Heavyweight Territory

Inland Empire is Heavyweight Territory

By David A. Avila

It’s a rare event to see quality heavyweights in Southern California but in the past 10 years the Inland Empire has become home to several of those big bruisers and the fans who love heavyweight fights are showing up.

LaRon Mitchell, the schoolteacher from San Francisco, emerged victorious against Moreno Valley’s Scott Alexander after a 10-round contest last Friday. It was far from a blazing firefight, but it was an excellent performance between two 220-pound prizefighters. The standing room crowd at the Ontario Doubletree Hotel loved it.

Sitting in the audience was Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola the homegrown heavyweight contender who fought three times for the heavyweight world title. His most recent was a bravura performance against the athletically gifted WBC titlist Deontay Wilder this past July in Alabama.

Arreola, who lives in Riverside, also fought Bermane Stiverne and Vitali Klitschko when both held the WBC heavyweight titles several years ago. He knows exactly what it takes to face a heavyweight world champion in the boxing ring. His trainer for the past 10 years has been Henry Ramirez who also trains Alexander.

Though Alexander (12-2-2, 6 Kos) lost by unanimous decision after 10 gritty rounds spent with his back pressed against the ropes facing Mitchell, it was evident that he has the rare combined athletic gifts of agility, defense, power and an ability to absorb a heavy blow when necessary. And one other notable asset:

“He has really fast hands,” noted Arreola of Alexander. “Really fast.”

Alexander exhibited above average physical abilities but failed to keep the fight in the middle of the boxing ring where he could exploit his superior agility and speed. Instead, he allowed Mitchell to force him against the ropes where he was neutralized by the heavier fighter’s weight and barrage of punches to the body and head. 

“I was hitting him with taps to the head and body,” said Mitchell, 36, who won the Junior NABF title with the win. “I wanted to go inside and touch him here and there.”

Though Alexander landed the much heavier blows, the judges saw Mitchell dominating the action by keeping the Moreno Valley heavyweight’s back against the ropes for most of the fight.

“I kind of got hurt a couple of times,” said Mitchell (15-0, 13 Kos), who has fought in Southern California for all but two of his 15 pro fights. “But I worked harder to win the fight.”

Sitting in the front row was famed trainer Abel Sanchez whose Big Bear complex is where middleweight world champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin resides for most of the year. He also trains Russia’s Murat Gassiev a cruiserweight contender with vaunted knockout power in both fists. In the near future Gassiev will be moving into the heavyweight ranks, said Sanchez adding that he just recently added another heavyweight to his roster in NABF heavyweight titlist Andy Ruiz.

Suddenly, the Inland Empire has become a heavyweight haven with Arreola, Alexander, Mitchell, Gassiev and Ruiz all looking to punch their way to a heavyweight world title.

Decades ago the Inland Empire, in particular Gilman Springs near Soboba Casino, was the central base for numerous heavyweight contenders of the past like Muhammad Ali, Archie Moore and Jerry Quarry. They all loved training in the desert area.

Today, the heavyweight division seems to have rediscovered what those late great heavyweights knew back in the 1960s and 70s. The Inland area has room for everyone, even massive heavyweights.