day routine, along with the people he shares that routine with, is the perfect testament to that statement.
About five miles south of downtown Providence, Rhode Island, you’ll find a small, blue-collar neighborhood nestled in the side streets off a major highway that leads into Connecticut and eventually New York City. Just one glance around the area, and it becomes evident that the neighborhood is far from Beverly Hills.
Teens walk in groups down the street, projecting toughness and machismo.
There is little use for sit down lawn mowers, so prevalent in nearby suburbs.
There are no traffic lights; there is little public parking.
This is no fairy tale neighborhood; this is an area where working class families must show tremendous inner strength to rise above their surroundings and create a better life.
But amidst this atmosphere lies an oasis from all of the area’s troubles. Here, you don’t see shootings and drug use. You don’t see anger and hate. Here, you see good people, sticking together and trying to better both themselves and the surrounding premises. Their vehicles: sports and recreation. The Davey Lopes Recreation Center is the epitome of the good sports can do for a community.
This past July, I made the trek down to the Lopes Center from Boston. As I walked in, I was greeted cordially by the center’s director, George Lindsey. I was there, I told him, to do a story on the Big Six Boxing Academy, which is located in the building’s rear.
I walked into the gym. Several fighters and trainers who I didn’t know cordially welcomed me. I wandered around the building, absorbing the gym’s aesthetics. The walls, covered with newspaper clippings about the gym’s fighters, particularly “Big Six” Estrada, who the gym is named after, are painted red and black. There are two boxing rings, a half-dozen heavy bags, two speed bags, two sway bags, and one sand bag. The gym is clean, well-organized.. Of every gym I have ever been in, this one is probably the nicest.
My goal here was to get to know the heart and soul of the gym. Now that I had taken in the environment, I wanted to meet the fighters and trainers who made up that inner-core.
The first man to introduce himself to me was Phil “The Killa” Miller, a 4-0 heavyweight based out of Boston. Miller began his career roughly a year ago by outpointing Robert Irizzary over four rounds in Boston. Since then, Miller has been hot and cold, blitzing two straight opponents via first round knockout and most recently struggling to a four-round unanimous decision. Miller, who serves in the United States Coast Guard, got his start in boxing at the age of 27. Now 33, he trains alongside Estrada and cruiserweight contender Matt Godfrey, hoping to learn as much as he can as fast as he can.
Miller travels over an hour every day to train in the Big Six Boxing Academy because of the character the gym possesses.
“I used to train in a big gym that was for both boxing and mixed martial arts, but they had air conditioning, and I’d rather not train in a place like that,” he said. “Here, people train hard, everyone helps everyone, and there is no competition. We hang out together when we’re not in the gym. It’s like a family.”
A tough family, that is. In the Estrada gym, there is no air conditioning, and pugs are notorious for wearing sweat-suits and winter hats while training.
Roland Estrada, the gym’s head honcho and father/trainer of Jason Estrada, embraces the rugged training conditions.
“Our guys toughen up and get used to [the heat],” he said.
Roland Estrada is one New England’s top trainers. He’s guided his son Jason to a 15-1 career record, and two of his other fighters have yet to lose. Now that he has his own gym, fighters of all kinds get to train under him. His dedication to his gym has earned him the respect of all who train in it.
“He never stops working,” said Jason, his son. “He’s always watching videos and incorporating the techniques he learns into our training.”
The Big Six Boxing Academy opened in July of 2006 but had to be shut down because of a lack of leadership. George Lindsey, the recreation center’s director, wasn’t about to fund a tribe without a chief. But in July of 2007, Estrada stepped in and took the reigns. The gym was reopened, revamped, and Providence-based boxers now had a classy place to train.
Estrada runs the gym under his terms. He likes the family atmosphere, and he hates unhealthy competition.
“At the end of every month,” he said, “we have a group meeting where we air out all of our problems. If two guys don’t get their problems straightened out, they’re out of here.”
Estrada understands the importance of boxing in the lives of kids. That’s why he lets youth train in the gym for free (for everyone else, the cost is $50 a year). This kind of unselfish attitude has helped Estrada become a leader for other trainers in the gym.
One of those trainers is Ernest “Tuna” Shelton. Shelton has been training fighters with the Estradas for roughly six years. He’s the second man in the corner for every Jason Estrada fight, and he is head trainer of seven fighters in the gym. He describes the Big Six Boxing Academy as “home.”
“I can come here whenever,” he said. “I sometimes come here in the middle of the night.”
Shelton looks at the Estradas like brothers. He takes after both of their hardworking, humble attitudes.
“Roland is like my older brother, and Jason is like my younger brother,” he said. “I model everything I do after Roland. What he’s done for me – money can’t buy it. And he never takes any credit. I want to let the world know what a great man he is.”
Shelton has three sons who train in the gym. His two oldest sons, Ramiel and Davhon Shelton, are each hot amateur prospects. Ramiel, 16, is ripped from head to toe. He fights at 165 pounds and has a record of roughly 14-4. Davhon, 15, is soft-spoken, but in the ring, he’s a fireball. A 120 pounder, Davhon has had over 40 fights. Both teens plan on turning pro when they turn 18.
Ernest’s other son, Bubah, is only 3 years old. But he already does 150 pushups a day (sometimes with only one hand), and he shadow boxes with a smooth rhythm that kids several years his senior have yet to achieve.
“He was born to box,” said Ernest. “He was born the night Jason beat Demetrice King.”
Keenen Moses is a sixteen-year-old cousin of the Sheltons who also trains at the gym. A 154 pounder with a record of 10-3, Moses often spars with Ramiel, creating a friendly family rivalry.
“I’m better,” he says with a cocky smile.
For these teen fighters, perhaps the greatest part of training in the Big Six Boxing Academy is fighting alongside world class fighters like Estrada and Godfrey. But even though Estrada has been on national television on several occasions, the boys look at him like any other guy. He’s their older brother in this tight-knit boxing family.
The Big Six Boxing Academy also plays home to dynamic trainer Greg Townes. A former 9-5 light heavyweight pro, Townes stresses the gym’s kid-orientated nature.
“There are so many benefits to kids boxing,” said Townes. “It builds character, pride, and establishes a sense of identity..”
One of the gym’s most prominent characters is former fighter Rufas Pittman. Pittman was an outstanding amateur fighter before he turned pro.
“Hagler, Leonard, they all avoided me,” he said.
But then he found drugs, and his life took a turn for the worse.
Now, however, Pittman has turned his life around, and he is giving back to the community. He keeps the gym clean and organized (it looks fantastic), and he trains an amateur fighter. He gives the gym’s kids advice on which path not to take.
As I left the gym that day, I was reminded of why I love boxing. The sport is not all corrupt; there are still good guys out there using the sweet science as a vehicle to do good for the earth. The Big Six Boxing Academy is the home of class, dignity. Other gyms would be wise to follow suit.
I returned to the gym just two days later for the first ring-card girl photo shoot for my former Web site, BoxingHerald.com. There training hard, and alone, was a female fighter named Kay Reese. As I did everything in my power to look cool in front of the models, I saw Reese pounding the heavy bag, jumping rope, and shadow boxing; and I noticed a sharp contrast between Reese and the others in the room.
Unlike the models – or myself – Reese was not being watched. Her work was not for show but rather for improvement. I couldn’t help but admire her dedication on this Saturday afternoon when all other fighters were home relaxing.
But then again, she’d be welcome in at any time. The Big Six Boxing Academy is a home for a family.
Both Roland Estrada and Greg Townes reiterated the same praise of the gym.
“We’re like a family. And like all families, we sometimes have problems. But in the end, we always come together.”
Diaz (45-5-1, 29 KOs) started quick but slowed down against the southpaw Ramos (17-5-1) who began finding the range for his left hands. The judges scored it 77-75, 79-73, 80-72 for Diaz.
“I thought I did better than the last time I fought,”said Diaz, who has a three-fight win streak since coming out of retirement. “There wasn’t any rust this time.”
The Arizona fighter began finding the range for some of his punches and Diaz slowed a bit in the last three rounds and allowed Ramos to gain momentum.
“If you look at Diaz his face was swollen from the jabs I was landing,” said Ramos, who had not fought in 18 months. “I’d like to fight him in a rematch for at least 10 rounds.”
Diaz said he spotted former welterweight title contender Alfonso Gomez in the crowd and would love to fight the Whittier resident.
“He’s got a big name. That would be a good fight,” said Diaz.
In the semi main event, Riverside’s Mauricio Herrera (8-0, 3 KOs) stepped up in class and dominated Tijuana’s Pavel Miranda (18-3) in an eight round welterweight bout and stopped him in the last round at 1:00. Using a stiff jab and accurate combinations the undefeated boxer proved to perplexing for the taller Mexican fighter.
From the first round it was obvious that Herrera had the quicker hands and repeatedly caught Miranda with a stiff jab that snapped his head back. That jab and his defensive prowess proved to short circuit the Tijuana fighter’s ability to mount an attack.
Miranda had his moments, but every time he landed a left hook or right hand, he would absorb four and five-punch combinations driving him backward.
In the eighth round, Herrera could not miss with his combos and was battering Miranda mercilessly until referee Ray Corona stopped the fight.
It was a good call.
Herrera is trained by Mira Loma’s Willy Silva, who formerly trained Carlos Bojorquez.
Rialto’s Dominic Salcido (17-1, 9 KOs) returned to the win column with a fifth round technical knockout at 2:59 of the round over Celestino Rodriguez (6-13-3) of Puerto Rico. The speedy lightweight scored a knockdown in the fourth round and two knockdowns in the fifth.
Tijuana’s veteran Omar Salado (20-1-2) out-battled rugged Jose Albuquerque (8-5-2) of Brazil in an eight-round flyweight bout. All three judges scored it for Salado 79-73 twice and 78-74.
San Bernardino’s Malcolm Franklin (1-0) scored a first round knockdown and survived a sharp rally by Huntington Park’s Alex Sonorio (0-1) to win by unanimous decision in a four round flyweight bout.
In a featherweight bout Tijuana’s Juan Burgos (20-0) won by majority decision over Colombia’s Jesus Ruiz (24-22-3) in a slow uneventful eight rounds. Referee Gwen Adair scored it 76-76, James Jen Kin 77-75, David Mendoza 79-73.
Attending the fight was Harold Lederman of HBO fame, Chris Arreola, Mando Muniz, Kaliesha West, Marilyn Salcido, Julio Diaz, and WBC junior welterweight titleholder Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley.
Bradley said he’s slated to fight the winner between WBO titleholder Kendall Holt and former champion Ricardo Torres.
Williams was able to do what no man had done since 1988, that is, stop Phillips early. He tore into the loser’s body with a steady salvo of body blows, particularly right hooks, and Verno, a three time junior middleweight titlist, was unable to come out to start the ninth round.
Nobody in the joint, or watching on HBO, could say he didn’t earn his keep. Nor can they say that anyone who hopped off the Williams ‘wagon made a wise move. Long, Tall Paul is still a physical freak, with a height/reach/power/chin package that makes him on the very short list to give Floyd Mayweather Jr, problems WHEN Floyd comes back in 2009. Oh, did we mention that Williams has it going on in the cardio and the volume departments? He went 227-682; Verno was 91-396 on the night.
South Carolina’s Williams (153 ½ pounds; age 27) came in with a 35-1 (26 stops) record, while Colorado’s Phillips (age 39) came in at 42-11-1, with 21 KOs.
In the first, the lefty Williams used his seven inch height advantage. The two clashed heads later in the round, and Williams’ right eye bore the brunt. Verno landed a couple of sneaky quick rights when Williams dropped his left hand. In the second, Verno made it crystal clear that he wouldn’t be caving in to Williams’ rep. He clipped him with a left hook, and then again, aiming at the cut. Verno slips and blocks well, and he has a world class chin, too, we saw. In the third, Williams continued his campaign to scramble Verno’s insides. His right hooks to the body, especially, looked painful to watch, let alone absorb. The cut was open wider at the end of the third, and Williams was definitely stepping on the gas, looking to close it out right quick throughout the third.
In the fourth, Verno looked overmatched, but he hung tough. Same in the fifth; he scored with a left, too, just to show that Williams couldn’t bank on a stop just yet. The cut on Williams was still leaky at this point. In the sixth, the one sided fight stayed lopsided. If the fight stayed the same, one wouldn’t have faulted the ref if he started to think about halting the event. In the seventh, Verno’s legs still had bounce. Mercy, he is a tough sonofagun…Both men tangled up and hit the deck at the 2:10 mark. Verno tossed haymakers intermittently, but Williams kept enough distance between them and slipped them, mostly.
In the eighth, it looked to me like Verno’s legs were going. Would he make it to the end? No, it turned out. The doctor went to his corner and chatted with the fighter and his trainer.
In the TV opener, Chris Arreola rose to 25-0 with a third round KO of Travis Walker (28-1). The heavyweight, nicknamed the Nightmare, weighed in at 254 pounds on Friday, and every keyboard tapper prepared a “What was he thinking?” lead as he ate heavy leather in the first. Arreola’d sworn he’d trim down after weighing 258 ½ against Israel Garcia two months ago, and darn, we get that Thursday was Thanksgiving, but 4 ½ pounds doesn’t cut it, not when a man is thisclose to title shot. Yup, this looked like a clear-cut case of self sabotage early on, but Arreola yanked himself out of a bad situation and came through with a stoppage in a short, entertaining outing.
Walker came out banging in round one. Arreola was wobbled with left hook/right follow midway through the first. The Californian was excessively patient, and we wondered if he wasn’t in gear, or if he was just sizing up his man. Walker tossed 106 punches in the round, for the record.
Walker scored a knockdown with a straight right to start the second. Arreola, age 27, needed to snap out of the funk, quickly, or his dream would be derailed. He fired back, in fact, with a mean left hook. A combo sent down Walker, and he arose with 45 seconds to go. Arreola looked to close it out, and he notched another knockdown. Again, Walker got up. He didn’t clinch, and threw bombs back. He was probably saved by the bell.
In the third, an Arreola left hook ended the 29-year-old Walker’s night. He protested, but his legs were pasta soft, and the ref made the right call.
The time of the finish was 13 seconds of the third.
Arreola is the second ranked heavyweight in the IBF. We can be reasonably certain that there will be more discussions about his shape, and conditioning and how much attention he has been and should be paying attention to the scale as he gets closer to the opportunity of his lifetime.
Please check back for David Avila’s ringside report.
They both want the distinction of bringing back a world title to the U.S.
Arreola (25-0, 22 KOs) and Walker clash on Saturday, Nov. 29, at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario to decide who will be first to crash the Eastern European stranglehold on the heavyweight world titles.
The Goossen-Tutor Promotions fight card begins early at 4:30 p.m. HBO’s famed television crew will be announcing the fight to the rest of the nation.
Both Arreola and Walker want to disrupt the European monopoly, but first they must erupt on each other to discover who deserves first crack.
Walker says Arreola has never faced a real heavyweight.
“His fights have been with a lot of lighter weight guys, I’m a real heavyweight,” said Walker (28-1-1, 22 KOs) of Arreola. “I’m not a cruiserweight walking around saying I’m a heavyweight. I’m a real heavyweight and it’s time for him to find out.”
Both American heavyweights have traveled on a similar path and are promoted by Goossen-Tutor.
“It would be great for Arreola to win and become the first Mexican heavyweight to win a world title,” said Dan Goossen, the president of Goossen-Tutor. “But Travis Walker can win it too.”
Arreola has been touted as the first heavyweight of Mexican lineage to truly have a shot at winning a world title. Promoters like Goossen see big dollar signs if he can reach the top level.
“They’re hoping he wins because he’s a Mexican heavyweight. I understand that, because it’s good for business,” said Walker, slightly angered that he’s been overlooked. “But this is my business right here. This is not his business, it is my business.”
For the last two years Walker has been asking for a match against Arreola, who’s been gathering attention nationwide via television.
“When I first came they started talking about Jason Estrada and I had to get him,” said Walker, who beat him two years ago at Soboba Casino by majority decision. “When I finally fought him I demolished him.”
The Arreola fight almost didn’t happen for Walker who was derailed by left-handed slugger TJ Wilson a year ago in Sacramento in the first round. He avenged that knockout defeat with a second round knockout two months later.
“It was great to come back with a victory like that. It was overwhelming,” Walker said. “I shouldn’t have lost that first fight.”
Finally, Walker gets his dream match with the Nightmare.
“He says I’ve never fought anybody with a winning record,” laughs Arreola. “Look at the guys he’s faced.”
Walker knows he needs a win to keep his place in line.
“There’s only one way to find out who’s the best,” said Walker while in Ontario. “He’s going to give me what I need to see where I’m at. And I’m going to give him what he needs to see where he’s at.”
Arreola and Walker are fighting to see who challenges the European stranglehold on the titles.
“He talks about knocking me out and everything,” said Arreola while at a media workout on Wednesday. “I don’t predict knockouts. But I will predict I’m going to win.”
Bakersfield’s Manuel Quezada is another heavyweight of Mexican lineage who is on the Ontario fight card and he faces Nigeria’s Teke Oruh, who lost his last fight by decision. Both need a win to stay among the top 50 heavyweights.
Quezada, 31, is trained by South El Monte’s Ben Lira, who also trains lightweight sensation John Molina. The Bakersfield heavyweight has a 13-fight win streak, including wins over Andrew Greeley and John Clark.
Oruh, 30, has wins over Jason Gavern and Clark but is not a big puncher. The winner of this heavyweight match could conceivably fight the winner of Arreola and Walker.
Another Riverside prizefighter, Josesito Lopez (22-3, 13 KOs) is also on the boxing card. He was originally scheduled to fight Mongolia’s undefeated Bayan Jargal but that fighter’s team decided the teammate of Arreola has too many fights on his resume. Now Lopez is facing Salt Lake City’s Chris Fernandez (15-5-1, 9 KOs) in a junior welterweight bout.
East L.A.’s Shawn Estrada, a member of the U.S. Olympic boxing team that went to Beijing this past summer, makes his pro debut against Lawrence Jones (2-1-1) of Washington D.C. Estrada is a big middleweight and plans to try the 154-pound junior middleweight division.
Michael Dallas Jr. (5-0) a slick fighting southpaw from Bakersfield, tries Mexico’s Jose Lugo (10-5) in a six round welterweight bout. Dallas is managed by Jackie Kallen, the famous female boxing manager whose life was portrayed in the motion picture Against The Ropes.
Kaliesha West suffered her first loss last week against Northern California’s Ava Knight in a bout for a vacant regional title at Friant, California. It was a close fight but all three judges gave Knight the edge 77-75.
It was West’s first loss as a professional.
“I truly feel if I had fought at Morongo or somewhere in Southern California I would have won the decision,” said West. “But she won the fight. She is a good fighter.”
West hopes a rematch can be made with Knight soon. Hopefully, she adds, for a world title.
Ricky Hatton’s victory over Brooklyn’s Paul Malignaggi sets the table for a match with the winner of Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao’s match that takes place on Dec. 6, in Las Vegas.
Probably a big upset was Hatton’s brother Matthew Hatton who beat rugged veteran Ben Tackie in a 10 round welterweight bout by unanimous decision. That was a truly big test the younger brother passed.
Fights on television
Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Jesus Soto Karass (21-3-3) vs. Hicklet Lau (20-17-2).
Sat. HBO, 10 p.m., Paul Williams (35-1) vs. Verno Phillips (42-10-1).