Kovalev vs. Mikhalkin Undercard Update

The old Frank Galarza (18-2-2, 11 KOs) is back and his timing couldn’t be better. In his second fight coming off of a 14-month layoff after suffering two difficult back-to-back losses, Galarza put together a strong performance at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on the Kovalev vs. Shabranskyy undercard, winning with solid scores in a unanimous decision.

Galarza returns to “his house,” the Mecca of Boxing, again on March 3 on the non-televised undercard of Sergey Kovalev vs. Igor Mikhalkin in a junior middleweight bout against veteran Ed Paredes (38-7-1, 25 KOs) of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Galarza, now 32, said he knew he had to keep fighting. “My thing was to never quit. It’s easy to hang it up. Something inside me told me not to. Keep driving, keep seeking, keep pushing, keep asking,” said Galarza.

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Galarza also found motivation in Youth Fighting Forward, the foundation he started in 2014, dedicated to engaging kids ages 8 to 17 of all backgrounds whether affected by crime, poverty, or simple low self-esteem through boxing and mentoring. Galarza saw a way to help kids who come from a background like his own — without family or other support systems — through boxing and mixed martial arts, along with a range of educational strategies. In a fitting twist, it was the kids who inspired Galarza to get back in the ring himself.

“I know what it’s like to not have much,” explained Galarza. “Look … Nobody expected me to become the person I became, in televised fights and knocking people out. Even I had some doubts, but I worked through it. I disciplined myself, trained myself, kept showing up. That’s the goal, keep showing up.”

Galarza said when he visits schools and tries to provide motivation, “A lot of them look at me and relate. They look up to the fact I was able to do it, had the confidence to do it. Just speaking to me gives them the confidence to do it. I know what it’s like not to have people believe in you. That makes them want to strive for something,” and it encourages Galarza to strive as well.

Galarza confesses he has something else in common with kids: he loves watching cartoons. “Deep down inside, I’m a big kid. I’m just a big kid,” Galarza admitted. “I don’t watch TV. I only watch cartoons. I watch ’em all! I watch all the new ones, the old ones. I love the ‘Team Titans.’

“Don’t judge me!” said Galarza with a big laugh. “It keeps me sane. I enjoy a good movie now and then, but you can ask my mother. I’ll watch cartoons all day.”

Back in the win column, the Brooklyn native says he finally feels like his old self. “I feel like my last fight, I needed to get my ferociousness back, the old Frank Galarza, my ‘Notorious.’ I needed to get back where I needed to be,” said Galarza.

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Looking back on his return, Galarza said he’s pleased with his body work and display of boxing ability, including good movement and adjustments. “Toward the end of the rounds I decided to be smart and not get hit, I’ve proven that. Little corrections I need to do now, we’re sharpening our skills now.”

Galarza said he can’t wait to get back in the ring. “I’m comfortable, I’m back. Boxing sometimes takes a toll on you. It’s a love-hate relationship. I had to find the love again. The last fight brought the love and passion back. People can expect to see my passion for the sport” on March 3, Galarza promises fans.

About March 3: The Saturday, March 3 main event between Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev and Igor Mikhalkin is a 12-round match-up for the WBO Light Heavyweight World Title at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The co-main event features WBA Light Heavyweight World Champion Dmitry Bivol versus Sullivan Barrera in a 12-round title fight. Tickets range from $50 to $300 and are available at TicketMaster.com and the Madison Square Garden box office. The event is promoted by Main Events, Krusher Promotions and World of Boxing in association with EC Box Promotions and will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing® at 10:05 p.m. ET/PT.

Ismael Villarreal added to Kovalev vs. Mikhalkin card on 3/3

Sixty thousand community college students participate in athletic competition, according to the NCAA. Another 400,000 compete if you include four-year college students. Only two percent will ever become professional athletes.

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Twenty-year-old Bronx native Ismael Villarreal (1-0) has already beaten those odds. The two-time New York Golden Gloves champion won his first bout as a professional boxer in November in his debut at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Villarreal returns to the big stage again at The Garden on Saturday, March 3 on the non-televised undercard of Sergey Kovalev vs. Igor Mikhalkin in a four-round junior middleweight bout against Anthony Woods (1-5) of Douglasville, Georgia.

“I never thought I was going to return (to Madison Square Garden) that quick,” said Villarreal. “It’s pretty cool, and I get to fight in my hometown, so I like it.”

Villarreal remains in New York between fights in order to balance his full-time boxing training schedule and full-time course load at Brooklyn Community College. He is a physical education major, studying subjects including biology and education, with the goal of becoming a teacher. “You’ve always got to have a backup plan. Anything can happen… I can’t drop school.”

Villarreal competed as an amateur while attending Belmont Preparatory High School, founded in the Bronx in 2002 for academically talented students throughout the community. Many of his teachers there became boxing fans, and Villarreal expects to see many of them for his second fight at Madison Square Garden. “They’ve always been supportive,” said Villarreal.

His community college classmates and instructors aren’t as aware of Villarreal’s second full-time job as a professional boxer: “Sometimes they find me on the internet. I would have told them, but I don’t want to interrupt class saying ‘hey, I’m a boxer!'”

Juggling the demands of training and his school obligations makes time management critically important for Villarreal. “I have to go every day, my only day off is Friday. I still have to focus on running, on homework, on the gym. It’s tough but I’ll make it through,” said Villarreal.

Villarreal says the real exhaustion is mental more than physical. “When I go to school and I’m boxing, it’s definitely hard. Some can do it, some can’t … Sometimes it’s hard to manage… no one can say it’s easy, it’s a challenge.”

But Villarreal has discovered the value of discipline, and he says it benefits him in multiple ways. “I’ve always been disciplined when it comes to schoolwork. If anything, I become more disciplined with boxing from the schoolwork,” explained Villarreal.

For his upcoming fight, Villarreal is dropping from middleweight to junior middleweight (154 pounds). He says he’s working on being more active and throwing more punches, especially working to the body. Villarreal’s plan for 2018 is to stay active in the ring. But he also understands at this stage of his career, “sometimes you get tired of waiting, but patience is important … I know everything will pay off in the future.”

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