By Fiona Manning
Junior welterweight prospect Raul Franco dazzled the crowd with his glittery red and silver shorts and lightning fast hands in his second round demolition job on last minute sub Pedro “Huracan” Garcia in the main event of the World Boxing Hall of Fame’s “Path To Glory” series at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario on Monday night.
Franco looked in tremendous shape for this bout, giving a great start to the year for Ken Thompson Promotions and the WBHOF which sold out the show weeks ago. Ardent fans were so anxious to make it on time, a few decided to hazard towing by parking illegally on the hotel premises. Some even lost their cell phones on the sprint to the Events Center.
“I wanted to impress and hope I did, an ebullient Franco told La Prensa San Diego immediately after the fight.
Franco had light heavyweight contender Julio Gonzalez in the corner, screaming instructions with trainer Manuel “Chato” Robles. Franco never let up, bloodying Garcia from the opening bell.
After two nockdowns for Garcia at 2.57 of the second, it was all over except for the fat lady singing on the sound system.
Franco jumps to 19-4, 12 KOs. Garcia drops to 31-19, 19 KOs.
The feeling of camaraderie in the ballroom of the Doubletree was palpable. With new world champ, IBF 130 boss Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez on hand for gym stablemate Michael Santos and so many other big name fighters working the corners of their own stablemates, it served to remind one and all that this is he best part about boxing: fighters helping fighters.
The crowd not only loved and reacted to every punch thrown, but the between-rounds music kept everyone dancing in their seats over the five-bout card. With tracks ranging from Tejana music to Mary J. Blige, there was something for everybody.
California state lightweight champ Yoni Vargas (stablemate to Franco) stretched his wings for the first time since his January KO loss to Joel Casamayor. He went the distance with Jose Luis Montes over eight rounds in the semi-main event, winning a unanimous decision.
Vargas, one of the sport’s true gentlemen, is anything but in the ring. Accompanied by his close friend and stablemate, Julio Gonzalez who drew thunderous applause from the crowd, Vargas looked ready for business. His had two strong allies in the corner: Gonzalez and trainer Manuel “Chato” Robles hunkered down for some passionate coaching from the apron. What a team!
“He’s a little anxious,” said Gonzalez who shouted rapid-fire Spanish throughout the first at Vargas who went into his aggressive, crowd-pleasing style from the outset.
“Jab him! Jab him!” Gonzalez urged and Vargas did. Gonzalez said that he and Vargas forget all their English when they fight and coach each other in Spanish.
Montes might have a horrible record but he comes to fight. He gave Vargas a solid fight for three rounds before the effects of Vargas’ bodywork began to show in the fourth. Montes suddenly revived to pick up incredible speed at the end of the fourth, hurting Vargas with punishing shots.
Vargas regained his momentum in the fifth and poured on the multiple combinations for the remaining rounds to take lopsided scores of 79-73 and 80-72 (twice).
Vargas raises his record to 24-4, 12 KOs. Montes dips to 11-50-1, 8 KOs.
A standing 10 bell count for recently passed California State Athletic Commission official, fan friendly Larry Rosadilla, reminded all those present that he is still and will always be missed by anybody who attends fights in Los Angeles.
Junior middleweight prospect Steven Macomber came in with Juan Carlos Rubio (who handed Francisco “Panchito” Bojado his only career loss) working the corner of his six rounder with a distracted-looking Michael Santos. Santos suffered his first career defeat last month and kept his trainer, Argentine legend Amilcar Brusa on the edge of his seat screaming for combinations.
Macomber had his moments but he succeeded in waking up Santos who made his 81 year old trainer smile with a 2.47 second knockout of the fourth. Macomber hit the canvas so hard he almost tumbled into the lap of judge Ray Corona.
Santos goes up to 7-1, 5 KOs, Macomber slips to 1-4.
Second bout for the night featured super middle Ishwar Amador (with stablemate Carlos “El Elegante” Bojorquez screaming in the corner) coming in for such a brutal stoppage at 50 seconds of the first over first-timer Oliver Foy, that Foy may take up needlepoint in the immediate future. Amador, who has dramatically improved in the hands of gritty Mira Loma trainer Willie Silva, moves up to 5-3, 4 KOs. Foy goes to 0-1.
Unbeaten flyweight Nestor Rocha who fights out of LA Boxing Club and is sponsored by Japan’s high-flying Teiken gym, took on a plucky and durable Jesus Jimenez for a cracking four rounder to get the show off to a great start.
Rocha controlled the action for the lively battle, winning on a unanimous decision. He improves to 8-0, 2 KOs. Jimenez falls to 9-32-2, 2 KOs.
First things first: The show opened with the Original Golden Boy (as the WBHOF called him), Hall of Famer Joey Barnum delighted the crowd by climbing into the ring in boxing shorts for the first time in 50 years and promptly fell over.
He rose, giggling and hit the pads with a buddy for one round before climbing out of the ropes on steadier legs this time. The crowd loved him and he clearly enjoyed his moment in the sun.
Barnum, who works as a bail bondsman now “I’ll Fight To Get You Out!” his business card reads offered his professional services any hour of the day or night. “Although,” he told this reporter, “You don’t look like my usual clientele.”