42 Years After Capturing First National Golden Gloves Title, Sugar Ray Leonard Returns to Lowell, MA

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(Photo Credit: Premier Boxing Champions)
 
 
LOWELL, Mass. (October 1, 2015) – Forty-two years after he captured his first National Golden Gloves Tournament title at Lowell Memorial Auditorium, Hall-of-Famer Sugar Ray Leonard returns Saturday, October 10 to the same historic building as a television analyst for Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on NBCSN, promoted by DiBella Entertainment in association with Murphys Boxing, airing live from Lowell, Massachusetts.  
 
PBC on NBCSN is headlined by a 10-round rematch between Framingham (MA) welterweight Danny “Bhoy” O’Connor (26-2, 10 KOs), who is fighting to avenge his 2011 loss to Brooklyn welterweight Gabriel “Tito” Bracero (23-2, 4 KOs). O’Connor and Leonard are two of only four people to ever win the National Golden Gloves and National Amateur Championship in the same year. O’Connor collected both accolades in 2008.
 
Leonard captured top honors in the lightweight division (132 pounds) of the 1973 National Golden Gloves Tournament, outpointing Hilmer Kenty in the championship final at Lowell Memorial Auditorium. Leonard won the National Golden Gloves Tournament at light welterweight title the following year, while seven years later Kenty became the first professional world champion from Emanuel Steward’s soon-to-become legendary Kronk Gym in Detroit.
 
“One of the most precious moments of my career happened in Lowell, Massachusetts,” Leonard recently said about his aforementioned experience.  “It was priceless.”
 
In addition to Leonard and Kenty, five other future world champions – Marvin Hagler, Aaron Pryor, Art Frias, Leon and Michael Spinks – competed in the 1973 National Golden Gloves Tournament.  Leonard, Hagler, Pryor and Michael Spinks are International Boxing Hall of Fame inductees.
 
Leonard has another tie to Lowell, the fourth-largest city in Massachusetts.  In 1978, he won a 10-round decision over Dicky Eklund at Hynes Auditorium in Boston. Eklund was the head trainer of his half-brother, “The Pride of Lowell” and three-time “Fight of the Year” participant “Irish” Micky Ward, who celebrates his 50th birthday this coming October 4.
 
Also featured on the PBC on NBCSN telecast is undefeated super bantamweight rising star Jonathan “Salomon King” Guzman (19-0, 19 KOs), a Dominican Republic native who now lives in nearby Lawrence (MA), takes on upset specialist Danny Aquino (17-2, 10 KOs), of Meriden (CT), in the 10-round co-feature.
 
The broadcast begins at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT and will showcase Quincy, Mass. featherweight prospect Ryan “The Polish Prince” Kielczweski (23-1, 7 KOs) against Brooklyn’s Rafael “Dynamite” Vazquez (16-1, 13 KOs) in a 10-round bout.
 
Lowell Memorial Auditorium, which also hosted the 1995 National Golden Gloves Tournament, represents a homecoming for O’Connor and Kielczweski, who both won New England Golden Gloves Tournament titles there.
 
Tickets are on sale and priced at $125, $85, $50 and $35, not including applicable service charges and taxes.  Special student, veteran and senior ticket prices also available. For tickets visit www.lowellauditorium.com.  
 
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For more information visit www.premierboxingchampions.com, www.nbcsports.com/boxing, www.lowellauditorium.com and www.dbe1.com, follow on Twitter @PremierBoxing,  @LouDiBella, @DropkickMurphys, @MurphysBoxing, @DOC_Boxing, @TeamBracero, @NBCSports and @Swanson_Comm and become a fan on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/PremierBoxingChampions, www.facebook.com/NBCSports, www.Facebook.com/DropkickMurphys, www.facebook.com/MurphysBoxing and www.facebook.com/DiBellaEntertainment.

Forgotten Legends: Ricardo Lopez

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By: Steve Gallegos

In the sport of boxing, it is very difficult to be dominant and remain dominant. To retire unbeaten is a great accomplishment in itself. Former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano retired with an unbeaten record of 49-0 and Floyd Mayweather is very close to matching or breaking that record. There was however another fighter who has already accomplished that feat that many have forgotten about. That fighter was Ricardo Lopez. Nicknamed “El Finito” which means “The Finisher“.

Lopez truly lived up to his moniker as he was probably the most dominant champion during the 1990’s as he dominated the smallest weight class in boxing; the Strawweight division. He was a devastating power puncher with a finesse left uppercut. Lopez was born in Cuernavaca, MX and he had an outstanding amateur career in which he did not lose a bout, going 39-0. He would turn pro in 1985 at the age of 20 and would go on a hot streak, going 26-0 with 19 KO’s over the next five years.

He would get his first crack at a world title when he met Hideyuki Ohashi of Japan. They met on 10/05/90 at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan and it was for the WBC Strawweight Championship. Lopez dominated from the opening bell and would win the title via fifth round TKO. He was now a world champion and it was the start of one of the most dominant reigns in boxing history.

He would successfully defend his title nine times over then next three years, seven by KO. Hungry for national exposure, Lopez would sign with promoter Don King in 1994 and he began fighting on major cards in the U.S. 1996 would be a big year for Lopez as he began to appear regularly on Showtime televised cards, scoring 4 big knockout wins. Two of those knockouts made Showtime Championship Boxing’s top 10 knockouts of 1996.

Talks began for a major fight with Light Flyweight champion Michael Carbajal, however the fight never came to fruition. Instead Lopez decided to unify the 105 lb division and would score an impressive fifth round TKO over Alex Sanchez at Madison Square Garden to claim the WBO Minimumweight Title in August of 1997. It would be in his 48th bout that Lopez would experience the only blemish on his record when he met WBA Minimumweight champion Rosendo Alvarez of Nicaragua.

They met on 03/07/98 in front of a huge crowd at the Plaza De Toros in Mexico City, Mexico and it was the co-feature for the huge Super Lightweight clash between the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez vs fellow forgotten legend Miguel Angel Gonzalez. Alvarez came in with an unbeaten record of 24-0 and would prove to be a tough challenge for Lopez. In the second, Alvarez would land a hard straight right hand that put Lopez down for the first time in his career. Lopez would get up off the canvas and weather Alvarez’s relentless pressure to make it out of the round.

The fight would turn into an exciting back and forth war over the next five rounds. Showtime commentator Bobby Czyz said that the fight was a 105 lb version of Leonard vs Hearns. In round seven, both men collided heads, causing a huge cut over Lopez’s right eye. Due to the WBC rule, the uncut fighter gets deducted a point when a headbutt occurs, therefore Alvarez would lose a point.

In between rounds, the fight would be stopped by the ringside doctor, causing the fight to go to the scorecards. One judge had the fight scored 67-64 for Lopez. Another judge had it scored 68-63 for Alvarez and the final judge had it scored 66-66, making the fight a technical draw. The difference maker in this bout was the point deduction in the seventh round for Alvarez. It was an unpopular decision and the fans began throwing debris into the ring. It was a disappointing end to a great fight and it was the toughest test of Ricardo Lopez’s career. A rematch was inevitable and Lopez and Alvarez would meet again eight months later in Las Vegas.

Alvarez was not able to make the contracted weight of 105 lbs and would lose his title on the scales in what was one of the first times that a title was lost on the scales. The fight would still take place and Lopez would exact revenge on Alvarez, winning a 12 round split decision, claiming his third world title. With nothing more to prove in the Strawweight division, Lopez would move up to the Light Flyweight division and 11 months later would claim the IBF title with a 12 round unanimous decision over Will Grigsby.

He would successfully defend his title twice over the next two years and would then call it a career. His record as a professional stands at 51-0-1 with 38 KO’s, having never been defeated as an amateur or professional. He remains tied with Joe Louis for the most successful title defenses without a loss at 26. Lopez would be inducted into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in Canastota, NY in 2007.

What would it have been like had he fought some of the elite in the smaller weight classes such as Michael Carbajal, Johnny Tapia or Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson and did his loyalty to promoter Don King prevent these bouts from happening? Did the fact that he fought in the smallest weight class prevent him from getting the notoriety that he deserved. In the end it was the most dominant career in boxing that the world has forgotten about.

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Forgotten Legends: Tony Ayala Jr.

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By: Steve Gallegos

In the 1980’s boxing saw a new golden era which featured four kings in Hagler, Leonard, Hearns and Duran. All 4 men had legendary careers in which they all faced one another. During the early stages of this golden era, a new star was on the rise and he had all the tools necessary to compete with these four legends. His name was Tony Ayala Jr. Ayala had it all. He had the skill, the speed and the power. The prize was his for the taking, however he lived a reckless, partying lifestyle and that lifestyle would prevent him from reaching greatness.

Ayala was born and raised in San Antonio, TX and boxing was in his blood as his father Tony Ayala Sr and his two brothers Sammy and Mike were all fighters. Ayala turned pro in 1980 at the age of 18 and would begin his pro career with a bang as he won his first 13 bouts, 12 by knockout. It was in his 14th fight that he would get his first taste of national exposure as he appeared on the undercard of Ray Leonard vs Thomas Hearns. Ayala was impressive in scoring a first round knockout over Jose Baquedano. The boxing world began to take notice as Ayala was making a name for himself. Prior to his appearance on the Leonard-Hearns undercard, he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated and many experts and key figures such as Angelo Dundee and Lou Duva predicted that Ayala would be an all time great.

Outside the ring however, Ayala was living a reckless lifestyle that included alcohol and substance abuse. As one of his friends once said, they lived their lives by the three “B’s”, Booze, Broads, and Boxing. Ayala was also getting in trouble with the law as he was twice convicted of assault against women in which he received probation for his offenses. After going 22-0 with 19 KO’s, Ayala was in line for a word title shot, however his reckless lifestyle outside the ring would prevent him from reaching that goal.

In early 1983, Ayala was convicted of sexual assault after he broke into his neighbor’s house and sexually assaulted her. Since he was a repeat offender, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison, which brought his promising boxing career to a screeching hault. He was only 19 years old. After serving 16 years of hard time, Ayala was released in 1999 and many managers and promoters were eager to sign Ayala as he returned to the ring. Upon his return to the ring, he would go 5-0 with five KO’s against credible opposition. His bouts were being fought in his home state of Texas and the arenas were being sold out as many fans came out to support Ayala.

After winning his fifth bout in his comeback, Ayala was once again back in the hunt for a world title. He would face former world champion Yori Boy Campas in a title eliminator. They met on 07/28/00 in front of a packed, pro Ayala crowd at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, TX. It was an exciting toe to toe fight in which Ayala was getting the better of Campas in many exchanges. As the fight headed into the late stages, Campas began to take control of the fight as he began to batter Ayala. After the eighth round, Campas retired on the stool due to a broken hand.

It was Ayala’s first career defeat and probably his last shot at becoming world champion. His demons outside the ring continued to haunt him. In late 2000, he would once again break into a woman’s home and this time he was shot in the shoulder. He received a short jail sentence and probation for the crime. He would continue to fight up until 2003, going 4-1 with three KO’s, however his troubles outside the ring ended his career for good. In 2004, Ayala was sentenced to 10 years in prison for violating his probation after he was pulled over speeding in which he didn’t have a license as well as possessing heroin. His record as professional boxer stands at 31-2 with 27 KO’s.

He was released from prison in 2014 and would help his brothers run the Zarazamora boxing gym after their father’s death in April of 2014. Ayala’s life; however would come to a tragic end as he passed away on 05/12/15 due to an apparent drug overdose. He was 52 years old. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family. He had all the talent and skill to become an all time great. Could he have become the fifth king during boxing’s golden era, had he stayed out of trouble outside the ring? Could he have won multiple world titles while mixing it up with Hagler, Leonard, Hearns and Duran? What we are left with are the memories of promises unfulfilled.

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