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The Avila Perspective, Chapter 31: Hollywood Swinging Again and More

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  • The Avila Perspective, Chapter 31: Hollywood Swinging Again and More

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    By David A. Avila

    In a place once famous for staging some of the best entertainment during World War II, prizefighting returns to the saloon of the Hollywood stars.

    360 Promotions brings back its boxing series on Sunday Jan. 27, with former titlist Maricela “La Diva” Cornejo (12-3) facing Erin “Steel” Toughill (7-3-1) in the main event at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood. It will be streamed live on page.

    The last time Cornejo stepped in the boxing ring she battled for the WBC super middleweight world title and lost to Franchon Crews-Dezurn by decision. Since that moment in September 2018, she dropped down to super welterweight at 154 pounds.

    “I feel stronger and comfortable,” said Cornejo, 31, who is originally from the state of Washington.

    On the opposite corner will be Toughill, who though not boxing since 2006, has been busy in mixed martial arts and fought in 14 MMA bouts. Whether fighting or training throughout the years she’s always been in the gym.

    Over the years I’d run into Toughill, especially in Huntington Beach. I remember seeing her fight Laila Ali on TV and Kuulei Kupihea at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello, Calif. She just loved competitive fighting.

    It’s been a few years since Toughill has boxed, but she’s someone who fought Dakota Stone and Jacqui Frazier-Hyde the daughter of the great Joe “Smokin” Frazier. Staying in shape was never a problem for the 41-year-old Orange County fighter.

    Cornejo, 31, has shifted to Hollywood for training because of involvement in a Hollywood movie with actress Gina Rodriguez. She also teaches boxing to a small group and is training with the father of David Benavidez and Jose Benavidez.

    As she worked with about a half dozen students at the City of Angels Boxing Club near downtown L.A. she looked very slim and energetic. Dropping down in weight can be a tricky endeavor but last week boxing fans saw Amanda Serrano drop from 140 to 115 and obliterate an Austrian girl in less than a minute.

    Tom Loeffler, the head of 360 Promotions, never staged mismatched fights especially with female bouts. Remember the two upsets by Mexican girls over Louisa Lawton?

    “Uninformed people don’t realize how competitive this fight is going to be,” said Loeffler, one of the top promoters in the world. “Erin Toughill is very confident in this fight and she has always stayed active even if she hasn’t been in the boxing ring for a while.”

    A number of young guns also fill the fight card at the Avalon including New York’s Brian Ceballo (6-0) meeting Randy Fuentes (8-7-1) in a welterweight clash set for six rounds.

    Another youngster set for action is George Navarro (pictured) who lives in nearby Huntington Park but trains at the Wild Card in Hollywood. He’s been fighting for 13 years as both an amateur and professional.

    “I just have a passionate love to fight,” says Navarro, 21, who fights at super flyweight but will be at bantamweight for this fight against Anthony Torres of Visalia. “I want to start my own era.”

    Years ago Hollywood stars would arrive at the same saloon to raise money for the war. That era has long gone but now stars come to see boxing on a regular basis at the Avalon.

    Doors open at 3 p.m. For tickets go to this link:

    Riverside Roustabout

    An army of fighters are gathering in the hills of Riverside, California for upcoming fights this weekend and the next month when Abner Mares, Jose Carlos Ramirez, and Genaro Gamez and Saul Rodriguez hit the road for ring wars in the next few weeks.

    Josesito Lopez (36-7, 19 KOs) spearheads the warrior force that train at Robert Garcia Boxing Academy. Lopez faces WBA welterweight titlist Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) on Saturday Jan. 26, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Fox will televise live.

    It’s especially appropriate that the 34-year-old veteran Lopez opens up with his cannons. The Riverside native was one of the first waves of fighters from the area that has grown from two boxing gyms to more than 12 gyms.

    Back in the 1990s the city famous for oranges and the historic Mission Inn was still a sleepy town. Guys like Lopez, Chris Arreola and Mark Suarez were part of a wave of young boxers trained by the now departed Andy Suarez at Lincoln Boxing Club.

    When Suarez passed away in March 2006 a void was left for a short while but the spark he made at the tiny gym has become a firestorm for prizefighting. Lopez is one of his former students and all of those Suarez disciples were taught to fight with heart or go home.

    The skinny as a rail Lopez has always had that easy going demeanor that fools people into thinking he’s a softy. Those that faced him found out otherwise. Nobody ever had an easy fight with Lopez. You can ask Victor Ortiz, Marcos Maidana or Andre Berto if Lopez was an easy touch. He was about as harmless as a lit stick of dynamite.

    Years ago, Edwin Valero was the most dangerous man alive. The Venezuelan knocked out 27 out of 27 who faced him. Even in sparring the super featherweight assassin took no pity on people entering the boxing ring. On one particular sparring session Valero knocked out five consecutive opponents within seconds. He could whack and he liked whacking guys unconscious.

    Then, they motioned for Josesito Lopez to get in the ring as if sentencing him for electrocution. The skinny Riverside fighter calmly entered through the ropes and methodically sparred two rounds, then four rounds then six rounds with the remorseless Valero. Lopez was the only one not rendered unconscious that day.

    Some of you may not know Valero but the super featherweight world champion was one of the most feared fighters in three weight classes. He allegedly committed suicide after killing his wife in 2010.

    Lopez has faced killers in and out of the ring. Now after all these years he faces yet another heavy-hitter.

    “There are a lot of people that don’t understand the ins and outs and what I bring to the table,” said Lopez. “To a lot of people it’s going to come as a surprise.”

    Thurman has been out of action for two years and that can only mean hunger.

    “It’s great to be back. I’m looking forward to this fight 22 months in the making,” said Thurman. “It’s going to be a great show and I‘m happy to be here.”

    Another Riverside Kid in Action in Houston

    Also on Saturday Jan. 26, about 1,630 miles west of Brooklyn, a Golden Boy Promotions fight card features another Riverside trained fighter Vergil Ortiz Jr. (11-0, 11 KOs) fighting Mexican veteran Jesus Valdez Barrayan (23-4-1, 12 KOs) in a super lightweight scrap. DAZN will stream the fight card from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

    Ortiz, 20, is a native of Dallas, Texas but trains with Robert Garcia in Riverside. So far the thin framed football loving prizefighter has been stopping guys colder than a blindside shot from a Cowboy safety.

    The feature card showcases Mexico’s young super welterweight world champion Jaime Munguia (31-0, 26 KOs) defending the WBO world title against Japan’s Takeshi Inoue (13-0-1, 7 KOs).

    Munguia is a long-armed slugger whose best defense is those unpredictable wallops he throws from weird angles at absurd times. He willingly accepts two of yours for one of his in any exchange. So far he’s gambled correctly.

    Japan’s Inoue isn’t coming all the way to Texas to lose. Fighters from Japan are in many ways like those from Mexico. They refuse to quit. A number of Japanese fighters have come to America and returned with straps like Masayuki Ito. He did a number on Chris Diaz in Florida and captured the WBO super featherweight title last year.

    It’s never a sure thing when it comes to Mexican or Japanese fighters.

    Another world title bout on the DAZN card features Puerto Rico’s Jesus M. Rojas (26-2-2, 19 KOs) defending the WBA featherweight strap against China’s Can Xu (15-2, 2 KOs) in a 12 round world title bout.

    Last August, Rojas suffered a loss against Jojo Diaz in a riveting slugfest in Los Angeles, Calif. Though he lost the fight, he kept the title because Diaz was overweight and ineligible to fight for the title.

    Rojas is a tough customer but has problems with boxers like Xu. But can the Chinese fighter keep Rojas off of him? The Puerto Rican fighter is like a human avalanche; he just keeps coming with blows. DAZN will stream all of the fights live.

    Fights to Watch

    Jan. 26, Saturday 5 p.m. FOX Keith Thurman vs. Josesito Lopez; Tugstsogt Nyambayar vs. Claudio Marrero; Adam Kownacki vs. Gerald Washington.

    Jan. 26, Saturday 6 p.m. DAZN streaming Jaime Munguia vs Takeshi Inoue; Jesus Rojas vs. Can Xu; Vergil Ortiz Jr. vs. Jesus Valdez Barrayan.

    Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel