If a headline like the one above were to appear in the local newspaper or on the front page of Sunday’s Daily Racing Form, it would certainly cause a stir and have tongues wagging. It’s likely the California Horse Racing Board would also request an inquiry.
Nowadays, headlines are often misleading.
However, on Saturday night, August 30, 2014, at the same Del Mar Race Track, 30 year-old jockey Elvis Trujillo did get himself into an altercation with 43 year-old Corey Nakatani and their meeting in the ring did come to blows.
Why would they fight? Earlier that day, Trujillo, in Race #1, on “Cruisingtheharbor” came in first and paid $12 for the win. He also placed third in Race #4 on “I’ll Wrap It Up,” and won Race #5 on Sam’s Sister. Nothing new, over his 13-year-career, he’s won nearly 2,000 races and won more than $61 million in purses.
That same day, his rival Corey Nakatani finished in the money twice. In Race #2, on Alfa Bird, he finished second and in Race #9 he finished third on Conquest Eclipse. With more than 3,700 wins and $221 million in purses to his credit, Nakatani has certainly had a Hall of Fame career. Not to say that he’s getting up there in age, but it is possible that he is now harboring a smidgen of envy towards the new kid on the oval.
A few weeks back, the promoter for this upcoming boxing show, Ringside at Del Mar, approached all the jockeys and asked if any of them would be interested in taking part in the next boxing show, Saturday evening, August 30th, since a percentage of the profits would be donated to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. The fund, supported by The Jockeys’ Guild, is a public charity providing financial assistance to some 60 former jockeys who suffered career-ending injuries.
With the upstart Trujillo in the running to be the top jockey of the 2014 Del Mar Racing season, the grizzled veteran Nakatani may have seen this as an opportunity to bring Elvis’ giant ego down a notch. Irrespective of their motives, both gentleman agreed to participate in the fisticuffs and began training as time would permit with the well respected trainer Ernie Johnson at his Old School Boxing Gym in the SDSU college area.
So, with very little advertising to the general public and not one poster hanging at any of the local boxing gyms, the latest Ringside at Del Mar show “Battle off the Saddle” came to be by way of word of mouth, a mention on the radio and through some banners and signs at the Del Mar Race Track.
As a result, the majority of the patrons who packed this outside venue on Saturday night were more than likely witnessing a live boxing show for the first time. They were not your regular boxing fans. There were no boo-birds in this crowd, only new converts.
Without further ado, here’s the line-up and play-by-play from Saturday night:
In Bout #1, it was two, evenly matched, super welterweights, 37 year-old Yair “Pulpo” Aguiar of Culican, Sinaloa, Mexico (11-21-0-4 KOs) taking on 35 year-old Mario Angeles (1-5-1) of Chula Vista, CA by way of Mexico City, Mexico.
With Aguiar being taller, he went more with the stiff jab and full wind up when landing these wide, left hooks and shots to the body. In round one, you’d have to say Aguiar was the more productive fighter.
In round two, Angeles came on and became more effective after closing up his stance and using the shorter upper cuts, right crosses and countering with left hooks. Even though both boxers remained busy throughout, it was still surprising to all of a sudden see blood everywhere. Here Angeles, when swiping Aguiar’s high cheek bone with a short left hook, opened up a three inch gash. Round two went into Angeles’ column.
In round three, Aguiar was back in charge landing several big shots to the head.
As they say, ‘too legit to quit,’ both men gave it their all in the closing round. With neither boxer dominating, two of the judges scored the bout 38-38 and one judge had it 39-37 for Aguiar. As a result the scores made it a majority draw.
In this back and forth struggle, Benavides had his moments early but still the edge on the cleaner head shots has to go to Quevedo who seemed to be better grounded and landed his punches with more authority. By the fourth round, Quevedo appeared fresher and still had the quicker hands to land an occasional crowd pleasing combination. All three judges had Quevedo ahead 39-37, 39-37 and 40-36.
With both fighters being southpaws, this one was expected to be a dandy but as it turns out the size difference was noticeable and every punch that Gonzalez threw had more power behind it. Soon Gonzalez had Chacon backing up and getting waffled by these extremely hard shots to the body. All three judges had Gonzalez winning every round.
After dominating the action in the first three rounds, Ceballos seemed content to play it safe and simply outbox Buchanon in the final round. The scores of 40-36 from all three judges meant Ceballos had pitched a shutout. Photo: Jim Wyatt
Bout #5, the six round Main Event featured WBC Caribbean Champion Ruben “El Cobra” Garcia (10-0-1, 5 KOs) of Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico taking on the 31 year-old, battle-tested Javier “El Bravo” Gallo (21-9-1, 12 KOs) of Buena Park, CA by way of Tijuana, B. C., Mexico.
As mentioned, this was a major, step up in competition. The ring savvy Gallo, who had faced the likes of Alejandro Martinez, Vic Darchinyan, Khabir Suleymanov and Carlos Carlson came at the taller but much leaner youngster as if he were a hungry lion. His strategy involved pounding the midsection so the hands would drop.
However, each time Gallo approached, there was Garcia ready to deliver the overhand right or counter left hook to the head.
That being said, Gallo was always throwing something and those somethings began to take their toll on Garcia, so much so that swelling developed under his left eye. The fear in the Garcia camp was that the hands would drop and he’d be fair game for the more powerful punching of Gallo. But like the strongest willow tree, Garcia would bend but never break.
All three judges had Garcia as their winner, 60-54, 59-55 and 58-56.
Bout #6 was the much anticipated battle between the jockeys. The fight that satisfies or conforms with the above headline. Yes, Elvis “Heartbreak” Trujillo was ready to touch gloves with Corey “Knock out” Nakatani in fierce combat for three rounds.
In round #1, Nakatani dominated by remaining calm, throwing less but landing more of the straighter and harder punches.
Playing catch-up, Trujillo made certain to take control in Round #2. As promised in his pre-fight soliloquy, he jettisoned in and out to land both the jab and the occasional hard right. He moved so fast there was no way Nakatani could catch him.
Then, from the opening bell of round #3, you could see Nakatani had begun to tire. At this juncture, Trujillo began throwing every punch imaginable and even started pushing and shoving. The bout was no longer following the Marquess of Queensberry rules, it was an anything goes street fight, void of fair play and sportsmanship.
In the chaos, there should have been several stoppages to warn Trujillo on the illegal shoving that led to the so-called knockdown. Did Trujillo actually knock Nakatani off his feet with a punch or did Nakatani lose his balance after being pushed? Then, while Nakatani was already down on the canvas, we saw the usually mild-mannered Trujillo land another blow on his opponent. The additional blow while his opponent was clearly down on the canvas is an infraction which could have led to Trujillo’s immediate disqualification.
Irregardless, Trujillo was awarded an unanimous decision victory in this first “Battle off the Saddle” benefit for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.
Guest judges for this final bout were Hall of Famers Mike Smith and Alex Solis plus Cisco Alvarado. All three had Trujillo winning. Smith scored the bout 29-28; Solis, 29-27, and Alvarado, 30-27.
The show was exciting to watch. I recommend you get your tickets early for the next one on October 25th. Who knows they might have your high school principal box. There was serious talk about going after Mario Lopez, Chef Gordon Ramsay, Harvey Levin, Rosie O’Donnell, Howard Stern, Simon Cowell, Charlie Sheen and Piers Morgan.