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Southern Calif. gym notebook

11
Sep

There are so many world class fighters and boxing clubs in Southern California I can’t even keep up with them, but I give it the ol' college try by visiting at least one gym a week. Sometimes, like this past week, I find time to drop by two or more gyms.

Apart from attending the Chris Arreola media workout at Joe Goossen’s gym in Van Nuys, Calif., I popped into the 360 fitness club in Reseda, Calif., to check in on my old friend James Toney and the Wild Card in Hollywood to take a gander at Guillermo Rigondeaux, who has caused ripples in the competitive local gym scene with the power and prowess he’s shown in recent sparring sessions.

I don’t always have room in my stories to include all the information I gather from these gym visits, so here’s a notebook of encounters and observations from the past week and a half.

GOOSE NEST IS FULL

Goossen’s gym was not only packed with boxing folks eager to get a look at how fat Arreola was rumored to be at Wednesday’s media workout, the Ten Goose boxing club was crammed with fighters.

As I entered the gym, super middleweight fringe contender Edison Miranda was hitting the double-end bag, 2008 Olympian Shawn Estrada and lightweight prospect John Molina were shadowboxing in the ring, while American heavyweight hopefuls Malik Scott and Manuel Quezada observed from the ring apron.

All five fighters are trained by Goossen.

Scott, an undefeated (32-0, 11 knockouts) Philadelphian with the best physical tools of any American heavyweight, has been a project of Goossen’s for a few years, and Molina (17-0, 13 KOs) has been with the veteran trainer for close to a year, but the other fighters are new.

Quezada, a former Muy Thai kick boxer from Wasco, Calif., had his first fight with Goossen in July when he blasted Travis Walker out in the opening round of their main event at the Tachi Palace Casino in Lemoore, Calif.

Molina, who has been with Goossen for almost a year, was supposed to fight on the Quezada-Walker undercard but was scratched because, get this, he was bit on the stomach by a brown recluse spider (one of the most deadly of America’s venomous arachnids).

The affable power puncher from Covina, Calif., was sick for a couple weeks but he’s made a full recovery and has a spot on the Klitschko-Arreola undercard.

Estrada (6-0, 6 KOs) will have Goossen in his corner for the first time on the Klitschko-Arreola undercard. The first thing I noticed about the East L.A. native while he shadow boxed was that he’s huge. Estrada, a middleweight in the amateurs, looks like a light heavyweight. His physical frame is comparable to the bone structure of Quesada, who is also on the Klitschko-Arreola undercard (which makes three Mexican-American heavyweights on the Sept. 26 show).

Estrada told me he weighs 173 pounds but will drop 10 pounds by fight time “with no problem.” I believe him. He just turned 24.

Miranda is probably 173 pounds or more because of his densely packed muscle. He looks a lot thicker in person, but Goossen says he’ll continue fighting at super middleweight. The Colombian banger’s first bout with Goossen will be on an Oct. 22 card at the Tachi Palace headlined by Scott vs. Tony Thompson (a big fight for the 28-year-old Philly native).

Goossen says Miranda will fight for the NABO title. The Thursday card will not be televised. Depending on how hectic my schedule is next month, I just might make the drive out to Lemoore to cover this card.

I’ve seen improvements in the fundamentals of both Scott and Molina since they’ve hooked up with Goossen. It will be interesting to see how far Estrada, Quezada and Miranda advance with one of the best trainers in the business.

POCKET ROCKET RIDES AGAIN?

I saw one of my favorite people in boxing, Wayne McCullough, at the Arreola workout. I told the 39-year-old former bantamweight titleholder (who isn’t a pound over 130) that he looked like he was in fighting shape.

“That’s cause I am,” he said. “I’m trying to get (the Klitschko-Arreola) card, but Dan (Goossen) tells me that the opponents are asking for too much money.

“I told him I’d fight for free and I’m serious,” said the 1992 Olympic silver medalist, who has been living and training (his wife Cheryl holds the mitts for him) in the Woodland Hills, Calif., area for the past six weeks. “What difference is $5,000 or $6,000 to me? I just want to get in there again.”

I haven’t met many people who love boxing as much as McCullough, who has a good gig doing PR for the UFC in Europe and doesn’t need to fight to make a living.

ARREOLA OBSERVATIONS

One factor in Arreola’s matchup with Vitali Klitschko that has been lost in the storm of rumors and concern about the L.A. native’s weight/conditioning is his style.

Arreola likes to bang but he’s not your typical slugger. There’s a counter-punching component to his offense that a lot of fans (and media) miss, and there’s his form, which is awkward enough to throw off most classic boxers.

While watching him work the heavy bag in Goossen’s gym, I noticed that he kind of leans on his left foot without losing his balance or any power on his big right hand, which he launches like someone throwing a shot put. It doesn’t look like it but he’s always ready to drop his counter-left hook, which has set up most of his knockouts. I get the feeling that when he’s sharp and motivated, it’s difficult for his opponents to anticipate his punches because of his unorthodox stance.

There’s another side to Arreola’s style that most haven’t seen and that’s the ability to get on his toes and stick-and-move with surprising agility. I’ve seen him do it in sparring and I admit it’s kind of a surreal scene but I think it’s something he might have to utilize in spots against Klitschko.

JAMES TONEY

Speaking of big men who can stick and move, when I visited James Toney last Saturday I found the 41-year-old vet shadowboxing in the ring under the watchful eye of trainer Shadeed Saluki when I entered the boxing gym within a fitness club.

My two immediate observations were that he probably weighs in the low 220s and that despite 82 pro bouts and 21 years in the sport he still has his legs under him.

He’s lost enough weight for those legs to look like they belong to a middleweight but his upper body still looks like an out-of-shape cruiserweight’s torso (although his arms and back are solid).

He’s sporting love handles and flabby pecks (at least they can no longer be classified as man-boobs) but his upper body movement is still on point, and he displayed it during a brisk four-round sparring session with 1-0 heavyweight Gabriel Silva.

It’s amazing what Toney (71-6-3, 43 KOs) can do in the ring considering the punishment he’s absorbed and the abuse he’s heaped on his body over the years with his overindulgent lifestyle.

He says he has no regrets but when I interviewed him for the “Best I Ever Fought” blog, he lamented the fact the he didn’t take all of his fights seriously.

“When I look back on all of the losses in my career — Roy Jones, the two fights with Montel Griffin, which could have gone my way, Drake Thazdi, and the second fight with Sam Peter, they robbed me in the first one — I realize that if I was in tip-top shape, I could have won them all,” he said. “I didn’t bother training hard for those fights. It was ignorance and it was arrogance on my part. If I had just listened to my trainers and the people around me, my record could be 82-0 right now.”

Even as an under achiever, Toney is a first-ballot hall of famer in my book. Both Bob Arum and Freddie Roach say he’s the most talented fighter they’ve ever worked with.

Toney fights Matthew Greer in the co-feature to the Andre Ward-Shelby Pudwill main event at the Pechanga Casino in Temecula, Calif., on Saturday. Toney’s fight won’t be on the Showtime broadcast but he’s still worth watching live, especially if you’ve never seen an almost-great fighter work his craft.

Just watching Toney shadowbox is something special.

“When’s the last time you’ve seen him work like this?” Saluki asked me as we watched Toney jab an imaginary opponent while blocking and slipping the way he did in the early 1990s.

“Never,” I replied. “All he’s ever done in the gym is spar since I’ve been covering boxing.”

“This is so important,” Saluki continued. “This is actually better than mitts. James has so much ability that a trainer can’t catch everything he does with mitts. This way he practices at the speed of his own thoughts.”

As much as I like to watch two young guns go at it in sparring, I appreciat observing the shadowboxing of seasoned old pros like Toney, Bernard Hopkins and Joel Casamayor even more because I can learn something if I pay attention.

RIGONDEAUX

Some boxers can exhibit the finer points of the sport in a sparring session and former Cuban amateur star Guillermo Rigondeaux is one of them.

I watched the 28-year-old junior featherweight go eight rounds (four with 108-pound title challenger Rodel Mayol and four with featherweight prospect Abraham Lopez) last week and I’ll be damned if either sparring partner landed ONE clean punch.

Rigondeaux, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time amateur world champ, is a slick southpaw with the defensive prowess of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and the gutsy savvy of Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson. With his hands down by his waist, Rigondeaux made his sparring partners miss with only the slightest lean or side step.

Mayol, a Filipino vet with extremely fast hands, couldn’t hit the Cuban in the ass with the proverbial handful of rice. Ultra-elusive junior flyweight champ Ivan Calderon, who Mayol faces in a rematch on Saturday, will be easier to deal with than Rigondeaux.

Lopez (8-0, 7 KOs) fared a little better as he was able to force Rigondeaux to give more ground than Mayol because of his greater size and power, however I noticed that the 21-year-old from La Puente, Calif., advanced with caution.

That’s because the Cuban can crack. Roach told me Rigondeaux knocked out unbeaten lightweight prospect Jesus “Pollo” Hernandez in a sparring session a few weeks ago.

Rigondeaux (2-0, 2 KOs) headlines an ESPN-televised show from Miami, Fla., next Friday. He’ll face 71-bout veteran Giovanni Andrade in a 10 rounder and I fully expect him to KO the Brazilian.

Roach says Rigondeaux is so seasoned (from more than 400 amateur bouts) that he’d put the southpaw in with Rafael Marquez or Israel Vazquez this year.

Doug Fischer can be reached at [email protected]

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