The WSB is a league still finding its audience. Now with a new permanent home at Avalon Hollywood, the WSB has taken an interesting step. The crowd is both young Hollywood and modern-to-old-time fight crowd. If you’ve never been in Avalon, the fight room set up is simple and to the point. There is a VIP balcony up and to the left of the action, if you facing the ring from the entrance. Filled to the brim with beautiful starlets and scenesters, the balcony seating gave everyone a great view of the action below. Press row was lined up on the main floor level, the end reserved for fighter interviews. The lower ringside seats were packed in nicely on both sides of the action and there was room on either side of the ring for photographers and those wanting to mill near the action. The room was dark with low lighting, perfect for a fight with a bar just behind and to the left of press row. Evander Holyfield, Andre Berto and Andre Ward, who provided commentary, were just a few of the names in attendance. In addition, you had a young movie exec, a rising female stand-up comedian, more packs of hot single women than you can shake a stick at and, of course, the Matador Knockouts, the official cheerleaders for the Matadors. All in all, the new setting was just what the doctor ordered for a league looking to become the new hot thing to do for the young L.A. scene.
I’d wager this was a lot of people in the room’s first time seeing a fight and the action did not disappoint.
Right off the bat we got Cincinnati bantamweight wunderkind Rau’shee Warren, who I wrote about last week, taking on Miami Gallo Luis Diaz. Warren was just too much of everything for Diaz. Though he was off since December 16 due to a cut he suffered in a bout that day, Warren appeared an overall more professional fighter than when I had last seen him. He popped the jab less than I would like but he seemed to settle down and dig into his punches, which came in fluid combinations. Still, I would have liked to see Warren dig to the body more but I was happy to see him more settled down; the bits of amateur he had left in him before he took off the headgear have begun to fall away, revealing a fighter many people will be excited about in years to come. Warren took the victory by scores of 50-45 twice and 49-45 and is now 3-0 with an overall ranking of number three.
Next up was lightweight Eric Fowler (Matadors) and Leonid Malkov (Gallos), an entertaining bout. Fowler was having a rough go of it, early on as the two staged a pitched, back-and-forth battle for control, using stiff jabs to create openings. Malkov seemed a little more robotic in his movement but nonetheless seemed to have control going into the third but Fowler’s body work and the high pace of the fight suddenly hit Malkov as he noticeably tired deep in the round. Malkov had been going off, ramping up the violence on Fowler’s face but suddenly, it was like the win left him all at once. Fowler took advantage and roared back but by round’s end, he two had hit the wall. From then on, it was a pure guts fight. Both men’s legs were stiff and tired-looking. It was Fowler, who (at this point, had stopped both his previous opponents) rose to the occasion and took the final rounds to win a split decision by scores of 49-46, 47-48, and 50-45 to move to 3-0 and number four overall.
The last time these teams squared off, the Matadors suffered a no-show defeat when both of their light heavyweights were unable to compete. This time, the middleweights for the Gallos returned the favor and thus left Matador middleweight Russell “The Haitian Sensation” Lamour on the bench with a win for his team. Individually, he remains 3-0.
Vyacheslav “The Pain Train” Shabranskij earned his name and a win for the Matadors by eking out a decision over Irish Gallo Kenny Egan. It was a back-and-forth fight with reversals of fortune on both sides. “The Pain Train” suffered cuts that bled like crazy but he held true to his game plan of pressure and volume and gutted out the split decision. With the win, Shabranskij, 3-0, moves to number three in the overall light heavy rankings.
The night was rounded out by heavyweight Matador David “The Dream Catcher” Imoesiri and Gallo Craig Lewis. Imoesiri took the fight to Lewis who was just as reluctant to let his hands go, like the last time I saw him. Lewis has all the tools and size to be a dominant big man but he just won’t take a step forward with authority and it cost him as Imoesiri took control with his jab, slid to the side to get out of the way of shots and was the ring general throughout. He also moves to number three overall.
The Matadors made their new venue feel like home as they continued their unbeaten-in-L.A. streak under a new roof. Andre Ward will return with the Matadors to Avalon February 24, once they complete their road match again against the Mexico City Guerreros this week. I won’t mince words and I am speaking as a single man living in Los Angeles who loves boxing. What I saw Sunday night was fights featuring the best amateur fighters in the world learning how to be pros against each other in a club atmosphere featuring a solid ratio of women to men. What’s more, it’s affordable for the average person. It’s very hard to beat what this venue and the WSB are offering.
You can email Gabriel at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him on each Monday’s episode of “The Next Round” with Steve Kim or tune into hear him live on Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST when he co-hosts the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com. Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.