"Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face."
~Mike Tyson

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Boxing History And Lore: From The Trenches At Cotto-Kamegai

My First Live Boxing Experience

Leaving for the StubHub Center
Last Saturday night in front of a sell out crowd at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, I watched Miguel Cotto out box, out land, and out bludgeon the tough as nails Yoshihiro Kamegai. I was also in attendance for Rey Vargas vs Ronnie Rios and a handful of entertaining off air under card bouts. Although I've been an astute and passionate observer of the sport for 32 years, this was my first live boxing event so to state that I was excited would be an understatement. My decision to attend this particular card was, at least in part, a sort of "fuck you" to the Mayweather/McGregor spectacle that was going down on the same night. I really wanted to throw my support behind a quality boxing event, not some shit-show aimed at the lowest common denominator. Mostly however, I felt that after 32 years of watching from my couch it was simply time to start going to live fights...accept no more excuses.

I made my way out of my house around 12:30 pm and made the nearly 2 hour trek down Interstate 15 to my hotel in Buena Park.  While checking into my hotel room I was contacted via Twitter by one of my readers/followers. This person asked if I had already arrived at the venue and since I made this trip alone his message pushed my anticipation to new heights. Prior to receiving his message I had acquiesced to the idea of watching the card alone and in silence from my seat. Knowing that there was someone waiting with whom I could talk boxing and share the experience however helped push me out of my hotel room, back into my car, and another 20 minutes down the 91 freeway to the StubHub Center.

My ticket
Upon arriving at the StubHub Center I found myself somewhat emotionally overwhelmed. At 44 years of age this doesn't happen very often so I was caught off guard by just how excited I was. Had any of my readers been in the car with me as I prepared to exit for the gate they would have sworn we were there to watch Canelo/Golovkin or that we had gone back in time to watch a prime Mike Tyson knock out Michael Spinks. After collecting myself a bit and liberally applying some sunscreen to my face and arms I set out to find the person whom had contacted me earlier. Being completely and utterly unfamiliar with the venue, we were unable to find one another. After a solid 20 minutes of searching for this person, I received another message from him suggesting we simplify things by meeting inside at either his seat or mine at a later time.

The LA Galaxy plays here...
Boxing's on the tennis court
After agreeing to this, I set off towards the main gate, entered, and began exploring the venue. Steve Kim of the Undisputed Champion Network and others have oft proclaimed this venue to be one of the best in which fans can take in boxing. When considering the opinions of others one must take into account the hyperbole that often accompanies the vocalizing of said opinions but in this case Steve and everyone else who has made this declaration are onto something. Having no other venue to compare it to, I can not remain intellectually honest and assert that they are correct in their assessment of the venue but the StubHub Center is a great venue nonetheless. Not only is it easy to navigate but every seat in the house is fantastic. There is no nosebleed section, no obstructed views, no need for giant television screens, and the atmosphere there was fantastic on this particular night. The only criticism I can levy against StubHub is it's lack of shading for it's audience. Although I had a great seat I spent 5 hours sweating to death while the sun beat down on my fair skin. Relief came only as the televised portion of the show began. I might have been more upset by this had the venue not placed gargantuan fans that blew cool water through their grates next to all of its restrooms and food/beverage vendors. I made use of these every 20 minutes or so.

My view from Section 9 Row D
Not bad...not bad
I spent nearly 45 minutes wandering the StubHub Center stopping several times to watch a couple of the preliminary fights from the top of the venue and take some pictures. I also stopped to talk about Canelo/Golovkin with several fans of both fighters. After fulfilling my wanderlust, I set out to find my seat. As I mentioned previously, the place is extremely easy to navigate so this took very little time. I was pleasantly surprised at how close my seat was to the ring and how easy it was to see the action within it.

Upon finding my seat I was greeted by two brothers sitting to my left. The pair was friendly and we spent the better part of the next 30 minutes talking boxing in general and about the card we were about to watch. After the brothers left for a restroom/refreshment break I received a message from the reader who had wanted to meet up with me earlier. He was in the venue and sent me a screenshot of his ticket. In an ironic twist of fate it turned out that he was seated right next to me in seat 2. I left my seat and met "Donald R. DeCicco" in front of our section's concession stand. Donald and I spent some time talking boxing, got some snacks/drinks, and then rediscovered our seats.

Nick and I talking some boxing
while we roast in the summer sun
By the time "Donald" and I returned to our seats there were some pretty solid under card fights taking place. Although this was my first live event and I had expected to keep my eyes glued to the ring, I spent the overwhelming majority of time taking about the sport with the people sitting next to and around me. Even those with whom I disagreed with were friendly and in good spirits which was a refreshing change to some of the people I've encountered at sports bars over the years. I can not say whether it was the fight card, the venue, a proud counter reaction to the fight in Vegas, or if the StubHub was just unusually filled with happy people but the vibe was there was positive and festive. Prior to attending this card, I had never been in a place where I was surrounded by thousands of people who love the same thing I do. Talk about awesome...

Meet And Greet

Me with Jesus Soto Karass
In between several of the off air fights I noticed that a number of professional boxers were making their way through the audience for what appeared to be meet and greets. Not wanting to be looked upon as an annoyance, I let most pass without so much as a "hey what's up" but when Jesus Soto Karass stopped by my section I asked for a picture. Karass appeared the most friendly of the bunch and he was more than happy to oblige my request. He spent a couple of minutes talking with me before he made his way back towards his ringside seat.

Meeting My Inspiration

Michael Montero and I with..
the "Finger To Nowhere"
There are four persons whom inspire me to write about boxing. These people are Steve Kim, Kenny Keith and Vince Cummings of The Boxing Rant, and of course Michael Montero. While all of these people help push me forward it is Michael Montero's work that motivates and inspires me the most. Having ingested his videos and articles, I've come to trust and respect his opinions when it comes to boxing. After admiring his work for so many years, it was a real thrill when he took time out of his busy schedule to meet with me over near my seat. Mike was personable, friendly, willing to talk a bit, made me feel like a dwarf (I'm 5'6), and had a great sense of humor. Thanks again for taking the time to meet up with me Mike!

The Main Event

Yours truly expected a little more from Kamegai though don't let that fool you into thinking his effort was lackluster. The former Japanese super lightweight title holder came forward and pushed the action from the opening bell right up until the final bell. Miguel Cotto however was faster, had far better footwork and body movement, landed the more effective punches, and had the better skill set. Each of the twelve rounds were near carbon copies of one another. Kamegai would charge toward Cotto before falling in and smothering his own work. When he did manage to get inside Kamegai either let loose a barrage of largely ineffective punches or he absorbed a great deal of punishment. Miguel Cotto hit his opponent with sharp, thudding, and accurate punches from start to finish. A large number of these hooks and straights violently snapped Kamegai's head back and to the side. Several other power shots from Cotto sent the over matched and outclassed Kamegai stumbling backwards, sometimes in exaggerated fashion. These moments drew "ooo's and ah's" from those in attendance but Cotto never pushed to get his man out of there.

No matter how much punishment Cotto dished out, Kamegai kept coming forward in his usual Kamikaze fashion, though as the fight wore on he did so throwing fewer and fewer punches and seemed unable to prevent himself from smothering his own work or at least the opportunity for inside work. Kamegai went from working on the inside to running right at his more fluid opponent, falling in, and then holding/grappling. If Cotto wanted the knock out you wouldn't have known it thanks to Kamegai having an unbreakable chin. The fight was a competitive but one sided affair that ended in a unanimous decision win for Miguel Cotto. Kamegai isn't the most skilled boxer on the planet but if stamina and resiliency were all it took to win titles, Kamegai would be the undisputed champion of boxing.

Cotto/Kamegai Fighter Introductions

I'll Be Back...

Exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and wanting to sit in a hot bath back in my hotel room I left the StubHub Center just as Max Kellerman concluded his post fight interview with Miguel Cotto. The entire experience was amazingly awesome if not a bit surreal and overwhelming. As I walked out to my car my thoughts immediately turned toward September 9th's "Superfly" fight card. If the atmosphere and vibe were this great for a middle of the road card featuring a guy at the tail end of his retirement tour then Superfly is going to be something indescribable. I will be returning to the StubHub Center for what is essentially the K2 Promotions portion of the Canelo/Golovkin undercar on the 9th of September. Additionally some of the people I met at the Cotto/Kamegai card are returning for Superfly. I'm not only looking forward to seeing these people again but meeting a couple of new faces as well. September 9th can't get here soon enough.

Scott Jarvis is a boxing writer for Split D Boxing. He can be reached on TwitterFacebook, or by email at splitdecisionbox@gmail.com.


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