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List of Articles by Don Smith

Arizona Boxing News & Notes with Don Smith: David Lara SR. Classic, Esparza News & Much More

By Don Smith
27 Sep 2017

Boxing Fans, On Saturday morning, September 23, I thumbed a ride with coaches and boxers from Hammer Boxing in Phoenix and we headed to San Luis Arizona for the 2nd Annual David Lara SR Annual Classic. The event is dedicated to the memory of David Lara SR who is acknowledged as a pioneering force behind the development of Boxing in San Luis Arizona, a growing Arizona community with an estimated population of 35,000 residents.

I was invited to the event by Head San Luis Boxing Club Coach and Police Detective Ernesto Prieto who deserves equal credit for the success of boxing in San Luis. Coach Prieto was acknowledged at the “Classic” for his service and dedication (during intermission) with a commemorative plaque. In a short acceptance speech, the humble coach thanked the community and sponsors for supporting the San Luis Boxing Club and vowed to continue the program for the kids in San Luis who want to use boxing as a tool to develop character, discipline and self-defense.

Knowing how amateur boxing struggles to stay afloat, I asked the personable coach to describe what it took to get his program started. Ernesto told me that Mr. Lara approached him and asked what it would take to start boxing in San Luis. The innovative businessman had tried unsuccessfully to bring boxing to the community and was ready to hand the reins over to someone who shared his vision.

Coach Prieto told him he needed equipment and the benevolent benefactor handed the jubilant coach a check for $1,500.00 that was used to purchase equipment at a nearby Play It Again Sports Store.

The San Luis Boxing Club is supported by the city of San Luis and donations. The city provides free utilities & other benefits with the approval and support of city leaders and the San Luis Police Department. In 2016 the San Luis Police Athletic League chapter was dissolved and that loss of funding to the program was a jolt to their budget; but, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Ernesto admits the club has been through some rocky times but his team is gritty and committed to rebound when their back is against the rope.

We arrived in San Luis at 7:08 am on Saturday for the weigh-in and registration. Free coffee and pancakes was available for boxers, event staffers, coaches and volunteers. The coffee was stronger than jet airline fuel but the pancakes were light and fluffy, so much for a review of breakfast.

The event featured 26 bouts. Elijah Garcia (Hammer Boxing) was disappointed that his scheduled foe from California stayed home instead of showing up to face Garcia who beat him in a previous match. The majority of matches were very competitive with three of the contests ending in stops. Instead of the traditional trophy, 1st place finishers were awarded a huge glove so big that no winner will ever forget carrying it home. Second place finishers received a stylish plaque and the boxing participants seemed pleased with their prizes. I was impressed with the practice of sportsmanship by all competitors.

Organizers of the event decided to skip the selection of a best bout or team trophy choice. I watched all of the bouts and in my opinion the Anthony Clark (San Luis) vs. Diego De Mara (Baja Boxing) bout was the best match followed by the Ivan Martino (Baja Boxing) vs. Fernando Martinez (Mendoza Boxing) contest. And if I am allowed to add a third and 4th choice, it would be the riveting bout between Isiah Rodriguez (Sparta Boxing) vs. Jesus Ramirez (Calexico Boxing) and the Trini Ochoa (Power Boxing) vs. Joshua Rivera (San Diego Tigers) encounter.
Here is a complete list of the 1st place finishers: David Garcia (Garcia Boxing), Xadrian Garza (San Diego Tigers), Kevin Castaneda (Martillo’s Boxing), Miguel Angel Mendez (Rosarito/Baja Boxing), Renato Sabin Serna (Yuma Fight Academy), Gustavo Diaz (San Diego Tigers), Ariel Samano (San Luis), Trini Ochoa (Power Boxing), David Silva (Calexico Boxing), David Vera (Martillo’s Boxing), Alexander Flores (Mexacali Boxing), Francisco Zarate (Yuma Fight Academy), Simeon Duckey (DuckeyBoy Boxing), Anthony Clark (San Luis), Luis Angel Valle (New Generation), Juan Gomez (Martillo’s Boxing), Juan Meza (Baja Boxing), Jonathan Cabrera (Baja Boxing), Oscar Lara (Yuma Fight Academy), Aaron Williams (Unattached), Luis Retana (Mendoza Boxing), Tania Guillen (Mexicali Boxing), Rafael Andrade (Taz Boxing Club), Angel Martinez (El Centro PAL), Isiah Rodriguez (Sparta Boxing), Fernando Martinez (Mendoza Boxing.
In Summary, it was a good afternoon of boxing. I thank the organizers for speeding up the event after a late start and the volunteers were super cordial and the security personnel were diplomatic in providing a secure environment. Also, all of the boxers, coaches and fans were very tolerant of me as I occasionally blocked their view while running around asking questions; sorry. I recommend that everyone take the trip next year, admission was only $5.00 and proceeds went toward covering travel expenses as the team prepares for the Gene Lewis Tournament in November.

Boxing News: Super Middleweight champion David Benavidez (19-0-17 knockouts) served as guest commentator on the Leduan Barthelme (13-0) vs. Eduardo Ramirez (20-0) card at the Cannery Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Tuesday, 9/26. Mike Tyson and a bunch of celebrities are expected to be on hand.
David is waiting to defend his title and rumors list Callum Smith, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Caleb Plant and Anthony Dirrell as possibilities. I wouldn’t count Plant in the running. Chavez, despite his recent humiliating defeat would be the ideal matchup for Benavidez; name recognition therefore an instant draw and more folding money. The talked about rematch with Ronald Gavril is probably off due to an injury suffered by the Romanian; expect an announcement soon. David’s older brother, Jose Jr is working out in Oregon and plans to fight soon. He is rumored to return to the ring on a Jeff Horn Card in Australia; but for now, it is just a rumor. We wish him luck ….. Boxing coach Ricky Ricardo Rodriguez will host a smoker at his Madison Boxing Gym, 9402 N. Central Avenue Suite #1 in Phoenix. 1st bout commences at 3 P.M. Contact Ricky at 602-434-7770 for further information; snacks and drinks available plus a raffle to benefit the gym.

Rest in Peace: Alberto Mora Zuniga’s matchmaker and friend (Cris Vasquez) called to give more details about his fighter’s sudden and tragic death as a result of a senseless shooting in Mexico City. We mentioned his passing in our last column and urged boxing fans to support a Phoenix community sponsored car wash and raffle (9/23) to raise money to help the grieving family bury their son. The community graciously responded and $2,500.00 was donated and passed on to the family. Alberto is survived by his parents, one brother and a sister.

ABNN thought the 22 year old died in the city where he resided (Los Cabos, Mexico) but Cris corrected our error and gave us specific details on the tragic event. Alberto was shot in the back of his head on Monday 9/18 at a nightclub in Mexico City by a male person who was accompanied by 3 other males. The shooter and his three associates have been apprehended and taken into custody.

Zuniga was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment. Initially, the prognosis was good but popular boxer took a turn for the worse and on Wednesday 9/20, he was pounced brain dead and on Friday 9/22 Alberto was officially pronounced dead and buried on Saturday, 9/23. Once again, we extend our condolences to the family and thank the event organizers, volunteers and donors who lent their support to the family. We are always sad to report a tragedy.

Esparza News: Mario Esparza dad (Paul) sent me an email request to talk about his son’s departure from Ramos Boxing Gym in Casa Grande Arizona as reported in my last column.
Paul explained that his son skipped a recent session with trainer Jesus Ramos because (according to his son) he was “sick”. Jesus wasn’t happy with the no show and he told me so. The plan for the 4-0-1 boxer is for him to fight at 135-140 pounds and he is somewhere around 10-15 pounds north of that goal. Mario has dropped weight but the loss rate isn’t meeting his timetable; therefore, he is understandably frustrated.

Mario is now training at Rico Hoya’s Gym, Old School Boxing Gym on 27th Avenue in Phoenix; a much easier commute for the 23 year old who hasn’t fought in more than 2 years according to BoxRec. I am aware of the familiar line often used by athletes: “It’s just like riding a bicycle, you never forget” analogy but here is significant footnote- rust isn’t a boxer’s best riend and memories never throw or take a punch.

His dad wants the boxing community to know that all is “cool” with Coach Ramos and Mario could return if he wanted to. It is a moot point. What is important is where Mario’s heart and head is now.

Former boxing champion Rico Hoya worked with Mario back in the day and he sent a statement addressing Mario: “The young man has an abundance of talent and if he focuses and stays true to his profession, I see him becoming a contender within 2 years and a champion within 3-4. He has time to develop and could be a promoter’s dream. Hopefully, he will get an opportunity to showcase his talents here in the valley; but, I’m letting him know it’s not a bad thing to take your show on the road”.

Rico has invited me to drop by his gym and watch Esparza work out and I may do so at a future date. I wish Mario and his dad the best; boxing is a tough sport and a difficult business to manage.

Flag Controversy: Several of our readers have asked me to offer my opinion (worth 2 cents) on a citizen’s right to protest during the playing of our National Anthem. The citizens in question are NFL players who continue to protest the issue of perceived racial inequality in the United States. After three games into the season players continue to lock arms or kneel as an act of solidarity. Some players do stand while others stay in the locker room during the ceremony.

USA President Donald J. Trump has attacked the protesting players for not defending the flag and thinks NFL owners should fire those athletes who “disrespect” the flag and our National Anthem. Instead, the owners are siding with the players in their right to protest peacefully at games. The president suggested the firing at a political rally in Alabama, a state he carried by a wide margin in the 2016 presidential election.

When I heard the President curse at the players for not defending the flag, I recall that the counterpunching commander in chief applied for 5 military service deferments during the Vietnam era. Of course with him, contradictions are part of his personal landscape. Something else to chew is the fact that football fan Trump tried unsuccessfully on two separate occasions to buy a NFL Franchise.

As for my perspective, I support anyone’s right to protest peacefully. And besides, standing up with hand over heart and lip syncing the words to our National Anthem isn’t my definition of true patriotism. However, I do feel that the president’s stance on the issue is one way of rallying his base support and shifting the spotlight off his election investigation conducted by former FBI Director Robert Mueller. Mandating nationalism was tried by Hitler and it didn’t work. There you have one war veteran’s opinion. I try to stay out of lock step with total conformity. Personally, I stand during the National Anthem ceremony; but in a true democracy, choice is allowed.

Boxing News: The Iron Boy #42 show at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix on October 14 is almost set; Alexis Santiago(19-5-1-8 knockouts) may be added and a hunt to find opponents for Alexis Zazueta (9-0) and Eben Vargas (6-0) is still active. After two consecutive losses, Santiago needs a win; so, he comes back to Phoenix for some mulligan stew…..Boxing coach Tom Garcia (Central Boxing) is about to become a Grandpa…..Diamond Baier still dreams of having one more fight; he continues to work out at Central Boxing……boxer /trainer Fidel Hernandez handled the mike chores at the Iron Boy MMA 8 weigh-in at Twin Peaks recently….. USA Boxing Arizona Chief of Officials Richard Soto attended the LBC workshop at Colorado Springs for 2 days and the senior official will conduct an Officials Clinic on Saturday 9 A.M. 10/07 59 S. MacDonald (Broadway Boxing) in Mesa Arizona 85210… Coffee, donuts and lunch will be served. Please let referee Jerry Grimes take the first test sip and bite (ha, ha)…. Arizona boxers Jesus Ibarra (2-0) and Alfredo Escarcega Jr (3-0) were introduced at the 2nd Annual David Lara Sr. Boxing Classic held in San Luis Arizona 9/23 Alfredo Jr trains in Indio California under Joel Diaz while Jesus hits the speed bag in Arizona. Alfredo is scheduled to fight on the Golden Boy Card in Tucson ( Casino Del Sol) on November 2 and Jesus resumes his boxing aspirations October 14 on the Iron Boy Card at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix……..All around good guy Alberto Alvarez (2-0) has given up his boxing dreams to pursue a career as a Juvenile Detention Officer on the Tohono O’odhan Reservation in Sells Arizona located near Tucson. The young man is a winner and he will make a difference in his new profession.

More Stuff: Copper Gloves at the Arizona State Fairgrounds will take place on 10/11-12 in the Barn Area; follow the smell. Bouts start at 7 P.M. each evening. Fighters should arrive by 6 PM. The 11th is we Care Wednesday; so bring 5 can goods before 6 P.M. and get in free. Please, check Fair website for ride discounts and special features…. Special thanks to USA Boxing Arizona official Anthony Alvidrez for letting me hitch a ride to Phoenix on the way home from the 2nd Annual David Lara SR Classic in San Luis. He tells great stories and some of them are true…We hope the new Sheriff of Maricopa County (Paul Penzona) will find a way to restore the Maricopa County Sheriff’s boxing program……Wilder/Ortiz go at on HBO boxing from New York, November 4, check your program guide for time and channel #....On Tuesday October 31, WBO Super Bantamweight Champion Jesse Magdaleno defends his title against challenger Cesar Juarez at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. The title tiff airs on ESPN with broadcast time starting at 9 pm ET….the WBS series continues with Eubank JR/Yildirim October 7, Groves/Cox October 14 and Brahmer/Brant October 27….Until Next Time!

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