A recent swing through California saw me catch up and chronicle several fighters and boxing luminaries prepping for their next big assignments in one way or another.
On Tuesday morning I paid a visit to the Two Feathers gym in Riverside as unbeaten featherweight Miguel ‘Mikey’ Garcia was putting in work for his March 10th Showtime date with former title challenger Bernabe Concepcion, set to go down in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
<--- Slideshow: Mikey Garcia's final sparring before March 10th Bernabe Concepcion bout
Wednesday saw me link up with undefeated lightweight prospect Mercito ‘No Mercy’ Gesta and his team in San Diego. Gesta is currently getting ready for an April 14th date at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and there have been rumors floating that he could be in line to meet Juan Manuel Marquez on July 14th if successful.
Thursday saw me right in the middle of the crowded Ring Kings press stop at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood where Floyd Mayweather Jr., Miguel Cotto, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, and ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley all appeared. Likely the biggest event of the year and set to go down May 5th at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Mayweather will challenge Cotto for his WBA junior middleweight crown while Alvarez defends his WBC junior middleweight trinket against Mosley on the undercard.
Thursday was plenty of fun as the always-bombastic Brandon ‘Bam Bam’ Rios sparred ten heated rounds at the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy in Oxnard, California earlier in the afternoon ahead of his April 14th showdown with Cuban stylist Yuriorkis Gamboa. Later in the day former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik would swing through to continue his newfound union with Garcia as they trained tirelessly.
And while I definitely felt the need to get back home come Saturday morning, it was only fitting that I again paid a stop to the Two Feathers gym beforehand, as I heard Garcia was going to be putting in his final sparring before heading out to Puerto Rico this Tuesday.
On this day his older brother Robert would make the trek from his Oxnard bases with a pair of sparring partners for his young sibling, undefeated Russian-born featherweight Evgeny Gradovich and 23-year old lightweight prospect Javier ‘Pelos’ Garcia, who is also Garcia’s nephew.
Getting in on the action was another talented featherweight prospect, 3-0 Saul Rodriguez, a stable mate of Mikey’s.
In a round-robin kind of format that saw each guy put in six rounds of work, Garcia went three rounds with the aggressive Gradovich before switching off for three rounds with Javier. Javier then stayed in the ring and went three frames with Rodriguez, who, in return then went three stanzas with Gradovich.
No matter what pairing I watched, the sparring was very intense and competitive.
After the work was done I said my goodbyes, this Oxnard/Riverside crew being a particular favorite of mine to keep tabs on, and headed back home.
And while it was another whirlwind jaunt through Cali over those five days I find myself being grateful that I’m able to work so closely in a sport I love so much and can only hope my photos and interviews/stories do a bit of justice to the memorable time that was again had.
For images of the intense sparring with Mikey Garcia, Evgeny Gradovich, 'Pelos' Garcia, and Saul Rodriguez, please visit the slideshow on the left or check out Mikey Garcia’s final sparring before Bernabe Concepcion bout
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