Born and raised in the streets of East Los Angeles, promoter Oscar De La Hoya knows what L.A. and Southern California love about boxing.
De La Hoya remembers the weekly shows at the Olympic Auditorium and later the Inglewood Forum and the impact both venues had in creating a thirst for boxing that still exists today for people of greater Los Angeles.
It’s the primary reason that his company Golden Boy Promotions brought back a monthly boxing series to the downtown area. The first show took place on March 2 at the Belasco Theater. It was quickly sold out.
“It was everything that I expected, it even surpassed my expectations. It was a great event and the fights were outstanding. That’s exactly what L.A. Fight Club is all about,” said De La Hoya by telephone. “That’s what we wanted to create, a series where we can showcase the local talent and build the fan base and eventually build fighters that can be on HBO.”
A similar boxing series was started by Golden Boy Promotions several years earlier at nearby Club Nokia. It proved to be an immediate success and surprised many by its popularity. It was discontinued but L.A. history showed that any time a boxing series was held in the downtown area, it met with success.
Prizefighting has a long legacy in the Los Angeles area that goes back to the early 1900s when it was illegal to hold fights in the city boundaries. Instead of giving up, pioneer boxing promoters held fight cards in make-shift arenas in neighboring cities like Burbank and the city of Vernon located just southeast of downtown L.A. Old time greats, like Sam Langford, Joe Rivers, and Willie Ritchie battled before thousands at several versions of the Vernon Arena. One of the last versions was located on Lorena Avenue.
When prizefighting was finally legalized the Olympic Auditorium was built in the late 1920s and enjoyed immediate success. Suddenly an explosion of talent emerged led by boxers such as Bert Colima, Henry Armstrong, Baby Arizmendi, Manuel Ortiz and Ike Williams. It was a golden age in boxing that seemed like it would never wane.
Weekly fight cards at the Olympic Auditorium became even bigger under Aileen Eaton and Don Chargin with an assembly line of prizefighters like Jerry Quarry, Mando Ramos, Bobby Chacon, Mando Muniz, Danny “Little Red” Lopez and Carlos Palomino headlining.
De La Hoya, Fernando Vargas and Manny Pacquiao were among the last to perform before sold out crowds at the now defunct Olympic Auditorium located on Grand Avenue. The famous arena closed in 2005 and is now a Korean church and located a mere seven city blocks from Belasco Theater.
“I was born and raised in East L.A. and I remember those days,” said De La Hoya, who fought several times in downtown L.A., where he also has his promotion headquarters. “Where we’re located we can literally walk to watch the fights.”
De La Hoya said Golden Boy Promotions has 80 fighters signed under its banner and plans to accrue more talent. The former junior lightweight, lightweight, junior welterweight, welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight champion knows what he’s looking for and has his loyal troops looking for the next boxing gem in some local gymnasium. Whether it’s in nearby East L.A., South Central or as far away as Florida or Mexico his team has a mission to find the next Shane Mosley or Fernando Vargas. More than likely they’ll find it locally.
“We have scouts looking for the next champions. We have a great team, a loyal team and so I have no doubt in my mind that a lot of young champions will be coming out of L.A. Fight Club,” De La Hoya said.
East L.A.’s Julian “El Camaron” Ramirez, who is managed by Joel De La Hoya, has been steadily racing to main event status with wins at Indio, Cancun, Mexico and Chicago. Now the homegrown talent will be fighting right across the river where he grew up.
On Thursday, April 2, Ramirez (13-0, 8 Kos) meets Raul Hidalgo (23-12, 17 Kos), a hard-punching super bantamweight from Chihuahua, Mexico. It’s another big test for Ramirez, this time at Belasco Theater.
“We have Julian Ramirez on the main event and an exciting card from top to bottom,” said Del Hoya, who will be attending the fight card at Belasco Theater. “Celebrities will be coming in from all over L.A.”
The first fight card on March 6 was a huge success. The venue was packed and ideal for boxing with every seat seemingly right on top of the action. It was an intimate setting and allowed fans to meet each fighter and celebrity at the fight.
A party was held after the fight card at the venue that is also home to some of the best salsa and bachata dancing in Southern California. Many fans stayed to enjoy the party atmosphere that went on far into the night.
De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions know that more than 100 boxing gyms exist in the Southern California area and in those gyms will be the next superstar. History has shown that over and over again.
“My objective is to build the next generation of L.A. champions, the next generation of California champions and we’re off to a great start,” said De La Hoya.
Belasco Theater is located at 1050 S. Hill Street in downtown L.A. For more information call (213) 746-5670.
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