Canelo’s Way – It all began in the patio of my favorite L.A. hangout El Cholo’s where margaritas are like nectar from the Aztec world of chinampas and pyramids.
Met with K-2’s Tom Loeffler and ABC’s Alysha Del Valle on a Wednesday afternoon where we talked about all things boxing including the Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. Amir “King” Khan fight in Las Vegas.
Loeffler, for those who do not recognize the name, directs K-2 that promotes the world of prizefighting’s most dangerous fighter Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin. He’s the real middleweight world champion.
We talked about the next steps toward a mega showdown with Canelo and Triple G and of course we shared predictions. Between the three of us the stunning Del Valle accurately predicted a sixth round knockout by the Mexican redhead.
Never underestimate women.
The margaritas at El Cholos kick in fast, but, not enough to deter the boxing talk that flowed freely for the next two hours. It was a great afternoon to kick off Cinco de Mayo weekend.
The drive to Las Vegas is usually long and frustrating if you go at the wrong time. I picked Thursday to avoid the crush of traffic heading through the desert to Las Vegas and its ever-changing neon scenery.
I stayed at the Westgate Hotel this time around. They recently updated their sportsbook and it remains one of the best. It’s a major reason I like staying there. The crowds are back at the hotel that was originally the Hilton. It’s been fancied up and if you closed your eyes you could imagine you were back in the 70s when Elvis Presley used to perform there regularly.
That Thursday night I spent talking on the Two-Minute Round podcast that focuses on female prizefighting. We had as our guests WBC female middleweight titlist Kali Reis of Rhode Island and Maricela Cornejo of California who fought each other in New Zealand last month. Check it out on Facebook. We also had Brian Cohen who manages Melissa St. Vil, Nydia Feliciano and Ronica Jeffrey who all fought and won on the same New Zealand fight card.
The podcast went longer than expected so after it concluded the time was spent preparing for the festivities planned by Golden Boy Promotions for the next two days.
Las Vegas constantly changes every year. The first time I ever visited the land of casinos in the early 1970s it was mostly desert on the west side of the Interstate-15 Highway. Now there are residences all the way to the mountains.
The T-Mobile Arena is the newest of the monoliths built off the Las Vegas Strip. When it was first mentioned I wondered where they were going to fit the venue in between the New York, New York Hotel and Casino and the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino.
Finding parking was a problem. On one side they were not allowing people to park and on the other side parking was allowed but you don’t know it exists until you walk there. Parking is not free.
No more free parking is the edict of MGM properties which I think is a very bad idea. They’re installing barriers and mechanical arms for automatic pay devices. I guess they don’t want customers at their venues.
On Friday afternoon the Toshiba Plaza in front of the T-Mobile Arena was packed with several thousand fans. People had been grumbling that low attendance was expected, but this was a madhouse crush of people eager to see the Canelo-Khan weigh-ins. Mariachis, DJs, food trailers, Tecate girls, two boxing rings and Tattoo emceeing the whole shindig did their thing to the roaring approval of the boxing crazy fans that showed up.
Excitement was in the air.
Rain had been dropping here and there but it didn’t deter those crazy fans from checking out the festivities. I had predicted on HBO that fans were going to show up. Cinco de Mayo is an excuse for Latino fans to visit Vegas, drink, gamble, and have a good time. When you add someone like Canelo to the mix, well, it’s going to be a party.
Every fighter seemed to make weight as it suddenly got cold. The fighters were shivering, the Tecate girls were shivering, and those fans on the third and fourth floor of the nearby parking structure hanging over the ledge must have been shivering too.
After the weigh-ins it was time to watch the free-to-the-public fight card outside on the huge Toshiba Plaza.
I sat with TheSweetScience.com’s new editor-in-chief Arne Lang as fighters were rushed in to fight. Sitting behind us was elite trainer Manny Robles who has a number of tremendous prospects such as Ireland’s Jason Quigley. Exchanging viewpoints and conversation with Robles is pretty eye-opening. He knows his stuff and is a class act.
We watched little known Eric Ruiz of Oxnard battle Mexico’s Horacio Garcia, a member of Team Canelo and the expected winner. But if you had ever seen Ruiz fight before and were a betting man you would have plunked down money on him. He’s one of those guys with very good skills but lacks the serious firepower that most world champions possess. But he has heart and skills and that’s enough to upset any pretender to the throne.
Robles had seen Ruiz many times before, just as I had. We both commented on his abilities and foresaw an upset if Garcia took him lightly.
Ruiz was simply too slick the first half of the fight. He was knocking Garcia around and had him seeing stars in the fourth round. But the second half of the fight, although he was ahead on most people’s scorecards, he took his foot off the gas a little and allowed Garcia to appear to be back in control. Though Garcia never could hurt Ruiz – who has a good chin – he applied pressure and Ruiz did not punch enough in the end to maintain dominance. This allowed the judges to score the fight a draw. It was not. But that’s the story of Ruiz’s boxing life so far.
In a co-main event, Marvin Quintero of Mexico clashed with Russia’s Petr Petrov in a lightweight matchup set for 10 rounds. Quintero is trained by Tijuana’s master trainer Romulo Quirarte who along with his son has been supplying the boxing world with talent for decades. The Quirarte’s are also among the classiest in the sport. Too bad the boxing world doesn’t have more like them. Wonderful people
On this night Quintero clashed heads with Petrov in the very first round and referee Jay Nady seemingly pointed it out as a clash of heads. Quintero’s eye began to swell badly. Later, when a ringside physician ruled Quintero could not continue, Nady retracted his earlier hand signal that the cut and swelling was caused by a butt and said it was a punch. Because he ruled it a punch, Quintero was the loser by technical knockout instead of it going to the scorecards.
Petrov, who fought well, was ruled the winner and moves forward. Meanwhile, Quintero takes the loss despite performing well. It was one of those fights that was perfectly matched. After the fight, both fighters were good sports. They even met again later at the hospital where they both needed attention. Both Petrov and Quintero took a photo together for the hospital staff who eagerly took care of them.
At the conclusion of the fight card I met with Muhammad Mubarak a fellow journalist and good friend. He advised me that a fundraising event for the Nevada Hall of Fame was being held nearby so we walked over. At the hosting table was Laura Serrano a former female lightweight world champion. She graciously greeted us then personally guided us to the second floor area where the festivities were taking place. Serrano is such a nice woman with a great demeanor. But when she was a fighter she was as fierce as they come and the first female from Mexico to win a world title to my knowledge.
Inside, we immediately met with Layla McCarter and her trainer Luis Tapia who were conversing with Leon Spinks and his brother Michael Spinks. Everybody was taking photos of each other. It was quite a scene.
Also, Ava Knight was inside. She just fought a week ago in Mexico and was the winner. Others inside were Badou Jack, Zab Judah, Kevin Kelley, and many more. After 45 minutes Muhammad and I departed to the MGM Grand where an art auction was taking place. It was sponsored by Bernard Hopkins and several others in one of the swanky places where private parties are held. It was an open bar filled with model-looking women and a few professional prizefighters and business-like people swilling wine. The auction did not go too well so it was stopped early. We headed out our separate ways. Tomorrow was going to be a long and big day.
Drove over early to the T-Mobile Arena to pick up my credentials. While standing in line I ran into Alysha Del Valle who was there to pick up credentials too. We spoke to several notables including retired referee Joe Cortez and took some photos with him.
It was an early fight card so I didn’t have time to get lunch or dinner. A good thing I had an early breakfast with James Pena who trains Melinda Cooper and assisted Romulo Quirarte with Quintero. That breakfast kept me going all day.
The Golden Boy Promotions fight card for Saturday was heavy with prospects I wanted to see including the Irish middleweight Quigley. He has all the tools needed to move forward and on this night he was fighting James De La Rosa of Texas. If any of you remember the Texan he upset Alfredo “Perro” Angulo when they fought a short time ago. De La Rosa can hit and has skills. He did hit Quigley on Saturday night but was unable to match the Irish fighter’s athleticism. But the main thing is he did connect to the chin of Quigley. I always say you can’t tell if a fighter has what it takes to go all the way unless he can take a punch. A fighter can be fast, strong, tall, and hit like a ton of bricks, but if he can’t take a punch he’s not going anywhere. Quigley answered that question on Saturday night.
Another prospect answering some questions was Diego De La Hoya. The cousin of Oscar De La Hoya is managed by Joel De La Hoya who matched him against undefeated Rocco Santomauro. Many suggested it was a dangerous test for De La Hoya but once the fight started, it was clear he had superior hand-speed, skills and dominated the fight.
Santomauro was trained by Sugar Shane Mosley for this fight and was well-prepared. But sometimes a fight on paper doesn’t come out the way it’s supposed to come out. On this night De La Hoya looked like a veteran using clever moves and fought like a killer in there. He has a mean streak inside the ring. He was battering Santomauro when his trainer Mosley wisely stopped the fight. In my eyes, that move by Mosley saved the kid’s career and showed me that the Pomona fighter is a very good trainer. It was the best move of the night.
The big fight turned out just like everyone supposed. But for a while Khan did his thing with style and looked like Alvarez’s equal until that big overhand right disconnected the Englishman’s legs from him.
It’s always scary to see someone on the floor motionless. I said a small prayer for Khan to recover. I’ve witnessed many deaths in the boxing ring and didn’t want to see another. I love our sport but this is also one of the deadliest. Near a dozen die every year.
When Khan got up it was an instant relief.
Seeing Canelo concerned for his foe was a good thing to watch. The redhead is fierce in the ring but classy otherwise.
However, as soon as the post-fight press conference began, of course, all the talk was directed toward a match with Triple G who was in the ring as a guest.
Poor Canelo. He couldn’t even take a breath to enjoy the moment. That’s the way it is when you’re among the elite. Golden Boy’s Oscar De La Hoya remembers and he shared that with the press afterwards.
You can’t satisfy everyone.
All during the fight I watched with a smile as 16,300 excited fans packed the new arena. A couple of weeks ago Triple G packed 16,000 fans in the Fabulous Forum. Together they should be able to pack Dodger Stadium, Cowboy Stadium, Madison Square Garden, Azteca Stadium in Mexico City or just about any venue.
A couple of years ago the prospect of this mega fight happening would have made some people burst out laughing. But here we are.
All the way home I thought about my plans for the mega mega fight for the middleweight world title between Triple G and Canelo. It was a good drive.
Just before I stepped in the car to leave Las Vegas someone mentioned Floyd Mayweather was coming back to fight. Another guy replied “So what?”
No one could have said it better.