On Friday, February 24th, we had choices: live boxing at Pechanga or Tijuana or watch at home

On Friday, February 24th, the Showtime Championship Boxing announcing team of (l to r) Steve Farhood, Barry Tompkins, and former boxing great Raul Marquez were at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula hosting their latest boxing show. Tompkins, a 40-year TV network veteran, is a four-time Emmy Award winner plus Boxing Hall of Fame inductee. Photo: Jim Wyatt

On Friday evening, February 24th, local boxing fans had a plethora of choices. They could have headed north for 61 miles to the Pechanga Resort & Casino to see a live Boxing show promoted by Showtime Championship Boxing and boxing great Floyd Mayweather Jr. or they could have simply sat at home and waited to watch the delayed broadcast which aired later that evening. They could have also headed 25 miles south to Tijuana to see the latest offering from the Borizteca Boxing Management Group at the Salon Mezzanine or likewise stayed at home and watched those fights stream Live on Global Sports Streaming or even yet wait to see a delayed broadcast on Channel 19.


With an opportunity to meet the great Floyd Mayweather Jr., this boxing scribe decided to travel north to Temecula which took a lot longer than expected. With heavy traffic, it took almost three hours. And, unlike other shows where the Media is permitted to take photos of the live action, these privileges were not on the table for this seven bout show. Like an uncover agent, the photos below had to be taken covertly.

In Bout #1 at Pechanga, they had middleweight Oluwafemi Oyeleye (1-0) from Lagos, Nigeria taking on Adan Ahumada (0-1) from Reynosa, Mexico in a four rounder. In the end, all three judges had Oyeleye winning every round (40-36 three times) in a rout. Bout #2 featured a seesaw battle between welterweights Sanjarbek Rakhmanov (6-0-1) from Andijan, Uzbekistan and Jose Marrufo (9-5-2) from Phoenix, Arizona. With the decision still in doubt, the two men went at it hot and heavy in the 8th and final round. All three judges awarded Rakhmanov the win, 76-74, 77-73 and 78-72.

In Bout #3, we saw welterweight Cameron Kreal (10-12-2, 1 KO) from Las Vegas, Nevada earn himself a TKO victory over Todd Manuel (12-13-1, 1 KO) of Rayne, Louisiana.

The end for Todd Manuel (red gloves) came at the 2:59 mark of round three after Kreal (l) landed his devastating uppercut to drop Manuel to the canvas.

Bout #4, the final bout of the preliminaries featured a 10 round light heavyweight bout between Lionell Thompson (17-4, 10 KOs) the five time New York State Golden Gloves Champion from Buffalo, New York versus Steve Lovett from New South Wales, Australia (15-1, 12 KOs). After running our background checks, we discovered Lovett’s record was inflated while Thompson had fought whomever they placed in front of him … tough hombres like Sergey Kovalev, Radivoje Kalajdzic, Paul Parker and Ryan Coyne.

After throwing mostly counters and measuring distance early on, Thompson stepped it up and soon had Lovett’s head snapping back and blood appeared from a gash over his left eye. As this one-sided affair continued you figured someone from Lovett’s corner would throw in the towel. That obligation fell on an official who dutifully got up from his seat, climbed the stairs and told referee Eddie Hernandez Sr. to stop the bout. Thompson was your winner by TKO at the 2:40 mark of round four.

It was around this time that the sizable Floyd Mayweather Jr. entourage made their entrance into the Ballroom and the audience immediately reached for their cell phones to snap a photo. In regards to the seating arrangements, Mayweather sat front row center with three lovely lassies to his right and three more to his left with family members and close friends scattered about. There were roughly 8 to 10 bodyguards watching over Mr. Mayweather, the most famous, the most successful, and the most highly regarded boxer of our day.

“Slap me high, slap me down low!” (top, left) We see the hip Steve Farhood slapping five with the celebrated Floyd Mayweather Jr.

If you look close, you’ll be able to spot Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the crowd.

Since one of Mayweather’s top prospects, Andrew Tabiti was up next and the Showtime production crew had begun their countdown, it didn’t take long before everyone, including the Mayweather group, had settled into their seats to await the ring announcer’s introductions.

An interesting perspective to discover what really goes on in a fight is to listen to what the combatants have to say immediately following their win or loss. Below we have the boxers’ quotes immediately following Bout #5 between cruiserweight Andrew “The Beast” Tabiti from the Mayweather stable (14-0, 12 KOs, 196.2 lbs.) and his opponent Quantis Graves from Beaumont, Texas (11-1-2, 4 KOs, 198.8 lbs.).

Tabiti: “As soon as I got in the ring, I knew it was game over for him. Figuring out his game plan was easy money. The only thing I feel I could have done better was get him out of the fight quicker. He was talking a lot before the fight, but I didn’t let that get in my head. I just came out and did what I was supposed to do. I think I had a pretty good performance tonight. There’s definitely things I could tune up on. I wouldn’t grade myself as an A plus, but I know what I gotta fix in my next fight and the only thing I can do at this point is get back in the gym with my team and continue getting ahead in my division.”

Graves: “Tabiti is very fast. I’ve been boxing for 19 years and I’ve never fought anyone as fast as him.” Enough said.

Simply put, Mr. Tabiti (black trunks) is a beast and his jab hit Graves so hard it reminded you of the striking force behind the battering rams the DEA uses to open a drug dealer’s bolted-shut door. Photos: Esther Lin/Showtime

Referee Ray Corona (r) raises the arm of the victorious Andrew Tabiti after his destruction of Quantis Graves of Beaumont, Texas. Off to the left, we see Las Vegas promoter Leonard Ellerbe dressed in Military attire.

Members of the Tabiti support group to include trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr., (second from the left) join Tabiti in the ring after his impressive win.

Bout #6 featured the 29-year-old, 5’5″ tall lightweight Oscar Bravo (23-6, 11 KOs) from Santiago de Chile, Chile taking on local favorite 23-year-old, 5’8″ tall Saul Rodriquez (20-0-1, 15 KOs) from nearby Riverside, Calif.

At the outset, the bout between Saul Rodriguez (right) and Oscar Bravo (left) appeared to be a mismatch and in rounds two through four Rodriguez seemed content to do just enough to insure the points lead to win each round.

Then, midway through their match, the Chilean underdog (r) began to make some headway as if he were a dark horse about to win the Kentucky Derby.

In round five, Oscar Bravo surprised Saul Rodriguez with a left hook to the chin, followed by a straight right, which sent Rodriguez falling backwards into the neutral corner. With this knockdown and Bravo’s confidence level peaking, many in the crowd began to cheer for the underdog.

Whatever advice or encouragement Saul Rodriguez received between rounds, it worked. He went right back to exchanging leather with the tough, plodding Oscar Bravo for the remainder of the bout. By showing his supporters how he can take a punch and regroup, no doubt his fan base has grown.

The pre-fight fun and games of staring your opponent down: Just as he did at Thursday’s weigh-in, Justin DeLoach (l) is shown giving Chris Pearson (r) this nonchalant look which agitated the dickens out of Pearson. DeLoach’s repertoire went from insensible to stoic, attentive to callous. After DeLoach saw the displeasure in Pearson’s face, you half expected DeLoach to cross his eyes. Photos: Esther Lin/Showtime Boxing

The bout, scheduled to go 10 rounds, ended at the 2:30 mark of round number two. Photos: Esther Lin/Showtime Championship Boxing

The fighters’ thoughts after Bout #7, Justin DeLoach versus Chris Pearson:

Justin Deloach: “I’m not surprised that it happened so quickly. We had a strategy and we stuck to it. Hard work pays off and that was proof. I didn’t think I was an underdog, but I understand the whole thing of psychological warfare. I always go into the ring like I am on top no matter what. I’m going to stay in the gym, but I’m going to go home, sit back and turn on PBC tomorrow night and watch Harrison and Hurd. I want to fight the winner of Harrison and Hurd. I feel great. I am emotional right now. I come from a small city and my mom is here and she’s in tears. Seeing my mom and my family here. I am just so proud.”

Chris Pearson: “I felt lackluster. He came out, was explosive and kept busy. He didn’t do anything, I didn’t expect. Things happened the way they did. You gotta take the good with the bad. He hit me in the eye which got me a bit disoriented. He fought like I thought he would. He did what he had to do. His performance didn’t surprise me.”

Attendees of note at Friday’s boxing show at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula: (l to r) Elie Seckbach from EsNewsReporting, boxer/trainer Rey Gamez, undefeated boxer Genaro Gamez with friend, undefeated boxer Gabriel Hernandez and also Oliver Bascos from ESNews. Photo: J. Wyatt

The competing show in Tijuana, Mexico

Maurice “Mighty Moe” Hooker is shown using his stiff jab to keep the veteran Cristobal Cruz at a safe distance. Photo: Stacey Verbeek

Across the border, down Mexico way, at the Borizteca Boxing Management Group’s latest show at the Salon Mezzanine in Tijuana, Maurice “Mighty Moe” Hooker (22-0-3, 16 KOs) from Dallas, Texas, won his bout against the former IBO & IBF featherweight titleholder Cristobal Cruz (41-21-4). Some people claimed that the win is nothing to toot your horn about, especially since Hooker benefitted big time from both his height and reach advantage, while Cruz spent much of his time trying to get inside Hooker’s restrictive defense. The scores from Hooker’s 10-round unanimous decision victory read: 100-90 and 99-91 twice for Hooker.

Ever since Hooker ended up with that split decision draw in November versus Darleys Perez (33-2-1) at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for the WBO/NABO super lightweight title, he’s had nothing but bad luck finding an opponent. He even started pleading with his manager that he’ll fight anyone at any time because he’s gotten desperate to prove his worth by fighting someone of note. It’s been one crazy thing after another. For example: Hooker signed to fight Saturday, February 25, 2017 at the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, on the undercard of that Miguel Cotto versus James Kirkland Pay-Per-View event promoted by Rock Nation. Hooker’s opponent that night was to be knockout artist Juan Pablo “Che Che” Lopez (29-3, 24 KOs). After that show was cancelled three weeks ago due to Kirkland suffering a fractured nose in training, critics started saying the show wasn’t going to be that good anyway. Rock Nation, the promoter, would certainly disagree with that notion. They had their fight card loaded with talent. They had the 27-year-old Hooker who is ranked No. 4 by the IBF and No. 3 by the WBO. They had Jessie Magdaleno (24-0, 17 KOs), Guillermo Rigondeaux (17-0, 11 KOs) plus Diego De La Hoya (16-0, 9 KOs) on the same fight card. Hooker’s next opponent pulled out of their scheduled bout just three days before the show. That’s why Hooker ended up traveling to San Diego and then Tijuana to fight late replacement, 39-year-old Cristobal Cruz, a gent who has only two wins over last eight years. Coincidentally, Cruz, from Tijuana, had already been training for a fight in the United States on that very same night and ended up being denied entry into the United States. 

When comparing Maurice “Mighty Moe” Hooker to Cristobal Cruz, thoughts of Shaquille O’Neil boxing Gary Colemen come to mind. Cruz is so short, he had no shot of hitting Hooker in the face – maybe the knee but not the face.

Also on that Maurice Hooker fight-card, they had super bantamweight Juan Miranda (0-0) from San Diego winning in his debut by knocking out Jose Ruelas (0-1) from Mexicali at the 1:07 mark of round one. In Bout #2, it was super lightweight Andres “El Papas” Diaz (0-1) from San Diego, scoring a first round KO victory over Carlos Flores (0-1) from Camulu, B. C., Mexico. In Bout #3, they had San Diego’s Jorge Escalante (7-0-1, 5 KOs) stopping Fernando Lopez (0-0) at the 1:44 mark of round one. In Bout #4, it was Adrian Gutierrez from Chula Vista, Calif. (2-0, 2 KOs) scoring what else, a knockout of Ramiro Rosales who now drops to (0-7, a seven time knockout victim). In Bout #5, it was Elias Diaz (2-0) from Chula Vista with a first round knockout of Rene Naranjo (0-1) from Mexicali, B. C., Mexico. In Bout #6, it was Ricardo “The Blessed” Valdovinos (3-0) knocking out Jose Luis Leal (1-1) at the 1:58 mark of round one. In Bout #7, it was Mario “Guero” Ramirez (3-1) from Camulu, B. C., Mexico in a four rounder coming away with a unanimous decision victory of Elias Pacheco (0-4). Then, we have Armando Tovar in Bout #8 improving to (6-1, 5 KOs) after stopping Julio Figueroa (0-4) in round three. Bout #9 was actually a tough fight in which the 20-year-old Roberto Meza of Temecula, Calif., now (6-0 with 3 KOs), went the full six rounds to earn a unanimous decision victory over Omar Aguilar (4-10-1). 

Helping with the announcing/blow by blow/color commentating duties, Borizteca had boxers Kevin Ottley (c) from the Bomber Squad Academy, El Cajon, Calif. and Simon Torres (r) from the House of Boxing, Paradise Hills, San Diego, Calif. working with the lovely Shary Sarmiento (l) from Tijuana.

To close out the show, there was a film crew there to shoot a movie featuring Roman Mendez (0-12) from Tijuana taking on Zachary Wohlman (9-2-1) from El Monte, Calif. The theme of the movie? How professional boxers come to Mexico to fight scrub boxers in order to build up their records. Interesting plot but surely this is a myth.

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