Inland Empire Explosion Led by Kaliesha West and Timothy Bradley
By David A. Avila
Just two decades ago pro boxing talent in the Inland areas from Blythe to Pomona was limited to a few prizefighters. Somebody must have open the talent door because dozens and dozens are pouring through.
Led by world champions Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley, Kaliesha “Wild, Wild” West, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and challengers like Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola, Sugar Shane Mosley and Josesito Lopez, towns an cities like Riverside, San Bernardino, Pomona, Coachella, Indio, Palm Springs, and Moreno Valley are well recognized internationally in boxing circles.
Back in the 1980s those municipalities were the butt of jokes. Now, mere mention of those same towns and cities means trouble for anyone facing a prizefighter from those destinations.
“When I was an amateur I knew that I was in for a tough fight when I fought someone from those parts of California,” said Brooklyn fighter Paul Malignaggi, a former junior welterweight world champion. “I hated fighting those guys. They were tough.”
Starting in the 1990s the amateur boxing programs in the Inland areas began to see a boom in participation. Fighters like Oscar De La Hoya, Mosley and Joel Diaz were attracting interest to the sport. Soon boxing gyms began to fill up with youngsters.
The first wave of fighters like Mosley, Antonio and Julio Diaz emerged from the amateur programs and captured world titles in the 1990s and early 2000s, then the next wave saw Bradley and West win world titles a few years later. Now, a dozen more prizefighters from the Inland areas are perched on the top rungs to win a coveted world championship belt.
Artemio “King” Reyes, a tall, lithe welterweight from San Bernardino, has battered prospects and former amateur stars on his rise to the top. Last week a Mexican prizefighter with a decent record proved to be a punching bag for Reyes. With an array of savage blows Reyes knocked down Victor Correa four times with seemingly slight effort.
Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera, a junior welterweight from Riverside, will be meeting top contender Mike Alvarado in a big Las Vegas fight card in April. In several recent matches Herrera used his clever boxing skills to eke out wins over rugged Ruslan Provodnikov and speedy Mike Dallas Jr. A win over the hard-hitting Alvardo could result in a world title bid.
Two weeks ago heavyweight contender Arreola blasted out fellow Mexican-American heavyweight Eric Molina in one round. The Riverside heavyweight is cooly waiting for WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight world titleholder Wladimir Klitschko to defend his titles against France's Jean-Marc Mormeck this Saturday. Should the Ukrainian juggernaut emerge victorious, Arreola should be pegged for another world title challenge. His previous opportunity resulted in a stoppage loss to Klitschko's older brother Vitali Klitschko in 2009. Arreola is now a much wise prizefighter and has shown it with a busy schedule last year.
One of the biggest fights of the year takes place in June when Palm Springs boxer Bradley matches skills against Filipino superstar Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao in Las Vegas. A recent press conference took place in Beverly Hills to announce the mega fight that should net Bradley more than $9 million for challenging welterweight world champion and pound for pound king Pacquiao.
“I never could have imagined the time would come that I would be fighting a great champion like Manny Pacquiao,” said Bradley, who fought numerous times at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario before crowds of 2,000. “This is the opportunity I've been waiting for my whole life.”
Middleweight titleholder Chavez, who recently defended his title successfully against Marco Antonio Rubio, may be fighting in the summer. The former Ramona High school student and son of Mexico's legendary Julio Cesar Chavez, could also be involved in a mega fight against Argentina's esteemed Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez in the summer.
On Cinco de Mayo, Pomona's Mosley will be challenging Mexico's popular WBC junior middleweight titleholder Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in Las Vegas. Ironically, both Mosley and Alvarez prepare in the mountain resort Big Bear. Mosley is looking to add another world title belt to his collection. He already has championship wraps as a lightweight, welterweight and junior middleweight. In the past he's proven to be very adept at beating Mexican prizefighters as his win against Antonio Margarito proved in 2009.
A few young prizefighters are knocking at the door of stardom. Coachella's Randy Caballero is set to headline a March 16 fight card at Fantasy Springs Casino. Indio's Gabino Saenz has been proving his talent as has recent Riverside Poly graduate Saul “Neno” Rodriguez. Both are scheduled to engage in the ring this spring. Last week Richard Conteras showed his grit in a riveting battle in Ontario. Even a few young veterans like Jose Reynoso and Jonathan Arellano could crack the door open.
The talent pool has not depleted at all. In the amateur boxing arena a number of youngsters such middleweight Edgar Alvarado of San Bernardino, Moreno Valley's Daniel Gonzalez, and other whipper-snappers like Dominic Serna and brothers Ryan and Sean Garcia are waiting in the lobby area and ready to enter showtime.
Ready or not world, the Inland area prizefighters are here to stay.
Fights on television
Fri. ESPN2, 6 p.m., Joan Guzman (31-0-1) vs. Jesus Pabon (17-2).
Sat. Telefutura, 11 p.m., Vicente Escobedo (24-3) vs. Lonnie Smith (14-2-2).