Pechanga Boxing Show not your norm

For some, the most noteworthy attraction at Friday's boxing show at the Pechanga Casino & Resort were the gorgeous Ring Card Girls. Photo: Jim Wyatt

May West once said, “When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.” That statement doesn’t exactly encapsulate what happened at the Pechanga Casino & Resort Boxing Show but it’s a more lighthearted way of looking at the troubles that beset the promoter of Friday night’s boxing show.


In the past, whenever the Casino had such a show, you could be certain it was top shelf; tonight’s offering was anything but.

Even before the main event, the Dominic Salcido (18-3 9 KO’s) fight with Leon Bobo of St. Louis, Missouri (18-9-1, 2 KOs) had been cancelled, news came that the co-feature with Kaliesha West was pulled. Then came news the Salcido matchup with a boxer who hadn’t won a fight in three years, was going from a 10 rounder to a six rounder. The following day, that fight was cancelled leaving the appearance of a little known boxer from Emmanuel Steward’s Kronk gym in Detroit as the only attraction.

Unlike other managers/promoters, Emmanuel Steward has a history of putting the best interest of the fighter first. Back on April 8, 2000, Thomas Hearns is led out of the ring by his manager Steward after injuring his leg during a fight with Uriah Grant at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Allsport

“The Funniest Weatherman in Los Angeles,” according to the LA Times, Mark Kriski (R) of “KTLA Morning News” filled in as the ring announcer for two bouts. Kriski, who grew up in London, Ontario and now lives in the San Fernando Valley, is best remembered for playing a newscaster in over 10 feature films. In this photo he’s joined by Tony Harrison (C) and three time Golden Gloves Champion Eric De Leon (L). Photo: Jim Wyatt

Steward’s young gun, Jr. Middleweight sensation Tony Harrison (4-0, 4 KO’s) was all set to face Cleven Ishe (3-5, 1 KO) in a scheduled six rounder. On Thursday evening everything was going smoothly as both Harrison and Ishe weighed in at the same 153.5 pounds. According to Steward, Harrison, a tall rangy fighter is the second coming of Tommy Hearns.

“You know me,” said Steward, “I’m always looking for a puncher and there are not too many knockout fighters these days. There are very few fighters who let their punches go, and to me, I am a fight fan and there is nothing like watching a pure puncher. This kid is sparring with all the top fighters in training camp and I have yet to see anyone get the better of him. Tony is a very exciting fighter to watch. Every time he sparred with Wladimir Klitschko, the whole gym would stop to watch.”

Steward added, “He wants to fight a lot and it’s not easy to hold him back. A few fights fell out because people don’t want to fight him but we got him on this card at Pechanga and it’s a great chance for people to come out and see this kid. We got him in a six rounder but so far every fight has ended in one…so we will see. I will be there at Pechanga to be in Tony’s corner and I look forward to this fight in California, I hope we have a good turnout.”

The attendance for Friday’s show looked respectable but then came word Harrison’s opponent was a no show. Overnight, Ishe developed an abscessed tooth.

And now for the results of the abbreviated fight card that might be forever remembered as the Undercard Show:

Eduardo Hernandez (R) is shown taking a mean uppercut from Nicholas Balestra (L) in Bout #1.

Bout #1, a four rounder, featured super welterweights Eduardo Hernandez (0-1-1) of North Hollywood by way of Tijuana, B.C., Mexico going up against Nicholas “the Freak” Balestra (2-1-1) from our state capital, Sacramento. The brawlers battled to a draw.

Hernandez, the smaller of the two, has a granite chin and comes at you like a perpetual motion Army tank. With Balestra being seven inches taller than his opponent, Hernandez had few options and continually worked over Balestra’s midsection with his left hook.

Even though Balestra was in excellent shape, he lost his mouthpiece twice. He threw fewer, often slapping punches, but with better leverage. With the punches coming nonstop, the two men gave it everything they had and put on a commendable performance.

In their scheduled four rounder, lightweight Kevin Hoskins made quick work of Angel Torres scoring a TKO at 2:08 of round one. Photo: Jim Wyatt

In Bout #2, a scheduled four rounder, lightweight Kevin Hoskins (5-0, 4 KOs) destroyed Angel Torres (2-8-2, 1 KO) of Escondido by way of Yonkers, New York.

It’s not certain what we can deduce from this performance. For a guy who hadn’t fought in over a year, Hoskins looked good, mighty good. But then we should consider his opposition. To date, Hoskins’ opponents have a combined record of five wins, 20 losses and five draws and Friday’s opponent, Torres, had only two wins in a career spanning eight years.

Angel Torres (R) is seen receiving a pounding from his adversary, Kevin Hoskins (L).

From the opening bell, Hoskins used his stiff jab to score and keep his opponent at bay. Whenever he wanted, Hoskins moved in close to deliver the hard combinations.

After the punishment he received from Kevin Hoskins, Angel Torres is looked over by his corner help, Amaris Quintana, David Gutierrez and Juan Medina. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Then a hard left hook to the temple sent Torres to the canvas. The punch landed with so much force it seemed unlikely Torres would get up, but he did. Moments later, Hoskins caught him again, this time with a devastating uppercut, and down he went for a second time. He got up again.

After Hoskins backed Torres up against the ropes and proceeded to hit him with a barrage of punches, all Torres could do was hold his gloves up high in a tight guard. Since he wasn’t fighting back, referee Wayne Hedgpeth stepped in to wave off the bout at 2:08 of round one.

In a four rounder, Ulises Soriano (2-0) of Richmond, CA. won a mixed decision victory over Alonso Loeza (1-3-1, 1 KO) from Gilroy, CA. The judges’ final tally: Marty Denkin 40-36, Max DeLuca 39-37 and Carla Caiz 38-38.

In Bout #3, Alonso Loeza, seen here having his gloves removed, was in a nonstop battle with Ulises Soriano. Photo: Jim Wyatt

After defeating Alonso Loeza, Ulises Soriano (R) of Richmond, CA. has his arm raised in victory by Hall of Fame referee Pat Russell. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Ulises Soriano (L) is shown landing a solid left hook to the chin of Alonso Loeza (R) in Bout #3.

For this one, it appeared Soriano, a natural lightweight, had to put on some extra pounds to come up in weight to fight Loeza, a super lightweight. Throughout the match, Soriano was the sharper boxer while Loeza, not as accurate, seemed stronger and threw the heavier leather.

After Soriano clearly took Rounds one and two, late in the third round, he got caught by two right crosses that renewed the crowd’s attention. You could hear the chatter, “Hey, it’s looks like we’ve got ourselves a real battle brewing!”

That fan was right and Loeza began Round #4 with renewed interest, especially after landing a third right cross. But Soriano would not be denied and from deep down, he started returning fire to win this battle of power punching. Up till that final bell, the men kept pounding each other.

Bout #4 featured two ladies, Susanna Mellone (116 pounds) of Los Angeles by way of New York, N. Y. making her pro debut against 30 year-old Elizabeth Cervantes (113 pounds) of Palmdale, CA. (3-9-0, 1 KO) who last fought three and a half years ago.

On July 23, 2008, Cervantes fought Kaliesha West for the third time. In that bout, a Wednesday edition of ESPN Fights, West knocked her out at 55 seconds of the first round.

In the later rounds of Bout #4, Elizabeth Cervantes (R), shown here beating up Susanna Mellone (L), was in complete control. Photo: Jim Wyatt

For a fighter who has Lee Espinoza of Coachella Valley Boxing Club in her corner and been in the fight game for 10 plus years, Cervantes appears to have no concept of how a jab works. For the majority of the fight, her slow jab went three quarters of the way towards the target and stopped.

You could see Mellone had good boxing skills and indeed looked impressive as she kept coming forward to put pressure on her opponent. But this pressure only lasted for two rounds. Halfway through Round #3, you could see

Susanna Mellone (C) takes a moment for a photo with her coaches. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Here we have Elizabeth Cervantes (R), who bested Susanna Mellone in Bout #4, having her arm raised in victory by referee Wayne Hedgpeth. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Cervantes had taken control of the fight and started landing solid shots to Mellone’s head and midsection.

In the end, Cervantes got the win by split decision. Scores were 39-37, 39-37 for Cervantes from Caiz and Denkin and a 39-37 for Mellone from DeLuca who must have been watching a different fight.

At the end of the fourth bout, the show’s promoter Roy Engelbrecht and Emmanuel Steward entered the ring to explain the shortened, convoluted show. The new main event which was to feature Steward’s prized pupil Kronk boxer Tony Harrison was cancelled 30 minutes before it was supposed to go on when the commission’s doctor discovered Cleven Ishe’s face had swelled up from an abscessed tooth. There was no way the doctor could let Ishe fight because one punch to the jaw could rupture the abscess and possibly infect the boxer’s brain. Apologizing to the crowd, Steward stated this had never happened to him in his 50 years of boxing. He then expressed his desire to put on monthly fights at Pechanga because the area had demonstrated over and over again that it is a hotbed, a bastion of true boxing fans.

It appears making excuses for an abbreviated show isn't one of Emmanuel Steward's favorite things to do. To Steward's right, holding the microphone, is his top Junior Middleweight prospect, Tony Harrison. Photo: Jim Wyatt

It was one of those speeches where you end up asking the audience to give themselves some applause.

After receiving the approval of the crowd, Steward and the two boxers who accompanied him, departed the ring. Not one beer bottle was thrown. The uncomfortable apology was behind him.

Some of Walter "School Boy" Sarnoi's (L) punches were below the belt line. Perhaps he was trying to send Jose Miguel Cota (R) a message for his earlier infractions.

In the final bout of the evening, Thai-American featherweight Walter “School Boy” Sarnoi (10-2, 5 KOs), a pure boxer from Monterey Park, CA, was able to prevail over Jose Miguel Cota (8-6, 6 KOs) of Mexicali, Mexico who at times had to be warned for resorting to illegal tactics.

Sarnoi, coined “School boy” after earning an Associates Degree, Bachelor’s of Science degree in Finance and a Masters degree in Business Administration all before ever stepping into the ring, took his opponent to school. From the opening bell, Sarnoi proved he was the more accomplished boxer and used his left hooks to Cota’s midsection to slow him down.

You can forget his win/loss record, Jose Miguel Cota (shown here having his gloves removed) is one rough customer.

In round two Sarnoi went back to the jab and straight rights. Still, Cota, the stronger of the two, kept chasing after Sarnoi and backing him up. Cota clearly bested Sarnoi in Round #5. Then in round six, Sarnoi went back to the body to land the majority of his power shots. The two fighters continued their brawl right up until the final bell. All three judges gave Sarnoi the nod, 59-56, 58-56 and 58-56.

After his grueling battle, Walter "School Boy" Sarnoi (R) has his arm raised in victory by his coach and referee Pat Russell. Photo: Jim Wyatt

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