Return of the Southern California Notebook
By Doug Fischer from Max Boxing
With welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito already three weeks into his training for his July 14th mandatory challenge from Paul Williams and light heavyweight champ Bernard Hopkins arriving next week to train at the Wild Card Boxing Club for his July 21st showdown with Winky Wright it seemed like a good time to bring back the Southern California Notebook.
Indeed, there are enough top-notch prospects and world-class veterans training in and around the Southern California area to merit the “SCN” returning as a weekly column.
Manny Pacquiao will soon be back at “Coach Freddie’s” Hollywood gym, getting ready for whoever it is he’ll wind up facing in October (I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be “my son” Edwin Valero); former 122-pound champ Israel Vazquez is training with Joe Goossen in Van Nuys in preparation for his anticipated August 4th rematch with Rafael Marquez; and undefeated heavyweight hopeful Chris Arreola, who will be on the Margarito-Williams undercard, is working hard in Riverside, as are 140-pound prospects Victor Oritz and Tim Bradley, who train in Oxnard and Coachella respectively.
There are scores of other up-and-coming young fighters and seasoned pros training every day in gyms based in East L.A., Maywood, Hollywood, Orange County, the Inland Empire, and throughout the San Fernando Valley.
This week my attention is on unbeaten junior flyweight prospect Giovanni Segura, who will face former 105-pound titlist Daniel Reyes tomorrow night in a Telefutura-televised main event from Gary, Indiana. If Segura can beat the Colombian veteran he will earn “mandatory challenger” status for the WBA’s 108-pound title.
Despite Reyes’s advanced age (35), this is a tough outing for the 25-year-old Segura, who holds a 17-0-1 (13) record. Reyes showed in his last fight, a split-decision win over former longtime WBO 108-pound titlist Nelson Dieppa, that he still has the legs and reflexes to go with his veteran experience and heart. With 43 pro bouts (38-4-1, with 30 KOs) under his belt, Reyes – who owns stoppage victories over former titlists Roberto Leyva and Edgar “Tun Tun” Cardenas – is likely going to present Segura with the toughest fight of the Mexico-born southpaw’s budding career.
“Reyes is a good little fighter,” said Segura’s manager Ricky Mota. “He was a ’96 Olympian and he’s never been knocked out as a pro. All four of his losses were 12-round fights, and three of those guys were champions, so we know he can fight.
“But he is getting long in the tooth. Boxing is a young man’s sport, so let’s see what he does with a 25 year old.”
Keep in mind, however, that this 25-year-old fighter didn’t put on a boxing glove until he was 19. Segura didn’t have his first professional fight until he was 21. Because of his late start and limited amateur experience (less than 20 bouts), Segura often thinks of himself as being “younger” than some of the amateur boxers and newly turned pros that he’s been sparring with to get ready for Reyes.
One of those sparring partners is 19-year-old Leo Santa Cruz, the younger brother of lightweight contender Jose Armando. The younger Santa Cruz is currently 2-0 as pro, but Segura says the kid shows him new things in the ring every time they spar.
“Leo had 70 amateur fights, he practically grew up in the gym, so I learn from him,” he said after a tough eight-round sparring session with Santa Cruz at the Maywood Boxing Club last Wednesday. “I learn about losing weight properly from these younger guys, I learn about protecting myself in the ring, I learn how to fight different styles.”
Segura is an entertaining fighter to watch, but he’ll be the first to admit that he still has a lot to learn.
There’s nothing fancy about this kid. Segura’s goal once the bell rings is to walk his opponent down and pound his body and head until he gets knocked out, quits, or decides to run for safety.
On the technical front, he is practically void of any defense. He doesn’t move his upper-body or head, and he seldom uses his jab, as he steps forward towards his target. Segura’s usual tactic is to try and block on-coming punches with a high guard until he can get close enough to whack the other guy’s body in hopes of bringing the opponent’s hands to down in order to get a clean shot at his chin.
That crude but generally effective plan of attack was on display last Wednesday morning in Maywood, where Segura went eight hard rounds with Santa Cruz. In the first two rounds of the session, Segura was able to do what he wanted, however, Santa Cruz, who fights at bantamweight, is gifted with the same durability as his older brother, and beginning in the third round the rangy teenager began to pressure Segura, backing the heavy handed southpaw into corners and along the ropes where his volume punching more than matched Segura’s power punching.
When Santa Cruz was able to back Segura up he had the upper hand, as the southpaw ceased punching and covered up while giving ground. When Segura dug his heels into the blood-stained canvas and bulled forward behind his usual two-fisted body attack he dominated the action, which was a lot better than anything I watched on pay-per-view this past Saturday.
“We did nine rounds the other day,” Segura later said of his gym work with Santa Cruz. “People stopped what they were doing and clapped after every round.”
That doesn’t happen very often in the Maywood Boxing Club, as gym wars are the norm there rather than the exception. However, one hopes that Segura isn’t leaving his fight in the gym, or worse, cultivating bad habits.
If a 2-0 Leo Santa Cruz is lading punches at will, what will the experienced and skilled Reyes do tomorrow night? I guess we’ll have to watch and see, but I should point out that while Santa Cruz is mere pugilistic pup, he was close to 10 pounds heavier than Segura. Reyes won’t have that kind of size and weight advantage. Also, Segura spars with 14-ounce gloves. Tomorrow night in Indiana, he’ll have on eight-ounce gloves and you better believe that makes a difference in a real prize fight.
I already feel sorry for Reyes’s ribcage.
Before I left the Maywood Boxing Club, I bumped into Edward Goumachian, trainer of cruiserweight contender Vadim Tokarev, who was recently out-pointed by Marco Huck in a 12-round bout for the vacant IBF title in Germany.
Goumachian, who trains a host of tough fighters from Armenia and a bunch of countries that were once part of the Soviet Union, keeps it real. He told me the majority decision that went to Huck, a 22-year-old phenom with an unbeaten (19-0) record, was a just one.
“Vadim was not in proper condition,” Goumachian told me. “He lost the last three rounds, so he can not complain. He’s 35 years old, so he is stubborn. He trains and eats the way he wants to, and his diet is terrible.”
Goumachian says Huck will be a tough outing for any of the top cruiserweights.
“He’s got no defense but a very good chin and he’s a dirty fighter,” he said. “He’ll be hard to beat in Germany.”
I left Maywood around 12:30 p.m. in hopes of catching a Top Rank presser (and a free lunch) that was being held that afternoon at a Mexican restaurant on Olvera Street in downtown L.A.
The press luncheon was being held for some of the fighters who will be on the undercard of this Saturday’s intriguing welterweight showdown between WBA titlist Miguel Cotto and former champ Zab Judah.
In attendance were Humberto Soto, arguably the most dangerous 130-pound contender out there, Soto’s June 9th opponent Bobby Pacquiao, the younger brother of the PacMan, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who will take on Grover Wiley, the Midwest journeyman who retired his father a few years ago.
“Bob-Pac” has been working hard at the Wild Card gym over the past four weeks under the watchful eye of trainer Freddie Roach, who acknowledges that Soto is one of the top five 130-pound fighters in the world. However, “Coach Freddie”, who closed up camp this past Monday, says his fighter is in optimum condition and has looked good against a very good group of sparring partners.
“Bob [Arum] is hoping to create an opponent for Manny by having Soto knock off his brother, but we’re in great shape and we’re going to try and pull the upset,” said Roach.
Bobby’s sparring partners included the WBO’s “interim” lightweight titlist Michael Katsidis, David Rodela (a 5-foot-10 junior welterweight who provided Manny many rounds of solid work in preparation for the icon’s April fight with Jorge Solis), and Roger “Speedy” Gonzalez.
Katsidis, an Australian of Greek descent who was supposed to headline a cancelled card in Anaheim late last month, is an absolute beast at 135 pounds. I imagine that Bobby had to constantly up his game just to stay in there with the undefeated badass.
We’ll see if Bobby has enough to withstand what Soto brings to the ring Saturday night.
On my way out of the press luncheon I talked to MaxBoxing’s own Ernest Gabion, the head administrator and chat coordinator for our message boards. “Eaner” has been an integral part of Team Margarito’s efforts to round up quality sparring to help the Tijuana Tornado prepare for his WBO mandatory.
As of last Wednesday, Margarito had put in two weeks of serious training at the South El Monte Teamsters gym. His main sparring partners are former 154-pound contender Rodney Jones, who just happens to be the last fighter to beat Margarito at welterweight (11 years ago), former Scottish amateur star and middleweight prospect Craig McEwan, Minnesota-based middleweight Andy Kolle, and an amateur boxer named Michael Falk.
There are more sparring partners will be delivered to the El Monte gym, but there will be plenty of time to write about Margarito and his camp in the weeks to come.
Next week look for more Southern Cali. notes on Bernard Hopkins, Season One of ‘The Contender’ graduate Miguel Espino, who headlines a club card in Burbank on June 30th, and more than a few crazy characters that could only be found at your local boxing club.