LOS ANGELES-Southern California sports fans are invited to say farewell to a place that was the heart and soul of sports the L.A. Sports Arena.
Golden Boy Promotions plans a massive fiesta on Saturday at the L.A. Sports Arena when it puts its local prize Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera against Philadelphia’s Hank Lundy for the vacant NABF junior welterweight title.
HBO Latino will televise.
Boxing busted opened the doors of the L.A. Sports Arena in 1959 and it’s shutting down the historic sports venue 56 years later.
When the doors first opened Mexico’s Jose Becerra challenged and defeated France’s Alphonse Halimi for the bantamweight world title and won. He became the first of many Mexican world champions to come.
It was also where John F. Kennedy was introduced and won the Democratic Convention in 1960. He would proceed to become the President of the United States that same year. In its seven decades it housed indoor track and field, saw Jerry West and Elgin Baylor lead the L.A. Lakers, saw Lew Alcindor lead UCLA past Houston in the 1968 Final Four and Bill Walton lead UCLA past Florida State in the 1972 Final Four, and it was where the 1984 Olympic Games housed the boxing tournament that introduced Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker, Paul Gonzalez, Mark Breland and Meldrick Taylor to the world of boxing.
On Saturday the fiesta begins at 1 p.m. with a Corona beer garden, food booths, mariachi music and autograph booths featuring boxing stars of the past such as Paul Gonzalez, Gato Gonzalez, Gabe Ruelas, Henry Tillman, and stars of today like Randy Caballero and Julian Ramirez; it will take place outside of the Sports Arena.
It’s going to be a party.
Inside the arena a massive array of local and international prizefighters will put on display their talent.
Ireland’s Jason Quigley (6-0, 6 Kos), a middleweight prospect with thunder and lightning, faces Michigan’s Tom Howard (8-3, 4 Kos) in a six round affair. Quigley has been very impressive especially fighting so far away from home. He’s adapted to Southern California and looks very good.
“Jason is on the fast track and has tremendous speed, tremendous power and has a fan friendly style,” said Oscar De La Hoya, president of Golden Boy and a former mega star. “He’s matched up tough.”
Former U.S. Olympian Jojo Diaz (16-0, 10 Kos) also has a tough opponent in Nicaragua’s Rene Alvarado (22-4, 15 Kos). Anytime someone from Central America makes his way to the U.S. you can bet he’s not easy pickings.
“This victory will be for Nicaragua,” said Alvarado, adding he wants to continue the winning streak that fighters such as Randy Caballero and Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez have started in Southern California. “We have the courage and spirit to be successful in this sport.”
Michael “The Artist” Perez (22-1-2, 10 Kos), who is a native of Newark, N.J. but trains in Riverside, Calif. with Robert Garcia, has his hands full with Mexico’s Luis Sanchez (17-3-1, 5 Kos).
“Sparring Mikey Garcia and Saul Rodriguez I come prepared and ready to let the world know I want to be champ,” said Perez. “It’s a huge card with a lot of prospects. Thank you guys for seeing something in me.”
Brooklyn’s Zachary Ochoa (11-0, 5 Kos) meets veteran fighter David Rodela (17-10-4) in a super lightweight showdown.
“This is my first time in L.A.,” said Ochoa. “This is my first time fighting a guy with that kind of experience. I’m ready to go.”
Also ready to go are Philadelphia’s Lundy and Riverside’s Herrera.
“This fight coming up is going to be a great fight,” said Lundy, who was married during training. “You got two hungry fighters. On my wedding day I ran seven miles. He (Herrera) is going to pay for it.”
Herrera didn’t blink upon hearing those words.
“Lundy is a tough fighter. Both of us had it tough. We’ll see who is hungrier,” said Herrera. “In Lundy’s hometown they know I beat Danny Garcia.”
Herrera realizes he’s taking part in a significant night that will essentially be the last gasp for the L.A. Sports Arena.
“I’m going to come out victorious that night and you can close the arena after that fight,” Herrera said.
De La Hoya, who grew up a mere five miles away from the L.A. Sports Arena and saw many sports events there, said, “It’s a special place. There’s a lot of history involved in the Sports Arena.”
Boxing opened its doors 56 years ago and now will help shut it down. It’s only fitting.