Athletes from the fighting sports who put San Diego on the map: Paul Vaden

Who better to begin our feature of recognizing the local athletes from the Fighting Sports who have put San Diego, Imperial and North Counties, plus Baja California on the world map?

Now 52 years of age, Paul “The Ultimate” Vaden has no intention of slowing down. On Friday afternoon Vaden and some friends celebrated his latest accolade. Nickey Rotten’s Bar & Burger Joint, a top Sports Bar in the affluent beach resort town of Coronado, wanted permission to hang this large recognition display piece on their wall alongside the sports jerseys of Baseball greats, Mike Piazza of the New York Mets/Los Angeles Dodgers and Tony Gwynn of the San Diego Padres. Just as they do in Chicago, Boston, Philly and New York, these trendy Sports Bars realize the benefit of associating themselves with a sports celebrity like Paul Vaden.

So, for those unfamiliar with his career, Paul “The Ultimate” Vaden, was a top super welterweight, who was inducted into the California Boxing Hall of Fame in 2009, the local Breitbard Hall of Fame in 2016 and the West Coast Boxing Hall of Fame in 2017.

Ever since Paul Vaden was four years old and saw his first Mohammad Ali fight on TV, he became enamored by the sport. He officially began to box at the allowable age of eight when his father enrolled him at the Jackie Robinson YMCA. Inspired by his one of a kind, hardworking, perfectionist Dad, plus impressionable teachers like Robert Coons, Vaden soon began to train like a Ninja Warrior and quickly learned that winning was all about having pride in what you do and nurturing this mindset to become the “Ultimate”.

Here we see the 10-year-old Paul Vaden hitting the heavy bag at the Jackie Robinson YMCA in San Diego in the same year in which he won the National Junior Golden Gloves.

Over the next 16 years, “Kid Ultimate” compiled an amateur record of 327 wins with just 10 losses and became the United States National Amateur light middleweight champ winning a bronze medal at the 1990 Goodwill Games. Despite being a top candidate to make the 1992 U.S. Olympic team, Vaden became impatient and turned Pro on April 5, 1991.

After his Professional Boxing successes led to the IBF Super Welterweight Crown in 1995, he soon had to face another dilemma which almost every pro boxer eventually faces. He had to re-examine his career after a loss. His first defeat came on December 16, 1995, a unanimous decision loss to “Terrible” Terry Norris. A second loss followed, an 11 round TKO loss to Keith Holmes which was the first stoppage loss of his career. Finally, on April 15, 2000, while defending his USBA Super Welterweight Title, he suffered a unanimous decision loss to Jose Flores. It was after this loss, that Paul decided to hang up the mitts.

As difficult as it may seem, Vaden went back to the drawing board and created an entirely different career. He’d become a guru of sorts, a life teacher, an inspirational speaker and often a corporate social worker. For the layman, this development was extraordinary, especially when you consider so many Professional boxers get their brains batted about by extremely hard blows to the head. Imagine, after competing in the sport for 23 long years, and having your arm raised in victory an amazing 356 times, that all came to a grinding halt. At this point, he began to work for Qualcomm, he worked in TV, on the Radio and partnered on a Podcast with his dear friend Gil Byrd, another World champion.

In between these many duties, Vaden Versus a short documentary film, directed by Brian Ducoffe, was made about his life. The film won the 2016 Platinum Reel Award at the Nevada Film Festival plus it was an official selection at the 2017 Newport Beach Film Festival. While giving his many inspirational talks to large corporations, he also authored a biography “Answer the Bell”. By this time, Paul had been all over the place inspiring folks and spreading his message.

At Friday’s affair, the Champ came front and center and mentioned he had a few things he wanted to say to his dear friends and then went on to thank everyone, especially those who were directly or perhaps indirectly responsible for his success. Soon enough he got around to his first boxing coach Robert Coons and introduced him to the crowd. From that point on, the assembled will likely never forget the way Robert “What a Memory” Coons took center stage and shared one amusing anecdote after another.

“And then there was the time …” It was the moment everyone dreads when your former coach gets an opportunity to poke fun at every one of your childhood foibles. Every embarrassing thing you did and wanted to be forgotten was exposed and all were having a rollicking good time at the good-natured Paul Vaden’s expense.
With the Championship Belts on display, these two gentlemen (l to r) Lou Messina, Borizteca Boxing Promotions Co-Promoter and VP of Global Sports Streaming Live, along with well respected trainer Sugar Ray Holden who’s now planning to open up his own gym, assured Paul Vaden they would keep a close eye on his trophies.
Paul Vaden was all smiles with his good friend Tony Finn.
Next, we see Paul Vaden with the Soliven brothers, David and Dale.
To the left of Paul Vaden, we have Dorian Drake Jr. who from the looks of that clenched fist can surely take care of himself.
Good friend Mike Miller (c) was there. He has his arms around both Paul and we can only hope is his lovely wife.
More friends gather for a photo with their good friend Paul Vaden. (left) Eric Ripley and (far right) Robin Silva.
Two more buddies include Bill Sandke (c) and Bryn Andrew (r).
Obviously a good friend, we never did get this gentleman’s name.
(top, left) We have Marie L. Hawkins with Carlos Gutierrez, then Patrick G. and Kelli Yount, followed by the Inca Queen Patty Alcas-Crain (l) and Becky Cortez (c) with Sean McParland, (bottom, left) we have Jeffrey and Violette Jackson, David Jaffe and Mike Miller. (bottom, right) Lou Messina, Dale Soliven and Sugar Ray Holden.
Paul Vaden stands between the lovely Martha Gurrola Morais and Drew Moser who kind of reminds you of that comedienne on SNL.
Super welterweight Esteban “El Chucky” Garcia (10-0, 6 KOs) from The Jab Boxing Club in East Lake made his introduction to the Champ. He will be fighting on January 25, 2019, in Tijuana at the Grand Hotel Tijuana. His roommate’s name is Kevin Torres.
Back in the day, 7 years ago to be exact, Gaby Romero (c) trained with the Bomber Squad when located at the Undisputed Fitness Gym on Main Street in El Cajon. At that time, she fought for the winning “Team Unified” in the Battle of the Badges at the Barona Casino. Fast forward: She’s now in the U. S. Navy, happily married and stationed at 32nd Street. The former star athlete is flanked by Joe Stidman, owner of Heartland Meats and Paul Vaden.
Here we see the Champ with his good friend Karen Van Dyke.
Like the Champ, Robert Coons, the life of the party, Vaden’s first boxing coach and USIAA National Director, was in demand to pose for multiple photos. The top photo is with promoter Lou Messina and the bottom is with movie star Martha Gurrola Morais.
Paul Vaden gets into a meaningful exchange with Jim Stroesser.
Becky Cortez was all smiles for her photo with the Champ.
Unable to get this gentleman’s name.
Nicky Rottens is an ideal spot for lunch with that out-of- town guest who is hoping to take a great photo of the San Diego skyline.
Photo op: The former San Diego Charger linebacker and now Channel 7 Sportscaster Jim Laslavic (r) was also in demand. Laz has been a part of the San Diego sports scene since 1978; first, as a Charger and then after retiring from the NFL, a sports anchor and reporter hosting NBC 7’s Sports Wrap Sundays following the late news and Football Night in San Diego following the Sunday Night game. A graduate of Etna High School in Pittsburgh, Laz is a member of both the local Shaler Area High School Sports Hall of Fame plus the Western Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. His jersey #33 was retired. A graduate of Penn State, he played for legendary coach Joe Paterno. A multiple local Emmy winner, Laz can also be heard doing morning sports on KPRI radio and hosts the pregame show on Rock 105.3. Jim and his wife Susan live in Coronado and have two children.
More celebrities: Here we see Paul with NBC Channel 7’s glamorous meteorologist Sheena Parveen and Jim Laslavic. Born and raised in Florida, Parveen, a graduate of Florida State, is a relative newcomer to San Diego after first working in Florida, then transferring to NBC10 Philadelphia, then on to Washington D. C.’s Channel 4, before landing here with San Diego’s Channel 7.
Not supposed to happen but Paul Vaden and I go back a long way and my buddy made certain I got to be in one of the photos.
You talk about having a busy schedule! The following day Paul Vaden, a Breitbard Hall of Fame honoree, had to be with the following gentlemen at Petco Park for the unveiling of the Fowler Family Awards Center inside Petco Park. Fellow attendees included Bill Johnston Chargers/Padres Advisor/Executive, Ex-Cleveland Browns/SDSU quarterback/coach Brian Sipe, Padre relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman, former SDSU Basketball Coach Steve Fisher, Padres shortstop Gary Templeton, Charger wide receiver Charlie Joiner and Charger placekicker Rolf Benirschke, plus recent Hall of Fame inductee Detroit Tigers Shortstop Alan Trammell. Since I could only name nine of the 12 people in the photo – help!
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