For this being their first show, the Grand Boxing Promotions team certainly made a big splash on Thursday evening April 21, 2016, at El Rancho Grande Sports Bar in downtown Tijuana. The fight card included a super flyweight title fight and nine additional bouts. The title fight, a WBC Youth Super Flyweight Title match, had Emanuel Africano going up against Briegel “Gallito” Quirino both of Tijuana. From the gritty fighters to the award presented by Pascual Campomanes of La Voz del Boxeo, this show held your attention for four solid hours, 8 p.m. until well past midnight. The bouts went off like clockwork as if Grand Boxing had been in the business for a decade.
Bout #1 featured super featherweight Julian Rodarte’s unanimous decision victory over Luis Valdivia (2-1, 2 KOs) of Tijuana. With the win, Rodarte, also from Tijuana, improved his record to (5-0, 3 KOs). Rodarte was in charge throughout. On occasion, Valdivia would land a mean left hook, but overall he couldn’t come close to matching Rodarte’s output.
In Bout #2, it was Manuel “Baby” Zepeda Jr. (5-0, 2 KOs) winning a unanimous decision over fellow welterweight Miguel Mendieta (5-6-5 KOs) also from Tijuana. After the fight was up for grabs in round one, Mendieta slowed down in the later rounds and didn’t have the same pop in his punches.Bout #3 featured super bantamweights Carlos Ornelas (3-0-1 KO) from Bahia Asuncion, Baja California Sur who did a lot of chasing in an attempt to corral the fleet-footed Angel “Zurdito” Barcenas (7-3, 4 KOs). With Ornelas being far and away the busier of the two, this one looked it was just a matter of time before Ornelas had his victory. Then, in the second round after a combination of circumstances, a low blow and a sharp punch around the eye, Barcenas and his corner decided to call it a day. As a result, Ornelas gets the win via a TKO in the second round.
In Bout #4, Miguel Amenaza Dumas of Tijuana (5-0, 4 KOs) won a close majority decision over fellow super welterweight Miguel Mendieta (5-6-5 KOs) also of Tijuana.Bout #5 featuring super bantamweights, Ismael Camacho (6-1, 4 KOs) of Tijuana and Guadalupe Neri (3-3-1 KO) also from Tijuana, ended abruptly after Neri complained about getting hit first with a low blow and then immediately after around his right eye. After talking it over with his corner, Neri decided it was best to call it a night and told the referee he was unable to continue.
Bout #6 featured José Briegel “Gallito” Quirino Jr. of Tijuana (9-2-1, 3 KOs) making his first defense of the WBC Youth Intercontinental Super Flyweight Title which he won in December of last year after defeating fellow southpaw, 18-year-old Angel “Zurdito” Barcenas. This time around he was facing 18-year-old Emmanuel Africano (5-4, 2 KOs) of Tijuana. Unlike Quirino, the gutsy Africano began his career at the tender age of 16. As the fight progressed, you could see the attacking Quirino had much more pop in his punches and soon he had Africano’s head snapping back. Before long, Africano was being knocked off his feet and the referee was issuing one 10-count after another. Still, the gutsy Africano kept trading blows with the more grounded Quirino. Finally, the Africano corner decided it was time to stop this one-sided beatdown.
Bout #7 featured welterweight Eric Vega (3-0, 2 KOs) from Tijuana going up against Jorge Huatanabi of Sonora (3-2, 1 KO). You can’t tell much about a boxer’s pedigree when his opponent, Huatanabi, only threw soft arm punches and spent the rest of the time covering up. After being knocked down twice in round one, Huatanabi returned to his corner with a bloody nose. Huatanabi was gone in a flash after the early, second round stoppage.
In Bout #8, you had super bantamweights Edgar “Bam Bam” Gonzalez of Tijuana (1-0, 1 KO) going up against Miguel Zapata (1-1, 1 KO) from Ensenada, B. C., Mexico who hadn’t fought since October of 2013, two and a half years ago. In this one, Gonzalez was accurate and kept busy while Zapata threw miss after miss until the final round when he actually landed a few solid punches. In the end, the judges had it scored dead even.
Bout #9 featured Gabriel “Baby Bull” Hernandez going up against Abraham Jocupisio of Tijuana. Hernandez, one of San Diego’s most popular USA Amateur Athletes, was making his Professional Debut. Hernandez trains with Tiger Smalls at Small’s gym on Mission Gorge Road in Mission Valley. With it now being very late, after 11 p.m., you would have thought the crowd would have thinned out considerably, but no, there was still a great many waiting around to see Hernandez make his debut. There wasn’t the same fanfare of say a Macho Camacho but it was close. Everyone was up on their feet and cheering. Hernandez’s opponent must have thought, what in the world did I get myself into? He soon found out after Hernandez came rushing at him like one of those bulls you see going after the matadors.
The final bout of the evening, Bout #10, featured Elvis Bravo in his Pro Debut going up against Eduardo “Fino” Miranda (1-0, 1 KO) both Tijuana residents. The way these two super welterweights were loading up, you just knew someone was going to get hurt and end up being lights out for Miranda who got caught flush.
During a 20-minute intermission between fights, boxing journalist/photographer Pascual Campomanes of La Voz del Boxeo took over the proceedings and announced the recipients of “The 2015 Voice of Boxing’s Annual Awards.” These “Best of the Year” awards were determined by the fans. In the category of “Fighter of the Year” that distinction went to the WBC Featherweight Fecarbox Champion Rafael “Big Bang” Rivera. In his televised bout on HBO Latino, Rivera, now 21-0-2, upset the former WBO World Super Bantamweight champ Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. in Florida. Rivera won the 10 round split decision victory after dominating Vazquez throughout most of the fight. One contrarian judge, Thomas Nardone, had it an incredulous 98-91 for Vazquez???
The “Top Prospect of the Year” award went to Michael Dumas. Ricardo “The Hindu” Espinoza also won an award for Top Prospect. Manager of the Year recipient was Sergio “Cheko” Zarate. The manager selected was Pedro Moran Jr. The Estelarista of the Year was Bryan “The Kid” Figueroa who won eight matches. In the “Bout of the Year” they had the six round duel between bantamweights Julio “Sexy Boy” Robles and Francisco “Rayito” Pedroza, which was won by Pedroza and the Fight of the Year held outside of the city, went to the Jose “Gallito” Quirino Jr. who battled Angel “The Southpaw” Barcenas for the WBC Youth Intercontinental Super Flyweight Title at the Gymnasio Municipal Gustavo Diaz Ordaz in Tecate. In that one, Quirino won a 10 round unanimous decision. With respect to which boxer had the most followers in “The Voice of Boxing” that recognition went to Manuel “Baby” Zepeda Jr., who’s manager is Romulo Quirarte.