Exclusive: Champs Attend Hollywood Event!
It was definitely a knockout night in Hollywood as a power-punching group of prizefighters attended a special red-carpet screening of “EL INCA”–a riveting new film about the late boxing champion Edwin Valero.
Here’s my exclusive look at the December 1 bash held at the famed Egyptian Theatre right in the heart of Hollywood.
The fighters took time from their training camps because they wanted to see this film (being submitted for the Oscars) while it played for one night only in the city. These heavy hitters came from near and far (braving the notorious Los Angeles traffic) to take part in this exciting night celebrating “EL INCA” while also remembering the tragedy of one Edwin Valero.
With the legendary Hollywood Walk of Fame lining the historic theatre, the sluggers gathered to meet the fans and walk the red carpet. They traveled near and far from Victorville, Oxnard, San Bernardino, Moreno Valley, Riverside, etc. to lend a fist in supporting this film that was a smash hit on the film festival circuit.
The world champions were honored to walk the red carpet as the flashes ignited when the group of prizefighters were introduced to the media. The theatre was sold out and the atmosphere was electric.
The sluggers invited to attend included several current/former professional and amateur champs including WBC Champion Josesito Lopez (who was one of Valero’s sparring partners), WBA/WBO Champion Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios, WBA Champion Daniel Roman, WBC/NABF Champion David Benavidez, WBA/NABF Champion Jose Benavidez, NABF Champion Ryan Garcia, WBC champion Dejan “Dinamit” Zlatičanin, Female IFBA Champion Sindy Amador, WBC Champion Paul Banke, WBO Champion Zack Padilla, unbeaten young pro Hector Lopez (son of WBC champ Hector “El Torero” Lopez), actor and former pro fighter Michael Thornberry, undefeated up-and-comer Pablo “The Shark Rubio, new pro and amateur boxing star Sean Garcia, National Amateur Boxing Champ Santos Ortega, amateur fighters Lawrence King, Jose Valenzuela, Edgar Berrun and more.
Other luminaries from the Southland also arriving at the L.A. movie premiere: WBC Senior Executive Director Nancy Rodriguez, trainer/manager Jose Benavidez Sr., trainer/manager Eddie Gonzalez, trainer/sculptor Steve Harpst (California Boxing Hall of Famer), trainer Pablo Rubio, West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame’s Colleen Kelly (daughter of USC icon Tom Kelly), former football player Cass Winstead, and beauty queen Analizia Lopez (Ms. California 2017, Ms. Texas 2016, Miss City of Angels 2014, Ms. International World Mexico 2014).
The star-studded affair was presented by APERTURA Showcase and American Cinematheque. Director/writer/producer Ignacio Castillo Cottin and Executive Producer Nathalie Sar-Shalom traveled from Venezuela to be there in person. Actor Alexander Leterni (who does a convincing job at portraying Edwin Valero) was scheduled to attend but his travel plans changed before he could fly out.
“EL INCA” is Venezuela’s official submission for the Academy Awards and has been banned twice in the country. It depicts the tragic relationship between Edwin and his wife as well covering his boxing career. This cinematic story was well received by the boxing crowd seeing it on the big screen. After awards season, hopefully, the film will be picked up for distribution in other countries thus allowing more widespread release.
During the film, I sat near sat near Josesito Lopez, Sindy Amador and Ryan Garcia and could see (and hear) their reactions as the action-packed drama played out in the grand theatre. The once beloved national hero quickly became a disgraced champ as Valero was arrested for murdering his wife and subsequently taking his own life the next day in his jail cell.
It’s a very bleak and dramatic film but also offers comedic and touching moments as well. A few of the fighters in our group knew Valero both in and out of the ring. Josesito “Riverside Rocky” Lopez was Edwin’s sparring partner for over a month when the rising superstar trained in Orange County. Jose remembers him as a fierce competitor who dropped his opponents (even during sparring sessions). And trainer Eddie Gonzalez (Team Daniel Roman) knew Valero from the Maywood Gym days. As the movie credits rolled, an emotional Eddie told me how this movie brought back a lot of memories.
I met Valero once in Las Vegas. He had so much natural talent; talent that went to waste as he destroyed his life and others around him.
Young pro fighter Pablo “The Shark” Rubio (who just turned 21) also told me how this boxing film made an impact on him. He and his father/trainer Pablo Rubio raved about this movie and said the crew did a great job bringing Valero’s story to the forefront. Another boxer on the rise, David Benavidez (who will also turn 21 on December 17) said watching the movie with the film director and producers was a great experience.
And Hector Lopez Jr. also raved about the night, saying: “Great story about Edwin Valero, the champion from Venezuela. The red carpet last night for the “EL INCA movie premiere was a great time–and a great time hanging out with all the champs in Hollywood!”
And the veteran fighters Zack Padilla and Paul Banke also mentioned what a nice night it was to be there among their boxing peers while remembering the career of Edwin Valero (before his demons took over).
For those who never got to see “EL INCA” in the ring, he was a feared fighter who won every fight by KO or TKO. He died at age 28, never fulfilling what could have been. When he was in his glory, he was on track to face Manny Pacquiao; a dream fight that never was to be.
After the film screening, there was a Q&A with the director and producer of “El Inca.” Ignacio gave the fighters seated in the theatre a shout out and also asked them if they thought Valero could’ve beaten Pacquiao? The majority of replies was YES. But we will never know what the outcome would’ve been.
There are few boxing film out in release right now so this team of pro and amateur belt holders were happy to have pugilism seen on the screen. Several of the athletes are currently training for upcoming fights but took a brief break from training camp to attend in person.
Dejan Zlatičanin is scheduled to fight December 14 in New York and Golden Boy star Ryan Garcia is fighting in Quebec, Canada on December 16. Brandon Rios and David Benavidez both have bouts scheduled in January and Jose Benavidez Jr. returns to the ring in February.
All of the boxers said they enjoyed being part of this ‘EL INCA” screening and said it is a movie worth watching. And it was a unanimous decision by the squad of boxers viewing the movie–the night was a KO fiesta in which they got to reconnect with each other, make new contacts and meet their fans. There was a reception after the movie and at toward the end of the evening, the champs were asked to autograph the official “EL INCA” poster as a gift for director Cottin.
On a personal note from me: A big thank you to all the fighters and their teams for joining us at this special showing. And thanks to our teamwork with Nancy, Jodi, Steve and Jaime. And ¡Gracias! to Ignacio Castillo Cottin, Nathalie Sar-Shalom (Pa’los Panas Producciones) and Diana Lesmez for the hospitality at this “knockout” Hollywood event!
“El Inca” Preview Article :
Edwin Valero Article:
Photos by Michele Chong
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