Fresno Champ in LA for Ortiz-Lopez
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Saturday’s match between Victor Ortiz and Josesito Lopez drew an audience of 7,865 fans to the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. After the huge upset by underdog, the area surrounding the arena and LA Live remained packed with fans who had just witnessed the shocking win by Josesito Lopez.
And besides the local fighters, celebrity guests and boxing luminaries, there was one fresh face in boxing I ran into after the fights. Central California’s Gary Salazar is a top amateur standout whom many have been keeping their eye on for years. The Fresno phenom has racked up so many championship belts, trophies, medals and titles, he would probably need a whole room if he chose to showcase all of them. I first saw him compete while he was just a young boy; Gary will be turning 18 soon and is thriving in the sport.
I caught up with Team Salazar as they shared all their exciting news with me. The Central Cal boxer will be featured in the upcoming Desert Showdown in July and he has also been getting in some high level sparring.
“I’ve been training up in Big Bear,” the talented 17-year-old said. “There’s been a lot of great sparring and I also sparred with Randy Caballero who fought tonight.”
The unbeaten Caballero is a popular draw from Coachella, who’s been impressing since he turned pro two years ago. On Saturday night, he scored a convincing fifth-round TKO on the undercard of Ortiz-Lopez. Randy’s transition to the pros has been a successful one after a topnotch amateur career. Salazar hopes to follow suit in becoming pro sometime after he turns 18 in January of next year. He says he will continue to fight amateur and thinks he will go pro in 2013.
There have been many young athletes turning pro as teens. During the years, I’ve watched these kids grow up and find success as they fight for their goals in the sport. Former amateur stars Caballero, Jose Benavidez Jr., Xavier Montelongo Jr. and Frankie Gomez are just some of the elites that have staked out their claim as professional prizefighters, bypassing their Olympic dreams in favor of a shot at the pros.
The Salazar camp believes their multiple-titled champion has got what it takes as well. Gary is a familiar face in the USA Boxing ranks and has National Silver Gloves National Champ, National Junior Golden Gloves Champ, PAL Champion, and National Junior Olympic Gold Medalist, California State Champ, Outstanding Boxer, and many, many more championship titles to his name.
He first began to box at the tender age of five. Salazar trained out of Frank Aleman and Aleman Boxing Fresno for several years and was a standout at both local and national shows around the country as an invaluable member of Team Region 8 boxers. The super bantamweight has an impressive 122-20 record and now competes in the Men’s Open Division. He is currently training with his father Gilbert Salazar, Omar Sanchez and Saul Lomas.
The team is enjoying their time in Big Bear and helping Randy Caballero get ready for last weekend’s bout. And besides sparring Caballero, Gary mentions he also got in time with Joel Diaz of Palmdale and and East L.A.’s Ramon Valadez during the Big Bear camp.
So what’s next for the amateur star?
“I’ll be fighting for the BCR title at the Desert Showdown,” the Guatemalan fighter says with a smile. The prestigious tournament runs July 10-14 and will take place at Fantasy Springs. The BCR belt was instated last year and honors Bert Colima Romero, tournament founder Ralph Romero’s uncle.
Gary is looking forward to this special attraction at the annual Desert Showdown. As we finished up our chat, the Staples Center courtyard continued to bustle with excitement as the crowd was abuzz over all the knockout action they witnessed.
But before Team Salazar left to return to Big Bear they had to take part in an L.A. ritual–sampling those famous street dogs from the various vendors hawking their sizzling hot dogs covered in onions. The teenage boxer couldn’t resist trying one before heading back to training the next day. He’ll continue camp at Big Bear for a couple of more weeks before heading back to Fresno.
Gary and his team said they had a great time at Staples, and were very happy to be there to take in Randy Caballero’s TKO victory. Only 17, Salazar already fits in well with the star-studded boxing fraternity. During the night, the amateur pugilist had a chance to greet fellow fighters Canelo Alvarez, Vicente Escobedo, Mexican Olympians Oscar Molina and Oscar Valdez, and others who all came out for the Showtime and Golden Boy Promotions event.
As the amateur star embarks on his pro plans for the future, don’t be surprised when you hear of Gary Salazar fighting at the Staples Center someday.
Photos by Michele Chong
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