By Lindy Lindell
Photos: Bob Ryder
After a near three-month drought, boxing returned to the Motor City with a nine-bout card at the Club Fantasy, formerly Club International, in the Southwest section of Detroit, as local favorite Gabriel “Bebe” Garza scored his first knockout in five pro fights, overwhelming a hapless, pro-debuting Charles Fisher.
A good venue for what matched the card itself: the grittiness of club boxing in a bankrupt city that reminded one of some of the early scenes of Cinderella Man, the Depression-era flick that featured the oft-losing Jim Braddock’s rise from, well, tattered rags to Championship Glory.
My driver was happy to pay five bucks to steer into the safety of a lighted, fenced-in parking lot. The Greg Ahrens promotion featured wall-to-wall entertainment that had boxing mixed with shout-rapping and dancing without any of those annoying “short intermissions.” Matchmaker Carlos Llinas got all 18 participants to show, and while at least two of the eighteen “fighters” shouldn’t be allowed entry into the building without paying, nobody quit and all tried to the full extent of their sometimes limited abilities.
As for Garza, he did what he had to do, pummeling his inept foe, Fisher, in two corners until the fight was stopped in the first. There was constant action here and folks were entertained—nothing wrong with that, so who am I to complain, and I won’t. Two observations: Garza weighed thirty pounds more (he tipped in at 171) than when I saw him last year and his body had the look and texture of a marshmallow. His novice opponent didn’t quit but looked relieved when the fight was stopped and he was seen laughing when examined by the ringside doc.
Billed as the co-main, Dwayne Williams, 4-0, stalked and easily bested Covon Graham, 1-5-1 in a lightheavyweight rematch. The pro-debuting middleweight Dorell Van Horn, Jr., son of the serviceable Detroit middleweight of the 1990s, showed good energy, a lot of missing, and was victorious when opponent Bryan Smith took a heavy body blow in the third and collapsed.
Buried in the card, veteran Daryl Cunningham, Detroit, 162, participated in one of those déjà vu matchups with the tough Vance Garvey, Indianapolis, 156, and no surprise that he won every round this time as well. Cunningham didn’t get rolling until the fourth, finally putting some combinations together, but Garvey, seldom on the offense, is hard to dent and was never in trouble.
In other action, Neftali Gonzalez, 158, Detroit, KO1 Darryl Fields, 159, Akron; Mohammad Abadeen, 141, Toronto, TKO1 Adam Alvarez, 136, Lansing (three knockdowns); Zach Shamoun, 122, Detroit, TKO1 Lorenzo “Young Cash” Barber, 123, Toledo; Todd Welcome, billed out of Southwest Detroit, got a rare win in a battle of beefmeisters (grossly overweight citizens), when his right landed first onto the jaw of Midland’s Matt Eckerly; and in the best fight of the night, Torontonian, Luis Valdivia, 3-0, 160, won a close, though unanimous decision over a determined Anthony Kelly, 153.5, Toledo.
This card was the first pro show in the area since the tragic death of trainer Dave Lester, who cornered the main go when his trained fighter Vernon Paris won a hard-fought decision televised on ESPN less than three months before. The duties of the mc announcer, as usual, fell to former boxer Kara Ro, Dave’s partner in running the World’s Best Boxing Gym on Detroit’s west side. It was the desire of Lester to bring youngsters off the street and instruct them not only in the art of self defense, but also the ways of this cruel world. Beyond Lester’s death, I was concerned that the gym would have to close, but Kara assured me that it will run with all systems on “Go”; it had to be with a heavy heart that Kara soldiered forth with her announcing duties, but you couldn’t tell. She was splendid.