Tucson Boxing

Guerra De Gallos set for November 17th return at the AVA.

Professional boxing can be a pretty small world. As far as the fight worlds biggest, brightest and most eye-catching names and events are concerned, everyone seems to know each other pretty well and have years of intimate knowledge on each other. In the fight industry and really, in most popular sports, there’s often only two or three degrees of separation among the best the business.

Nogales born, Tucson raised, Oscar Valdez was raised in the amateurs fighting against Vasyl Lomachenko and both were huge rivals as they came up in Olympic boxing ranks. Once Valdez went pro, he found himself in gyms sparring with the likes of Jessie Magdaleno, Jose Benavidez Jr (who just lost to Bud Crawford over the weekend), Michael Conlan, Scott Quigg and many others, touring and promoting fights with Zurdo Ramirez and Jesse Hart. Recently, Valdez left trainer Manny Robles and joined with long time Canelo Alvarez trainer Eddie Reynoso. Valdez manager Frank Espinoza was once manager to LA boxing favorite Abner Mares.

It’s like this with promoters, trainers, boxing journalists, photographers, etc.

Relationships and trust can be marrow deep. Or the competition is ruthless, intense and merciless. Not much is a secret for too long once you’ve been in their world for at least a little while. Fighters know each other well. If not, someone in their camp has worked with the opposing fighter before.

In our little corner of the boxing world in Southern Arizona, you can narrow the degrees of separation down to one or two. On the national or international stage, the light shined on Tucson Boxing doesn’t register at all on any major promotion or television company’s radar.

Except perhaps Top Rank.

Phoenix resident and Philadelphia native, Michelle “Raging Babe” Rosado has done more for Tucson boxing than perhaps anyone has possibly ever done. Certainly more than anyone has done since the 90s at least.

With Guerra de Gallos back in July, Raging Babe Promotions stacked a card of mostly Tucson fighters into the ring to face each other. Fighters who grew up with each other, knowing each other’s families. Sparring against each other for years. Some went to school together. Who’s trainers have run their gyms in direct competition of each other or have supported each other by providing each other with sparring partners. Thrown together were a bunch of, forget hungry but starving fighters at the peak of their competitiveness, being given an opportunity to raise eyebrows and at least have their names mentioned on the local news with a chance to support their families and put food on their tables.

What sort of pressure do you imagine local fighters were under when they were placed in a ring with other fighters who they had been compared to for years?

Defeated fighters would have to go back to their neighborhoods, to their gyms and show their faces. Explain themselves, to mainly, themselves.

Professional fighters will more often than not give the same canned speech after a loss, “Back to the drawing board…the other guy was better tonight…I thought I did well enough to win…that’s boxing…what can you say?” Those are the right things to say when being gracious in defeat. But inside, an intense rage of competitiveness and perfectionism is churning.

Junior welterweights Alfonso Olvera and Wilberth Armando Nieblas-Lopez fight to split decision. (Photo: Raging Babe Promotions)

Having starving boxers at the peak of their physical fitness, dying to showcase their talent and spark some attention for themselves to get their pro careers a chance, was amazing. In front of a sold out venue of their families, friends, lifelong rivals, their grocers, mailman, grade school teachers, the fighters of Guerra de Gallos told me time and again leading up to the event, they could NOT let their loved ones see them laid out on the canvas. The support they felt was intense and the pressure to perform was magnified.

As a result the fighters of Guerra de Gallos simply tore each other apart. Now, Part 2 is on its way.

If you didn’t see what Old Pueblo fighters put each other through the first time around, get out to the AVA at Casino del Sol on November 17th. Ticket prices range from $100, $75, $50 and $25. Don’t be one of the hundreds of walk-up fans that had to be turned away by fire marshalls at the last event. Do yourself a favor, stay tuned and reserve yourself a couple of tickets in advance.

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