By Robert Morales
Everyone always wants to know what it's like for a fighter to be involved in a Fight of the Year type of bout. But what about the trainers?
For example, we recall the morning of May 8, 2005. Driving back to Los Angeles from Las Vegas, where the night before Diego Corrales had gotten up from two brutal 10th-round knockdowns to stop Jose Luis Castillo in the 10th of what many experts called one of the greatest comebacks in history, we put in a call to Corrales' trainer, Joe Goossen.
Basically, Goossen said he was still having a hard time believing his fighter did what he did in that lightweight title unification fight, that he was half-expecting to wake up and find it was all a dream.
The first fight between Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios and Mike Alvarado last Oct. 13 at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. was not quite as incredible as that Corrales-Castillo fight. But it was a tremendous seven rounds that contained vicious non-stop punching between two ultimate ring warriors. Rios won via 7th-round TKO, but it was one of those situations where even the loser's stock rose because of his sheer courage.
Garcia was in Rios' corner, and will be again when the rematch takes place March 30 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas (on HBO).
We caught up to Garcia on Wednesday and asked him what it was like for him to be working the corner of a fighter during such a hair-raising battle.
"Since we knew the fight was going to happen and we started training for the fight, we knew what we were going to get," Garcia said. "That's what Brandon wanted and needed. Being around so many years, I wanted that, too. I knew Brandon was the type of fighter who wanted it and needed it; I needed it, too. I wanted it that bad, also. We are a team and we are one together."
Whereas Goossen never boxed professionally, Garcia was a super featherweight champion who, ironically enough, lost his belt to Corrales via seventh-round TKO in October 1999 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas. (Unfortunately, Corrales eventually was killed in a motorcycle accident on May 7, 2007, two years to the day of his famous fight with Castillo).
Although the fourth fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez in December won Fight of the Year honors by the Boxing
Writers Association of America, Rios-Alvarado was selected as such by Sports Illustrated. Garcia wasn't too bummed out about not getting the nod from the BWAA.
"We understand the magnitude of that fight," Garcia said of Pacquiao-Marquez IV, which ended stunningly with Marquez knocking out Pacquiao, who fell face-first, in the sixth round. "There were knockdowns for each fighter, even though maybe the fight itself wasn't like Brandon's was, where every second of the fight they were at it and landing punches back and forth. We don't have a complaint about it. We know we had a great fight."
Rios and Alvarado will tangle for a vacant junior welterweight title.
The Second Time Around
Often times when a fight is as good as Rios-Alvarado was, it's difficult for a rematch to bear similar fruit. Even Garcia isn't so sure that what happened in the first fight can be repeated the second time around.
"Brandon himself will bring the same type of fight," Garcia said. "Alvarado might try to make a few adjustments, maybe trying to box or do something different. I know that if you go in against Brandon Rios, you need a football field to be able to run around and not fall into him catching you and falling into a war with him.
"He can try to make a few changes, but I'm expecting the same kind of fight."
Garcia intimated that Rios is salivating at the thought of taking Alvarado out quicker than he did the first time.
"Brandon is actually training harder this time and in his mind he's saying he's going to get him out earlier this time, which is a good mentality to have going into a fight," Garcia said.
Sanchez's Dorner Experience
For most in this country, the drama surrounding alleged quadruple murderer/cop-killer Christopher Dorner that apparently came to a close Tuesday was stuff we saw on television news stations and read about online. For trainer Abel Sanchez, his fighters and the rest of the Big Bear, Calif. community, it was smack-dab in their backyards and as real as it gets.
Sanchez owns and operates Big Bear's biggest and best boxing training camp these days in what over the past years had become somewhat of a haven for fighters wanting to train in altitude - in this case about 7,000 feet.
Last Thursday, the first day Dorner was spotted in Big Bear, we sent a text to Sanchez asking the world-class trainer of Gennady Golovkin and other champions what was going on up there.
"It's dead, nobody on the roads, most people are scared and staying inside their homes," Sanchez texted back.
Fast forward to Monday, the day before Dorner more than likely (cops have not confirmed this) was found dead inside a large Angeles Oaks cabin some 20 miles from Big Bear following another violent day that ended with him allegedly killing a Sheriff's deputy. We spoke with Sanchez on the phone. He had driven down the mountain to LAX - about 110 miles - to pick up Golovkin, who has a March 30 defense against Nobuhiro Ishida in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
"I think that most people up there want to stay out of the way of law enforcement and allow them to do their jobs," Sanchez said. "But at the same time the guy, even though his manifesto said that he was after cops, you just don't know. A man that can kill somebody can kill just about anybody.
"So I'm sure that people were, not knowing - and it is a small community - not knowing you stay inside your house and lock your doors and hope that law enforcement can take care of it as soon as they can."
Little did Sanchez know at the time that about 24 hours later, it would be taken care of by cops and Dorner himself.
Sanchez again recalled that first night.
"The roads were very clear," he said. "There was nobody on the roads, there was no one in the stores, they closed the resort, so it was a tense situation."
Sanchez said that until Monday, when his runners did run outside after several days of no sign of Dorner, he had kept his runners inside as much as possible.
"Not because we were really in fear of him being down on the roads," Sanchez said. "If he's up there, he's up in the forest. But just to stay out of the way and not to be mistaken for anything and to stay out of the way of law enforcement."
That could have been in reference to two innocent women being shot by LAPD officers and a man being shot at by Torrance (Calif.) officers somehow mistaking them for Dorner even though, while the victims were in trucks, none looked anything like Dorner in any way shape or form.
Sanchez said he has seven fighters in his Big Bear camp at the moment. Besides Golovkin, he is training three others for upcoming title fights. One is Tavoris Cloud, who will be defending his light heavyweight title against Bernard Hopkins on March 9 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Sanchez Takes a Shot at DiBella
Any time we talk to Sanchez we are bound to get into the nobody-wants-to-tangle-with-Golovkin conversation. It's no secret that promoter Lou DiBella not long ago bit off the head of yours truly when we queried him about a unification bout between his middleweight champion, Sergio Martinez, and Golovkin. Basically, in not-so-nice words, DiBella said that no one would give a rat's behind about that fight because nobody knows who the heck Golovkin is.
When we reached that point in the conversation the other day, the typically mild-mannered Sanchez got after DiBella when we asked him about this perceived stay-busy fight against Ishida.
"If somebody would ask Martinez or DiBella (about fighting Golovkin), DiBella would say that Gennady is not well-known," Sanchez said. "How well-known is (Martin) Murray, how well-known is (Matthew) Macklin, how well-known is (Darren) Barker? All the guys that he's fought were not well-known. But yet Gennady, after two fights (on HBO), is in everybody's thoughts as far as fighting somebody.
"All we can do is just stay busy and hopefully those fights will materialize because the reporters and the internet will kind of force those fights because they will shame them into it; let's put it that way."
Martinez defends his title against Murray on April 27 in Martinez's native Argentina. Martinez knocked out Barker in the 11th round in October 2011 and stopped Macklin after 11 rounds last March.
Arreola at 'The Hangar' interesting
Promoter Dan Goosssen recently announced the March 9 heavyweight title elimination bout between his fighter, Chris Arreola, and Bermane Stiverne. It will be held at "The Hangar," a 2,000-seat venue at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, Calif.
It seems odd that a fight of this magnitude is being held in a club-card-size joint. But Goossen said he was virtually left with no choice because everything else was booked. Originally, the fight was slated to be held in January at Galen Center on the campus of University of Southern California. It seats 10,258 for basketball - meaning more for boxing with ringside seats - and would have been a terrific site. But it all fell apart when the main event between Andre Ward and Kelly Pavlik was scratched because of an injury to Ward.
"There wasn't a lot to choose from in California," Goossen said. "Nothing was open in Vegas, and that's how we ended up in The Hangar. It's always been a beautiful place. (Promoter) Roy (Englebrecht) has done a great job out there and he's always kind of opened up his arms for anyone who wanted to come in there. It was a great way to keep Arreola in California and it was a great way to have a new venue pop up on the HBO scene."
Arreola is from Riverside, Calif.
Robert Morales covers boxing for BoxingScene.com and the Los Angeles Daily News.