It’s been noted through surveys and experts that Latinos, especially Mexican fight fans, represent the center of the hardcore boxing fans. That without these fans boxing would cease to exist.
Golden Boy Promotions has set out to stir up the hornets nest by shaking the tree at the center by working from Los Angeles and outward. They’re looking for young talent in their own backyard and in specific points abroad to appease the fans.
Recently members of the L.A. based company have been seen at amateur tournaments from Coachella Valley in the desert area to Houston, Texas.
On Thursday, the first of two Southern California fight cards displays some of the local talent at the early stages. The Belasco Theater will be the locale for LA Fight Night. Two days later in Indio the contenders take to the ring at Fantasy Springs Casino.
Downtown LA history
I’m not sure whose brain child it was to pick the Belasco Theater to stage fight cards but it’s been like biting into the tastiest peach in your life. It leaves a lasting memory.
Word has it that Golden Boy Promotions is seeking a larger venue. Hopefully they keep Belasco Theater or maybe just move next door to the Mayan Theater which is bigger and a mere 100 feet north.
The Belasco Theater has turned out to be a revelation for staging fight cards. It has tons of film noir-like atmosphere reminiscent of the nights at the old Olympic Auditorium a few blocks south. You can almost imagine Speedy Dado, Manuel Ortiz or Chalky White stepping on the same sidewalks 80 years ago. Or Mae West emerging from her limousine and bumping into Al Jolson to catch a fight or two.
Los Angeles has always been a fight town from pro boxing’s true infancy in the 1890s to the present. Major League Baseball didn’t arrive until 1958 and aside from being the movie capital of the world, boxing co-existed with motion pictures for over a century. L.A. depended on boxing for entertainment.
Hollywood and boxing fit together like coke and ice.
Just a few blocks west of Belasco Theater a warehouse exists, it was used for many of the shots of movie “The Fighter” starring Mark Wahlberg. Who knows if the “Southpaw” was shot there too?
The trainer for Jake Gyllenhaal was Terry Claybon a known boxing and fitness trainer to the stars like Denzel Washington and others. For decades actors have been interested in boxing and frequented the many former L.A. venues like the Olympic Auditorium down the street, or L.A Sports Arena for bigger events. There was also the Hollywood Legion on Gower Street that is now a fitness workout center.
Conversely, many boxers like Max Baer and “Slapsy” Maxie Rosenbloom transitioned from fighting in the boxing ring to acting on the big screen. The two entertainment professions have always been intertwined so it’s no surprise when limousines pull up to a Golden Boy fight card and out emerges a Hollywood celebrity.
Not prime time
Very few big name boxers appear at the Belasco Theater. It’s a starting point for the prospective boxers signed by Golden Boy Promotions. The fights are good and though on occasion a mismatch may occur, more often than not they’re somewhat evenly matched with upsets happening on every show.
Golden Boy is not trying to cultivate a boxer’s undefeated record. They’re looking for real talent that can move from prospects to contenders and hopefully world champion status.
The main event on Thursday at Belasco Theater will be Abraham Lopez (18-0-1) an undefeated featherweight from La Puente. He was formerly managed by Frank Espinoza who has a nose for guiding the best. Lopez had up and down performances and then took a three year sabbatical before returning. He faces New Jersey’s Jorge Diaz (18-3-1) in a bout set for 10 rounds. It’s a crossover fight with the winner moving forward toward a bigger stage.
Others on the fight card are Roy Tapia a super bantamweight boxer from East L.A. who fought to a draw in his last appearance. Five others will be making their pro debuts or second pro appearance. It’s an excellent opportunity to discover the new L.A. area talent. It’s also a great time to experience the film noir ambience. It’s the best place to watch boxing.
For Belasco Theater tickets call (213) 746-1606.
Northern California’s Manuel Avila, a tall undefeated super bantamweight, tangles with Cuba’s Yoandris Salinas in the main event at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio.
It’s a very interesting clash between Avila who is Erik Morales-like tall at 122 pounds with speed and power. Salinas has already fought for the world title and ended with a draw against United Kingdom’s Scott Quigg. That fight took place in London, England about two years ago.
Avila seems unconcerned by Salinas and has not seen tape of the Cuban fighter.
“I don’t watch any tape on my opponents,” said Avila an elongated 122-pound super bantamweight. “I can kind of adjust to any type of style. Just figure a guy out and take over from there.”
Salinas was defeated by knockout from a former Avila foe named Enrique Quevedo a year ago. But styles make fights.
A pair of solid welterweights take part in the co-main event when Venezuela’s Johan Perez (20- 2-1) and Russia’s Dmitry Mikhaylenko (19-0) jump in the ring.
Perez fought and lost to Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera but there’s no shame in that. Herrera should be wearing the WBC junior welterweight world title after fights with Danny Garcia and Jose Benavidez. Perez fought well but has a habit of not throwing many punches.
Mikhaylenko is making his first West Coast appearance and has only four pro fights outside of his native Russia. It’s always interesting to see someone from Eastern Europe perform in the U.S. For decades boxers from over there tended to be one-dimensional with their embedded amateur style that left them prone to body attacks. In the last decade they’ve made big strides and have adapted to a stronger professional style with more aggression than defense. They understand they need fans to love them so they sidestep the defensive stances more prevalent in the East Coast for a more West Coast attacking mode. We’ll see what category Mikhaylenko falls into.
One young boxer on the card to watch is Joet Gonzalez from the L.A. area. The young super bantamweight has looked solid in his first 10 pro fights.
For Fantasy Springs ticket information call (800) 827-2946.
Oscar De La Hoya and his crew seem to be strengthening their grass roots scouting. They have a number of strong, young, hungry fighters ready to move up into the bright lights. It’s fun to watch the process and imagine it’s the same way it was in the nights of Prohibition.
Crowds line up around the arena early. It’s always good to see those type of fans.
Photo by Belasco Theater