Top Rank Boxing became the first promotion to hold boxing in the middle of the Banc of California Stadium. Built in 2018, this open-air stadium is the home of major league soccer team Los Angeles FC. This is a beautiful building, and made for a very nice venue for boxing on a summer afternoon and evening. This inaugural event did not disappoint.
In our main event we saw Emanuel Navarrete (28-1, 24 KOs) take on Francisco de Vaca (20-1-1, 6 KOs). This fight was for the WBO World title which was held by Navarrete, and was scheduled for 12 rounds in the super bantamweight division. We saw an explosive first round between these two, letting us know what we would be in for; toe to toe, many punches, and a lot of action.
Both men initially had a good second round. De Vaca landed quite a few punches on Navarrete, but there was not enough power behind them to do any damage. Nearing the end of the second round Emanuel landed a super little three-punch combination that put Francisco on the canvas. He got up and made it to the bell.
The third round was all Emanuel. He was landing absolutely everything he threw, the very game de Vaca was taking a lot of punishment. Referee Raul Caiz, Sr. decided he had seen enough, and stepped in to wave the fight off at 1:54 of the third round.
Following the fight, after thanking all those who have been supporting him, Navarrete said, “I want to continue the tradition of Mexican boxing in L.A. I want to fill up arenas, and achieve the same thing other Mexican legends did here.
“Right now, we are talking about coming back for the September 14 card that headlines Tyson Fury. I want to thank Bob Arum for this opportunity.”
Arum did confirm that Navarrete will be on that September 14 card, which also happens to be Mexican Independence Day.
In the co-main event, we saw Jesse Magdaleno (27-1, 18 KOs) going up against Rafael Rivera (27-4-2, 18 KOs). This fight was for the WBC USNBC title, and was scheduled for 10 rounds in the super bantamweight division. As expected, these two men came out swinging from the outset. Magdaleno was trying to smother Rivera and some of the time it worked. Rafael got in some clean punches in the second, but it was still Jesse who was more on his game early in the fight.
Rivera came to life a bit more in the third and looked a lot stronger. In the fourth round the tide turned and it was all Rivera. He did some damage to Magdaleno. The fifth was a bit more back and forth. In the sixth, Rivera threw a lot of punches, but the majority of them were missing. Jesse seemed to be more on target, but both men were active.
Seventh round, and Magdaleno was back on fire. The last minute of the round he was landing everything he threw, and they were solid shots. Rivera stayed tough and lasted the round, but Jesse was definitely back on track. The fight was a bit more even in the eighth, but Magdaleno was looking much fresher than Rafael was at this point in the fight.
A few seconds into round in the ninth, a left hook put Rivera on the canvas. He was up and the fight continued. But later in that round an accidental elbow to the eye of Jesse made referee Thomas Taylor call the doctor to take a look at the cut. The doctor said to stop the fight. The time was 2:55, and we went to the scorecards. The judges had it 88-82, and 89-81 twice, giving Magdaleno the technical decision.
“I didn’t feel the elbow was intentional,” Magdaleno said after the fight. “He’s an aggressive fighter. I felt great, I felt better than ever. We came in here and fought smart. We knew he was gonna come forward each and every round, and we put our boxing shoes on and out-boxed him. I want the World title. We’re ready, you saw it tonight. I want them all.”
The local boy from El Monte, Arnold Barboza, Jr (22-0, 9 KOs) stood across the ring from Ricky Sismundo (35-15-3, 17 KOs). This fight was scheduled for 10 rounds in the super lightweight division. Barboza showed right away why he is undefeated. He would pepper Sismundo almost at will. At the end of the second round he really clocked him right at the bell, and Ricky was unsteady walking back to his corner.
In the third Arnold had Ricky up against the ropes and it looked as if the fight might be over. But Sismundo fought out of trouble. Until that is, a right-left combination dropped Sismundo. The fourth round contained more punishment for Ricky. At the end of that round Sismundo went to the ropes, held on and squatted down. Referee Ray Corona asked him if he wanted to continue and he shook his head, stopping the fight at the end of round four.
Middleweights were next, as Stuart McLellan (27-4-3, 11 KOs) faced off against Janibek Alimkhanuly (7-0, 3 KOs). Alimkhanuly was defending his WBO Global and WBC Continental Americas titles. This fight was to go a scheduled 10 rounds. In the first round McLellan spent more time shaking his head after his opponent landed a punch then he did throwing one of his own.
After more showboating by Stuart in the second round a short left hand delivered perfectly by Alimkhanuly put him on the canvas. For the next couple of rounds Janibek was the dominate fighter. Stuart has a good record on paper, but he had an awkward style that made him look unpolished.
In the fifth round it was another left hand that put Alimkhanuly on the canvas once again. He got up, but Janibek just pounded him. As referee Rudy Barragan was looking as if he was deciding whether or not to stop it, two men in his corner were waving towels. The fight was stopped at 2:51 of that fifth round and Alimkhanuly kept his titles.
Next we saw Chris Van Heerden 28-2-1, 12 KOs) take on Aslanbek Kozaev (33-3-1, 8 KOs) in a welterweight bout that was scheduled to go eight rounds. Van Heerden seemed to be the most skilled in the first few rounds, and also appeared to have the most power. Right at the end of round three he landed a vicious body shot that might have done real damage had the round not ended.
As the rounds ticked by Chris continued to display his dominance over Kozaev. In the seventh, he was uing Aslanbek’s face as a punching bag the entire round. In the eighth and final Kozaev was landing some punches on Van Heerden, but Chris knew he couldn’t hurt him, would just wait, and then unleash on him. We went to the scorecards. The judges saw it 79-73 twice and 78-74, all for Van Heerden.
Javier Molina (20-2, 8 KOs) faced off against Manuel Mendez (16-6-3, 11 KOs) in a fight scheduled to go eight rounds in the super lightweight division. In the first couple of rounds Molina had the control. that shifted in rounds three and four. Mendez really rallied back and appeared to have much more power in his punches. In the fifth round there were great moments for each fighter.
In the later rounds, Mendez seemed to really tire while Javier looked stronger, giving the advantage back to Molina. We went to the scorecards. Two of the judges had the fight 79-73 while the other saw it 78-74, but they all agreed that the winner was Molina.
Elvis Rodriguez (3-0-1, 3 KOs) faced off against Jesus Gonzales (6-3, 2 KOs) in a bout in the super lightweight division, and was scheduled for six rounds. This fight was over quickly, when after two quick knockdowns by Rodriguez referee Rudy Barragan stopped the fight at 1:42. This was a very easy night for Elvis.
Welterweights took to the ring when Brian Mendoza (18-0, 13 KOs) face off against Rosemberg Gomez (20-8-1, 16 KOs) in a fight scheduled for six rounds in the welterweight division. This fight lasted only 2:12, when a very hard body shot by Brian put Gomez down and out. Mendoza remained undefeated.
To open the afternoon of boxing, Dmitry Yun (2-0) stood across from Javier Martinez (4-7, 3 KOs). These were lightweights in a fight that was scheduled to go six rounds. Yun was down early in the first round, but got up and came on strong. He continued his attack in the second, throwing a lot of combinations. The third time Martinez lost his mouthpiece, referee Jack Reiss took a point away from him.
In the third round, Martinez dropped Yun again. Not sure if they were lucky punches or not, because all the other punches before and after the two that dropped him seemed to have no effect on Dmitry at all. Yun went back to dominating in the fourth.
Everything evened out once more in the fifth, when Reiss took another point away from Javier, again for the mouthpiece coming out three times. He was heard telling him that he knocked his opponent own twice and is going to lose the fight because of the mouthpiece. Reiss was not happy, and proved to be right!
The sixth was back and forth and we went to the scorecards. Two judges saw it 57-54 while the third had it 56-54, all for Yun.
For the first boxing event at this venue, they did a good job. The fights themselves were fun and the atmosphere is great. One can only imagine what it would be like to have the stands full of fans for boxing – that would be amazing! One small thing; they could have fed us. Just saying.
Photo credit: Cynthia Saldana