Tag Archives: Rick Farris

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Los Angeles Boxing Legends: Frank Baltazar, Sr.

rickFrank Los Angeles Boxing Legends: Frank Baltazar, Sr.

Rick and Frank (September 22, 2007)

By Rick Farris
a former professional boxer and boxing historian )

 

By the end of WWII, a new era in Los Angeles boxing had taken life. In the eyes of California boxing historians, such as Gabriel “Hap” Navarro, former promoter and matchmaker at the legendary Hollywood Legion Stadium, the post war years thru the 1950′s, are considered the “Golden Era” of Los Angeles boxing.

At the time, L.A. headliners such as Enrique Bolanos, Manuel Ortiz, Art Aragon and dozens more, set box office records at the Olympic Auditorium, Hollywood Legion Stadium and Wrigley Field. In addition, the “City of Angeles” had a number of smaller clubs putting on regular shows, such as Ocean Park in Santa Monica, South Gate Arena and San Bernardino, to name a few.

A couple years after the war, a skinny 12-year-old would get his first taste of boxing from inside the ropes. This would be the birth of a life long journey for young Frank Baltazar, and it would take it’s first breath at the beginning of Los Angeles boxing’s toughest, most competitive era.

Today, six decades later, the skinny kid isn’t quite as skinny, and the thick black hair not quite as dark, as when we first met, however, Frank Baltazar Sr. looks pretty much the same. Frank’s handsome latino features contradict his seventy-plus years.

The first time I saw Frank was in the mid-1960′s, shortly after he’d hung up the gloves, after a sixteen year amateur career. Frank’s education in prizrfighting took place during the sports most glorious period in California, lessons learned in countless gyms, arenas and clubs thruout the Southland. His teachers were hardened “old school” veterans, and he practiced his skills in the ring, trading blows with some of the greats of the era
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Chavez

“The Lion in Winter”

Chavez The Lion in Winter  By Rick Farris

( a friend, a former professional boxer and boxing historian )

 

This was my last look at Julio Cesar Chavez, Summer of 2000 …

 

Boxing and controversy were holding hands long before the Marquis of Queensbury laid down the ground rules. Generally, controversy surfaces sometime after the opening bell. However, from the moment it was announced that WBC Jr. Welterweight Champ Kostya Tszyu would defend his title against 38-year-old Julio Cesar Chavez, controversy flourished. Even today, three days after the fight the controversy continues.

The Tszyu-Chavez title fight would be my first live coverage assignment and I had a special interest in it. I had been in the house the night Chavez made his Los Angeles debut at the Olympic Auditorium more than seventeen years ago, and again the following year, when he won his first world title. Now I would be present for what I expected to be the once great champion’s final fight.

I had hoped to catch Chavez working out at the Madison Gym in Phoenix where today I train boxers. However, my schedule interfered with the chance of seeing Chavez during the week he conducted his final workouts in Phoenix. I didn’t see the former champ until the friday afternoon weigh-in at the Airport Hilton Hotel in Phoenix.

When I arrived at the Hotel I saw a lot of old friends and familiar faces from my era in Los Angeles boxing. Marty Denkin, who was scheduled to judge the bout was sitting in the lobby with another L.A. based official, Chuck Hassett. A group of amateur boxers representing several Phoenix area gyms were standing by hoping to get a glimpse of Chavez when he entered the building. Arizona boxing commissioner John Montano was having a discussion in the corner with one of the promoters and Jimmy Lennon Jr. crossed the room on his way to the restaurant. Kostya Tszyu had quietly slipped into the media room where the weigh-in would be held and quickly checked his weight on the scale. After stepping off the scale he disappeared. About ten minutes later a commotion could be heard coming from the lobby and it marked the entrance of the greatest Mexican boxer ever, Julio Cesar Chavez. Chavez was quickly surrounded by the media. Anxious reporters and camera crews positioned themselves close to the former champion and began asking questions. Chavez sat down in the lobby and talked with the media but not with the strength that he once projected. Continue reading

Quarry - Scrap Iron 0001-crop

My Memory of Jerry Quarry

Quarry Scrap Iron 0001 crop My Memory of Jerry Quarry

Photos by David Martinez, March 19, 1970, Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, Quarry vs. Scrap Iron

By Rick Farris

( Former professional boxer and boxing historian )

In early 1999, I was watching ESPN, hoping to hear the result of a fight that had taken place earlier in the evening. When the sports news came on, I waited thru football scores, and golf, until the sportscaster finally said . . . “And now from the world of boxing”.

I expected a report on the fight. Nothing else going on in boxing at the time. Instead, I heard something that made me forget about the fight result I’d been waiting for.  I still remember the words . . .”A sad note to report in boxing today, former heavyweight contender Jerry Quarry has died at the age of 53.” I was stunned.

I was aware that Jerry had not been doing well and suffered from Dementia pugilistica.  I knew that he had been living with his mother Arawanda in a mobile home park near the Hemet area of Southern California and was under her care. Mutual friends from the past, such as former middleweight Mike Nixon, Jerry’s brother-in-law, had told me that Jerrycould no longer handle simple daily tasks, such as shaving. Jerry’s older brother Jimmy would help him with such things. I remember how sad it was to hear this a couple years back, and that Jerry would no doubt die young. However, I couldn’t imagine him dead at 53.

I wasn’t the only person surprised to hear of Quarry’s death. However, in my case it was something very personal. As a kid, all I wanted to do was become a boxer. Jerry Quarry helped make this possible. Jerry Quarry’s success and accomplishments are a part of boxing history. Being close to a boxer who won the National Golden Gloves Heavyweight title in 1965, and went on to fight for the World Heavyweight Championship as a pro, is a part of my history.

When I was twelve-years-old I had a dream that was a bit unusual for a middle class kid growing up in Burbank, California. I was going to be a professional boxer. I didn’t just want to be a pro fighter . . .I was going to be a pro fighter. I set a goal for myself and nothing was going to stop me. Nobody took me seriously, but it didn’t matter, I took myself seriously. However, this was not going to be easy. There were no boxing gyms in the Burbank area, or close by where I could start out. The YMCA didn’t have a boxing program and even if it had, I was looking for a place where real boxers trained, amateurs and pros.

In early 1965, the Western Regional Golden Gloves Championships were televised in the Los Angeles area and, naturally, I was glued to the TV. The heavyweight final was won by a 19-year-old from Bellflower named Jerry Quarry. Quarry scored a decision over Clay Hodges and would represent Los Angeles in the national tournament the following week in Kansas City. There was something special about this fighter and I couldn’t see anybody beating him in the Nationals. I was right.

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A Walkabout With Lionel Rose

lionel wideweb A Walkabout With Lionel Rose

By Rick Farris

(Former professional boxer and boxing historian)

 

On February 26, 1968, Mashiko “Fighting” Harada, the greatest Japanese boxer of all-time, was scheduled to defend his World Bantamweight title against number one challenger Jesus Pimentel of Mexico. It would be Harada’s fourth defense of the title he’d won nearly three years previous by upsetting the great Eder Jofre of Brazil.

 

Pimentel was one of the hardest hitting bantamweights ever and had been in contention for a title shot throughout most of the sixties. However, just days before the fight, Pimentel’s manager Harry Kabakoff demanded more money from the Japanese promoter. When the promoter refused to renegotiate, Kabakoff pulled his fighter out of the match and returned to the United States. The story was that Pimentel had taken ill.

 

Desperate to save the promotion, the Japanese promoter sought a qualified challenger for Harada. The champion had struggled to make weight for the bout and after doing so insisted on fighting. Harada’s plan was one last title defense before moving up to the featherweight division. However, none of the contenders were interested in taking a title shot on such short notice, except one, the Australian Bantamweight Champion Lionel Rose. Rose was considered the perfect replacement because he was not considered a hard puncher like the thunderous punching Pimentel. Rose had a 27-2 record and had scored only 8 KO’s.

 

Rose and his manager Jack Rennie jumped on a plane for Tokyo and three days later the 20-year-old Australian won the World Bantamweight title with a unanimous fifteen round decision over Harada.

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The “Great” Henry Armstrong

Rick Farris 300x229 The Great Henry ArmstrongRick Farris, Henry Armstrong and Bill Farris at the Main Street Gym, Los Angeles-1965

By Rick Farris for dmboxing.com

When I heard that Henry Armstrong was in the gym, I couldn’t concentrate on my own workout. He was nearly 53-year-old, and hadn’t fought in twenty years. He was in the gym training a young welterweight, Gary Carr.

My eyes kept looking over to Armstrong as he worked with his fighter. I wanted to watch closer, maybe pick something up from one of the greatest prizefighters in history. I was just a kid, but I knew all about Henry Armstrong. I was like a little leaguer standing on the same ball field with Babe Ruth.

How many other world champions held three undisputed world titles simultaniously?
How many champs defended the welterweight title eighteen times (the record) in less than two years (five defenses in a three week period!). He did the above while also holding and defending the featherweight and Lightweight titles, not to mention a few non-title contests, as well. Then he fights to a disputed “draw” in an attempt to add the middleweight title to his collection. (He had beaten the middle champ in an earlier match.)

I watched the man closely, this is what I would take from the gym that day. He looked a little tired, very calm, a warmth about him. His dark sweater had holes in the sleeves, the soles of his shoes were worn. I imagined how good life had once been for him. Actors Al Jolson and Ruby Keeler had once had held his contract.

My manager, Johnny Flores introduced me to Hammerin’ Hank. My grandad snapped a picture.

NOTE: Rick Farris is a former professional boxer and a boxing historian. He was recently inducted into the California Boxing Hall of Fame in June 2010. His contributions to this website are most appreciated!