Olympians, Josesito and Maricela Cornejo at Media Day in Riverside

RIVERSIDE, Ca.-With a large fight card revving up toward a rare Sunday opening, a slew of former Olympians, world title contenders and a pound for pound champion gathered for a media day in the hills of Riverside, California.

For more than three years the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy has been home to many prospects and contenders. Ringstar Sports Promotions led by its CEO Richard Schaefer made a splashy press opportunity on Wednesday.

American Olympian Carlos Balderas, Mexican Olympian Misael Rodriguez and Riverside welterweight contender Josesito Lopez met with the press. All will be fighting on Sunday at the Novo Theater at L.A. Live. Fox Sports 1 will televise.

In 20 years of covering boxing events this was the first I can remember when a boxing promoter held a media day in Riverside.

Despite numerous contenders and champions developing in the desert city famous for oranges, no other media day had ever taken place within the city limits.

Today was different.

“What better place to have your first fight than a place called the Novo which means new,” said Schaefer. “We have an Olympian from Mexico who is going to do good things and of course we have Carlos Balderas who everyone wanted out of the Olympics. But we got him.”

Balderas, 20, was electric in the Rio Olympics especially with his willingness to engage in the boxing ring. His fight against Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez was one of the most entertaining fights of the entire games. When it was ended, Balderas easily could have been judged the winner.

Fans love his confidence and openness.

“He’s a really good kid,” said Schaefer adding that Balderas opted to train in his native town Santa Maria, California. “Carlos really loves boxing too.”

Mexican Olympian Rodriguez won the bronze medal in 2016 as a middleweight and is managed by featherweight world champion Abner Mares.

“He’s the first Mexican to medal in the Olympics since Daniel Ponce De Leon,” said Schaefer of Rodriguez. “You have to be good to do that. We’re excited to have him.”

Rodriguez is training in Riverside under Robert Garcia and has been in camp for several months. He also gets excellent tutelage from two experienced pros that have fought in the top level.

Josesito, Mikey and Maricela

Josesito Lopez, 32, faces Saul Corral in the main event. He’s lived and trained in Riverside his entire career. I saw his pro debut that took place in Las Vegas in 2003.

“I can’t take this fight for granted. I can’t afford to take any fighter for granted,” said Lopez, whose statement fight was a win over Victor Ortiz in 2012. “If I want to fight against the best I need to prove myself.”

Another veteran at the media day is current WBC lightweight titlist Mikey Garcia who is among the top pound for pound fighters in the world today. He’s also the guru for the entire boxing squad at the hillside gym in Riverside. His constant advice and input is priceless for the youngsters and veterans.

Female prizefighters are another important addition to the Ringstar fight card.

A fight between middleweights Maricela Cornejo and Sydney LeBlanc in a six round contest will be one of the major contests on the L.A. card. Cornejo, is ranked among the top female middleweights in the world.

Schaefer has been impressed with her abilities inside and outside of the ring.

“She gets it,” said Schaefer adding that he signed Cornejo to a promotional contract because he sees her potential as someone who can attract fans. “Maricela knows that marketing a fight is important and is willing to do her part in promoting her fights.”

Doors open at 4 p.m. and some tickets were still available at press time.

Photo credit: Arnold Turner

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