Five Bouts Featured at Fundraising Gala!
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There were red carpet arrivals, live performances by recording artists, moving tributes to loved ones lost to cancer and five exciting boxing matches taking place during Saturday night’s “Fight Night Explosion” promoted by Sugar Shane Mosley Promotions. The bash was a fundraising event benefitting the Diamond’s Love Foundation, Susan G. Komen For the Cure and the American Cancer Society.
This was the former champ’s very first foray in promoting professional boxing and the Diamond’s Love Foundation and the Mosley Pomona Boxing Club did a bang-up job presenting back to back nights of action. Here’s my SPECIAL REPORT from the weekend event taking place at the Finish Line Sports Grill in Pomona.
A big crowd came out to the SoCal venue located on the spacious ground at the Fairplex in Pomona to witness new promoter Mosley’s first-ever “KO Cancer-Boxing for the Cure.” Heading into the outdoor arena set up on the patio of the sports bar/restaurant, I ran into trainer Juan West, whose daughter Kaliesha West was the headliner of the evening. Team “Wild Wild West” couldn’t contain their excitement for the championship bout that would be showcased on this inaugural card with Sugar Shane Mosley Promotions.
I also greeted former WBC Super Bantamweight Champ Israel “Magnifico” Vazquez, who was making his debut as a trainer of pro fighters. He has worked with amateurs at his new Magnifico Boxing Gym, but on Saturday night Israel was chief second for Fresno’s Michael “El Unico” Ruiz Jr., who has relocated to Los Angeles to train. Wearing white and pink “El Unico” shirts, the team was ready to go and in great spirits as they began to wrap Mike’s hands for the battle ahead.
As women’s boxing was highlighted on the card, there were also several female gladiators at the gala. Sue “Tiger Lilly” Fox traveled from Portland, Oregon to take in the fights. The former fighter currently runs her own website dedicated to women’s boxing–and as a cancer survivor herself, this night was near and dear to her heart. Trina “Iron Butterfly” Ortegon is a multiple IFBA Middleweight Champ, and was an early pioneer in the female fight game. Ex-amateur star and new pro boxer Seniesa Estrada also lent support. The 20-year-old will fight in January after a brief hiatus from the ring.
While catching up with the “Golden Girl” Estrada, the East L.A. boxer mentioned she was looking forward to the live bouts ahead–especially since she has sparred or fought with three of the four women fighting that night. “I’ve sparred with Kaliesha and Katarina a lot,” the petite brunette said during our conversation, “and I fought Blanca in my second pro fight. All are tough women!”
With two female bouts on tap, this Mosley promotion caught the attention of those loyal to women’s boxing.
Making the trip from Las Vegas were ring photographer Mary Ann Lurie Owen, author of “Extraordinary Women of the Ring,” which is all about ladies in the sport, both past and present. Boxing manager Butch Gottlieb was also ringside in support of the women fighters. Butch is a former female boxing commissioner and World Boxing Federation Women’s Boxing Chairman.
Former IFBA champ Kim “Fireball” Messer was also ringside as the keeper of the belt–the white IFBA title strap that was up for grabs in the West-Ruiz main event. Ring announcer Sonny Franco welcomed the crowd and introduced the special VIP and celebrity guests in attendance as the fights got underway.
As the fans continued to stream in, the anticipation grew as the opening bell rang. And the five bouts provided plenty of action for the fans.
First off was Javier “War Child” Albonica (5-1, 4 KOs) vs. Bryan Brooks (0-9-1) in a four-round junior middleweight bout. The hard-hitting Albonica took care of business against the overmatched Brooks whose corner threw in the towel in the second round after seeing their fighter being peppered with punches. Turning pro just last year, Javier (cornered by Powerhouse’s Jesse Arevalo) is now 5-1, adding another knockout to his ledger.
Katarina De La Cruz (2-9-1) was hoping to add an all-important W to her pro record when she stepped in to take on Blanca Raymundo (1-7), who was looking for her first victory. De La Cruz, currently trained by Jack Mosley at the Mosley Pomona Boxing Club, had a ton of supporters who came out to cheer on “La Gatita” as she prowled for a win against the scrappy Raymundo. The taller De La Cruz implemented her jab in the opening stanza but her determined foe kept up the aggressive come-forward style. Raymundo took the fight with official scores of 40-36, 39-37, 39-37.
Humble in defeat, Katarina borrowed the microphone from emcee Sonny Franco, graciously thanking all the fans for supporting the charity event and those who have remained in her corner throughout her career. De La Cruz sported trunks with the cancer support logo across the waistband. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month and there was plenty of pink in support. “I especially want to thank Cerena Mosley and Shane Mosley on this first pro show!” Kat said.
Next up was a “Battle of the Southpaws” in Michael “El Unico” Ruiz Jr. vs. Shawn Nichol in a spirited super bantam war scheduled for six rounds. Colorado’s Nichol (6-12, 5 KOs) is never in a boring fight and Saturday night was no different. Facing local favorite Ruiz (trained by former champ Israel Vazquez), the two lefties entertained the crowd in a real back-and-forth battle. Round 3 had the fans on their feet as the two warriors exchanged bomb after bomb. Nichol got in some good hooks while Ruiz scored with shots to the body. Ruiz pushed it up a level to claim a unanimous decision with judges’ scores of 59-55, 58-56 and 58-56.
Amateur star Xavier Montelongo Jr. (2-0-1) took on his ring rival Carlos Morales (0-1-2) in a four rounder. The two had met three times in the amateurs, Xavier told me. And three times, “The Mongoose” Montelongo had beaten his opponent. This time he had to settle for a draw in this “Boxer vs. Brawler” bout. Pasadena’s Morales kept the pressure on Xavier, who used his skill, speed and footwork to keep his relentless challenger on his toes. Montelongo Jr. scored with a good overhand right while Morales did his best work trapping Xavier against the ropes and whaling away. Both fighters showed plenty of grit and heart in the contest. When the final bell rang, totals were 39-37 for Montelongo Jr., 40-36 for Morales, with the third judge seeing it at 38-38 for the split draw.
After the bout, Montelongo Jr. told me that with over 200 amateur bouts logged in, it’s hard for him to get opponents–and he’s had fights fall through in the past. Remaining undefeated, the 20-year-old boxer said it was a good tough fight that he gained experience from and looks forward to getting back in the ring soon. Xavier has been a big draw among the local community and he says he’s always appreciative of the fan support.
At the intermission there was an unveiling of artwork in tribute to the Mosley family. A large painting was brought into the ring highlighting three generations of Mosley boxing: trainer Jack Mosley, champ Shane Mosley and amateur fighter Shane Mosley Jr. During the break, there was also a emotional tribute as cancer survivors and loved ones lost were remembered. The nonprofit Diamond’s Love Foundation’s Cerena Mosley-Prude, Shante Hall, Tracy Mabe and Saray Pena Lafaurie also held an in-ring auction with a pair of diamond earrings up for bid. The jewelry went for $1,000, continuing the fundraising efforts at the gala. Attendees had the chance to shop at special vendor tables set up on the patio and hobnob with celebrity guests including singer Jon B and rapper Medusa.
Then it was time for the main event as emcee Sonny Franco declared: “LET THE BATTLES BEGIN!”
Time to rock ‘n roll for the highly-anticipated match between Kaliesha West vs. Christina “Bullitt” Ruiz for the IFBA championship belt. Ten two-minute rounds to claim the IFBA title at 122. Kaliesha (16-1-3, 4 KOs), hailing from Moreno Valley, is trained by her father Juan West. She is the reigning WBO Female Champion and has a huge following in the U.S. and internationally. Texas’ Ruiz (6-5-2, 4 KOs) had plans of her own in pulling off a possible upset. In a solid all-action fight, the ladies exchanged center ring, impressing the audience at the Finish Line.
The “Bullitt” Ruiz used her uppercut to continue to get the attention of West, who employed her speed, body punching and dazzling combinations to the detriment of Ruiz. Midway through the fight, West came out of her corner swinging as the two women gave the crowd their money’s worth. Round 9 was notable for the head to head battle as the pair locked horns refusing to budge. The inside fighting continued before Kaliesha scored with several flurries of punches aimed at the chin of Ruiz.
In this crowd-pleasing feud, the women proved female boxing can be just as competitive, just as exciting to watch as men’s boxing. At the end of ten rounds, the three judges at ringside had it 100-90, 100-90 and 99-91 all for Kaliesha West. Fans of the “Bullitt” voiced their displeasure in a fight seen closer in their eyes. But with the officials declaring a unanimous decision for “K” West, Kaliesha is the new International Female Boxers Association (IFBA) Super Bantamweight Champion with the gleaming metal presented to her by ex-boxer Kim Messer.
As the night grew to a close, the amateur fighters and pro boxers all received congratulations for a job well done–with the proceeds benefiting a great cause.
Amateur slugger Andrew Angelcor and his camp came all the way from Barstow to take part in both Friday and Saturday’s events. He fought on Friday’s amateur card and then returned to catch the pro fights. “Last night was great; I sold 110 tickets and really felt the love from all the Barstow fans,” Drew told me. “And tonight is awesome with a really good turnout for both nights. This is what it’s about–supporting the sport and giving back to the community!”
All in all, that’s what this KO night was about–showcasing amateurs and pros–both men and women athletes–while raising money for cancer awareness and prevention.
Check out some of my exclusive snapshots from the festivities. Fighting the good fight and “Fighting for a Cure,” the first-ever Sugar Shane Mosley pro event was a knockout night for the fans!
Photos by Michele Chong
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