Reno’s Elite Boxing & Fitness Club is shadowed by the towering Grand Sierra Resort located a quarter-mile away, but on Tuesday it was under a media spotlight. Regulars worked out alongside some of the pros who will compete Friday on an ESPN telecast headlined by the WBO Lightweight World Championship between Ray Beltran and Paulus Moses.
There will be eight bouts on the card for the live audience, but some will not be televised. The fights start at 4 p.m., the broadcast starts at 6 and the main event at 7:30. Members of the press took photos, videos and peppered the boxers with questions. Tahoe Onstage went 12 rounds with the participants.
One of the bouts that will be televised is that of undefeated featherweight Shakur Stevenson, a U.S. Olympic silver medalist from New Jersey. He won three National Youth Boxing Championships and made the Olympic team in a bout at the Grand Sierra Resort. Asked if he has fond memories of Reno, he said, “I just remember winning every tournament I entered. I put on a show over here. It’s going to be the same thing on Friday night.” Stevenson has been training in Colorado Springs, so altitude won’t be a factor in his bout with Juan Tapia, who won eight of his nine pro fights. “He’s not at my level. He will try to land a big shot. I expect him to try to make the fight ugly. … I want to be a legend by the time I retire, like Mayweather, Ali, Andre Ward.” Ward, a Olympic gold medal winner and undefeated, retired pro, co-manages Stevenson and will attend Friday’s fight.
Reno’s Vic Drakulich will be the referee for the Beltran-Moses title fight. “He has great experience and the ability to make quick decisions,” said Nevada Athletic Commission’s Mike Martino, who has served as the executive director of USA boxing. He has known Drakulich since the two attended Hug High School in Reno.
This will be the first world title fight in Reno since October 2005 when Chris Byrd successfully defended his IBF heavyweight title against DaVarryl Williamson. It is presented by Top Rank along with Reno’s Let’s Get It On Boxing, headed by Terry and Tommy Lane, sons of co-founder and famed boxing referee Mills Lane.
Nine of the 16 boxers were born in different countries. Phoenix’s Beltran and Reno’s Ricardo Lucio-Galvan were born in Mexico and moved to the United States with their parents. Beltran was 16 and Lucio-Galvan was just 7 months old. Beltran is not only fighting for a world title, he is battling for a permanent green card due to his “extraordinary alien status.” A father of three, he has been told that winning a world title will enhance his chance to remain in this country. Nicknamed “The Dreamer,” Lucio-Galvan is a DACA recipient, one of 800,000 who is facing a March 5 deadline imposed by the Trump administration.
Twenty-year-old Lucio-Galvan answers a school bell, too. On the day of his pro debut last October, he took a final exam for a math class at the University of Nevada, Reno. He scored an 89 on the test, and won on a first-round knockout. A business major, he’s taking 15 units this semester and rushed straight to the gym Tuesday after his core humanities class. He said he is happy that he does not have classes this Friday. Earlier this week, he sparred with Beltran, connecting with a solid shot. “He tagged me, too,” Lucio-Galvan said. “He said I am on the right path and gave me good advice: work hard, stay focused and give it all I’ve got.”
Lucio-Galvan’s opponent is Kenny Guzman, 31, of Kalispell, Montana, who is has a 4-1 professional record. However, two of his bouts in Montana were not sanctioned by Fight Fax. So he will be announced in the ring as having a 2-1 record. In his biggest win, Guzman scored an upset decision over Roxie Lam, who had a 7-2 record, on April 1, 2017, in Lam’s hometown Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Lucio-Galvan is confident, saying he will box patiently and wait for opportunities to arise: “(Guzman) can take a punch but he takes too many unnecessary punches.”
Regardless whether his fight is televised, Lucio-Galvan will be auditioning for a big-time contract. Top Rank’s legendary promoter Bob Arum will attend the bout, along with esteemed matchmakers Bruce Trampler and Brad Goodman. Top Rank has about 100 boxers and “never stops looking for talent,” said publicist Lee Samuels, a Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame member. “It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from. The matchmakers are the heartbeat. They are looking at footwork, hand speed and power.”
Friday’s fight card is one of 18 this year to be promoted by Top Rank and televised and streamed on the internet by ESPN, which is targeting the demographic of 19-31 year olds, Samuels said. Showtime viewers tend to be older, cable TV subscribers, he said.
In the co-feature, NABF welterweight champion Egidijus “The Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas of Lithuania (18-0, 15 KOs) is the favorite, but his opponent David “Ava” Avanesyan (23-2-1) is well prepared. “We are not coming in as an opponent,” his promoter Neil Marsh said. Ava boxes with both a right- and left-hand style and is the man who retired Sugar Shane Mosely with a unanimous decision. A Russian who trains in the U.K., Avanesyan prepared more than a month for a “warm-up” fight, took a week off and has trained six more weeks in preparation for Kavaliauskas.
Paulus Moses (photographed wrapping hands above) arrived Thursday for his first fight in the United States. A former WBA lightweight world champion, he is from Namibia in Africa, where he also works as a chief inspector for the police department. He’s 38 and has been fighting as a pro for more than 15 years. “I am 100 percent OK, that’s why I am still in the business,” he said. “I am ready to win the world title.”
Beltran’s trainer, Pepe Reilly, said Moses “is a good matchup for us. Beltran is a smart infighter. Moses is a tall and rangy fighter and that will help us.” Moses has a 4.5 inch reach advantage. Beltran, 36, has fought 234 rounds. He said he has focused on his own preparation and has not carefully studied tape of Moses, who has 289 rounds of experience. Beltran appears strong, confident and relaxed. Moses looks exceptionally conditioned and fast. Both fighters have been knocked down. The bout figures to be a thriller. If there’s an early knockout, Lucio-Galvan, who fights last, will get an appearance on ESPN.
Hollywood’s Reilly is a 1992 U.S. Olympian who honed his skills in the Resurrection Gym with Oscar de La Hoya and Sugar Shane Mosley. “Everyday sparring with world champions is what made us elite fighters,” said Reilly, who also trains undefeated welterweight Eben Vargas. Reilly fought alongside Olympic teammate Oscar de La Hoya in a 1993 card at Caesars Tahoe. He also lost a decision to South Lake Tahoe’s Juan Torres in a 1996 bout in the L.A. Forum, but Reilly is hardly bitter about it. “He was that guy who used to be a kickboxer, wasn’t he? If you see him, please tell him I said hi.”
– Tim Parsons
- Top Rank Bout Sheet
4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, 2018
Grand Sierra Resort, Grand Theatre
WBO World Lightweight Championship, 12 rounds
- Paulus Moses, Windhoek, Namibia (40-3, 25 KOs) vs. Ray Beltran, Pheonix (34-7-1, 21 KOs)
NABF Welterweight Championship, 10 rounds
- David Avanesyan, Sadovoye, Russia (23-2-1, 11 KOs) vs. Egidijus Kavaliauskas, Oxnard, California (17-0, 14 KOs)
- Featherweights, 8 rounds
Juan Tapia, Brownsville, Texas (8-1, 3 KOs) vs. Shakur Stevenson, Newark, New Jersey (4-0-2 KOs)
- Super Featherweights, 8 rounds
Robson Conceicao, Bahia, Brazil (5-0, 4 KOs) vs. Jayro Duran, San Pedro Sula, Honduras (11-4-9 KOs)
- Heavyweights, 8 rounds
Bryant Jennings, Philadelphia (21-2, 12 KOs) vs. Ahror Muralimov, Houston (14-3, 11 KOs)
- Welterweights, 8 rounds
Wesley Tucker, Toledo, Ohio (14-1, 8 KOs) vs. Alexander Besputin, Oxnard, California (8-0, 6 KOs)
- Super Welterweights, 6 rounds
Sagadat Rakhmankul, Oxnard, California (pro debut) vs. Noel Esqueda, Wichita, Kansas (8-4-2)
- Featherweights, 4 rounds
Ricardo Lucio-Galvan, Reno (1-0-1 KO) vs. Kenny Guzman, Kalispell, Montana (4-1, 1 KO)