IT was in the late 1970’s when Madison Square Garden matchmaker Teddy Brenner boasted that the east coast boxers of the United States were superior to those on the west coast. Being that Madison Square Garden was the mecca of boxing at the time Brenner’s claim went largely unchallenged.
On reflection Brenner’s analysis might have been accurate, but what was left unsaid was that the gap was rapidly closing. And in subsequent years the majority of the mega fights would be fought in the new capital of the boxing world Las Vegas, Nevada. But the best fights and fighters often displayed their wares in arguably boxing’s greatest hotbed, Southern California.
Olivares, Palomino, Canto, Barrera, De La Hoya, Chavez, Morales, Cuevas, Ramos, Arguello, Sanchez, Napoles, Lopez, and so on. The names jump out at you fast and furious in Gene Aguilera’s new book Latino Boxing in Southern California. It brings back to life some of the greatest contests and rivalries the ring has seen. The wording is descriptive and the photos are outstanding.
The book reminds us of the Latino influence not only inside of the ring, but with the fan base as well. It takes us back to an era where the boxers fought more often and where attractive matches were much easier to make. It was where matchmaker Don Chargin was nicknamed “War a week Chargin.” Unlike today where promoters claim to cater to the fans yet routinely give us subpar undercards, Eileen Eaton routinely put on fan friendly fights where the stakes were high.
There was no one better to write this book than Aguilera, a confidant to the warriors of the ring, notably Olivares who he continues to retain both a close personal and business relationship. Most years Aguilera can be seen riding in the International Boxing Hall of Fame parade in Canastota alongside Olivares, which serves as a highlight for yours truly when their car passes by and I shout out “Mi Amigo.” The words never fail to bring a smile to the face of the legendary bantamweight champion dubbed Rockabye Ruben by his large legion of followers. And you are guaranteed to be smiling if you get this book, for it is a treasure of information which takes us back to the turn of the last century, to the glory days of the Olympic Auditorium, Inglewood Forum, and beyond.
Latino Boxing in Southern California has a retail price of $22.99 and is published by ARCADIA PUBLISHING.