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The "Ringside at Del Mar" series gets off to an exciting start

The nonstop pummeling by Manuel Ceballos happened so fast it must have been a total blur to Jerome Buchanan. Just as blurry as these photos.
The nonstop pummeling by Manuel Ceballos happened so fast it must have been a total blur to Jerome Buchanan. Just as blurry as these photos.
Jim Wyatt

On Friday evening, the Mission Tower Exhibit Hall on the Del Mar Fairgrounds became the newest and perhaps the most ideal site for the ever evolving "Ringside at Del Mar" series comprised of six boxing shows scheduled for 2014 presented by Paco Promotions in association with Jorge Marron Productions, A&T Gym and Barron Entertainment. And to be sure, the estimated 1,000 to 1,100 boxing fans were entertained to the hilt.

On Friday night, Joe Lopez was the honored guest at the latest "Ringside at Del Mar" boxing show inside the Mission Tower Exhibit Hall on the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
Jim Wyatt

In the opener, Bout #1, it was Francisco “Sparky” Ramirez a 31 year-old social worker from Riverside, CA (0-1) going up against Rey “El Rayo” Mena of South Central Los Angeles, a highly touted welterweight with 30 Amateur bouts, who was making his professional debut.

In the opening rounds, Mena was masterful and worked Ramirez over with hard body shots and eventually bloodied his nose. Being busier and with quicker hands, all Ramirez could do was land an occasional counter. At the close of Round #2, you had to wonder how long before the Ramirez corner would throw in the towel.

Amazingly, Ramirez was able to turn the tide in Round #3 and then did just enough in Round #4 to win that round as well. Why Mena took his foot off the peddle, only he can answer. Judges Alejandro Rochin and Max DeLuca scored the bout 38-38 while Jose Cobian had Mena ahead 39-37.

Bout #2 featured the highly anticipated pro debut of 20 year-old, light heavyweight Manuel “El Venado” Ceballos, 174 lbs., from the A & T Gym and Boxing Club in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. Like his stablemate, Elias Espadas, Ceballos forged his career in the amateur ranks and won medals in the National Olympiad.

His opponent, also making his pro debut, was 27 year-old, southpaw Jerome Buchanan, a former MMA fighter from Florida by way of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Being three pounds heavier at their weigh-in on Thursday, Buchanan had to forfeit 20% of his purse.

With things getting off to a chaotic start in round one and both boxers winding up to deliver haymakers, Ceballos suddenly got caught with a straight right that sent him to the canvas. The surprised Ceballos was up in an instant and looking for payback.

Looking more embarrassed than hurt, Ceballos finished the rest of the round strong, and at one point it appeared he had a shot at finishing off Buchanan.

In round two, Ceballos, wasting no time, was right back on Buchanan and landing these straight rights to the head in combination with hard left hooks. Before you knew it, he had dropped Buchanan. Even though Buchanan beat the count, you could see he was on shaky legs. After another barrage of punches he went back down again. Once again, he beat the count but upon closer inspection referee Jose Cobian could see the glaze in his eyes. The stoppage occurred at 2:39 of round two.

In Bout #3, it was Roque “Rocky” Ramos of Escondido by way of La Estancia De Los López, Nayarit, Mexico (3-0-1, 1 KO) gaining a majority decision win in a four round super featherweight clash with 28 year-old Thomas “The Animal” Herrera of Hollywood, CA by way of Tucson, Arizona (3-9-1, 1 KO).

After Ramos controlled the action in both rounds one and two, Herrera came on strong in round #3, controlling the action with his stiff, in your face jabs and quick combinations. In the final frame, Ramos was right back dominating the action to remove any doubt about who had won the match.

The scoring turned out to be a bit strange as Judge Alejandro Rochin scored the bout 38-38, a draw, while judges Max DeLuca and Jose Cobian gave Ramos every round.

In Bout #4, it was Daniel “Bolillo” Covielles of Oxnard, CA (2-0, 1 KO) defeating local favorite Johnny Boy Quiroz (5-2-0, 1 KO) of Oceanside, CA. Once again, at the Thursday weigh-ins, there was a discrepancy in the weights and the shorter but heftier Covielles weighed three pounds heavier than Quiroz.

So, as Friday’s four round, super flyweight war progressed, it seemed it was only a matter of time before’s Covielles heftier punches would begin to take their toll. Quiroz tried his best to keep Covielles at bay with the straighter punches up the middle and on occasion sprinkled in a dandy uppercut but Covielles was like a man of steel. After taking punch after punch, he never took a step back while delivering his even harder blows.

As the announcer read off the scores, the crowd seemed a bit miffed when hearing it was a majority decision. Judge Pat Russell scored the bout even at 38-38 while both Max DeLuca and Alejandro Rochin had given Covielles every round.

Bout #5 was supposed to be a middleweight mismatch, between Elias Espadas of Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, an ex-National Amateur Champion with five pro bouts and four wins under his belt, facing the 33 year-old Omar Barefield of Mountain View, CA who after his first five fights had five losses under his belt. But in this sport you never know what can happen.

In round one, with the combatants looking pretty much even in their exchanges, the all or nothing Barefield suddenly pressed forward using his head as a battering ram and blood from the resulting head butt started streaming down into Espadas’ left eye. Fretful after seeing his blood, Espadas abandoned his game plan and went immediately for payback. He sent Barefield to the canvas and when he got up he was on wobbly legs.

In the opening minute of round two, it was Barefield catching a careless Espadas with a straight right to send him to the canvas. Even though the boxers had exchanged knockdowns, with that bad cut, it appeared Barefield might just have a shot at winning this bout.

During their break between rounds, Espadas’ corner must have put the fire in his belly because when he came out for round three you could see smoke coming out his nostrils. By the close of round three, a round in which Espadas had beaten Barefield from pillar to post, the battered Barefield had trouble seeing out of a left eye that was almost swollen shut. On the advice of the ring doctor and his corner, Barefield remained seated on his stool and did not come out for the fourth and final round.

During intermission, ring announcer Benny Ricardo asked San Diego’s Mercito “No Mercy” Gesta (26-1-1, 14 KOs) to come up to the ring. At that time, Ricardo announced that the promotion group had signed the former, IBF top 10 ranked lightweight to headline their next show on April 11th.

Gesta, who won the NABO Youth Lightweight title back in 2010, has been on a hiatus from the sport after losing his first fight, a decision loss in an IBF World Title Fight to Miguel Vazquez which was featured on an HBO Pay-Per-View event back on December 8, 2012.

At the conclusion of that announcement, the names of boxers in attendance were announced. Among them were Rey Gamez and his brother Genaro “El Conde” Gamez, the USA National Lightweight Amateur Champion who recently returned from the Dominican Republic where he won a Gold Medal in the Independence Cup. Also present you had light welterweight Stevie “Two Pounds” Forbes, the former IBF Super featherweight Champ, lightweight Leon “3rd Generation” Spinks, Pablo Cupul, Raphael Ramirez, Anecito “Dondon” Gesta, Mercito Gesta’s younger brother, and several others.

They all came up into the ring to join Jorge Marron in a special tribute to former boxer, trainer and gym owner, Joe Lopez, who at the age of 82, recently announced his retirement after 53 years in boxing. The ceremony wasn’t as grandiose as Sunday’s closing ceremonies in Sochi, Russia but for many it had the same, heartfelt meaning.

After serving in the Army during the Korean War, Corporal Lopez returned home to work in the construction trade. Then, at his home in Clairemont, he got that itch to build himself a backyard gym. After the gym was featured on the nightly news, he figured what the hell, I might as well go all the way. Joe then opened the “5th Avenue Gym” in San Diego’s Gas Lamp District where he remained from 1969 until 1991 - 22 years.

The list of boxers who worked out at this gym or frequented the 5th Avenue Gym is mind boggling. Among them you have Archie Moore, Ken Norton, Bumpy Parra, Horace “the Little Ghost” Greeley, David Gutierrez, Ruben Castillo, Jesse Island, Stuart “The Hawk” Darden, the Lujan brothers, John & Manuel, Efren Hinojosa, and Jesus “the Hawaiian Punch” Salud.

Joe traveled the world with his boxers or those who were signed by his dear friend Jorge Marron. According to Joe, the most accommodating cities to visit as a boxer are in Washington state, New York City but never Puerto Rico. You’ll have to ask him why.

After the ceremony, it was back to live action with Bout #6, featuring Jorge “Tito” Ruiz (4-1-0, 2 KOs) matched up against Luis Silva (0-2) from Tijuana, B. C., Mexico. After all the earlier excitement, this bout turned into a real snoozer. If someone were to tell you that Silva was competitive in this match then they are stretching the truth.

After suffering his first loss last year, Ruiz was returning home to right the ship. To quote a colleague, Felipe Leon: “Silva had his moments but Ruiz was able to neutralize him with distance and good defense.”

Bout #7, the Main Event of the evening, saw Tijuana’s Fernando “Cuervito” Garcia (19-6-2, 11 KOs) earn a very methodical six round, split decision victory over the tough, ring saavy Adolfo “Tepito” Landeros (22-34-2, 10 KOs) of Calexico, CA by way of Mexico City, Mexico.

With it being a six rounder and both boxers having a ton of experience between them (together they’ve been in 85 professional fights) the boxers relied on their smarts every step of the way. They knew how to lean on each other. They’d wait to counter off each wide punch and both knew how to hit and then tie up their opponent.

Since Garcia had the quicker hands and landed the harder punches, the outcome appeared to be a no-brainer. He did most of his damage with these fully leveraged, extremely hard left hooks to the body and occasionally he’d pierce through Landeros’ defenses to land a solid uppercut. The only thing the judges needed to do was keep track of the punches landed and as long as Garcia matched or exceeded the number of punches thrown by Landeros, than the scoring should have been easy.

Most times, the fighter, who is behind, as Landeros was going into that sixth and final round, will put on a concerted effort and go for the knockout. That strategy failed miserably when Garcia, in excellent condition and knowing full well he was ahead on the scorecards, did not allow Landeros an opening and instead circled and clinched.

That being said, Judge Jose Cobian scored the bout 59-55 for Garcia. Judge Max DeLuca scored the bout 58-56 for Garcia. While judge Alejandro Rochin, continued with his off night, and scored the bout 58-56 for Landeros, which turned out to be the third head scratcher of the night.

The newly christened "Ringside at Del Mar" series is comprised of six scheduled fight events per year. It follows the promotional team's successful staging of the two pilot shows held last year at the fairgrounds. The partners envision this inaugural series to blossom into an annual staple of regularly scheduled fight nights showcasing the fastest rising and best, local talent.

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