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Arizona Boxing News & Notes with Don Smith: Vera Decisions Larbi, Garcia Victory & Much More

Twin Flame Images Photographer captures action between WBA-NABA- USA super welterweight champion John Vera and challenger Salim Larbi at the Celebrity Theatre on Friday, 1/27/17.

Boxing Fans, Texan John Vera (16-0-10 knockouts) retained his WBA-NABA USA Super Welterweight championship belt with a controversial split decision over rugged Frenchman Salim Larbi (20-7-2-7 knockouts) at The Celebrity Theatre on Friday night, January 27 in front of an estimated at 500 spectators. The event was presented and promoted by Roy Jones Promotions with some assistance provided by Fight Hard Promotions; based in Tolleson, Arizona.

The 10 round title bout was very entertaining although rough and awkward at times. The tone of the fight favored the Frenchman who is the former WBO Inter-Continental super welterweight champion and a very challenging opponent. As a result of his repeated lack of adherence to the Queensbury rules of boxing, Larbi was penalized one point by referee West Melton for throwing one too many low blows and at times the contest looked more like a street brawl than a sport often described as a sweet science; still, the fans loved the action. Despite his ?bad boy? tactics in the ring, the former champ won over many fans as the match progressed and some boxing patrons could be heard shouting ? Vera sucks?! ?remember, boxing isn?t a night at the opera. Yes, it was a very entertaining fight.

I talked briefly to both fighters after their exit from the ring and Larbi was very frustrated and angry over the verdict and he told ABNN: ?No wonder UFC is kicking butt and doing so well, pause, look at the (expletive) judging in boxing, everyone knows I won, you should tell the world I won.? Officially, two judges saw Vera winning by scores of 97-92 & 95-94 while one judge saw Larbi the winner, 95-94. The disparity of the one score, makes one wonder and in fact, the decision was greeted with more boo?s than cheers. I had Larbi narrowly ahead after deducting a point- a rematch would be a crowd pleaser to those on hand at the Celebrity; but I don?t think Vera will consent to a return engagement; it isn?t theater.

When Vera rallied to win a late round TKO victory over Phoenix?s Joey Ruelas in May of 2016, the fans at Downtown Las Vegas Event Center; gathered spectators could be overheard asking for a rematch. It was a great fight deserving of a reprisal; but Vera nixed the idea saying there was ?nothing? to prove. We imagine he shares the same sentiment about the Larbi fight, its history, and time to move on!

WBA-NABA- USA super welterweight champion John Vera and challenger Salim Larbi in action at the Celebrity Theatre on Friday, 1/27/17.

Phoenix Middleweight Andrew Hernandez inside the ring and daring the winning champion to step up in class and let Hernandez take his title. RJJ Promotion, producer of the show wasn't happy over Hernandez's behaviour.

I talked to the affable John at the end of his post-fight physical and he admitted what we all knew; it was a very tough fight for him. I asked him at what point during the fight was his right hand injured and the undefeated champion said he wasn?t sure and asked if I had an opinion. I told the 28 year old southpaw that I noticed he favored the hand in the 6th round and I believe he actually hurt it towards the end of the fifth round. A member of his team agreed with me. In a very classy move, Vera stopped to pose with fans for a photo instead of rushing to his dressing room to obtain an in-depth medical evaluation on his hand. I was later informed that it was a deep throbbing contusion on top of one of his knuckles on his right hand and he is expected to recover fully; but, his next fight date (tentatively scheduled) may have to be forwarded a month or so. Despite the pain, Vera hung around and posed for pictures with fans. Labri, on the other hand, coughed up a spit ball and spit towards a spectator while the fighter was standing in his corner waiting for action to resume, just missing the fans shoe ??Viva La France.

Prelude To Contempt: Tension amongst the two fighters began to build during the Official Weigh-In held at El Portal Restaurant in Phoenix on 1/26 at 5 PM. approximately 26 ? hours before the first fight commenced at the Celebrity Theatre the following night. The fight weight listed on the contract was set at 154 + 1 which means either fighter or bot could have weighed 155 with no repercussions in the way of fine or suspension. Labri apparently didn?t understand the + 1 rule and insisted that Vera was overweight (.4 of a pound) and he, Labri, became livid and was ready to walk thus possibly further decimating a problematic card that was already down to three fights: A main Event, Co-Main and one undercard bout. It was a dilemma that no boxing promoter prays for to happen. Cooler heads and logic finally prevailed; but not before Vera was seen donning a plastic garbage bag in an attempt to sweat off .4 of a pound. In addition to the use of a Hefty Bag, the champ stood close to a hot oven and managed to sweat down to 154.2. Labri finally conceded that the contract was the gospel and the bout went on as scheduled. It wasn?t a pleasant experience to witness, I did learn 2 choice curse words in French; however I don?t curse so my response was Merci, mais non Merci! To say RJJ Promotions displayed the patience of Job is an understatement; although RJJ CEO did wave the contract in front of the obstinate fighter. It was better than some skits on Saturday Night Live.

The Event presented 3 bouts in total and that was because five other scheduled fights has to be scrapped due to a myriad of last minute and bizarre reasons making the task presenting the show a monumental ordeal. For example on the eve of the fight, Francisco Muro (Ryan Riddell?s Opponent) was rushed to a local hospital after being diagnosed with acute dehydration. Another boxer, I was told, didn?t get his medical tests completed and one fighter failed to mention that he had failed a drug test while moonlighting as a MMA fighter in Utah.

The house of cards, so to speak, began fall when Phoenix middleweight Andrew ?Hurricane? Hernandez (17-5-1) decided to skip the event and agree to another fight at the same venue on 2/25 with local promoter Iron Boy after failing to find a suitable opponent and the right size purse. After leaving the card, he took a bout in Mexico and scored a knockout win.
Andrew was at the fight. He said a pair of tickets was left for him at the box-office and a spokesperson for RJJ told ABNN that the 31 year old fighter paid for his ticket. I have never seen a boxer purchase a ticket to a boxing event; especially the four boxers who dog me for free tickets regularly; just kidding. So, based on my knowledge of boxer?s financial habits let?s assume the tickets were left for him.

Where were we! Andrew stayed for the championship fight, enters the ring after the verdict is announced. He then goes over to the victorious John Vera and congratulates him for retaining his belt. Does he immediately leave without further dialogue, no sir/madam; Andrew challenges the Champ with the following heartfelt words: ?If you ever want to step up in class, I am ready to take your title.? Vera?s peeps were a bit upset at Hernandez?s challenge and had a few words in response that won?t be printed on a standard Hallmark Valentine Card, anytime soon. I asked RJJ Promotions for comment on the incident and they preferred not to except to say there would be no comment.

Back to Boxing: In the Co-Main at the Celebrity, 5? 10? featherweight Keenan Carbajal (13-2-1-7 knockouts) used his 5 inch height advantage to literally pound down Mexican journeyman Gustavo Molina ((23-14-9 knockouts) on his way a 5th round stoppage in the scheduled for 8 round featherweight contest. To make matters worse, Molina fought out of a crouch most of the time. Surprise, he was warned about throwing low blows?.. Our ouch apology to Mr. Carbajal!

I know Molina personally and my advice to the gentle family man is to go home to Mexico, take care of his family and enter another profession. The diminutive boxer?s record reads 4-8 over his last 12 fights and for his own protection; it?s time for him to retire! Featherweight Jesus Serrano (14-4-2) has challenged KC to a showdown this year and if it happens, boxing fans in Phoenix will beat down the venue doors to watch the match. We mean no disrespect to Carbajal, but it is time for him to take on tougher foes. His trainer (Danny Carbajal) may think he is building his grandson?s confidence up by taking on weak opposition and if that is true, let him face Serrano and see where his skill level lies.

In the first fight of the evening, Russian born Ilya Usachev (2-0) handed Phoenix super lightweight Clifford Jordan (2-2) his second loss in a four round contest that was very lively but the Russian with his vast worldwide amateur experience was able to use his more advanced skills to his advantage. Before the bout, I was told he was the winner of numerous amateur awards; however, he needs to loosen up in the ring and not be so tentative with his offensive skills. Jordan was a bit rusty after a long layoff and he needs to add a little extra punch to his punches.

At the end of the evening, most fans were relatively satisfied and given the circumstances; RJJ deserves kudos for not pulling the plug on the show and ABNN thanks Lisa and Keith Veltre (RJJ Executives) for staying the course and delivering a show that faced extreme adverse and unfortunate obstacles.

Boxing News: Jose Benavidez Jr. (recovering from a bullet wound) is headed back to the gym for sparring sessions. A spokesperson for the undefeated welterweight say Top Rank is looking for a fight date for the former lightweight champion; no timetable set for ring return??Featherweight Ryan Riddell was bumped off the RJJ Promotions Celebrity card when his opponent Francisco Muro fell ill to a case of dehydration and was rushed to a local hospital for treatment; he is recovering nicely. As a consolation prize, Ryan will appear on the March 11 RJJ Card in Las Vegas at the Downtown Las Vegas Event Center. He attended the show at the Celebrity with his girlfriend and they had better seats than I did. Yours truly was seated higher up next to someone who was loud and busy quenching his thirst with beer; wow, was he thirsty?.you know the old adage, neither rain nor snow or sleet will stop the true journalist from delivering his or her story. Thank you RJJ for the ticket and credential even though a security guard at the theatre told me the credential, I was wearing proudly around my neck, wouldn?t allow me to go downstairs to interview the fighters; so I took a different path to complete my mission; by the way, the credential featured a picture of Andrew Hernandez who wasn?t on the card-does that make my credential a collector?s item???..just kidding, of course!....Emily Pandelakis has taken to the gym and the boxing publicist is sticking to her new year?s resolution of getting into shape??.Boxing Announcer Ralph Velez Jr. is planning to enter the 2nd annual Masters Boxing Tournament held at Sonny?s Boxing in Goodyear Arizona, 11/17-18; call Sonny?s Gym for more details.

More News: 20 year old Super Middleweight David Benavidez, fresh from his impressive KO victory seen on ShowTime, will be sparring with GGG in the upcoming weeks and he (17-0-16 knockouts) will fight a title eliminator bout on Show Time, April 17; you read it here first??we were not able to track down the identify of person(s) who began circulating rumors that the RJJ boxing show at the Celebrity Theatre, but the Arizona Boxing Commission is aware of the allegations?..Sonny?s Boxing Gym will host the 70th Annual Golden Gloves State Championships in Goodyear Arizona. It is a three day tournament commencing Friday evening (7 PM) on 2/17 and the finals will be held on Sunday 2/19 with first bout scheduled for 2 PM. Saturday (2/18) festivities begin at 2 PM. For directions and ticket information, call Sonny?s Gym at 623-806-2421. I will be in St. Louis on those dates, so please attend on my behalf?..Trainer Jose Benavides has picked up a new client: 22 year old Robert Manzanrez who holds a record f 33-1-27 knockouts and the super lightweight will fight Gamaliel Diaz a veteran of more than 50 bouts in Los Angeles on 2/17. Benavidez Sr. is beginning to make a name for himself in the boxing industry, he definitely has worked hard to get where he is.

Great Show: Lightweight Mikey Garcia became 3 time world champion in three different divisions when he knocked out Dejan Zlaticanin at the 2:21 mark in the 3rd round to capture the WBC Lightweight Title on 1/28; shown live on Showtime from Las Vegas. The end came after Garcia tagged the former champ with a right uppercut followed by a left and when the Montenegro Native turned after backing out of the ropes ? Garcia finished him with a crushing right hand to the face to end any conversation that he isn?t totally back after his more than 2 year lay-off. Garcia hopes to unify the lightweight title by the end of 2017 and then move up to the 140 lb. division where he will pursue his 4th l championship in different weight classes. Wishful thinking, but based on his Show Time, performance, I wouldn?t bet a huge sum against him accomplishing the feat. Phoenix lightweight Ray Beltran is saying not so fast; he is challenging Garcia and the veteran is hungry for a title he almost had.

It was a great night of televised boxing on Show Time and the presentation was free to all Show Time subscribers. Some viewer said they had trouble watch receiving all of the televised bouts and my suggestion is cable subscriber. Here is a brief recap of the bouts I saw.

In the main event, Leo Santa Cruz returned the favor and took back his WBA Super Featherweight Title from Irishman Carl Frampton to whom he lost his belt to in a 2016 battle recognized as epic contest between two great fighters. Cruz used his jab more effectively this time and it prevented Foreman would getting inside and hurting the much taller Santa Cruz who took the crown back with a split decision verdict and deservingly so. Our predication is there will be a welcomed third go around.
20 year old Super Middleweight and Welterweight Alfonso Olvera (8-3-1-3 knockouts) were both on the card and neither is a stranger to Arizona Boxing fans. David (17-0-16 knockouts) grew up in Phoenix and fans were sad to see him move to California last year with his trainer/father Jose Benavidez Jr. Alfonso Olvera was born in Mexico and now resides in Tucson where he is trained by Jesse Haro. It was a split decision for Arizona fans who were hoping both men would have leaves the MGM Grand with victories.

Benavidez had no problem with a much smaller Sherali Mamajonov (14-2) who didn?t have the speed or power to threaten the young fighter ranked #7 and # 9 amongst the best Super Middleweights in the world. He made his pro debut in Mexico at the tender age of 15, imagine! David ended the contest with a series of body blows and a right cross that ended the night for Mamajonov.

Alfonso faced one of the best young prospects in all of boxing-Scotland?s Josh Taylor. The fighter from Tucson took the fight on 10 days? notice and he went the distance with Taylor (8-0-7 knockouts) thus becoming the only pugilist to end the night on his feet. The performance says a lot for both men. Taylor will continue towards his destined march to fight for a world title while Olvera will start getting the attention he deserves and a bigger purse; great effort by both men. Olvera has never been knocked down or out, remarkable and he has been in with some real hitters and Taylor is the real deal.

In a crossroads fight for both fighters, Ivan Redkach (20-2-1) put a little shine back in his career by scoring an 8th round TKO victory over strong but short armed lightweight Desmond Brock (13-4-1). Both needed the win, but the 30 year old one-time boxing prospect appeared to be hungrier and was very impressive with his winning performance over the former prison inmate; thank you Show Time for an evening of great boxing.

Iron Boy 37 Update: Popular boxer B J Flores (32p-3-1-20 knockouts) has signed to fight heavyweight Justin Jones (19-0-2-11 knockouts at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix on 2/25. At stake is a NABA Heavyweight Title belt and the contest is set for 10 rounds or possibly less depending on the mod of the not so gentle men in the ring.

The 34 year old Jones hails from Houston Texas and he is 4 years younger than Flores and 2 inches shorter. Flores has lived in the Phoenix area off and on for a number of years and he also known for his boxing commentator work on NBC network.

Our sources tell us that Flores called Iron Boy recently and said he would like to fight on the card and necessary arrangements were made. Phoenix Middleweight Andrew Hernandez (17-5-1) will fight in the Co-Main for a UBF-Intercontinental title against an unnamed opponent. In a special bout, super bantamweight Paul ?Ziggy? Romero (7-0-1) is expected to fight for a WBU super Bantamweight title against an unnamed opponent. The rest of the card is rich with young Arizona talent familiar fans that follow Amateur Boxing in Arizona. 140 lb. Alfredo Escarcega Jr., away in California training with Joel Diaz, the Arizona home grown product makes his professional debut at the Celebrity.

Jaime Bojado, a former Arizona Golden Gloves finalist, is making his debut after serving our country as a soldier in the United States Marine Corp. The list of young talented young pugilists on the card continues with the likes of Luis Espinoza, Andre Servin, Daron Williams and Ukrainian prospect Yulian Tembotov who may be the most advanced talent of the young prospects. Lenny Correra & Joe Moran train at Pro-Edge boxing and they will be making their debut. Correra can punch but we don?t know what to expect from Moran. Chris Gruler (Power MMA) is also making his pro debut on the card and the Arizona heavyweight is getting rave reviews from those who have watched him in workouts and the Valley could use a good quality big guy, he stands 6? 4? and weighs 245. I choose my words carefully when I say this could be the most entertaining card, Iron Boy has presented since their arrival in the valley. Tickets are on sale at the Celebrity Theatre. No word on when and where the weigh-in will be held, stay tuned?..Until Next Time!

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Don Smith.

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