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A Beautiful Site/Sight

(Photo © Saul G. Sanchez)
(Photo © Saul G. Sanchez)

By Steve Kim
All Action photos © German Villasenor, MaxBoxing


In front a record-setting crowd of 8,629 at the StubHub Center (formerly known as the Home Depot Center), a memorable night of action was capped off by Marcos Maidana steamrolling the game-but-outgunned Josesito Lopez in six rounds. It was a back-and-forth affair that saw both men have their moments but it was the Argentine’s power that carried the day. Before that, Erislandy Lara turned back the spirited challenge of the dogged Alfredo Angulo, who had a Hasim Rahman-esque swelling, causing him to call it a day in the 10th round.

 

(Uh, no need to recap the 12-round snoozer between Jermell Charlo and Demetrius Hopkins, which kicked off the tripleheader on Showtime.)
 
Marcos Maidana (L) - Josesito Lopez (R)
Marcos Maidana (L) - Josesito Lopez (R)
Marcos Maidana - Josesito Lopez
Marcos Maidana (R) - Josesito Lopez (L)
Marcos Maidana (R) - Josesito Lopez (L)
Marcos Maidana (R) - Josesito Lopez (L)
Marcos Maidana (R) - Josesito Lopez (L)
Above Photos - Marcos Maidana vs. Josesito Lopez
Below Photos - Erislandy Lara vs. Alfredo Angulo
(All photos © German Villasenor, MaxBoxing)
Erislany Lara (R) vs. Alfredo Angulo (L)
Erislany Lara (R) vs. Alfredo Angulo (L)
Erislany Lara (R) vs. Alfredo Angulo (L)
Alfredo Angulo
(All photos © German Villasenor, MaxBoxing)
It was another storied chapter to this venue which is described on its webpage (www.HomeDepotCenter.com) as “a 125-acre, $150 million development in Carson featuring state-of-the art stadiums and facilities for soccer, tennis, track and field, cycling, lacrosse, rugby, volleyball, baseball, softball, basketball and other sports. Designated as an ‘Official U.S. Olympic Training Site,’ the Home Depot Center is the nation’s most complete training facility for Olympic, amateur and professional athletes.”
 
But really, to boxing fans, it’s known for its tennis stadium which is now the “Mecca of Boxing in Southern California” (with all due to the original “Mecca of Boxing,” the famed Madison Square Garden). Yes, there are bigger venues in our area, most notably the Staples Center (home of the Lakers, Kings, Clippers and many other events) but it’s the facility located on 18400 S. Avalon Blvd. in Carson that has become the hub for the “Sweet Science” in this region.
 
It’s the fight fans’ building.
 
Unlike an event at a casino setting, the average Jose can get an affordable seat with great sightlines. And that’s for one simple reason: there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Literally. This not an exaggeration from your friendly neighborhood boxing scribe. This past card at the Home Depot/StubHub Center got you a vantage point like the one my friend and noted Soapboxer, Matt Swider, enjoyed (https://twitter.com/stevemaxboxing/status/343530627640991744/photo/1) for a mere 25 bucks. The prices you pay (usually in the range of $200 to $25) are an absolute steal when you consider the caliber of fights we often see here and how close you are to the action. Ask anyone who’s been there; they’ll back up everything I’ve said.
 
And it’s a great atmosphere filled with real boxing fans, who get there early and stay till the last bell. Yeah, there are no casino comps here and when you have fans who actually pay for their own tickets, trust me; they aren’t just showing up 10 minutes before the television lights go on.
 
Yeah, this tennis stadium might have been built for the likes of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer but it’s now best known for Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez hurling volleys at each other.
 
But it wasn’t always this way. The Home Depot Center opened up on June 1st, 2003 (and admittedly, I  had never even heard of this place till a boxing event was scheduled here) and it had its first notable boxing event on May 27th, 2006 when a “Boxing After Dark” telecast featuring Jhonny Gonzalez vs. Fernando Montiel took place. To say the turnout was sparse would be an understatement. With seemingly fewer than 1,000 people inside the stadium to see such a lackluster fight, Montiel was essentially embargoed off HBO for several years.
 
But over the years, it’s become more and more of a regularly consistent boxing locale. The reality is the Staples Center is one of the busiest arenas in the country and, quite frankly, many fights - for as appealing as they might be to the hardcore fan - simply aren’t big enough to stage there. But fight cards with match-ups like Maidana-Lopez and Lara-Angulo fit like a glove in the 8,000-seat stadium (they did have one fight card in 2008 at the soccer stadium as Oscar De la Hoya faced Stevie Forbes - located right across from the tennis venue - that drew over 27,000 fans).
 
Now, the venue itself has become a bit of a must-see for boxing enthusiasts. What Philly’s Blue Horizon was on the East Coast for many years, the Home Depot/StubHub Center is in the west.
 
It’s hosted a “Friday Night Fights” telecast or two but it’s best known for being the home of cards televised on HBO or Showtime that might otherwise end up in stale, faraway Indian casinos or makeshift ballrooms in Las Vegas. Bottom line, this venue is very important to the continued growth of boxing in several ways. First, it allows average fans to witness world-class boxing. Secondly, you actually see a younger demographic and families at these events, something so rare in casino settings.
 
No, boxing isn’t dying. However, it was killed off in major markets that were allowed to stagnate for years. This AEG-owned property keeps boxing relevant on a consistent basis in Southern California. There were a few lean years after Forum Boxing closed shop more than a decade ago.
 
I can remember a younger Jermain Taylor facing Raul Marquez, a driving rainstorm on the afternoon of Vic Darchinyan’s hook-up with Cristian Mijares, which killed the live gate, Marco Antonio Barrera sending Paulie Ayala into retirement and Shane Mosley stopping Ricardo Mayorga late in this joint. But these are far from the most memorable moments that have taken place at the Home Depot/StubHub Center.
 
The first real big crowd was there for the battle between then-WBO welterweight champion Antonio Margarito and Paul Williams in the summer of 2007, won by “The Punisher” in a fight where Williams held off the late charge of the “Tijuana Tornado.”
 
Then you had perhaps the most memorable battle ever held in this building, the memorable third chapter of the Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez rivalry. You know it must’ve been anticipated when the likes of Sly Stallone and Jack Nicholson (no strangers to ringside) made the drive from the 110 to the 91 to be there. Needing a late rally, Vazquez scored a knockdown of Marquez in the final seconds of one of 2008’s best fights to earn a razor-thin split decision. What was just as memorable as the fight itself was the crowd of over 7,000, which didn’t seem to leave for a good 15 minutes after the fight. The place was buzzing with electricity throughout the stadium and it’s as if nobody wanted to be the first to leave a memorable party.
 
Just recently, we saw two of the best brawls of 2012 and 2013, respectively, as Brandon Rios stopped Mike Alvarado in their first meeting back in October, actually surpassing very high expectations of violent, toe-to-toe action. Then a rather lightly regarded bout that was, quite frankly, poorly attended (just a few thousand came out) ended up being a war between the resilient Tim Bradley and the hard-charging Ruslan Provodnikov. After getting buzzed twice in the opening rounds, Bradley built a lead going into the late frames, only to be staggered and knocked down by the Russian in the final seconds before getting saved by the bell. Who said Bradley couldn’t be in a good fight?
 
There’s just something about this place. It seems to bring out the best in fights, fighters and the fans.
 
Late last week, Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer announced at the final press conference for this past card that they were just 800 or so tickets from a complete sell-out. This was an eye-opening statement given that while this card was a good one, there were other events here that featured bigger names. Now, a promoter would never lie or embellish; right?  Perhaps Golden Boy and the venue found a way to paper the house but I have to say, in walking around the stadium, people got there early (at least by boxing standards) and seemed fully engaged in what was taking place through the evening (OK, maybe not so much during the Charlo-Hopkins fight).
 
My friends who bought tickets told me that by the time the Showtime broadcast began and the night went on, the beer taps were empty (yeah, boxing fans can throw them down) and the concessions ran out of menu items (hey, guys, Schaefer warned you there would be a big crowd). Swider tells me that while he was in line for beer during the Charlo-Hopkins fight (which, let’s face it, was the perfect time to grab a cold one), he saw a guy buy two beers - the limit per purchase - and gulp them down right as he purchased them. He then bought two more right on the spot, almost causing a fight between this guzzler and the lady behind him.
 
It might have provided more action that what was going inside the ring at the time.
 
During the early rounds of the opener on Showtime, Andre Berto was being escorted to his seat when he just happened to run into Jesus Soto-Karass, who he squares off against on July 27th in San Antonio. I guess it got a bit heated between the two and the fans in that vicinity were much more focused on the tiff than on Charlo-Hopkins. It’s probably the biggest crowd Berto has ever had for one of his confrontations. And somehow, because of this, a fight nearly broke out between two fans near that area. Thankfully, the guy wearing the Dodgers shirt got escorted out. As a Padre fan, I applaud this move.
 
A few minutes later, a guy who kinda sorta looked like Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was being hounded for autographs and photos. Only problem was it wasn’t him. But even as the adoring public found that out, it didn’t stop him from being the center of attention as he took his seat.
 
I tell ya; there’s nothing quite like this place when it’s filled with boxing aficionados.
 
It has the cleanliness and the modern amenities of the Staples Center and the free-wheeling atmosphere of the Grand Olympic Auditorium.
 
Shortly after the Lara-Angulo fight was halted, a huge swath of beer from an unhappy patron flew into the ring, dousing everyone near the neutral corner leading to the Mexican’s corner. I’d be willing to bet this Corona chucker had no idea that he threw away the last available beer he was going to have at this venue. It was a rather bizarre and hasty end to a fascinating and entertaining battle between puncher and boxer, eventually won by the Cuban southpaw.
 
The main event was short and explosive. After winning the second and third innings with power-punching, Maidana was rocked a few times in the fourth by the “Riverside Rocky,” who would not go gently into this cool summer night without putting up a fight. It had the capacity crowd on its feet but just as quickly, Maidana regained control of the proceedings in the fifth and eventually put away Lopez in the sixth with another barrage of power punches that seemed to reverberate all the way to Buenos Aires.
 
Another memorable night that saw nobody go home unhappy.
 
As the deadline media typed away at its stories, Schaefer came over to press row to commiserate. When asked when Golden Boy would be back, he said coyly that they will have an announcement forthcoming regarding Golden Boy and this venue. Now perhaps it’s an exclusive deal, much like the one GBP has in Brooklyn with the Barclays Center but honestly I’d hate to see this place become exclusive with anyone. The bottom line is any deal prohibiting any other promoters from coming into the StubHub Center and bringing anticipated match-ups to Carson would be a lose/lose proposition for the fans. Now, if Golden Boy makes a deal to do a regular set of shows here, well, that would be great.
 
But yes, either way, there will be much more boxing at the StubHub Center in the future.
 
And that’s a good thing.
 
HBO
 
I found it ironic to a certain degree that on the week Kery Davis announced he was parting ways with HBO Sports at the end of the month, both Chad Dawson and Yuriorkis Gamboa were co-featured from the Bell Centre in Montreal. This duo was counted on by Ross Greenburg and Davis to become signature figures for the HBO boxing franchise a few years ago.
 
In Dawson, they got a skilled fighter who failed to resonate with the public and most likely his inglorious run on the network came to an end as he was KO’ed in one round by Adonis Stevenson (that is, of course, if Gary Shaw hasn’t negotiated a re-return clause for his client with current HBO Sports leader Ken Hershman). As for Gamboa, well, he beat Darley Perez but it was anything but a scintillating performance. Talk all you want about his deep amateur pedigree or what prodigious physical tools he has, the reality is he’s another boxer shoved down the subscribers’ throats despite the lack of any real demand.
 
Yeah, all the supposed potential and placements on pound-for-pound lists don’t mean all that much if you can’t create all that much interest in a career. But that’s what Greenburg and Davis bought: phony premises.
 
I mean, just how uninspiring do you have to be to have Canadian fans boo you?
 
SUPERMAN
 
They say you should act like you’ve been there before in celebrating but, hey, Adonis Stevenson - who looked like he was doing Mark Gastineau’s sack dance while on speed - had never been there, so his reaction was understandable. Honestly, I loved the raw and pure unadulterated emotion he displayed (I mean, the knock on Dawson his lack of passion?) and the joy in his achievement.
 
This was a big win for the business of boxing. Stevenson, while he is in his mid-30s, started boxing relatively late and this game can always use a big-puncher. With Yvon Michel, he has a chance to be a significant draw in that ripe Montreal/Quebec market. While they drew around 6,000 for the Dawson fight, with the buzz “Superman” has created with his victory, in talking to Michel on Sunday afternoon, the veteran promoter thinks they will do 10,000 fans the next time out at the Bell Centre.
 
Michel also says that while Stevenson wants a crack at Bernard Hopkins (who holds the IBF title), they are more than willing to make a two-fight deal with Andre Ward at 168 that would see them go to Oakland but with the commitment that they fight in Montreal at 175. But first, they must get a clarification on when they have to face their WBC mandatory, Tony Bellew.
 
A lot has been written and said about the sordid past of Stevenson, who was jailed for his role in a sex ring. For all its inherent flaws, boxing has incredible powers of redemption and rehabilitation. You hope that Stevenson, who has served his time for his past crimes, has truly found a new path in his life.
 
We’ll see how he handles prosperity.
 
FINAL FLURRIES
 
 
Thought Andrey Klimov and Johnny Molina put on a good show on “Friday Night Fights.” Thought it could go either way...Still no word on the Mayweather-Alvarez undercard but Schaefer says meetings will take place in the upcoming weeks to determine the fights taking place on September 7th and 14th on Showtime and the pay-per-view card...I thought Marco Huck beat Ola Afolabi by a score of 116-112...Joseph Diaz looks like he’s coming along nicely as a young prospect...On a serious note, Charlo got some valuable experience versus Hopkins but I’m not sure that fight should’ve been in Los Angeles...Paulie Malignaggi is really turning into a first-rate color commentator for Showtime...I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.

 





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