Herrera and Soto Karass Awaken Ghosts of the Old Olympic Auditorium

INDIO, Ca.-Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera won the welterweight battle on Friday and Jesus Soto Karass captured the hearts of fans in a back and forth skirmish that harkened back to the smoky nights of the old Olympic Auditorium.

It was like entering a time warp 50 years ago.

Riverside’s Herrera (24-7, 7 KOs), jumped to a quick lead over L.A.-based Soto Karass (28-12-4) behind an educated jab that would have pleased old Olympic veterans like Mando Ramos. Fans at Fantasy Springs Casino were roaring their approval throughout  the Golden Boy Promotions fight.

It harkened back to those nights of yesteryear when the Olympic Auditorium often hosted battles between warriors from different sections of the city. Who can forget Bobby Chacon vs. Danny “Lil Red” Lopez, or Mando Muniz vs. Carlos Palomino? Inner city rivalries were the fodder for red hot clashes on a regular basis.

On this night, the Olympic Auditorium was spiritually moved 150 miles east to the blistering hot desert in Coachella Valley.

Hundreds of fans arrived for both prizefighters. Whether it was downtown L.A. or downtown Riverside the fans of these two veteran welterweights arrived in caravans. When the two fighters were announced you would have thought it was five years ago when both were still entrenched in their prime as welterweight contenders.

Herrera opened up the fight behind a jab in a low crouch targeting the body and head. Soto Karass moved toward him but not too hurriedly and responded back with combinations that missed often the first two rounds.

If you know either fighter from previous performances then you know Herrera is a razor slick fighter with the ability to stand in front of an opponent and slip, block and parry blows like a Mexican version of James Toney. It’s his strongest asset.

Herrera was rarely hit with any blow the first four rounds.

But if you know Soto Karass you realize he’s a fighter from Los Mochis, Mexico who does not ever quit, especially on this night.

Soto Karass was measuring the distance between the oncoming blows and slowly but surely countering and firing with his long armed combinations. Three, four and five punch combinations would miss. But by the fourth round a head snapping right would find its mark.

It was to the body that Soto Karass began finding a solid target to Herrera and suddenly you could see the taller fighter hone in like one of those sonar guided torpedoes. Closer and closer the distance between the two closed up.

If there is one thing Soto Karass knows, it is how to close the distance. Who can forget his success against Andre Berto, Selcuk Aydin and Mike Jones? He was supposed to be a vast underdog against all three of them but his no-quit attitude wasn’t considered.

But Herrera is equally stubborn.

The smaller looking welterweight is a master of confidence and resolute willpower. Despite the change in momentum and the occasional low blows, Herrera dug in like a World War I veteran and embraced the trench warfare. It was both brutal and inspiring to the fans watching in awe.

Soto Karass engaged Herrera in toe-to-toe war and both unleashed their best the final two rounds. Neither fighter yielded but it was the taller fighter’s preferred style of combat. Fans screamed at the top of their lungs.

When the final bell rang the two fired one last blow, each not stopping until the other stopped. But when they both awoke from their battle mode like two zoned-out warriors, it was as if the fighting ghosts of Jerry Quarry, Art Aragon, Baby Arizmendi, or even Kiko Bejines had suddenly left their bodies.

Both warriors hugged and both felt they had won.

Two judges scored it 96-94 for Herrera and a third 95-95 for a majority decision win for the fighter known as “El Maestro.”

“Give me two months and I’ll be back,” said Mauricio Herrera. “I felt like I started out strong, landing my jab, and was controlling the fight smartly. By the end of the fight, I was standing a bit more, and landing more of the obvious open shots. I will give him the later rounds, because I do feel that he came on strong, however I feel like overall my team played a strong clean, fight.”

Soto Karass was disappointed in the loss but solaced by the fans approval.

“The work that we displayed in the ring tonight should have merited the win. But, at the end of the day, as I have said before, the people who won today was the public who enjoyed and supported us,” said Soto Karass who had retired last September. “At this height of my career, I have to go back to my family and we are going to have to make some tough decisions. Above all though, I am content and I am happy that I took this fight.”

Herrera is eager to return.

“I can’t wait to get back in the ring,” Herrera said.

After the fight hundreds milled around the casino talking about the fight, even supporters of the loser were still embracing the euphoria of the memorable prize fight that awoke those sleeping ghosts of the Olympic…at least for one night.

Other Bouts

Niko Valdes (6-0, 5 KOs) saw his knockout streak end at five but winning streak continue as Mexico’s Jaime Solorio (7-4-2) used his experience and crafty moves to stifle the bigger and younger fighter’s assaults through all six super middleweight rounds. Miami’s Valdes was the aggressor the first three rounds but Solorio took the baton the last three. But the shorter Mexican fighter never could land enough to offset the height advantage. All three judges scored it for Valdes 60-54, 59-55 twice for the Floridian.

Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (19-1, 16 KOs) looked like the hungrier fighter in stopping Philadelphia’s Todd Unthank-May by knockout in the seventh round of their light heavyweight fight to win the WBC USNBC title. But it was not easy. Though Shabranskyy landed more and was the aggressor, Unthank-May rallied from near knockout several times and actually stunned the fans with his resilience. Both boxers suffered cuts early in the fight from punches in a slugfest that began with the opening bell.

Ricardo Sandoval (8-1, 7 KOs) looks tiny but fights like a mosquito in the dark as Antonio Rodriguez discovered in trying to hit him. After six rounds all three judges scored it for Sandoval who fights out of Riverside 60-54 twice and 59-55 in the super flyweight match.

East L.A.’s Jonathan Navarro (11-0, 6 KOs) floored Angel Sarinana (7-7-2) with a right cross during an exchange in the first round but things tightened up after that. Both exchanged freely with Navarro doing more damage to the head and Durango, Mexico’s Sarinana targeting the body for most of the eight rounds. One judge scored it 79-72 and two had it 80-71 for Navarro.

Marvin Cabrera (5-0) won by unanimous decision after a four round super welterweight clash versus Esau Herrera (19-9-1).

Photo credit: A; Applerose

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.

To comment on this article at The Fight Forum, CLICK HERE