On Friday night August 22nd, a sold out crowd of close to 1200 filled the Allan Witt Sports Center in Fairfield, CA and watched junior featherweight prospect Manuel ‘Tino’ Avila and heavyweight prospect Gerald Washington emerge victorious on a FOX Sports 1 televised card presented by Golden Boy Promotions, Don Chargin Production and Paco Presents.
Fighting in his hometown, Manuel Avila, 16(7)-0, shined and displayed a rising confidence befitting a boxer turning into one of the top prospects of his division.
Gerald Washington’s struggle with veteran Nagy Aguilera, 19(13)-9, left questions of his ability to advance to the elite level.
Fairfield’s Manuel ‘Tino’ Avila entered the ring in bright white attire and to the crowd’s refrain of “Tino’s House.” Bouncing on his toes awaiting the signal from the TV broadcast that the fight could begin, Avila’s face was frozen in concentration. Sitting on a chair outside of the ring was his trainer, Al LaGardo. LaGardo has trained Avila since he was an amateur. Health issues prevent LaGardo from entering the ring, but he relays his instructions to his assistant coaches, all of whom hail from the Vacaville PAL, which Al runs with an iron fist. LaGardo can be seen at amateur shows operating the same way, often warming up elementary school age boxers while sitting in a chair using his hands as punch mitts.
Avila normally begins a fight sitting back, getting a read on his opponent and looking to counter. This night, Avila stalked his opponent, Sergio Frias, 15(8)-4-2, of Guadalajara, Mex, from the start. Working behind a sharp, fast jab, and showing Frias no respect, Avila was seeking to destroy. Avila dropped Frias with left hook and then dropped him a second time with a series of right cross, left hooks. Tino looked to finish off Frias in the final 10 seconds of the first, throwing a lot of punches and injuring his left hand in the process.
Frias collected his wits well in between rounds and began the 2nd looking to fight his fight, but Avila was just superior. From the 2nd through 4th round, Avila controlled the fight with his crisp jab and his counters, favoring either a 2-3 or a 3-2 thrown tight, quick and compact. Somewhere in the 4th Avila injured his right hand. From the 5th through 7th, Avila changed tactics and let Frias chase him around the ring, stinging Frias with his jab while mostly working defense.
Worn down from the early punishment, the energy expended chasing Avila and the damage from repeatedly eating a hard jab on the chin all night, Frias began the 8th with no choice but to go for it. After opening up on Avila early in the round, Frias stumbled after getting hit a jab. Sensing Frias had nothing left, Avila drove Frias to the ropes with a flurry and put him down with a digging left hook with the body. Frias’ corner threw in the white towel just as the referee called off the fight.
With this fight, Manuel ‘Tino’ Avila may have entered a new phase of his career. He is no longer a young fighter transitioning from amateur boxing to professional. At 22 years of age, he is now a professional with full confidence in his abilities and operating under the realization that he can and should, even if injured, dispatch lesser men. Avila is ready to climb.
The supporters of heavyweight Gerald Washington, 14(10)-0, wear shirts with “Champion on the Rise” emblazoned on the back. A former USC Trojan football player and fringe NFL tight end, Washington is looking to buck the trend of former football players who turn out to be failed heavyweights. Having boxed as a youth and with backing from Al Haymon, maybe Gerald Washington will be different. After his anemic eight round unanimous decision victory over Nagy Aguilera, Gerald Washington has much more work to do if he plans on reaching his goals.
Washington is a good athlete who utilized decent footwork to evade Aguilera’s constant pressure, but he pushes his punches instead of snapping them, has issues with activity and stamina, and brings his jab hand back to his waist each time he throws. His constant circling off brought catcalls and boos from the crowd. Nagy Aguilera was correct in his prediction that he would have to knock Washington out in order to get a victory.
The television star of the night was Manuel Avila. The actual stars of the actual event, held in a building that functions as a community center, were the members of the local Northern California boxing community, who were given the opportunity to celebrate themselves.
Ricardo Carrillo, a garbage truck driver, who has spent almost every day after work for over 20 years running the Woodland Boxing Club, who has taught thousands of kids their first punch, and who has trained an Olympian, gets to work the glove table, don a sports coat and catch a glimpse of himself in the ring on national television. Local professional boxers not fighting that night get to be guests of honor, walk tall, see the young men who they spar with compete, talk to each other about their next fight or the frustration of finding a next fight, and talk about their careers with the few people who have witnessed them and care about their journeys. In the ring, at the conclusion of each bout, promoter Paco Damian, in charge of the nuts and bolts of the promotion under the tutelage of Hall of Famer Don Chargin, can be seen expressing his authenticate appreciation to each of the boxers, from the main event fighter to the four round boxers who will never progress beyond a few fights at these local shows.
And the fans themselves starred. Most of the crowd was young and minority, coming from communities where boxing still matters, wearing shirts in support of the boxer from their neighborhood, their boxing gym or their family. ‘Team Rhino’, ‘Kennel Boxing Club’, ‘Gallo Negro’, ‘Tino’, ‘Team Robb’, ‘No Luck, All Hustle’ all represented. For each fight, there was a sizeable group emotionally invested in the result. There were very few pure spectators.
After winning his fight, dressed in his street clothes, looking younger than his age, 20 year-old boxer Chris Bautista climbed up the bleachers and quietly and respectfully shook the hands of each of the elders that came to see him. He then departed with his friends.
In other action, Sacramento junior lightweight Guy Robb, 14(6)-1, bolstered his reputation as one of the most exciting fighters in Northern California after he knocked out previously undefeated Ronell Green, 10(5)-1, in the 3rd round. Robb made Green pay for his bad habit of bending at the waist. When Green bent over, Robb pounded the sides of his body, waiting for Green to raise his head. Green raised his head and Robb was ready with short right hand followed by a left hook that robbed Green of his consciousness.
San Jose, CA lightweight Andy Vences, 9(5)-0, defeated Cesar Martinez, 4(1)-3-2, when the ringside physician stopped the bout after the 2nd due to cuts in Martinez’s mouth. Martinez, who was dropped once in the fight, appeared fit to fight and was visible upset by the doctor’s call. Vences has the ability to fight as a pure boxer, but he loves to exchange. His identity as a pro has yet to be established.
Los Angeles featherweight Manny Robles, Jr., 6(2)-0, boxed with the poise and technique one would expect from a boxer with a father who trains elite amateurs. Mexico’s Sergio Najera, 8-15-2, gave Robles multiple looks and was slippery enough to force Robles to work hard in earning a 60-54 unanimous decision.
Vacaville, CA cruiserweight Ryan Bourland went to 4(3)-0 after stopping San Francisco’s Philip Smith, 0-1, in the 2nd round. There are plenty of professional boxing matches that are mismatches or that are fought at a basic level, but rarely do you see a fight where you immediately know that one of the boxers has no business being in the ring and your concern turns from reporting on the action to concern for the participant’s health and safety. This was such a fight. Philip Smith has no business being in a ring. The referee thankfully stopped the action in the 2nd, not because any particular punch rendered Smith helpless, but because he was helpless and in danger of being seriously injured by Ryan Bourland, a professional boxer.
Middleweight Maurico Zavaleta, 1-2, lost to William Walters, 2-3, in a fight Zavaleta was well in control after the ringside physician stopped the fight due to a cut in his mouth.
Junior middleweights Joe Siapano, 0-1-1, and Jesus Sanchez, 1-0-1, fought to a majority draw in a rematch of their professional debuts.
Chris Bautista, 3-0, earned a four round unanimous decision over Percy Peterson, 0-4-1, who didn’t appear interested in engaging after suffering a bruising and competitive defeat just three weeks before.
All in all, if you knew nothing else, walking into arena that night, you would think boxing was doing just fine.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV