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List of Articles by Don Smith

Arizona Boxing News & Notes with Don Smith: Benavidez Protégé Valenzuela, Rules Response & More

By Don Smith
08 Nov 2017

David Benavidez.
Boxing Fans, I called Boxing trainer Jose Benavidez Sr. recently to get an update on his 2 boxing sons (David & Jose Jr.). Senior told me that his namesake is fighting on the Horn/Corcoran WBO Welterweight title tiff in Brisbane Australia on December 13 versus a yet to be determined opponent.

It has been 16 months since Jose last fought and his ring inactivity is a direct result of a severe wound suffered from a bizarre shooting incident in Phoenix. The former interim world boxing Champion (25-0-16 knockouts) returned to training 2 months ago and according to his handlers the 25 year old pugilist has shed a few pounds and will be fit as a fiddle and ready to go on December 13 when the 1st bell sounds. The plan is for the California born fighter (Arizona resident) to fight 3-4 times and then challenge for a world title if his team thinks he is ready.

WBC world super middleweight champion David Benavidez (19-0-17 knockouts) is nervously waiting to defend his title after winning the belt by defeating Ronald Gavril (18-2). Talk about a rematch with Gavril is ongoing and the target date appears to be in January or February, 2018. In the meantime, David is staying ready by sparring with light heavyweight title contender Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (19-1-16 knockouts) as he prepares to fight Sergey Kovalev on 11/25 for the vacant WBO world light heavyweight title. David and the light heavy have sparred several times in the past.

In addition to training his sons, Jose Sr. has taken on former amateur standout Jose Valenzuela (40-5-40 knockouts). The 18 year old southpaw will make his professional debut on 11/9 at the W.D. Jackson Armory in Portland Oregon. It is a miracle that the teenager is physically able to box or even walk after a drunk driver ran over the then 3 year old; sending the child to a local hospital for emergency treatment in Los Mochas Sinaloa, Mexico. Doctors feared he wouldn’t survive and called his survival “a Miracle”. One important footnote, the drunk driver was arrested and charged accordingly.

The rehabilitation process was excruciating and in addition to learning to walk again, his face was crushed and had to be surgically reconstructed. Financially, it was a major struggle to survive in a financially disadvantaged neighborhood; so, his family decided to leave the impoverished town and relocate in Arizona where the family resided in Tempe and Mesa before moving to Washington State where the family remains. Jose has two older sisters.

His introduction to boxing came at age 10 in Bellingham Washington where his dad took him to a local gym after he became troubled over his son’s inability to refrain from street fighting and hanging out with the wrong people. His father would drive him to the gym 3-4 times a week. As Jose’s skills began to develop, father and son realized the aspiring boxer needed a more competitive and progressive program; so, dad & mom began driving him to the “Aztec Boxing Club” in Renton Washington, a 2 hour drive. His parents never complained about accommodating their son and the routine continued for 6 years until the family moved to Auburn, Washington, a city of 75,000 and situated between Seattle and Tacoma Washington.

His management team is putting the pedal to the medal in preparing Jose for his debut as noted by the caliber of his sparring partners including undefeated prospect Tramaine Williams (13-0-5 knockouts), title contender Oscar Negrete and the young pugilist will be exchanging blows with Irish heralded Olympian Michael Conlan on Friday 11/10 at Legendz Boxing in Norwalk California not to be confused with Legends Boxing in Utah.

During our two brief telephone chats, he told me his favorite two fighters are Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Vasyl Lomachenko, two great ring role models to have. Trainer & manager Benavidez told me that the kid is very dedicated to the sport and has all the tools to become a champion. And he has learned from his mistakes in life that gives him a new lease on life. After hearing his story, it’s hard not to root for him; big day for Jose on 12/9, stay tuned.

Casino Del Sol: I went to Tucson, Arizona on Halloween day to cover a Golden Boy weigh-in at Casino Del Sol followed by a 6 bout fight night on Thursday November 1. The Casino & Resort is rated 4 stars by Forbes and after a two day visit, I would suggest a five star rating and keep in mind, I rarely rave about the quality of my lodging; of course, I have stayed in some pretty shabby accommodations during my 40 plus years as a journalist. After being treated so royally, I may stay away from hostels.

My room rate was reasonable and the Buffett at the Fiesta Cafeteria was very good; but I wouldn’t recommend the cheesecake. Maria my server, on 3 occasions, was excellent as were my servers at Moby’s café in the casino.

I arrived at the Casino/Resort at 11:10 on weigh-in day and immediately headed for the site of the event (Paradiso Lounge) where I spotted Tucson fighter Christopher Gonzalez and his good natured team. I immediately joined Christopher and asked him about his opponent Jesus Arevalo (2-1) from Sierra Vista Arizona. Chris told me the two had sparred in the past when he was a different fighter and he was confident he would defeat Arevalo. The Sierra Vista told me the same story and made the same prediction: victory!

Only one can win and the victor was Gonzales (1-0) who scored often enough with body shots to earn a unanimous decision over Arevalo who made the fight interesting.

I talked to Gonzalez after the fight and asked him the cuts (above the right eye) resulting from 2 head butts would alter his fight schedule and he said no. His manager asked me what I thought about his performance and we both agreed that the crowd loved the actin but the fight was a bit sloppy a C grade would be fair. I think Gonzales has good power but his defense was porous and he tired in the final 4th round. He will only get better and I like his demeanor outside the ring and his grit inside the ring. In a post-fight chat, the young fighter was asked to fight at the casino 7 more times at the venue, I couldn’t verify the claim or the next Casino Del fight date; but a win is a good way to start a career.

After lunch, I was escorted to Cesar Alan Valenzuela’s room and we had a 15 minute conversation about his next day fight with Ryan Garcia, the current Junior NABF super featherweight title holder and Cesar seemed confident at the time; but, his manager (Gilbert) dominated the conversation and predicted an upset. Unfortunately Garcia manhandled the likeable Valenzuela and the contest was stopped in the third after Garcia had his way with power shots from the right hand and several vicious left hooks. Garcia (12-0-11 knockouts) is the real deal and I expect the 19 year old to fight for a world title within 2 years. He does need to improve his head movement and develop more lateral movement. His speed and power is incredible.

On Thursday morning, fight day, I left my room early and headed for breakfast at Molby’s Café where I spotted headliner Jesus Soto Karass (28-13-4)in a booth with his manager Francisco Espinoza. I went over to wish Soto good luck and was invited by Soto to join him and his manager for breakfast. I wasn’t allowed to pay for my breakfast even though I insisted, really!

Soto & Espinosa have been together since the beginning of his fighter’s career and the two men interact well together. Both men are easy to talk to although Soto feels more comfortable speaking in Spanish. Francisco is a movie buff and enjoys westerns. Somehow we began talking about that genre of film and he was able to recall scenes from movies and he also told me he owns a Mexican Fish Restaurant in Phoenix on 59th Avenue & Indian School. Francisco served in the US military and exercised his GI benefits to help his daughter who is very successful in her own right.

It was a very amicable conversation. Soto brought up his father’s boxing career. Jose Luis Soto lost more than he won; but he did fight the great Salvador Sanchez and other champion caliber fighters. Soto told me his father let him make his own decisions about his career. I asked if his possible retirement would end the Soto boxing legacy and he said his youngest son (3 years old) showed boxing instincts but he wouldn’t encourage or discourage him from boxing.

I asked him if the fight with Jesus Carlos Abreu (20-3-19 knockouts) was his last fight and he said all things must come to end and he told me he is already promoting fights so the knockout loss to Abreu won’t end his involvement with boxing. He said he would take a few days off and addresses his ring future. Despite his loss, the veteran fighter was mobbed by fans seeking picture or autograph from the popular fighter who enjoys a cult ike following although he has never won a world title.

Espinosa manages Antonio Margarito and I asked him about the rumors that the former world champion was broke and was forced to fight to stave off bankruptcy by continuing to fight. Mr. Espinoza told me the allegations were false and Antonio was still fighting because he enjoys the sport.

I was ringside when Abreu knocked out Soto in the 8th round and within 5 feet of Abreu when the Dominican Republic fighter confirmed to a fan (near the hotel elevator) that he hurt his right hand early in the third round. He asked his corner what he should do and he was told he had two hands so use the left. He did score with both hands in the 8th and final stanza. It was a gutsy performance for the game but out muscled Soto.

In a very entertaining bout, Journeyman Germain Meraz (from Mexico) did everything to win except fill out the scoreboards in his ferocious battle with Rafael Gramajo (9-1-2). At the end the battle was scored a majority draw and the fans roared their disapproval. In a word, Meraz (58-45-2- 35 knockouts) was robbed.

Pedro Melo (17-18-1 (8 knockouts) made a fight of it four rounds until Cesar Diaz (7-0-5 knockouts) tagged Melo with a barrage of punches that prompted the referee to stop the contest at 1:10 in the 5th round.

Robert Garcia protégé Hector Tanajara Jr. scored a unanimous victory over super featherweight Jesus Serrano with scores of 60-72 x 2 and 79-73. It was a fun night of boxing and I thank Sergio Diaz (Showdown Promotions) and Paco Damian (Paco Presents Boxing) for their hospitality and help with my coverage. The next date for boxing at Casino Del Sol is pending.

Boxing News: Phoenix middleweight Andrew Hernandez is training in Oregon (near Portland) with Jose Benavidez Sr. who told me that Andrew is ready for his fight with Mike Gavronski (24-2-1-15 knockouts) in a title bout on Saturday November 18 in Tacoma, Washington at the Emerald Queen Hotel & Casino. There are 5-6 fights planned for the card. At stake is the WBA-NABA Super Middleweight Title. Their boxing duel is advertised as the “Battle at the Boat 113” in the I-5 Tacoma Showroom. Ticket prices range is: $30.00, $50.00, $75.00 & $100.00…..Former featherweight champion Yuriorkis Gamboa will fight Jason Sosa in the televised opener to Kovalev vs. Shabrankskyy at MSG in the Big Apple on 11/25 televised on HBO (10:00 p.m. ET/PT. He replaces Robinson Castellanos who suffered an injury. This corner picks Kovalev….Trainer Joel Diaz spoke to ABNN recently in Tucson about Phoenix welterweight Alfredo Escarcega (3-0), a young boxer under his tutelage. Joel said if the young fighter doesn’t begin to show more power, Alfredo may be looking for another line of work. I think Alfredo is a fine prospect and the statement was a bit harsh but Diaz is known for candid remarks. …..Phoenix boxing trainer Danny Riddell and local announcer Ralph Velez Jr. were at Casino Del Sol in Tucson on 11/1 to watch boxing. Both men were in the house when nationally known trainer Robert Garcia was handcuffed and escorted out of the boxing venue. He was not arrested nor put in a holding cell. I was told that he was given a ticket for disorderly conduct after an altercation with a fan that was sporting a black eye resulting from punches thrown by members Garcia’s team. Mr. Garcia denies throwing any punches and the existence of an issued ticket wasn’t confirmed by Casino Del Sol…..Arizona welterweight Abel Ramos (18-2-13 knockouts) is scheduled to fight Eudy Bernardo (23-2-17 knockouts) in a 6 round contest at the Winnavegas Casino & Resort in Sloan Iowa, a suburb of Sioux City. The event can be viewed on Facebook & BeIN Sports. The show is promoted by Roy Jones JR. Promotions. Bantamweight Max Ornelas (9-0) is the headliner with Randy Moreno (10-1) featured in the Co-Main. Crowd favorites Nathaniel Gallimore (19-1-16 knockouts) and Joshua Greer Jr. (14-1-6 knockouts) are on the undercard; on paper, good show. I think the Ramos vs. Bernardo fight should have been the main event; but it isn’t my nickel; the legendary Roy Jones Jr. will make an appearance.

More Stuff: Phoenix fighters Ryan Riddell and Luis Espinoza are talking trash on Facebook and both have issued challenges even though they fight at different weights……Sebastian Mitry (F-1 Boxing) won a first place trophy at the Disorder by the Border smoker in San Luis Arizona on 11/2. Mitry was the only fighter from Maricopa County to participate in the event……Tucson Fighter Christopher Gonzalez and his team handled themselves very well very well at the Casino Del Sol weigh-in and post-fight interviews; great group of guys……Richard Soto, Chief of officials, USA Boxing LBC-AZ, need help with the weigh-in process at the Gene Lewis Invitational (11/09/-10-11) and volunteers are asked to call 602-702-7053….Sonny’s 2nd Annual Masters Tournament (11/17-18)will be held at Sonny’s Boxing, 108 E Western Avenue in Goodyear Arizona. Master’s Champion Geoff Ronning will not compete this year; instead he will help with registration, etc. If interested in becoming a participant, call Sonny’s boxing at 623-806-2421. Sorry, we don’t have more details such as entry fees and weight divisions; perhaps, forthcoming! Finally, we hear that there will be a new applicant for a Arizona Boxing Promoter’s license and he/she will try to coax Jesus “El Martillo” Gonzales into fighting one more time on a show that will be presented in the spring of 2018; tentative titles being bandied about for the proposed are: Final Round & One More Time”. Tucson fighter Christopher Gonzalez planned to wear the flag of the Pascua Yaqui on his trunks when he fought at the Casino Del Sol in Tucson on November 1. His grandmother sewed on upside down and his management team took it off and ran to find a needle and thread. They found the thread but in a rushed attempt to sew the flag on, the needle broke. Chris promises to have the tribal flag on his trunks if and when he fights at the casino again.

Rules Reponse: The Arizona Boxing/MMA Commission has submitted proposed rule changes and the public is invited to go online to a link (listed on the Arizona Boxing/MMA Commission website) and read and critique the document. On November 29 at 10 a.m., members of the Arizona Boxing Community are invited to attend the Monthly Commission meeting (1110 W. Washington Street in Phoenix) and discuss the proposed changes. Any further questions on how and where to find the notice of proposed rulemaking vsn be directed to Aiden Fleming, Department of Gaming at 602-255-3879.

It was a very painstaking effort rules drafting team (almost a year) and I can understand the writing teams sensitivity to any criticism and I appreciate the Gaming Department’s tolerance of all non-supportive responses of the draft. In all fairness, I have heard from a few reads who think the some of the proposals are needed. In reality, we are talking about the livelihood of athletes, promoters, etc. and any change could affect their long range future.

In my role as a journalist and boxing writer, I thought it would be prudent and didactic to ask a number of men and women working within the Arizona Boxing Industry to thoroughly read the 39 page document and give me their honest and professional take on the proposals. I told persons I approached that I wouldn’t print any critique that contained vulgar language or attacked anyone working as a representative of the Arizona Boxing/MMA Commission.

I had several volunteers; but I chose the review from Harvey Prezant, a distinguished member of the Arizona Boxing Community for more than 4 decades. He has served as a coach, Judge, Inspector and USA boxing official. His contributions to the Gene Lewis and Broadway Boxing Club programs have produced multiple trophies and a deep and genuine appreciation from the young me and women he has served. Harvey is literate and an accomplished businessman and his boxing credentials are well respected.

Here is his personal evaluation of the proposed rule changes. I asked Harvey to present his critique clearly, simply and concisely; so, everyone could decipher the text without calling an attorney.

Arizona Boxing News & Notes: “Thank you for sending the 39 pages with the “Notices of Proposed Rulemaking. What I will submit to you will pertain only to the sport of boxing, as I am not involved in any way with other martial arts listed.

Page 2998 simply covers the proposed repeal of the past rules. Why the “agency” simply repealed the entirety of the past rules, rather than make corrections as needed, I have no idea. Therefore, studying the existing rules for repeal serves no purpose.

On page 3000, below item 8c, it states “a brief summary of information included in the economic, small business and consumer impact statement is included. Paragraph one states that licensing fees for corporate promoters, cut men, professional unarmed combatants, trainers, and seconds will not be increased. How can such a statement be made without including financial information past and present, including income and expense? This part of the presentation, which is open for all to read and question is incomplete and only raises more questions.

On page 3001, 11, b, it states, “The proposed rules will make such physical examinations mandatory under (certain circumstances”. The term, certain circumstances, makes the entirety of the subject suspect to meaning.

On page 3003, item 10(4-11) it states that Event Bond “MAY BE REQUIRED BY THE COMMISSION”. The bond is protection for the venue, officials, combatants, and Commission. Under what circumstances would the commission not ask for a bond from the promoter?

Page 3004, item D speaks to the contracts of the combatants. They are now separate, with each combatant signing his own contract. I spent 30 years in business and never saw a contract where each person did not sign the same contract with each receiving copies.

Page 3008, item B 6, states the amateur combatant fee is $10.00. I have to assume this covers martial arts other than boxing, as the commission has no authority over Amateur Boxing in Arizona.

All coagulants approved by the physician should be in writing so trainers may be prepared for corner work without feeling they have violated regulations.

Page 3016, item V 2. This part states tape may be used on the skin of the wrist. This is against the present policy of no layering (gauze tape). If tape is on the wrist, why not the back of hand to support bones and tendons that are often broken and torn in that location? I am in favor of tape put directly on the hand or over a pre-wrap product to protect the skin. Layering is not a problem nor is the amount of gauze or tape. Neither makes a boxer punch harder or endangers the opponent.

Page 3027 states the amount of gauze and tape allowed for all combatants. This needs to be adjusted as there is a huge difference between a 108 pounders hand and a 250 pound heavyweight hands. This would appear to be quite obvious. The agency writing this needs to have experienced participants involved, along with a physician. Clearly, that is not the case here.

Page 3016, R19-2-D602. Boxing, item A 1. The ring shall be four sided, between 16 and 20 feet per side, with two feet outside the ropes. I personally have never seen a 16 foot long inside the ropes used. This size ring and a soft cover would be one sided in favor of the puncher as opposed to the boxer.
Page 3017, item D. Weight classes. Why is there no junior weight classes listed?

Page 3018, item 1. Method of judging. This speaks to the 10 point must system and includes information on “even” rounds. Personally, I judged a professional bout here in Arizona and called an even round. I was questioned by the Executive Director of the commission and told there should be no even rounds and that I had to change my score accordingly. How is the commission legally allowed to go directly against its’ own rules and tell a judge what his score must be. In a commission meeting of officials, there were some who agreed that there should never be an even round. If that be the case, why have rules, if the commission and its’ assignees have the right to ignore them.

The members of the agency writing this needs to be made up of experienced individuals directly involved in boxing, such as, managers, trainers, cut men, seconds and physicians.

I am paraphrasing, but utilizing words like “unless the commission feels otherwise” gives them carte blanche and makes the entire document appear weak”……Harvey Prezant! Until Next Time!

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