Southern California has become a hotbed for prizefighting with its sunny weather, beaches, mountains and luxury cars, so it’s no surprise when a fighter like Manny Pacquiao arrives at a press conference in a gleaming black SL500 Mercedes Benz in swanky West Hollywood restaurant.
Pacquiao is kicking off the final weeks of the promotion tour for his upcoming fight against Mexico’s undefeated Jorge Solis at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas on April 14. The Top Rank-promoted fight will be available on pay-per-view.
Few give Solis a chance.
“He’s a great fighter,” said Bob Arum, president of Top Rank while at the Palm Restaurant, a place where Fred Astaire once danced atop the bar many years ago. “This is a good match.”
It’s no soft shoe dance that Top Rank is peddling. Solis is a solid fighter with most of his contests occurring in the middle of Mexico. But this is Pacquiao we’re talking about.
“He’s another good Mexican fighter,” says Pacquiao, already speaking like a seasoned politician. He’s running for Congress in the Philippines and will know the result of his efforts on May 14 he added. “There’s a lot of good fighters in Mexico. I want to fight them and beat them. I hope their fans don’t get mad at me.”
Solis has fought in the US including appearances at the Grand Olympic Auditorium and Santa Ana Stadium in 2003. But those guys he faced were not Pacquiao.
One positive point on Solis’s behalf comes from the fact he trains under Jose Reynoso in his Guadalajara gym. That gym also houses Oscar Larios who gave Pacquiao a run for his money last year. It’s that plus his fighting in front of a large Mexican audience that gives him some benefits.
But this is Pacquiao.
The Filipino prizefighter with that super speed, super power and super chin make him a star. No check that. It makes him a superstar.
Since defeating Erik Morales two of three times along with his defeat of Marco Antonio Barrera and a scintillating draw with Juan Manuel Marquez, the fighter known as Pacman has become one of the real superstars of boxing alongside Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Roy Jones Jr. These are guys that can actually bring in the numbers for pay-per-view or fill up an arena.
Solis wasn’t available due to visa problems that hopefully will be solved by fight time.
But one other Mexican fighter was present Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
The son of one of one of Mexico’s greatest boxers arrived with his manager Fernando Beltran. During the past three years he’s grown from a lightweight to a junior middleweight. And his face looks like it’s changing as well. Now he looks more mature instead of a refugee from choir boy camp.
Arum promised a title match and main event for Chavez late in the year or early next year.
“I’ve been working a lot on my fundamentals,” said Chavez, who I watched develop since the age of 14 in Mira Loma, California.
“This is going to be the breakout year for Julio,” Arum said.
Earlier, at the LB4LB Gym about five miles east, Brian Viloria the former junior flyweight titleholder appeared in his boxing attire for photographers.
The fighter known as “Hawaiian Punch” was twice beaten by Mexico’s clever Omar Nino who tried to be too clever and was caught under the influence of methamphetamine.
Still, Viloria felt he won that fight.
“It was a shock when they said I lost,” said Viloria who seemed to dominate the first six rounds when suddenly Nino found renewed vigor. During the last six rounds Nino showed flashes of the fighter who upset Viloria months earlier, but did not dominate in the second half of their fight. “I thought I did enough to win that fight.”
Now Viloria, an amiable boxer who is now going to be tutored by Joe Goossen, expects to return to the old Viloria.
“I have to look spectacular, Viloria said.
Goossen has spotted some flaws that he wants to erase and expects his new charge to be fully reloaded.
“I don’t want to say what those flaws are but lets just say I’m interested in his technique,” Goossen said. “One thing for sure is he’s going to put pressure on Edgar Sosa early on.”
Viloria when he’s right, has the potential to provide a riveting battle regardless of the opponent.
“I have to go right through my opponent,” he said.
Dominic Salcido fight
Rialto’s Dominic Salcido (9-0, 6 KOs) meets Barbaro Zepeda (8-11-1) of Oxnard in a junior lightweight bout on Saturday March 24. It’s a private event sponsored by Thompson Boxing Promotions in the city of Orange.
Also on the card will be Crystal Morales (6-4-1) in a rematch with New Mexico’s Gloria Ramirez (9-15-6) in a lightweight bout. The two female boxers met less than two weeks ago in Oxnard in a very tight match won by Morales.
But let’s get back to Salcido.
The junior lightweight has been one of those rare jewels that has all the tools but little luck. First his trainer died several years ago. Then he signed with Emanuel Steward who seldom had time to work with him. Then he kept injuring his right hand and fought but a few times in the last two years.
But talent is not one of the things he lacks.
“We have big plans for Dominic,” said Alex Camponovo, of Thompson Promotions.
Some feel he’s on par with Vicente Escobedo.
“Dominic has everything,” said Joel Diaz, who trains Salcido.
WBA Lightweight title
The contracts are signed and Juan Diaz, the WBA lightweight titleholder, meets former lightweight champion Acelino Freitas of Brazil on April 28 at Foxwood Resort and Casino in Connecticutt.
Freitas used to be one of my favorite fighters, he was a humble fighter with a lot of spirit but somehow all of that money he earned has changed Popo.
It began when he first signed to meet Coachella, California’s Julio “The Kidd” Diaz, who now holds the IBF lightweight title. He made Diaz sign all of the contracts, buy a ticket for Brazil and basically sign over his life. But just as Diaz was to board the plane about 15 months ago, Freitas called the whole fight off and declared he was retiring.
“He knew he couldn’t beat me,” says Julio Diaz. “I used to spar with him and he always got the worse of it. He knew he couldn’t beat me so he retired.”
Now he has come back figuring the other Diaz has not pop and can’t beat him.
But the Texas Diaz can fire punches like a machine gun and he’s harder to hit than a fly in the dark.
Chico and the Man
Diego Corrales has jumped two divisions and will meet welterweight monster Joshua Clottey who withstood 12 rounds with a bigger monster in WBO titleholder Antonio Margarito.
Corrales meets Clottey on April 7, in Springfield, Missouri.
Chico, why take this fight?
“I just want to face the best fighters out there,” said Corrales during a telephone press conference.
Clottey is no regular welterweight, we’re talking about one of the strongest 147-pounders in the division. Corrales hasn’t even tested the waters.
Who can forget when Sugar Shane Mosley jumped two divisions from the lightweights to the welterweights and met light-hitting Wilfredo Rivera. It took Mosley the last two rounds of the 10-round fight to pull out a victory.
It might be too tough for Corrales who’s heart is bigger than his body.
One guy who’s slightly happy is boxing writer Doug Fischer. He’s going home for that fight.
Southern California Golden Gloves
Congratulations to Robert Mark who captured the district Golden Gloves in the heavyweight division last Saturday in East Los Angeles. Mark stopped his opponent in the second round with a straight right hand. Mark, 23, trains out of the Moreno Valley Boxing Club. Juan West is his trainer.
Inland Empire (Southern Cal) Local fighters on TV
Riverside’s Josesito Lopez will be fighting on a televised boxing card on April 27, says his manager Henry Ramirez. The lightweight contender has a three-fight win streak and hopes to make his move. The fight will be shown on Telefutura. No opponent has been named. Also, Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola has been slated to fight on May 4 in Las Vegas. No opponent has been named but the fight will be televised.
Pechanga fight card
Riverside’s Carlos Bojorquez meets Eddie Sanchez in a junior middleweight showdown at the Pechanga Resort and Casino on March 30. Also on the fight card will be Moreno Valley’s Kaliesha West meeting Elizabeth Cervantes in a bantamweight contest. West is undefeated. For tickets or information call (888) 732-4264.
Montebello fight card
East L.A.’s Aaron Martinez meets Walter Diaz for the California welterweight title at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello on Friday March 30. Martinez and Diaz are fighting each other for the second time. Martinez owns a knockout win over Diaz. Also on the card will be Miguel Espino from the reality television show the Contender. For tickets or information call All Star Boxing (323) 781-4871.