Raymond Muratalla’s foundation began in his backyard
The halls of Los Osos High School, in Rancho Cucamonga, California, would part when they walked through. Get in their way and you got stomped on. They were four junior football players, who were a little taller, and a little broader than all of the other teenagers around them.
The quartet of self-proclaimed badasses had heard about this pencil-thin freshman with the unassuming personality and pleasant smile. They found it inconceivable that this scrawny, wispy kid was supposed to be tough; that he burrowed through everyone in his neighborhood with his gloved fists.
They were at least five inches taller and around 40 pounds heavier than Raymond Muratalla, who was maybe 114 pounds soak-and-wet at the time.
Still, they wanted to challenge Muratalla.
So, Muratalla told his father, Gabriel Sr., about it. Dad gave Raymond the green light.
“If want to go, we can go,” Raymond let them know. “I have a ring in my backyard. We can settle it there with boxing gloves.”
They showed up to Muratalla’s Fontana, Ca., home.
It didn’t last long.
The hardest of the four got in first with Raymond, took a nasty left hook to the body, and Raymond spent the next few minutes trying to catch him, because the kid was running all over the place. He didn’t want to stay in the ring with Raymond. The other three saw enough and did not even try.
The Muratallas laugh at the recollection today.
It’s just one of many stories about the fabled Muratalla backyard ring, the incubator that spawned the boxing prowess of Raymond and his older brother, Gabriel Jr.
It’s where Raymond honed his skills as a promising, ambidextrous 5-foot-8, 23-year-old lightweight, who recently signed with Top Rank, carries a 9-0 record, with seven knockouts, has lightning fast hands and a hunger to place his signature on the boxing world.
Ask anyone in Southern California boxing circles about the Muratalla’s famous backyard gym. They all seem to know it. Everyone has been there, from Ryan Garcia to Jose and Karlos, the Balderas brothers, to 2020 U.S. Olympian Marc Castro.
Raymond, or “Danger,” beat Garcia three times in the amateurs. In time, the Garcias became good friends with the Muratallas.
Raymond and Gabriel Jr. began boxing when they were seven and 10, respectively. Their boxing skills were more pronounced when Gabriel Sr., who’s also their trainer, found out a ring was for sale a year later.
Gabriel Sr. approached a woman from San Jacinto, Ca., who tried running a boxing tournament that fell through. A friend informed Gabriel Sr. that she was selling the ring. Gabriel Sr. offered to buy it, but the woman, who was familiar with Gabriel Jr. and Raymond on the Southern California amateur circuit, wound up donating the ring to the Muratallas.
It took a month for Gabriel Sr. to put it together, but once he did, it served as a magnet for the neighborhood kids and everyone else boxing around Fontana.
It’s where Raymond and Gabriel Jr., a 26-year-old who’s 2-0 as a junior featherweight, began falling in love with the sport.
“I remember when I was seven my dad signed me and my brother up for boxing, and at first, I’ll admit, I didn’t want to go,” Raymond says now, laughing. “At seven, I was into playing video games and you can say it’s pretty accurate that I went to the gym with my mom kicking and screaming.
“My mom was laughing at us that first day, because we didn’t know how to jump rope. We kept falling. But it opened a new world to us. Growing up, I kept to myself. Then, my dad built that ring in the backyard when I was around eight or nine.”
And Raymond began noticing something: He was winning amateur tournaments.
By 16, Danger was winning national events. What started as something he liked morphed into thoughts of a future profession.
Gabriel Sr., however, was reluctant to turn Raymond and Gabriel Jr. pro.
“We liked the amateurs and we went to fight at national tournaments with national belts, we were obsessed with that,” Gabriel Sr. said. “We traveled all over the world. But there were things we didn’t like that we were seeing. We talked about it and we went from there.”
“I’m the one who made the decision to go pro, and my dad and my family were the ones that fully supported me,” Raymond recalled.
His measured demeanor stems from his foundation. There’s not a style he hasn’t seen. When Raymond enters the ring, he brings a confidence that does not waver.
“From a young age, my dad always wanted me to be smart, to take less hits and be a counterpuncher,” Raymond said. “When I get into the ring, I lock in. I grew up with the mindset of outsmarting my opponents. I stay disciplined. I like to be comfortable at a certain weight, and I feel good at 135 pounds.”
Many fighters and gyms across the nation have been shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though, because of their backyard gym, the Muratallas spar against each other and are able to stay active.
Managed and co-trained by Robert Garcia, Raymond is aiming to fight a few more times before the end of the year, when the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. In the meantime, he is pursuing a college degree in criminal justice, possibly following his mother, Monica, who works for the Los Angeles County probation department.
Raymond has maintained a regimented schedule, getting up and eating at eight, after running, eating at 12, eating at six, sparring with Gabriel, where the brothers truly cultivate the best in each other, and is in bed by 10 p.m. every night.
And Gabriel Sr. keeps up with the ring. It’s survived weather and hundreds of fights. When the Muratallas would hold parties, the ring invariably drew everyone to it, wanting to get tested. There were many talented fighters that left the Muratalla backyard ring crying.
“I see a lot of these great fighters and I really think Raymond has the talent to beat them,” Gabriel Sr. said. “Raymond sees everything in slow motion, and that comes from God-given talent.
“Ever since he was little, when Raymond fights, he attracts attention. He and Gabriel, I don’t know what it is about their style, but the whole world shuts off. I’m not just saying that because they’re my sons. I just see Raymond getting better and better every time he fights. Brian McIntyre, Terence Crawford’s trainer, was one of the commentators for Raymond’s last fight, and said Raymond was beautiful to watch.
“I’m very proud of both of my sons. I don’t have to tell Raymond or Gabriel to work. They wake up in the morning and do everything on their own. They know what to do.”