Duke Ellington, the prolific jazz composer, once performed a musical play at the Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles during the 1940s.
Ellington was known for writing “Take the A Train” an ode to New York City. A similar piece for L.A. might be called “Take the Blue Line” if you needed a nearby train.
Jazz notes are seldom heard in Belasco any longer, but boxing combinations with their staccato blends return on Friday Oct. 6. Several bright prospects led by Christian “Chimpa” Gonzalez take to the ring on the Golden Boy Promotions card. Estrella TV will televise.
Jazz and boxing have always blended together and throughout the years practitioners of the two arts formed a mutual admiration society. Sugar Ray Robinson was often seen paling around with artists like Miles Davis. There are even photos of the two giants sparring each other in the 1950s.
One major reason for the admiration could be the ability to improvise in a split second. A boxer can’t repeat the same combinations or risk getting countered and flattened. Jazz is built on the ability to create rhythmic musical notes on the spur of the moment. No song is ever performed the same exact way.
One boxer who recently learned about the dangers of repeating the same tactics will be performing in the main event.
Gonzalez, 21, was an undefeated prospect in the lightweight division when he met Romero Duno of the Philippines. That chilly night in March of this year, the spotless record of Gonzalez was wiped clean by a frozen rope of a punch by Duno.
It’s time to improvise.
Gonzalez, the lean power puncher from Buena Park returned to the boxing ring after the knockout loss and put out the lights of Daniel Perales this past August in the heat of summer.
Now Gonzalez faces Gamaliel Diaz, 36, a former world champion from Mexico. Despite the disparity in age it’s not an easy fight.
“I’m excited for this fight because he’s an ex-world champion with a lot of experience,” said Gonzalez while at Azteca Gym in Los Angeles.
Part of that Diaz experience included a surprise win over Takahiro Ao five years ago in Tokyo, Japan to win the WBC super featherweight world title. The Mexican fighter known as “El Platano” was not supposed to win that fight but found the right combinations to befuddle the Japanese fighter in front of his hometown crowd. He won by unanimous decision.
“I can’t take him lightly at all,” said Gonzalez of Mexico’s Diaz. “If I take him lightly he can do the same thing to me.”
Can Gonzalez adjust and maneuver out of danger when Diaz applies the tricks of his craft that he’s picked up over the years?
“It’s going to be an exciting fight,” says Gonzalez.
Any missed notes can be disastrous.
In the semi-main event Edgar Valerio (11-0, 6 KOs) the lean and tall undefeated featherweight from South Central L.A. meets Martin Cardona (22-8, 14 KOs) from Jalisco, Mexico in an eight round featherweight matchup.
An appropriate nickname for Valerio might be “Ex” but not for the reasons you might think. Unlike Bernard Hopkins, the “Ex” does not stand for executioner but more for “Existential.”
Valerio simply walks another path.
Ask his manager Joel De La Hoya and he will concur.
“My step brother introduced me to him three four years ago. He was tiny,” said De La Hoya about meeting Valerio. “I would run into him at Wild Card. One day he sees me at Wild Card. I didn’t recognize him. He was taller.”
The two talked and eventually Valerio convinced the boxing manager to give him an opportunity to show what he can do in the prize ring. The eager young fighter had sprouted a few inches and was no longer a flyweight.
“His dedication attracted me more than anything,” said De La Hoya. “He’s a good kid. He always texts me and is asking questions.”
When you talk to Valerio don’t expect the conversation to center on boxing. It can range from the nutritional aspects of the current presidential administration to the ancient philosophies of Eastern Asia.
“You know there are different levels of attainment in the mixed martial arts,” said Valerio upon seeing me dressed in a T-shirt with a Japanese motif. “It’s like a religion. I read it in a book about Tai Chi.”
Valerio likes to mix some of his knowledge regarding Tai Chi into his training and also wonders why people do things and others do not. But when he walks into a boxing ring there are no quandaries.
“My manager tells me I should not be so serious and should smile more when I go into the ring,” says Valerio. “But I’m a fighter and I’m going to be hitting people. I can’t smile.”
Don’t expect any confusion stemming from over-thinking on Valerio’s behalf.
“He lives on top of a panaderia,” says De La Hoya. “And he still does not have an ounce of fat on him. That takes dedication and focus.”
“You are what you eat,” he says.
He’ll take Friedrich Nietzsche over pan dulce any day.
Fans will be seeing a lot more than the norm on Friday night at Belasco Theater.
Pictured left to right, Christian “Chimpa” Gonzalez, Edgar Valerio, Jousce Gonzalez
Photo credit: Lina Baker / Seeyouringside Photo / GBP
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