LA Boxing – An Era Passes

05.07.05 - By Fiona Manning: The face of California boxing changed dramatically this week with the closure of two of the most successful, long-running gyms that defined the sport here. LA Boxing Club, the site of many TV shows and movies closed this week, sold two weeks ago to owners who will demolish it to build a Korean church. The tough as nails Hoover Street Gyms whose ‘hood’ locale was not for the faint-hearted is also gone. Kaput..

Now on the chopping block is the other major public boxing gym: The Broadway.

Rumor has it however that the Broadway may be bought by a boxing family, so there’s one small ray of hope.

But Los Angeles without its LA Boxing Club?

Say it ain’t so!

Los Angeles has never been kind to its historic sites granted, but who can drive downtown to Washington Boulevard and not feel a shiver of despair that the entire wall-sized poster of “Sugar” Shane Mosley screaming GET YOUR SUGAR FIX TONIGHT is no more.

The LA Boxing Gym, situated next to the Olympic Auditorium should have a preservation order, if for nothing else, the memories.

Jimmy Montoya, the hard-bitten trainer at Hoover Street Gym lost his lease. Probably a strip mall looms in Hoover Street’s immediate future.

It’s devastating to think of the LA Boxing Gym being - gone.

Who has trained there? Well, more to the point, who hasn’t?

LA Boxing Club was a rite of passage for most professional boxers breezing through LA.

In its heyday it was closed for movie shoots and the TV series Resurrection Boulevard and The Contender.

Boxing superstars like “Sweet” Reggie Johnson, Yory Boy Campas, DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley, Francois Botha, Jesus Salud, Julio Gonzalez, King Ipitan, Shane Mosley, Agapito Sanchez, Alejandro “Cobrita” Gonzalez, Antonio Margarito, Oba Carr, Jose “Shibata” Flores, Laila Ali,Martin Castillo, Isarel Vazquez, Marco Antonio Barrera, Carlos “Famous” Hernandez, Genaro ‘Chicanito’ Hernandez, Oscar de la Hoya, Antonio Tarver, Glen Johnson, Miguel “Angel” Gonzalez, Isidro “Chino” Garcia, Fernando Montiel and hundreds more had to adhere to the gym’s off-shoot schedule to get their training done.

Kostya Tszyu trained there briefly for his fight with Zab Judah and on the other side of the gym, Judah was also training in preparation of Tszyu.

Weird? Nah…it’s boxing.

LA Boxing Club was where internet scribe Doug Fischer took painful boxing lessons from contender turned trainer Kevin Morgan who threw Dougie in with a guy who battered his ribs to the point that he says he still feels the injury when he breathes in deeply.

It was the place where fighters spat at each other then became friends for life.

LA Boxing Club was where former middleweight contender Fidel Avendano received the harsh news that he was no longer going to be sanctioned for fights worldwide and was being placed on permanent suspension.

Avendano, a poorly educated, sweet natured man who had supported his family with his fists since the age of 11, dropped onto a bench and cried.

Never mind that his reflexes were shot, his skills seriously eroded to the point that all those who knew him feared for his well-being.

This was his home. The only life, the only gym he knew.

“It’s the end of an era,” said Mark Reels, a former lightweight contender and current executive director of the North American Boxing Association, which had its office on the ground floor of the gym.

Reels always got a special thrill climbing the stairs to the first floor to see who was skipping rope, who was working the crazy ball and who was hogging the greasy payphone in the corner.

Like everybody else, Reels was scrambling to find alternative business accommodations and struggled to remain in the boxing gym circuit but ended up picking an office in Lomitas, close to his home.

“There was some excellent sparring there, as good as any fight,” Reels said. “When he first started out, Shane Mosley trained at LA Boxing and he sparred with Chicanito Hernandez. As a matter of fact, I sparred both of those guys.

“I was Chicanito’s main sparring partner when he was training to fight Jimmy Garcia, the guy who died in the ring with Gabe Ruelas. We spent a month in Mexico City.”

Jackie Kallen also has fond memories of putting many of her fighters through their work routines at the LA Boxing Club, including former charge Jose Celaya.

“Where are all these guys gonna go?” she said, echoing the lament of many.

“There’s no other place like LA Boxing Club which made everyone feel welcome. There were amateurs, kids and professionals all training together. Those days are gone.”

Indeed, the trainers and fighters of all three gyms have scuttled like bugs under a harsh light looking for new homes.

The Wild Card, Freddie Roach’s tiny Hollywood gym is packed to the rafters as it is.

There’s the La Brea Academy, a nice clean, cavernous gym in the “Miracle Mile” district where Alfred “The Torpedo” Ankamah still trains but unlike the LA Boxing Club, fighters must sign up and pay to pound the bags.

LA Boxing Club was the site of infamous press conferences and there are still remnants of Don King’s cigar smoke wafting through the rafters.

It was the site of Lucia Rijker’s shameful sucker punching of Christy Martin.

Come to think of it, there was a whole lot of fist-to-jaw provocation going on at any given moment at LA Boxing Club.

“It was a great place to train,” remembers Hector Quiroz who trained for a number of fights, including a world title shot (at short notice) against Zab Judah.

For that fight, Chop Chop Corley came from Detroit and put Hector through his paces.

“We really fought each other,” said Quiroz with a laugh. “We were not pulling our punches. We were really trying to hurt each other!”

One of the first fighters this reporter ever met at LA Boxing was the talented, colorful, tough and sadly tormented middleweight journeyman Hector Lopez.

On one of his frequent but brief stays out of the Big House, he introduced himself, showing off his latest addition to his almost full-body tattoos.

Hector, who confessed to missing prison life, proudly told one-time heavyweight prospect Javier Mora that if he ever found himself incarcerated in Corcoran State Prison, to mention Hector’s name for preferential treatment.

Sadly, Hector’s quest for ring glory couldn’t match his taste for gang life, drugs and booze.

In the middle of his second week back in the gym, he went on a rampage, pushing his old lady’s teeth down her throat.

This time, he got a 14-year stretch. When and if he is finally released, there won’t be anything left of the LA Boxing Club should he come a-calling.

The LA Boxing Club has its secrets, which include rumored sexual escapades in the rickety elevator alleged to have taken place.

One of those involved a world champion who requests anononimity but confirms that during training for a world title defense he got a painful erection that would not go away.

His wife was sent for and they almost broke the old elevator but still his flag was flying high.

He ended up being hospitalized for this apparently painful, but common problem.

But the club ain’t telling any more. All the scandals, the heartbreak, the blood, the sweat and the millions of tears will die with its passing.

When the wrecking crew prepares to demolish a true city landmark, maybe a ghostly voice will whisper: Let’s Get Ready To Rumble. Maybe something will save the grand old lady of boxing.

We can only pray.

Article posted on 06.07.2005

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