On Saturday, The Arena Gym on Sports Arena Boulevard in Point Loma celebrated their 6th Anniversary with a barbecue and a 10 bout exhibition of five hotly contested Muay Thai bouts followed by five hotly contested boxing matches. With their friends and more importantly their girlfriends present, the combatants were cordial up to a point and then the competitive juices took over. There was no way they were going to be embarrassed in front of their sweethearts.
Bout #1 of the Muay Thai matches had Rey Soriano facing Francisco Valdez with Valdez surviving the constant whacking of kicks from Soriano and Soriano managing to survive the onslaught of punches coming from Valdez.
In Bout #2, it was Greg Monce, with six months of training, going up against the taller Westley Branch. Monce, who has had no problems in his workouts, mentioned the big difference when you’re performing in front of 200 spectators. Branch did most of his damage with punches to Monce’s face, one of which had Monce’s nose bleeding.
In Bout #3, they had the veteran Pablo “El Toro” Alatorre going up against Maurice Brimage who has been training for only 4 months. Brimage managed to hold his own against the powerful striker in this well contested bout.
In Bout #4 it was the more accomplished Arthur Kim with a year of Muay Thai training and tons of experience in Taekwondo going up against an up and comer Coast Guard Reservist who has one of the coolest names on the planet – Dakota Flippin.
With his lady present to cheer him on, there was no way Flippin was going to show any sign of weakness or yelp when these hard kicks battered his legs, midsection, back and head. From the opening bell the question was not who was going to look better, it was more about can Flippin survive the beat down and somehow he did.
In the final Muay Thai bout, Bout #5, the mighty mite Francisco Valdez returned to face Jared Puente. Even though Puente had his moments with the kicks, he couldn’t keep pace with the much busier Valdez.
Getting back to the theme of courage, during the brief intermission, one of the boxers came over to me and pointed to a gentleman sitting on the bench outside. He didn’t have to say another word, the young man he pointed to looked just like the former WBC Welterweight Champ Victor Ortiz who hails from Oxnard, CA.
“Ask him”, he insisted. So, I went outside and asked the gentleman, “Did anyone ever tell you, you look a lot like Victor Ortiz?” His answer, “All the time.” So, in keeping with my sojourn to find all of the lookalikes in the world, I took several photos of the man and matched them up with Hollywood’s latest find Victor Ortiz.
Time for a commercial
Not wanting to go off course, but the topic of courage is always right there in each of these fighting events. Especially with these young warriors fighting in front of their peers, most for the first time. It certainly takes a lot of courage to do what they are doing.
And how about the courage it must have taken for all these aging action heroes to costar in “The Expendables 3” movie with their co-stars Rhonda Rousey and Victor Ortiz, both being only 28 years of age. They could have called the movie “The Expandables” or “The Incredables” when you have the likes of 67 year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger, 59 year-old Mel Gibson, 51 year-old Jet Li, 72 year-old Harrison Ford, 52 year-old Wesley Snipes, 68 year-old Sylvester Stallone, 57 year-old Swedish actor Dolph Lundgren, 60 year-old Kelsey Grammer and 54 year-old Antonio Banderas in it.
It must have been quite a chore for the old-timers to move quickly and pretend to be fit soldiers. To put their advancing years in perspective, the 26 and 28 year-old costars could have graduated from the same high school in the same year as several of the veteran’s grandchildren.
If you want a good laugh, you should see that movie and listen for the comical bantering between Stallone and Mel Gibson. In the movie, the bad guy, Gibson, tells Stallone to, “Come and get your kids!” That remark will no doubt put a smile on your face.
Before Saturday’s show resumed, Mike Liera, The Arena’s general manager came up into the ring and thanked everyone for coming. Then, in about as few words as possible, he mentioned the history of the location and how it grew from initially just 40 classes a week to the present which is more like 40 classes a day, and from 3,000 square foot of space all the way up to its present size of 28,000 square foot with an adjacent building housing an additional 5,000 square foot for the combination strength and conditioning facility and business offices. Some people remarked that The Arena has now out paced all facilities of its kind – nationwide.
Now on to the Boxing portion of this exhibition: Bout #6 saw Anthony Franco Rodriguez in a no nonsense fight against Joe “Mack” McDonald. Prior to coming on board with the new boxing coach, Joe Vargas, Franco had not one day of training in boxing. He had been a wrestler and had little if any interest in boxing. Well, all of that changed with his dominate performance on Saturday. Plain and simple, he’s a natural. His use of the jab and combinations were exemplary. As he moved about the ring, he had a relaxed demeanor and showed good footwork. A lot of people were impressed.
After all the praise being heaped on Mr. Franco, we can’t forget his opponent, Joe McDonald, who often times found himself going toe to toe with Franco. Even though McDonald’s energy level was through the roof, they had him sit after two rounds and brought up Ivan Lemus to face Franco. Lemus is shown here having his arm raised with McDonald by the honorary referee, pro-boxer Adrian Vargas.
Lemus, with approximately one year of experience also banged away with the clever Mr. Franco until the coaches deemed it time to re-introduce McDonald who finished up Bout #7.
In Bout #8 it was Sergio Delgado (1 year of experience) going up against David Prado (6-7 months of boxing experience). Each needs to improve on their defense as this one got wild and wooly and had more than a few momentum swings.
In Bout #9, they featured the fearless Ramses Mena, who has been training in both MuayThai Kickboxing and Boxing for a year and a half. He banged away with Manolo Paul who has almost a full year of boxing experience.
In the final bout, Bout #10, they reintroduced Maurice Brimage who had fought earlier in the Muay Thai segment, to battle Jourdan Carpenter. Both men had their lovely girlfriends at ringside to cheer them on. Both were in excellent condition and both had a reputation for having mad skills and fighting with utter abandonment.
When they started their battle, you half expected that someone or maybe both might end up in the hospital. Like Carpenter, who was winding up with these wide shots to Brimage’s head, Brimage followed suit. Before long it seemed defense did not exist and the two men were in a fight to the death. What an amazing bout to complete this exciting fight card.