Chango and Pipino filled up arenas back in their day; we shall see if Canelo can fill their shoes when all is said and done.
LAS VEGAS-Driving up to Las Vegas at a speed that could be called wagontrain pace on a Friday morning was puzzling. But after a few moments of thought, we remembered that it was Mexican Independence weekend and the casino capital of the world will host two huge boxing cards and one mega concert.
Las Vegas is crowded like it used to be six years ago and the hotels are filled with at least 34,000 people seeking to attend the fights at the MGM Grand or Thomas and Mack Center.
I'll be covering the Golden Boy Promotions card featuring Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (40-0-1, 29 KOs) defending the WBC junior middleweight world title against Riverside, California's Josesito Lopez (30-4, 18 KOs) at the MGM Grand. Showtime will televise.
Just walking into the MGM was a feat as several hundred fans jam packed the hotel lobby area alongside the boxing ring eager to get autographs of Oscar De La Hoya and Roberto “Manos de Piedra” Duran. We had to make a detour around the southside of the lobby to pass through and reach the media center.
Inside the media room we met Golden Boy publicist Ramiro Gonzalez who was standing near the entrance with two couples near the media table filled with bout sheets.
“David, do you know Pipino Cuevas and Chango Carmona?” asked Gonzalez. “Chango was the first Mexican to fight a big fight on Mexican Independence Day.”
Carmona recounted his big fight with the hugely popular Mando Ramos of San Pedro, California who held the lightweight title when they fought back in the early 1970s. He remembered a media workout held near MacArthur Park in downtown Los Angeles and thousands of people showed for the event alongside Alvarado Street.
“All the girls were standing in line to meet Mando Ramos,” said Carmona. “He was very popular and very good looking. Some girls were wiping the sweat off of Mando. I thought they would do that for me, but no, but they just left.”
On September 15, Carmona fought Ramos at the L.A. Coliseum and defeated him to take the lightweight title in the third round.
“Mando was so well loved that even though I knocked him down seven times the referee would not stop the fight,” said Carmona, 67. “Everybody loved Mando Ramos.”
Cuevas, 54, was a welterweight world champion who defended the WBA world championship 12 times. Known for his ferocious punching ability, the Mexico City warrior still looks fit and ready to rumble.
“The reflexes are gone but the power never goes away,” said Cuevas, who had 31 knockouts in 35 wins as a professional. For many years boxing pundits felt the Mexican powerhouse was unbeatable. Then he met Tommy “Hitman” Hearns and that ended the world championship run of the Mexican warrior. While he fought Cuevas sold out arenas everywhere. Mexican fans were enamored with his one-punch knockout power.
Both Cuevas and Carmona were guests of Golden Boy Promotions along with Duran and other boxing greats such as Danny “Little Red” Lopez and Daniel Zaragoza.
All of the former boxing champions will be available for autographs Friday and Saturday.