Several years ago the lustrous Belasco Theater opened up its doors to professional boxing after decades of serving primarily as a music venue.
In three-plus years a number of prospects entered the prize ring for Golden Boy Promotions, many of them for the first time. A few have succeeded and graduated to another level in the dangerous world of prizefighting.
Hector Tanajara (12-0) meets Ensenada, Mexico’s Hector Ambriz Suarez (12-5-1) in the co-main event on Friday, April 6, at Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles. The entire fight card will be streamed worldwide on RingTV.com and two bouts televised on Estrella TV.
The other co-main event features former Olympian Marlen Esparza.
Tanajara, 21, was raised in San Antonio, Texas but has been living in Riverside, California at the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy. For three years in the hills in an area called Orangecrest the lanky Texan has been learning his craft.
It’s been a day to day thing for Tanajara (pictured on the left) and others including fellow San Antonio prospect Joshua Franco and East L.A.’s Jonathan Navarro who also live in the Riverside hills. They’re among a dozen fighters training in the compound.
The struggles are real for the trio who are all entering dangerous turf. It’s the moment of truth for all of the prospects who started their pro careers with Golden Boy Promotions.
Last month Franco lost by knockout in Texas and Navarro won a slugfest in Indio. Now it’s Tanajara’s turn.
Facing Tanajara will be Ambriz Suarez whose only loss in the last two years was against Mexicali’s very tough Abraham Montoya by decision. The lightweight clash is expected to go all eight rounds.
It’s the biggest challenge yet for the slim super featherweight from San Antonio. Will he pass the test?
The main event is Houston’s Marlen Esparza in a flyweight contest. Esparza (4-0) meets France’s Laetizia Campana (2-4) in the main event set for eight rounds in the flyweight division.
Since becoming a professional last year Esparza has rebooted her fighting style to learn the art of prizefighting. It’s been a slow steady process under famed trainer Virgil Hunter whose former protégé Andre Ward made the transition in 2004 from amateur star to stalwart pro and eventual world champion.
But dozens of victims line the streets of those who failed to make the transition. It’s not simple to adapt a pro style regardless of amateur pedigree.
Esparza has a major asset in her arsenal: locked in focus.
“I’m uber-focused on boxing. I enjoy what I do,” said Esparza. “I worry about losing my edge I worry about others catching up to me. I stay in the gym.”
Learning a new fighting style has been inspiring.
“I love boxing. I’m still in love with it. Still obsessed with it,” said Esparza who got started in boxing at eight years old. “It’s everything I care about it.”
It’s the second time a female bout headlines a Golden Boy card anywhere and it will be televised.
“I’m really excited about it,” said Esparza, 28. “It’s a tremendous honor.”
Two months ago Golden Boy signed another female fighter from nearby East Los Angeles named Seniesa Estrada. Both Esparza and Estrada have a long feud that goes back nearly a decade.
“I think she started the beef but I cooked it. She bought it but I cooked it,” said Esparza who has known Estrada since before 2009. “She said I used to run from her in the amateurs.”
Esparza guarantees they will fight this year.
“Now if you want a problem I can give it,” said Esparza while on the Tattoo and the Crew radio show on Thursday. “The marinating is done. Definitely, I would fight her next.”
Next, however, will be France’s Campana in the main event at Belasco on Friday night.
Doors open at 5 p.m. at Belasco Theater in downtown L.A.
Photo credit: Valentin Romero
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