Jabs and Hooks: South Tahoe athletes walk to immortality

Tahoe Onstage

Congratulations to South Lake Tahoe’s inaugural class of Olympians Jamie Anderson, Maddie Bowman, Hannah Teter, Kyle Smaine, Travis Cabral, Elena Hight, Jonna Mendes, freestyle skiers Glen Plake and Travis Ramos and boxer Juan Torres. For any young athlete, Tahoe is a special place and local athletes and the community always have supported each other in a special way. They now have what is to become Tahoe’s walk of fame to cement themselves in Tahoe’s athletic history forever. Cabral, Mendes and Ramos are part of the South Lake Tahoe class of 1997 that I am honored to be a part of and what I’ve always said is likely the most distinguished athletic class in Tahoe history.

It is only fitting that the inaugural honor from the local fight fraternity is my trainer, mentor and life coach. I can never mention enough what a true influence and teacher of life, along with boxing, that Torres has been. The “Ghost Warrior” is back living in Tahoe after having moved to Las Vegas for 15 years and is soon opening up his Torres MMA Sport Gym along with another former fighter that he trained, Francisco Rodrigues, who has been running Tazmania Boxing Club  in Carson City. The partnership has them putting together the new 8,000 square foot gym in North Carson that will be home to both teams. It is a tribute of Torres’ respect for the local fight scene. He could have opened up his gym in Tahoe, but I suspect he recognized the established stable at Escobar’s Training Grounds, which is producing multiple amateur MMA champions. Torres, who turned 50 on June 30, looks to continue the success that his MMA gym that had in Vegas.

That all being said, I do have to thank those in the community for your kind words to me! When asked “when are you gonna get honored?” The thought did bring a smile as it ran through my head. I of course, like those honored, don’t have a say in when or if I’ll ever have the honor. I will say that if that day ever comes, it would be a great honor to have my name — in the town I was born and raised in — forever recognized for my son and future generations to see.

Already, I have plans for my ashes to be scattered into Lake Tahoe when that time comes, and any honor like the Walk of Champions I would cherish forever. Unfortunately, my greatest accomplishments and amateur Army Championship came far from home and even I, consider my pro career a failure. It would also be correct if a few other athletes were considered before me. Another South Lake Tahoe High School class of ’97 skier Chris Hernandez, 1995 National Amateur Flyweight champion and the first ever to defeat Floyd Mayweather Jr., Arnulfo Bravo, and also the two other Torres kickboxing champions, Hector and the late Alejandro Torres, I believe, should all get consideration. I hope it becomes an annual event and that it never becomes political much like who makes the team in many of the local high school sports. Hey, what would ‘Jabs and Hooks’ be without the jabs?

Amateurism becoming profitable and annoying?

Coming from boxing and a time when amateur boxers at the elite level in the 1990s used to get “sponsorship” money, I have seen both sides of the debate as to whether college athletes should be paid. Back in the aforementioned days of amateur boxing, there was regular money that you would receive for your travels and expenses. Since USA Boxing has sold out to AIBA, that kind of money isn’t going directly into the pockets of the boxers.

A top ranked amateur of the 1990s had more spare change in their pockets than today’s Olympic boxer. When it comes to amateur MMA, the fighters receive “travel” money as part of their usual deal. In recent years it’s gotten out of control for the amateur MMA promoters, in my opinion. Around the start of the decade is when I first spoke to an amateur MMA fighter who, when asked why they didn’t fight on a certain show, responded with “nobody wanted to fight — they asked for too much money.” It’s an answer that raises eyebrows since they are indeed “amateurs.” In recent shows since that time I have seen a fighter, who was arrested during their stay in the city where the event took place, still have the nerve to approach the promoter that bailed him out to see if he could still get the $100 he was told he’d be getting for his bout. Then at a more recent event, there was yet another encounter I observed and later got details of where a fighter on a card was trying to argue that he was shortchanged and tried to use what was written in a Facebook message but that was not included in the official fight contract.

This all leads me to believe that if we do start paying the college athlete, it won’t be long before we get to a point where the athlete forgets that they used to make $0 and start arguing that they are not getting enough. It’s a shameful day when a pro boxer is asked to “pay” for their own bouts at smaller club shows but the amateur fighter leaves with a little money in his pocket. What it also creates is the fighter that never has to turn pro, they can be a local fight star at the local events, do this as a hobby, and leave feeling that they accomplished quite a bit in the combat sports industry without ever really finding out how far they could’ve gone. There were several amateur boxers back in the day that took the route of never turning pro because they made an OK enough income as a “sponsored” amateur.

Tahoe Onstage
Shakur Stevenson had another impressive win in June.

June fisticuffs

June had a few tune-up fights for the next potential great fight in boxing. On June 9 at a show I covered in Las Vegas, Terrence Crawford made his statement in the welterweight division when he won the the WBO title in shutout fashion to dethrone Australia’s Jeff Horn. The following weekend, Errol Spence Jr. fought in his hometown of Dallas and won by first-round knockout. A Crawford-Spence bout is being built up and those who argue either side make a believable case of who will win and how.

Women were featured on Showtime Championship Boxing and another feud battle seems to be set up with Christina Hammer of Germany and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist from Flint, Michigan, Claressa Shields, who won their respective bouts and stirred up some fireworks in a post fight face-off during Shields interview after her win. The Crawford undercard in Vegas also saw Shakur Stevenson demolish his opponent in less than two rounds and Stockton’s Gabriel Flores won a unanimous decision one week after his high school graduation. No stopping for Flores, who fights again July 7 in Fresno.

No undisputed heavyweight champ?

June 28 marked the 30 year anniversary of Mike Tyson unifying the heavyweight championship over Michael Spinks. Currently, the two belt holders — Deontay Wilder of Alabama and England’s Anthony Joshua —  are in a war of back-and-forth social media banter along with their respective promotional companies. This posturing is likely to continue through this year, and I believe it’s a safe bet that the much-anticipated match will wait until at least 2019.


– Simon Ruvalcaba

ABOUT Tahoe Onstage

Tahoe Onstage
Tahoe Onstage is an online entertainment and sports magazine covering Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Reno, the Carson Valley and June Lake.


2 Responses

  1. I like how you pointed out the amateur fighters who never turn pro and yet still feel as if they have accomplished a lot. I myself am one of those fighters, although I turned pro and was forced to retire by the Athletic Commission, I feel as if I had a perfect career, and now I can just enjoy the memories and sparring with the boys my brother is bringing up. Cheers.

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