By Fiona Manning
It was high noon at the Ten Goose Gym in Van Nuys, CA. The mood was friendly, fun and joking on this balmy Monday in July as three top world contenders shook out, preparing to spar round-robin style.
Australia’s Robbie “The Bomber” Peden, heir apparent to the IBF 130 pound title, getting ready for a TBA opponent on the July 31 undercard of Erik Morales and Carlos Hernandez, was teaching Diego “Chico” Corrales (who faces Acelino Freitas on August 7) the Australian expression “Aussie, Aussie, Oi, oi, oi!”
“But what does it mean?” Corrales was saying as the odd man out, non-English speaking Mongolian 135 pound slugger Lakva Sim (who faces rising superstar Juan Diaz on July 17) ignored everybody and stared at himself in the mirror.
Sim, whose Mongolia Red Hills T-shirt was inside out, was oblivious to the Foreign Affairs 101 studies taking place.
“It’s like ole at a bullfight,” Peden was saying. “It’s like doing the wave at a baseball game.”
As Corrales just stared at him, he said, “It’s pretty stupid, really.”
The bantering soon stopped. All three men are in final stages of serious training for their closer-than-close bouts.
It’s unusual for three contenders (who could also potentially fight each other at some point in the future) to be sparring one another but as Peden’s trainer Roger Bloodworth said, “We’ll take our work where we can get it.”
Peden and Bloodworth have come west from Illinois in search of this quality sparring.
What everyone found in this steamy neck of the woods was some kick-ass fighting that was better than anything seen on ESPN2 for the past two years.
As Peden and Corrales touch ‘em up for four rounds, Sim bashed a heavy bag.
What was going on in the ring was a first-rate fight. Not sparring. He gave up all pretense of nonchalance and was glued to the ropes like everyone else as Corrales got manhandled by the smaller Peden.
“James Toney was in here two days ago and kept asking Diego, “You gonna let that little guy touch you like that?” said somebody in the gym.
Corrales and Peden kept up a blistering pace for four, then a surprise fifth round, which infuriated Sim who removed his groin guard and tossed it across the gym.
Speaking of groin guards, things turned nasty in the ring. Peden wasn’t acting like a sparring partner. Both fighters got down and dirty, landing low blows. Corrales landed one on Peden, which broke the Bomber’s protective cup.
After five hard rounds, Corrales looked bewildered and muttered darkly, “He can’t do that to me. He can’t do that to me.”
When a fighter is brought in to spar with another fighter who is preparing to fight, the sparring partner eases up on his punches. After all he’s being paid to do this.
None of these fighters are being paid to spar each other and yet each yearns for the exactly the results sparring with the best will bring you.
Trainer Joe Goossen placated him by telling him it was a good session (it was).
This is the second fight Corrales and Goossen have worked on together the first being Corrales’ decisive victory over Cuban superstar Joel Casamayor earlier this year.
It was a sweeter victory still for Corrales since it was a rematch (he lost the first under controversy) and since it was Goossen who’d trained Casamayor up until the highly-antcipated rematch.
The fact that Corrales’ new foe, the ever-dangerous undefeated Brazilian super-hero Freitas handed Casamayor his only career loss, is not lost on Corrales who became increasingly frustrated with his own performance in the gym.
When it became obvious that Bloodworth was listening, Goossen said, “We’re just trying to get ready for a fight here.”
Bloodworth said, “So are we.”
Corrales took on just-turned-pro, longtime amateur Ricky Funez whose nose was broken in sparring by Juan Lazcano a couple of months ago.
Funez, who tried out for the TV series The Contender (and aims to try out for season two) lasted less than a minute with Corrales who popped a big one across Funez’s nose, hitting him right on the bridge.
Even Corrales was concerned as Funez’ eyes involuntarily watered.
“Man, injury like that hurts,” said Bloodworth as he suggested ice. “Injury like that will make you cry.”
Sim stepped into the ring next and if Corrales thought Sim (whose boxing nickname is unpronounceable) was going to be any easier, he soon learned otherwise.
After a few rounds, Cor-rales stepped out of the ring discouraged with himself.
“Days like this lose you fights,” he said. “Days like this will kill your career.”
“Hey,” said Goossen and Bloodworth in unison. “Days like this are called good work.”
“You’re in school here,” Bloodworth said, as he kept one eye on Sim and Peden pounding it out in the ring. “You learn every day.”
Goossen was encouraged by Corrales’ frustration.
“It gives you something to think about. You can’t let your attention slip even for a second,” he said. “This was a good day.”
Sim backed up, awake now and fully aware of why they call the kid from Brisbane, Australia, the Bomber.
“He’s tough,” said Corrales with grudging admiration. “He hits damned hard.”
Corrales scowled. “Nobody will be able to say I trained easy,” he said and almost smiled.
To which you can only say, that’s why Freddie Roach has a big sign in his gym that says: “It Ain’t Easy.”
Or you could also say, Chico, Chico, oi, oi oi.