Last week, the Inland Empire area gained another world champion when Coachella’s Randy “El Matador” Caballero grabbed the vacant IBF bantamweight world title over Great Britain’s Stuart Hall by unanimous decision on Saturday in Monte Carlo. It was his first attempt at a world championship.
Caballero, 24, joined the elite world champion club already inhabited by Timothy Bradley, Julio Diaz, and Antonio Diaz, and which also includes Moreno Valley’s Mikey Garcia and Kaliesha West, Pomona’s Sugar Shane Mosley and Riverside’s Sindy Amador.
The Inland Empire has been one of the best kept secrets in boxing for decades, but that may change soon with yet another success. It’s located east of Los Angeles County and boxing has thrived in the area for the past three decades.
After fighting mostly in local boxing cards, Caballero was unleashed on the world boxing scene and perhaps surprised former world champion Hall.
How good is Caballero?
Last night Koki Kameda of Japan defended his WBO bantamweight world title. On paper Caballero would do quite well against the hard-hitting Japanese. The WBC titlist Shinsuke Yamanaka might be another matter. He’s tall for a bantamweight at nearly 5’8” and is a southpaw. He has held the title for three years. The bantamweight division looks pretty lively with Caballero smack in the middle.
First IE Champion
Back in the 1940s Manuel Ortiz was the first world champion from the Inland area. The Corona resident was a terror in the bantamweight division, where he established a record for consecutive world title defenses at 15. Many consider Ortiz the greatest bantamweight world champion in history. He fought in an era when there was only one world title, not a dozen or so like today. Ortiz had a total of 131 pro bouts (between 1938 to 1955) and was the first in the region to win a world title.
Not until the 1980s did another world champion emerge from the Inland Empire, when Chino’s Mike “Hercules” Weaver took the WBA heavyweight title from Big John Tate in March 1980 in Tennessee. He was followed by Pomona bantamweights Richie Sandoval, who captured the WBA title in April 1983 and Alberto Davila, who grabbed the WBC title in May 1983. Had Weaver defeated Michael Dokes in May 1983 the Inland area would have had three world champions at once.
Several boxers from the area are knocking on the world title door and could bring home three world titles in 2015. Palm Springs’ Bradley is one of the top boxers in the world pound for pound and capable of regaining a world title. Riverside’s Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera and Josesito “Riverside Rocky” Lopez are two others world title ready. This does not include the young guns, like Saul “Neno” Rodriguez and Joel Diaz, who are a year or two from stepping into the elite class.
Not all of them possess the same style but all have been battle-ready, as Caballero proved with his big win in front of an international set.
Why are boxers from the Inland Empire so successful?
If you ever visit the area it’s easy to surmise there’s really nothing else to do. Easily there are more than 30 gyms in the area that ranges from Pomona to Blythe and Temecula to Big Bear.
It’s quickly gaining notoriety.