Let it be known that I am a big Mixed Martial Arts fan. I say that because boxing has lost interest to me in the past few years, and MMA is much more exciting.
That was my opinion until June 19.
A very close friend of mine loves boxing. He lives it. His son has trained and competed from a young age and everything around him is faith, family and fighting.
Lionel Chavez represents boxers looking to make a name for themselves, and he found a good number of them out at the Jerome Boxing Club in Santa Ana, Calif., his hometown. Tonight, his guys were making their debut, so I came to offer support. I was not really expecting too much.
Little did I know that I would be hooked after my experience. He has invited me a few times to attend these smaller venue boxing matches, but it never really held an interest to me. Like I said, I love MMA.
I figured that there is no way a small venue like that and a card that had a couple of guys making their professional debuts and a couple of guys with a total of two fights be anything I’d get excited about. Well, that’s what I get for thinking.
I was wrong. I lost my voice and was told to sit down more than once because I got so caught up in the action. It's hard not to. These guys are throwing everything they have out there and it's inspirational. I'd rather skip the drive to Vegas, the lines, the crowds and stay right here in my backyard and watch these matches.
Then it began...
Carlos Molina vs. Odilion was the first bout of the evening. Odilion put up a great fight. At least three times, the crowd thought he was going down, but he persevered and showed incredible heart going back at Molina.
Molina was a little too much for Odilion to handle, and he earned the victory via unanimous decision.
The second bout of the evening was between Angel Magdaleno, who was making his pro debut, facing 2-1 Constancio Alvardo. Angel was the aggressor for most of this fight and at times it looked more like a street fight than a boxing match.
Angel did land some hard shots, but the lack of boxing cost him. This would end up a split decision and both fighters would walk away dissatisfied with the result.
Still, the amount of heart displayed by these youngsters was incredible. Back and forth they went, pinpointing their targets and punching with speed and power, moving and countering—staying as sharp physically as they were mentally.
The Heavyweight bout of the evening was between Ethan Cox out of Long Beach and Takilesi Fifita out of Huntington Beach. The pace of this fight was night and day compared to the other fights.
It could have been much more entertaining if they actually boxed a little more than they brawled. Fifita was the more skilled of the two, and he earned the victory via unanimous decision, avenging his loss to Cox earlier this year.
One of the most entertaining bouts of the night was between Jose Roman (Jerome Boxing Club) and Jorge Magallones of Fresno.
Roman took the ring chiseled, moving with a swagger. Magallones had a look about him that could be summed up as deceiving to say the least. These two battled and traded punches at an exhausting pace.
At one time Magallones landed a solid right sending Roman to the canvas but only for a fraction of a second. It was then that things turned around. It was then that he dialed in.
He was picking Magallones apart, ultimately stopping him in the third round for the victory. Jose “El Gato” Roman was the winner. If he stays focused and committed to the sport, this young man will be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.
The most exciting fight of the evening was the main event. Tyrone Chatman of St. Louis (2-0) is one of the best fighters to come out of that area in years. He won both fights by first-round knockout.
This young man was in great shape. A physical specimen. Fast. Powerful. The look in his eyes was intense.
In the other corner stood Ernesto Lara out of Jerome Boxing Club. Lara brought a record of 0-1 into the fight and looked focused and comfortable. Everyone knew, including Lara, that Chatman was going to come out swinging and push the pace and that is exactly what happened. Some of Chatman’s punches landed with great power.
Chatman was relentless as he rushed, but Lara was ready. He countered every punch and did a great job of keeping his hands up and shrinking as the punches came to the body. After a few solid punches of his own, Lara appeared to be in control.
However, the power and pursuit of Chatman had every one of the more than 1,400 fans on the edge of their seats, because he could have changed the outcome of the fight with one punch. But he didn’t.
Lara lasted the first round and the look on Chatman’s face told the story. He was confused. Nobody had ever stood up to his power like that.
The second round was more of the same. Vicious shots from both fighters and neither was backing down. As time went on, though, it seemed that Lara was the benefactor of Mr. Momentum.
Chatman entered the third round looking exhausted. After the bell rang, Lara was all over Chatman. A right, a left another right and it kept coming. Lara was like a sniper, picking and choosing his shots.
Finally, after a flurry of 10 unanswered punches by Lara, the referee stepped in and called it. An off-balance Chatman made his way back to his corner and a tired but excited Lara went back to his. The place was electric!
Nobody was sitting down. Everyone stood and applauded these two warriors.
The Jerome Boxing Club fighters put themselves on the map by winning all of their fights.
As the night ended and the crowd exited the ballroom, all that remained was the sound of a few voices and the small of an empty gym. I was standing talking to some friends when I looked over and saw people waiting in line to get a picture.
It wasn't with some famous athlete or personality. It was the family and friends of the boxers, their pride and joy. Julio Cesar Chavez or Sugar Ray Leonard could have walked in and they would have been second best.
This was their time. This was their moment. Captured it, they did. Epic job, men. Epic.