Huge Crowd for Momentum 4 Life Charity
Champion Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios has proved to be a crowd favorite inside the ring. And the Oxnard fighter has proved he is also a huge draw outside the ropes as an estimated crowd of over 1500 came out to meet him, his trainer Robert Garcia, and fellow champs at the Magnifico Boxing Gym in South Gate (owned by former WBC Super Bantam Champ Israel Vazquez).
The “Chatter Box” was there to catch up with the world titlists, talk to the crowd and check out the scene at this special Meet and Greet fundraiser for Momentum 4 Life (M4L), a youth organization helmed by Henry Castro.
Team Rios has been in camp for the highly-anticipated rematch versus Mike Alvarado, which will take place March 30 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. But “Bam Bam” wanted to take a brief break from the gym to meet his fans and give back to the community. Joining Brandon were Israel “Magnifico” Vazquez, Trainer of the Year Robert Garcia, champs Mikey Garcia, Leo Santa Cruz, Steven Luevano, actor Enrique Castillo (“Montana” from ‘Blood In Blood Out’) and soccer star Bryan De La Fuente. There were also surprise guests on the panel including champions Ray Beltran, Josesito Lopez (“Riverside Rocky”), Kaliesha West, up-and-coming fighter Richard Contreras, among others.
Sunday’s charity bash was scheduled for two hours but with the lines snaking around the SoCal neighborhood, the prizefighters stayed two hours later than planned to try and accommodate all the fans.
All the sponsors stayed late too, mentioning that they were happy to lend their support to Brandon, his wife Vicky and and this kickoff for Momentum 4 Life.
I talked to some of the first fans to arrive, two and a half hours before the designated start time. They made the trek from Mexicali, San Francisco, San Diego, Riverside, Lompoc and other regions miles away. Their goal was to meet their boxing heroes and also lend support to M4L cause, supported by Team Rios. Team Rios, Team Garcia and Team M4L all joined forces to make this a real KO day.
And while the fans waited patiently in line, there was a bigger than life mascot to entertain them. “B2 Bam Bam” is a mascot and stand-in for Brandon. This roly poly costume is complete with trunks, robe and boxing gloves. The animated Rios “double” made the rounds, playing with the crowd, shadowboxing and dancing for the fans in line.
BUT HERE’S A SECRET…Most of the fans didn’t realize it was really Brandon Rios himself inside that fabric costume! Known for his sense of humor and hijinks, “Bam Bam” climbed inside the outfit (complete with the names of his kids’ names on the satin trunks) and wore the oversized head that hid his true identity. While “B2” took part in mock faceoffs and punch outs with the fans, the kids and teens had no idea it was really the champ himself shielded in the costume. Just another fun touch to the event!
And the event (organized by Rios’ PR extraordinaire Nancy Rodriguez) featured a family-oriented day filled with live entertainment, prize raffles, special auctions, a taco bar and shopping aisles with various booths set up on the gym lot. Vendor booths included Mouthpiece Guy Jeff (with Jeff and Adrian making mouthpieces right on the premises), Steve Harpst Bronzes & Fine Art, Cleto Reyes Boxing Equipment, PONLE Apparel with Juan Cerda, Rios’ BR Clothing Line and more. Rpm-7 wowed the crowd with a live performance during the fiesta. There were also many free giveaways to hundreds of lucky fans including collectible sticker sheets from Cleto Reyes, Island Boost packs and Daphne’s Free Kids Meal coupons (courtesy of trainer/artist Steve Harpst), mini Adidas gloves, posters, and T-shirts for the first crop of fans in attendance.
Team Cleto Reyes had their famed boxing gloves and equipment available and the quartet of Mike, Mario, Kiriat and Lorenia also set up a mini ring inside the gym.
And inside the boxing gym was a long row of sluggers signing autographs for the endless stream of fans who waited for hours for their chance to get a photo and a signature from the champs. On their way out, many lucky fans were also gifted with “Skyfall 007” and “Zero Dark Thirty” T-shirts courtesy of Mario Cobian (CMG-Cobian Marketing Group).
As I watched the crowd continue to grow, the community support from the fans and the boxers was overwhelming.
I have to say, this was “Community Unity” at its best.
One example of opposing corners coming together all in the name of charity was Team Garcia and Team Lopez. Two-time “Trainer of the Year” Robert Garcia trains Brandon Rios, Nonito Donaire, Marcos Maidana and many others at the legendary Robert Garcia Boxing Academy in Oxnard. And word is that Argentinean hitter Maidana will next face Josesito Lopez in April. Lopez was invited to the gala by actor Enrique Castillo and just like all the other VIP guests donating their time, Jose told me wanted to lend support for Momentum 4 Life.
So while the camps will face off in the future, on Sunday the forces came together in the name of charity.
Many of the athletes have fights coming up, but still took time to greet the masses. And several of the boxers had their families, kids and camps with them including gym host, former champ Israel Vazquez, who had his wife Laura and their children Anthony, Israel Jr. and baby Zoe all joining the gathering at Magnifico Boxing Gym.
I also visited with a member of Team Santa Cruz as we talked about Leo Santa Cruz’s next bout. The unbeaten champ is a rising star and quickly gaining a big following. Victor Martinez says he should be back in the ring in May. The team was also there to take in the hit performance of Hip hop, R&B and Latin group Rpm-7.
This fundraising day will provide enough funds to enroll several children in the new program, show runner Nancy Rodriguez confirmed. The PR whiz also told me there are plans for more events and talk of a 5K run in the future.
And I’m sure the fans will come out again to meet the Top Rank superstar and Team Garcia.
“I wanted to come to support Brandon. We had him in our East L.A. parade and I know the fans really love him,” boxing veteran Raul Esquivel says, looking back on the day. “I think there were 1500 to 2000 people who showed up! The line went around the block and through the back streets. In an hour and a half that we were there, the line just kept growing!”
While it is impossible to list all the supporters and volunteers at this mega event, I want to say congrats to Team Rios, Team Garcia, Nancy and Lalo Rodriguez, Team Castro and the entire Momentum 4 Life family of supporters. The M4L motto is “Blessing lives, one at a time” and after Sunday’s knockout gala, many lives will be enriched.
“This was an EXCELLENT event!” Momentum 4 Life’s Henry Castro smiled toward the end of the night as we both surveyed the long line that never ceased. “We had so much support from everyone–it’s incredible. We want to say thanks to everybody for being part of this!”
Check out my snapshots from the 2013 Brandon Rios’ Meet and Greet with the champs!
Photos by Michele Chong