A serious boxing renaissance has erupted in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas, especially within the smoky city limits of downtown L.A.
It resumes this week with a pair of Mexican versus Puerto Rican wars at Belasco Theater, on the Golden Boy Promotions fight card on Friday evening, with a competing fight card in nearby Chino. The next day two more cards compete with each other in Studio City and in Montebello.
That’s four fight cards within 40 miles of each other.
One boxing guru, Benny Georgino, says prizefighting was like that for many years back in his heyday. The 90-year-old-plus Los Angelino now lives in Riverside County, but recalls when four fight cards every week was the norm for the same area during the 1930s to the 1960s.
“Television ruined it,” grumbled Georgino. But today, television is necessary to create exposure to create stars.
The boxing veteran has seen it all in the sport he loves.
“I boxed, managed, trained and promoted,” said Georgino by phone. “I did all I could to keep this sport above water.”
Anyone familiar with Georgino remembers he was the former manager for world champions Danny “Little Red” Lopez, Alberto Davila, and Jaime Garza. He even had a piece of Mexico’s great Salvador Sanchez, but the featherweight standout died young and unexpectedly in a car crash.
Georgino said you could go to watch fights at Santa Monica Beach, the Hollywood Legion or the Olympic Auditorium. And if you cared to drive, there were shows in South Gate.
“It was really thriving,” said Georgino, who grew up across the bridge from L.A City Hall in nearby Lincoln Heights. “Those were the days.”
Georgino was a close friend of Art Aragon, the first “Golden Boy” in Los Angeles who fought from the late 1940s to the early 1960s.
“Boy, (Aragon) could pack them in,” said Georgino, who had a bail bonds business next door to Aragon’s bail bonds business for years in L.A. “He knew how to stir up a crowd.”
Aragon was a blockbuster ticket-seller in L.A. and regularly sold out the Olympic Auditorium for many years. The fighter was also known to cavort with many female movie stars, and that contributed to his fame and notoriety.
“I never thought I’d see another fighter who could pack them in like that,” Georgino said, adding that Aragon, for all his popularity, failed to win a world title.
Of course, then came Oscar De La Hoya who was also dubbed the “Golden Boy” by Top Rank after winning the gold medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. De La Hoya became boxing’s biggest draw during his career, which included world titles in six weight divisions. Before retiring the native of East L.A. began his own company, Golden Boy Promotions, and recently re-signed Mexican star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
De La Hoya created a downtown resurgence of boxing with monthly fight cards at Belasco Theater. On Friday, it continues.
Downtown L.A. Friday Night
Puerto Rico’s Jeffrey Fontanez (16-1) battles Mexico’s Marvin Quintero (27-6) in the lightweight main event at Belasco Theater on Friday. The co-main features Mexico’s Carlos Morales (9-1-3, 3 KOs) versus Puerto Rico’s O’Nell Negron (11-1-2, 8 Kos) in another lightweight clash. San Antonio’s Hector Tanajara is also on the card. Doors open at 5 p.m. For more information call (213) 489-5631.
Chino Friday Night
A pro boxing card features Azat Hovhannisyan (7-2) in a super bantamweight main event at the Chino Fairgrounds in Chino. It’s located off the 60-Freeway. The card begins at 6 p.m.
Montebello on Saturday night
Guest of honor Gennady “GGG” Golovkin is bringing his protégé Ruslan Madiev to the All Star Boxing fight show on Saturday night at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello, Calif. Golovkin, the WBA and IBO middleweight champion, will be attending the fight card. Also expected to attend is Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera. The main event features Adrian Granados (15-4-2) against Japan’s Gaku Takahashi (14-5-1) in a super welterweight showdown. Doors open at 5 p.m. For more information call (323) 816-6200.
Studio City on Sat. Night
Lightweight contender Jose Felix Jr. (30-1-1) fights Marcos Jimenez (20-5) in the main event on the Top Rank card on Saturday Sept. 19, at the Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City, Calif. It’s a fight card filled with several contenders including Australia’s Leonardo Zappavigna. The last time the Aussie was in the U.S he got zapped by Mexico’s Miguel Vazquez in a world title fight. The fight card begins at 7 p.m.