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Arizona Remembers Ali, Stone Update & Iron Boy MMA

Arizona Boxing News & Notes With Don Smith

Boxing Fans,3 time world heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Alidied on Friday, May 3 at a Phoenix area hospital as a result of respiratory issues complicated by Parkinson’s disease, a debilitating affiliation he battled courageously for 32 years. In the ring “The Greatest” compiled a 56-5 record, before ending his ring exploits with a 56-5 record and two consecutive defeats at the hands Trevor Berbick and Larry Holmes.


In searching for people who met Ali after he moved to Arizona for special medicaltreatment, we knocked on the door of veteran boxing coach Tom Garcia who met Ali twice in the 1990’s.  I was aware that Tom had talked to CNN and 3 local network affiliates about his meeting Ali at Central Boxing Gym in Phoenix and the two men exchanged words in Show Low Arizona.  Garcia’s recollection mirrored opinions of others who met or mingled with the Champ.  Tom said he recalled Ali as boastful in public and soft spoken when he approached people on a personal basis. Remember, Ali was a very sick man when he moved to Arizona in the 80’s. Still, I am surprised the cityof Phoenix or Scottsdale didn’t stage a memorial or tribute after his passing.  I called Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton’s office and he didn’t return my call.

Dr. Abraham Lieberman knew Ali well. During the early stages of his battle with the progressive movement disorder, it was the Arizona physician who convinced Muhammad to lend his name and his efforts to the creation of the renowned Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix, Arizona.  He did so with the penning of a poem that moved Ali to say yes.  I have taken the liberty to reprint the last two stanzas of Lieberman’s poem and added a post script. “You (Ali) have the ability to help people with Parkinson and you must meet this challenge. When you go to your grave, as we all must; it will not be enough that you were the greatest champion in history if Parkinson disease lives on. Let Muhammad Ali be known, not as the man who  floored Sonny Liston, a sledge hammer could have done that; but, as the man who buried Parkinson Disease-only the  Greatest could do that.” Post Script:  an estimated 7-10 million people worldwide suffer from Parkinson Disease and although the champ lost his battle with Parkinson, his courage and fight will always be remembered.

I have 4 personal memories of Ali. In 1964 a night before he (then known as Cassius Clay) fought Sonny Liston, I was approached by someone who wanted to bet on the fight. I wagered on Clay for $10.00 at 10-1 odds. I didn’t have $10.00 so I was relieved when I found out that Clay had scored a TKO victory over the overwhelming favorite. The win meant I didn’t have to apply for a passport, pack a bag or leave America.  I recall he paid me with 5 twenty dollar bills and I walked down the street to a fast food joint as if I was a millionaire.

The Second Memory:Later in the same year, Clay changed his name to Ali and told the world his new faith (Muslim) would prevent him from serving in the military. He didn’t have any problems with the Vietnamese people r government.   At the same time, my dear Uncle Sam was trying to deliver a draft notice to me; but, my constant moving made it difficult. When I did receive notice, it was six months late and was postmarked with four different addresses.  I feared prosecution; so I joined while Ali faced persecution and ridicule. I would eventually spend 13 months in Vietnam; but, I never resented the Champ’s decision and in retrospect, our presence in Southeast Asia was a horrible mistake that took the life of more than 58,000 American soldiers and civilians.

The Story Continues: In the early seventies I was working as a paid staff reporter for the Eastfield Era, my college newspaper, and one of my assignments was to cover the appearance of Muhammad Ali who flew into Dallas, Texas to support Dallas Cowboy running back Duane Thomas. The young athlete   had converted to Islam and was also a training camp holdout which troubled the conservative and impatient Cowboy management.  He praised Thomas for the courage of is convictions while the Cowboys saw Thomas as a continuing problem (moody & temperamental) so they traded him. The former West Texas RB had one outstanding year with the cowpokes and his remaining three years were mediocre at best.

Ali Appearance: After his move to Arizona, Ali would occasionally appear at for fee public signings and one of the signings was held at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. Ali and Joe Namath were the featured signers. I paid $100.00 for Namath’s signature and was about to pay the same for Ali’s until I noticed the trembling of his hands.  I left the venue out of respect for the man and his remarkable career; farewell champ and thank you for standing up for what is right.

Stone Update & More:  ABNN, in our last column, reported that former Arizona boxing mentor Damien Stone’s trial date was set for June 1 at Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix; that date has been amended to June 13, 2016.  For our new readers, Stone was arrested for soliciting sexual favors from an undercover female police officer in 2016.

After a study of the evidence, USA Boxing Arizona placed restrictions on Stone and advised him to abstain from training minors or associate with children at a boxing setting. The 42 year old parent has disregarded USA Boxing Arizona’s ruling and continued to show up at local and out of state boxing facilities frequented by amateur boxers under the age of 18. Arizona Boxing News & Notes became a whistleblower when we were advised that he was running ads to recruit potential students of all ages for the purpose of training them in his home. It has been more than 2 years since his arrest and the Arizona Boxing community is sitting on pins and needles awaiting the verdict; unfortunately, the wheels of justice move painfully slow.

The Race is on:Arizona State Senator Catherine Miranda (D-District 27) attended Iron Boy’s MMA show at the Celebrity Theatre and the incumbent Senator is running for re-election in district 27 against her step-daughter, Maritza Miranda Saenz.  The Senator described her prospects of winning as good.  To suggest that there is bad blood between the two women would be naïve given the array of substantiated and published reports available to readers who want to research the origin of a real “family feud or novella as one local writer describes the friction between the two women.

Maritza, official CEO of Bout Maker Boxing Promotions has moved away from boxing operations, for the time being, to concentrate on her political run and she told me she is buoyed by the support she is receiving and expects to win the seat.

I talked to Senator Miranda (at the MMA event) and reminded her that I had contacted her (in 2014) to find out if she endorsed or was involved in the operation of the then named  Ben Miranda Boxing Promotions company and she made it clear that she had nothing to do with BMBP. After what was termed political pressure, Ms. Saenz changed the name of her company after some complaints were made public over what was characterized as inappropriate “commercial” use of her late  father’s name. Mr. Miranda served in the Arizona State Legislature for a long time and some of his colleagues were upset at the branding of his name even though he was a huge boxing fan; the civil rights advocate and attorney passed in 2013. Catherine is the slightfavorite; but, Maritza is a very good counterpuncher.

Iron Boy MMA 1: I caught up with Roberto Vargas after his first MMA (6/4) at the Celebrity Theatre was in the can and he was upbeat and plans to present MMA 2 on August 6th at the same venue. The numbers were good for his first MMA effort, an estimated 1,400 attended the show and it was entertaining and the majority of the fans stayed until the last submission.  In total, 7 bouts were held with 4 amateur bouts and 3 professional matches.

Here are the results: Christian Natividad won by submission over Lance Peterson in the third round.  John Archuleta applied a choke hold t gain a submission victory over Rick Cervantes. Daniel Flores went 3 rounds with Anthony Chavez to win a unanimous victory. Aggressive Daniel Peru scored a 1st round TKO victory over Ray Vaiza from New Mexico.

After a lengthy intermission, Tempe fighter scored his first professional victory with aa second round TKO victory over Rudy Ramirez. Tough Mike Hamel ran his record to 2-0 with a 1st round TKO victory over Kasey Yates from New Mexico. In the finale, Richard Palencia upped his record to 2-0 with a second round submission victory over a game Misael Chacon who also boxes. Ralph Velez served as the official announcer for the evening. Special thanks to Roberto Vargas for allowing friends of Ely Omega to stage a fundraiser at the event; unfortunately it was only announced once during the evening. Boxer Arturo won the grand raffle prize, a gift basket donated by Twin Peaks, a popular sports bar & restaurant located on Camelback Road in Phoenix, Arizona. Omega friends plan to hold another benefit sometime next month.

San Luis Tournament: A boxing tournament was held in San Luis Arizona on Saturday, June 4 and here are the names of the winners and their boxing affiliation. Pedro Arenas (United Boxing), Anthony Gronich (Calexico Boxing Academy), Carlos Garcia (Mexacali), Elijah Garcia (Hammer Boxing), Angel Beltran (Mexacali), Eduardo Lopez (?), Anthony Clark (San Luis), Jesse Guillen (?), Eduardo Bernardino (la Gente Boxing), Axel Aragon Vega (Mexicali), Irving Aragn Reyes (Mexicali), Andre Ayon Sanchez (Mexicali),  Daryon Salazar  (Millers Boxing), Jacob Girardo (Hammer Boxing), Angel Soto (Mexicali), Dominic Rodriguez Indio Boys & Girls), Roxana Ortiz (SAL Heber Boxing), Ruben Rodriguez (Indio Boys & Girls), Anthony Reyes (Coachella Boxing Club), Francisco Cantabrana (Mexicali), Adrian Rodriguez (unattached), Cruz Miranda (Millers Boxing Club), Ricardo Aguirre (?), Santiago Renteria (San Luis), Bogar Padilla (Mexicali), Angel Quintana (?), Jose Ortega (?), Mariana Ancisco (Lee Espinoza Boxing), Pedro Ramirez (Mexicali), Angela Reina (F-1 Boxing) Angel Lopez (?)

More Inside Stuff: Arizona Middleweight Andrew Hernandez, “The Fighting Pride of Arizona” is in negotiation to fight Daniel Jacobs at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn New York on July 30. If the bout happens it will be quite a step up for Hernandez (12-4-1) who hopes to beat Jacobs (31-1-28 knockouts) and win the WBA World Middleweight Title.  If the proposed tiff falls through, Hernandez says he has another offer; but his heart is set on fighting Jacobs, a notch or two better than anyone the Arizona pugilist has fought, to date.

Jacobs only loss was to Dmitry Pirog (20-0-15 knockouts) whose career was cut short in 2012 due to a serious back injury.  Pirog, after a 4 year layoff, is reportedly healthy and would like to fight GGG. Canelo is rumored to be kin line for GGG; but, his court battle with All-Star Boxing and a negative verdict may change his plans. Golden Boy seems worried….Heavyweight Rodney Hernandez (10-4-1) scored a unanimous victory over Bernardo Marquez (6-1-1) at the Camelback Resort in Phoenix on 6/2. In other bouts at the private show, lightweight David Courtney (1-2) recovered from a first round knockdown to TKO Erik Lopez (0-1) in the second round. Also on the card, Cliff Jordan (2-1) won a split decision over Misael Chacon (1-13-1). Jordan, fighting at a lighter weight than usual, tired and fatigue almost cost him a victory. Chacon fought two nights later on the Iron Boy MMA 1 card and lost to Richard Palencia in the second round by choke hold (submission)…..Arizona lightweight  boxer Mario Esparza  (4-0-1) has put on a lot of weight and was seen recently working out at a local gym. …We are still waiting for Eben Vargas to turn professional….Edgar Brit won’t fight again until his contract with Iron Boy expires in July…..Manny Nieves hasn’t fought in almost a year, don’t know why….Presidential Candidate Donald Trump didn’t receive a formal invitation to attend Muhammad Ali’s Memorial service even though he announced he was a good friend of the champion….Arizona heavyweight Malcolm Tann fights in New Mexico on June 18…..former Buckeye Arizona resident Janks Trotter has a bout in Calgary, Alberta on June 25….Fight Hard P:romotions  CEO Rigoberto Ledezma sent a donation to the Muhammed Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Oh, Wow: Sorry, I didn’t share with my readers a brief experience I had while trying to find the Shane Mosley post-fight press conference when he was in town recently. I was the last reporter to leave my seat and head for the press conference which was held in one of the many rooms located in a long winding hallway that led to various unmarked rooms.  After walking thirty to 40 hesitant paces, I asked a uniformed man standing in the hallway if he could direct me to the press conference room and although he wasn’t sure, he directed me to go straight ahead past a door that possessed a Phoenix Coyote Emblem and enter the next door on the left side and he thought that was the room where my colleagues were.  I followed his directions to a capital T and entered darkened room as he suggested. Instead of my seeing my colleagues holding microphones, taking pictures or asking questions I found myself standing in front of a ring girl who was either pulling down or up a piece of her very brief attire. Thank goodness she didn’t scream or ask my name. As calm as I could be, I asked if she knew where the press conference was and while covering part of her exposed body she used the other hand to direct me to the press conference. She was friendly, but it wasn’t the appropriate time for a long or meaningful chat.

I could feel my hair standing straight up as I said thank you (for the directions) and backed out the room, worried about how big my smile was when I realized she wasn’t a member of the press corps…..Until Next Time!

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