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Trainer Ray Woods helps Guy Robb read the signs

Sacramento was once a very proud fighting town with good reason. Max Baer, Loreto Garza, Tony Lopez, and Pete Ranzany, among others, all called Sacramento home. The Memorial Auditorium with its grand balcony making sure there wasn’t a bad seat in the house, Sactown held great fights over the years. With fighters hailing from nearby Woodland, Gilroy, Vacaville, Stockton, Fresno and Sacramento proper, the circuit is still active if not in its former glory.


Saturday night at the Nasser Niavaroni “Uppercut Boxing Promotions” Red Lion Inn card, Guy Robb will take on late replacement Roberto Ventura, 2-3 in a scheduled six rounder, bringing with him a connection to Sacramento history and an all-action attitude.  


In Sacramento’s Oak Park section of town, there is a hidden gem: The home and gym of trainer Ray Woods, stepfather to the late great Diego “Chico” Corrales. Chico died young but his memory infuses the Woods home and gym, which is a converted garage out back of their lovely one-story home. It is here, that featherweight hopeful Guy Robb, 10-1 (4) trains under the tutelage of Woods on the fertile canvas Corrales once graced.

“This is the only gym I know,” Robb told Thursday afternoon. “I been training here for a few years and I’ve grown up here, become a man, mentally, [in the ring] and just life.”


This sport is taught one on one. You can take classes at your local gym but there is no substitute for learning one on one from a battle-tested trainer who has been to the mountaintop and knows what it is like to both climb and fall off of it. Robb understands that his time growing up in Woods’ gym is special from the history to the ring lessons.


“As far as the history of the gym, every day I look at the wall and all the pictures that I looked at a hundred times of Diego and the old school posters with Sacramento fighters. Old match-ups like Chavez, Leonard and Hagler. There is a lot of good stuff hanging up on the wall. Especially the pictures when Diego was defending his belt. You’re looking at a picture but you can feel what he feels. It’s definitely a pleasure to be a part of it. Ray is very selective on who comes,” said Robb.


Woods is an easygoing, honest man who is straight forward in what his young fighter needs: experience.


“He is developing right on schedule as far as I am concerned,” Woods told in that same session. “What I mean, he is a very good fighter. He is ready to move up into the eight-rounders. The will to win is all there. He needs experience. That’s the problem we have right now is getting eight-rounders and getting experience. If you are at the fights Saturday night, you will see for yourself. He is coming along but we need the rounds. We need the rounds.”


Robb needs someone to test him again now that he is four fights away from a loss to fellow Boxing 360 stable mate, Joel Diaz, Jr in January of 2012. Robb has rattled off four wins since then but is hoping to get more active. 360 should improve the activity as the year goes on.


“They took him back to a six because his first opponent pulled with an injury. “I am not looking for some guy [easy to beat]. I want someone to give him rounds and give him hell; someone to make him reach down. That’s what I am looking for,” said a hopeful Woods.  


“It’s really frustrating,” Robb said of preparing for one opponent in an eight-rounder and instead fighting a late replacement in a six-rounder. Robb feels he should be further along in his fighting development.  “I feel like I’ve been shorted in experience and where I should be so I am not happy about it at all.”  


Guy Robb is in the same mold as Corrales in that he loves to get down and brawl. At 5’6” with a 70” reach and a solid amateur background, the kid can box but he loves to bang. That is Woods’ challenge as they head into this fight.


“He had to learn to listen,” explained Woods of Guy’s maturity as a fighter. Against Diaz, Robb was undefeated and fighting on cable for the first time. It was an unusual early undefeated prospect pairing and the two young fighters made for a memorable war. Robb put Diaz down in the second. Joel roared back with two knockdowns in the third. The two ebbed and flowed until Robb got in a bit of trouble and the ref called a halt to the action with Robb on his feet.


“First of all, we didn’t feel that we were losing the fight,” said Woods about the stoppage. “This is the fight game. This is the hurt game. We didn’t think we were losing the fight. We thought we had, another shot Diaz was ready to quit because other times in the fight, he showed he was hurt and ready to quit. Now, that fight, I think Guy would dominate him now if they fought. That’s how much he has grown.”


When asked about the loss, I got the sense it was fuel for the future but not an overwhelming obsession by any means.


“It’s the past but its past that is kind of chip on my shoulder,” said Robb. “It bothers me. I’m a sore loser. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a poor sport. So it was definitely a learning experience but I think maybe down the road, if there is a title on the line, I think that’d be great.”


As with every ring experience, it was another lesson to be filed away for later.


“That night, because he was young and undefeated, he didn’t want to listen. He had to do it his way. Now he has learned to listen. He has grown. He is a lot better than he was that night,” said Woods. “He took it just the way I wanted. I wanted him to feel that and ask yourself ‘Do I want to go on with this?’ And the answer is ‘yes’ because he didn’t really feel like he was losing. He wants to go on and that’s good. That’s real good.”


Neither man knows much about the new opponent except that to get where they want to go, he has to be taken care of.


“No. I don’t know anything about the guy. I think he is from Tijuana. The first guy I knew because we had beat him before. But I don’t know about this guy,” said Woods. “If he listens to me, I would not expect the guy to make the last round.”


Robb seemed just as concerned with making sure his fans got their money’s worth as he was about his opponent.


“We were getting ready for a brawler. That’s what we were preparing for. We always train high intensity. As far as strength and conditioning it was pretty much the same,” explained Robb. “The opponent fell out pretty last minute. All I can say is thank god for Mexicanos. We got an opponent. I was worried about fans of mine showing up and people that purchased tickets.


“As far as my opponent,” Robb continued, “I know he was in the gym working for another fight. Same thing happened to him. I’m ready, physically and mentally. I hope he is, too.”


For Woods, the mission on Saturday is clear. Get rounds, what he can do, what you can do, what you need to do and then take care of business. Listen and watch.


“This is a development fight,” agreed Woods. “Just go in there, get in there and learn how to do what you know how to do. And learn how to read your opponent. I talked to him about that. If you are fighting your opponent, you study his movement, his mistakes. And learn to capitalize on his mistakes. Sometimes you don’t need for the opponent [to be willing]. If you go in there and do what you know how to do the way you are supposed to do it, well, a lot times it works out. It’s the ability to adjust and to think on your feet.”


One thing that Robb has to worry about is the inherent distractions of fighting at home. But he’s used to it and he loves being a part of the fighting scene in Sacramento.


“It’s both [positive and potentially distracting],” answered Robb. “There are a lot of distractions. The crowd is rowdy. They want to see action. But at the same time this is kind of where I was brought up and how I was brought so I kind of thrive in it. The crowd is part of me, I’m part of the crowd and we believe we can kick ass.”


As for fight night goals, Robb was direct.


“I’m just going to see what he’s got at first and then figure out how I am going to try and kill him,” said Robb simply.


Doors open at 5. 


Gabriel MontoyaWriter:

Co-host: Radio show


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