Sparring an elite fighter can make you or break you so when Mike Dallas Jr. stepped in the ring with Manny Pacquiao recently he had his antennae out.
“I learned a lot in that camp,” said Dallas about his recent sparring sessions a few weeks ago. “They gave me pointers to take my time and it helped in my fight.”
Dallas used that advice last Friday to take apart veteran boxer Fabian Luque in less than three minutes. It doesn’t sound like he took his time but the patience he showed in setting up the punches was an improvement from earlier fights when he came out guns blazing and ran into unnecessary blows.
This time Dallas performed like a surgeon.
Dallas is part of a new crop of talented prizefighters coming out of California’s central valley region that include rising heavyweight contender Manuel Quezada and former U.S. Olympian Shawn Estrada who spent a few years in the area. They’ll be performing on April 8 at Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore, Calif. as part of a Goossen-Tutor Promotions.
The last decade has seen the area bust out with talent with fighters like Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero and now Dallas and Quezada. No longer does Southern California monopolize the good boxers nor fight venues.
“We’ve done a lot of events over many years there and we’ve had great attendance,” said Dan Goossen, president of Goossen-Tutor. “I think the thing is that Tachi has some great fans.”
Plans to build an outdoor arena are in the works for the casino located between Fresno and the Interstate 5 freeway. At one time there were not many quality fighters from that area but now the talent is obviously there.
Quezada, a heavyweight from nearby Wasco, recently knocked out Travis Walker in one round. He followed that win with another victory by decision after 10 rounds against Nicolai Firtha at Tachi last October. He feels ready for the world.
“To me it doesn’t matter. Whoever Dan (Goossen) puts in front of me. Hopefully this year we can get a good tuff fight and a top contender,” said Quezada, 32, who fought four times in 2009.
The heavyweight knows the level of competition he can face. He’s sparred two of the top heavyweights in the world James “Lights Out” Toney and Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola.
“I remember especially James Toney,” said Quezada (29-4, 18 KOs). “Sparring a guy like that with all the experience and an ex-world champ was great. With Chris (Arreola) you have to be ready for a go. It was a couple of years ago and I believe I am a lot better.”
Estrada, who was raised in East L.A., spent a few years in Hanford and still has family and friends there. He’s simply hoping to remain healthy in 2010. The super middleweight had four fights in 2009 but none after the month of May. Two injuries sidelined him. “Right now I learned a lot from last year. My main thing is to get back in the ring,” Estrada said. “I have a little chip on my shoulder. It’s going to be a good year.”