By David A. Avila
Rev up the engines.
Plenty of boxing takes place this weekend from Las Vegas to Los Angeles and in between.
In the heart of downtown Los Angeles, a strong Golden Boy Promotions card opens the weekend with featherweight contender Manuel Avila (pictured) on Friday Nov. 4. On the same day, 60 miles away in the city of Corona, welterweight contender Taras Shelestyuk performs outdoors. And 230 miles east in Las Vegas, super middleweight contender Jesse Hart enters the ring.
All three fight cards take place on Friday.
Avila (21-0, 8 KOs) faces Oxnard’s Jose Ramirez (28-6, 16 KOs) in the main event on Friday at Belasco Theater. The featherweight match is set for 10 rounds.
Golden Boy signed Avila, a tall 126-pounder from Northern California, and since then he’s wreaked havoc in the super bantamweight and featherweight divisions. He stands about 5-feet 7-inches and usually has a height advantage; but not against Ramirez.
Ramirez, 29, can look Avila in the eye and has fought some rough customers. He’s won four of his last seven fights including a big win over Rey “Boom’ Boom” Bautista in the Philippines. That’s pretty hard to do. The guys who beat Ramirez are a murderer’s row of featherweights named Oscar Valdez, Abner Mares and Vasyl Lomachenko.
Avila has never fought anyone as dangerous as those that Ramirez fought. This is a big test for the lanky featherweight from Fairfield who reminds me a little of Erik “El Terrible” Morales. He has that kind of style: aggressive but stylish. This fight is pivotal. A win could match him against any of the other Golden Boy feathers such as Jojo Diaz, Randy Caballero or the winner of Ronny Rios and Glen Tapia.
The rest of the fight card is filled with sterling prospects Emilio Sanchez, Azat Hovhannisyan, Tenochtitlan Nava, Luis Coria and Pablo Rubio Jr. who is co-managed by Laker star Metta World Peace. It should be an interesting and entertaining night. The card will be shown on Estrella TV and on RingTVLive.com
In Corona, a town that produced former bantamweight great Manuel Ortiz in the 1930s and 40s, another fight card takes place outdoors at Omega Products International. Showtime will televise the main part of the card.
Taras Shelestyuk (14-0, 9 KOs) is a former Olympian from Ukraine now training at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles. He faces Chicago’s Jaime Herrera (15-3-1) who needs a win to stay relevant. On the same fight card will be undefeated cruiserweight Stiven Bujaj (16-0-1, 11 KOs) of Albania now fighting out of New York City. He fights Constantin Bejenaru (11-0, 3 KOs), a lefty out of Moldavia now fighting out of New York too.
In a lightweight contest, the son of Brazil’s Acelino Freitas takes to the ring in an eight round affair. Vitor Freitas (13-0, 7 KOs) meets Indio’s Manuel Mendez (12-1-2, 8 KOs), a tough customer with power who is being groomed by Joel Diaz. It’s probably the best fight on the card with Mendez improving each day. If Freitas has any of the natural talent of his father, than he could prevail. If not, Mendez will use his strength to overpower the Brazilian.
The Treasure Island Casino plays host to a Top Rank fight card that showcases Philadelphia’s undefeated Hart (20-0, 16 KOs) against Andrew Hernandez (16-4-1, 7 KOs) in the main event on Friday. Hart was nearly toppled in his last fight against Southern California’s under-rated Dashon Johnson who dropped him in the last round. He’s matched slightly easier against Hernandez. But it’s a test fight for Hart.
Hernandez, 30, fights out of Phoenix and has been quite busy the past two years. After only seven pro fights between 2010 and 2013, in 2014 he began fighting much more regularly and has amassed seven fights in this year alone. Number eight comes against Hart in Las Vegas.
A battle of undefeated super featherweights pits Northern California’s Andy Vences (16-0, 10 KOs) versus Texan Casey Ramos (23-0, 6 KOs) for the WBC Continental Americas title. Both fighters have a penchant for making every fight a difficult one. It’s always rough going.
Several other good prospects are on the Top Rank card on Friday night. UniMas will televise.
Thomas and Mack Center
Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao returns and he wants the WBO welterweight title held by Jessie Vargas. They meet on Saturday. The Top Rank card will be televised on pay-per-view.
Vargas (27-1, 10 KOs) only has one loss on his record and that was to Tim Bradley, a speedster. Now he faces Pacquiao who has faster feet than Bradley but similar hand speed. Does Vargas have the style to beat Pacquiao?
Las Vegas bookmakers say no. They have it 8 to 1 that Pacman has too much of everything to lose to hometown hero Vargas. But does age play a factor? Pacman is 37 and turns 38 next month. Vargas is 27.
Also on the Top Rank card at Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas will be WBO super bantamweight titlist Nonito “Filipino Flash” Donaire (37-3, 24 KOs) defending against another Las Vegas fighter Jessie Magdaleno (23-0, 17 KOs). Of all the fights on the card this one is hard to pick.
Donaire, 33, has been one of the most dynamic fighters on the planet for the past decade. For much of that time he was considered among the best pound for pound fighters in the world. When it comes to entertainment, few are more exciting than Donaire. But time slows everyone and here comes Magdaleno, a 24-year-old with speed and power. Will that be enough to offset Donaire’s experience?
The stylish Filipino Flash is also one of the more likeable champion boxers of all time. When it comes to classy world champions he ranks way up there. He’s also one of the classiest dressers of all time. I’d rank him in the top 10 along with fighters like Sugar Ray Robinson, James “Lights Out” Toney and Oscar De La Hoya.
“You gotta look good baby,” Donaire says. “This is my job. I take pride in what I do and how I dress.”
Donaire looks to look the part and be the part when he faces the hard-charging and hard-punching Magdaleno. Both guys can hit and both have speed.
“I’m going up against a great fighter,” said Magdaleno. “We are more than ready. This is my dream come true. This is a big fight for me. I’m going up against a tremendous fighter.”
Many say this fight could be the showstopper.
In another world title fight, WBO featherweight Oscar Valdez (20-0, 18 KOs) makes the first defense of the title since winning it this past July. He faces Japan’s hungry Hiroshige Osawa (30-3-4, 19 KOs) who is fighting for a world title for the very first time though he’s 31 years old. Valdez is very wary of the Japanese warrior.
“I still consider myself as a regular fighter. I don’t consider myself special just because I own a belt. I’m still working hard like I used to, staying hungry,” said Valdez. “I have a lot of friends who have been champions and they say it’s not hard to get there, but it’s hard to maintain. They said they always got nervous in their first defense.”
Valdez has the special blend of speed, power and defense that stands out when he fights. In some ways he resembles a little bit of Julio Cesar Chavez and a little bit of Salvador Sanchez. He does things that are difficult to duplicate.
Osawa has never fought for a world title despite being a professional for 12 years and holding the OPBF title since 2011. He has not lost a fight since 2009. Very few people outside of Asia know much about Osawa.
“I couldn’t find much tape on him,” said Frank Espinoza who manages both Valdez and Magdaleno. “He’s really a mystery. And that’s dangerous.”
In the fourth world title bout, China’s Zou Shiming (8-1) meets Thailand’s Prasitsak Phaprom (39-1-2, 24 KOs) for the vacant WBO flyweight world title.
Zou, a former Olympic gold medalist, has had problems adjusting to the pro style. He’s worked hard under the guidance of Freddy Roach but after years of fighting in the amateur style some habits are just plain hard to shake. But he still has speed and skills. Phaprom has power and has never been knocked out. Both are 35 years old so age won’t make a difference. Will speed beat power? It’s probably the last chance for whoever loses.