By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
It will go down as the Fiasco in Pe¤asco.
For the record, it was billed as the Arizona Vs. Sonora Professional Boxing Shootout; aptly enough, when the dust cleared at Puerto Pe¤asco Stadium on October 3, people were in a shooting mood.
It was an awesome lineup for any card, but especially for a small town in a boxing-crazy nation.
Michael Carbajal, Louis Espinosa and Jorge Paez--all current or former world champs--displayed their prodigious talents to an adoring but disappointingly sparse crowd. The exhibitions were for charity, a fund raiser for the Red Cross in the Sonoran resort community known to Arizonans as Rocky Point.
But weeks after the event, the boxers were still waiting for all their promised appearance fees and organizers were sparring across the border, accusing each other of absconding with more than their share of the proceeds.
Some observers want to blame the Shootout's backfiring on international tensions or some kind of culture clash. But the view from the neutral corner makes it all look like a typical boxing snafu. (Such debacles inspired the late New York sportswriter Dick Young to remark that he loved boxing "because everyone tries to beat everyone, in and out of the ring.")
Conrado Valez, the director of Sonora's state office in Arizona, attended the benefit. "They lost money. They needed more organization," he contends, adding that he believes Phoenix resident Jimmy Young, who hatched the idea, deserves most of the criticism. "Jimmy made a lot of mistakes," Valez says. "How can he do business if he doesn't know the people?"
This Jimmy Young should not be confused with the former heavyweight fighter of the same name (although this Jimmy Young would be in that weight class). Young--a security guard cum border tourism dabbler turned neophyte charity boxing promoter--is married to a native of Puerto Pe¤asco, where he has tried to launch YoungStar Tours. He decided that by employing his tourism contacts in Sonora and his boxing contacts in Phoenix, he could make new friends--and maybe a little money--with a boxing card. To wit: YoungStar Productions.
Young's first move was to call an unsuspecting Al Rodriguez, who runs Rodriguez Boxing Club out of an old storefront at 15th Avenue and Roosevelt. The Valley boxing stalwart was enlisted to lure the big names, and Rodriguez succeeded beyond his own expectations. He even transported the ring from his gym to Puerto Pe¤asco for the big event. He had high hopes--and high expenses.
"It was a hell of a show, all the way to the end, when I got hit with the funding," says Rodriguez, who, weeks after the Shootout, was still trying to get payments for his fighters. "I was supposed to get a percentage for setting up the whole show.
"Everyone cooperated so pretty. Then, in the end, the people I was doing it for kicked me in the ass."
About the only thing everyone agrees on is that the fights were entertaining. There were several undercard bouts, including two women kickboxers. Espinosa dispatched Geraldo Sanchez in the second round before Carbajal and Paez took to the ring.
A videotape obtained from KTVW Channel 33--a Phoenix Spanish-language station that sent a crew--shows Carbajal getting a spirited four-round workout courtesy of Puerto Pe¤asco's Absulon "Negro" Briceno, who is heavier. It was an exhibition; both fighters wore headgear.
But why would Carbajal, a junior-flyweight titleholder on the verge of a million-dollar payday, get involved with such rookies? For charity, and because Rodriguez asked, according to Danny Carbajal, Michael's brother and manager. "Those are the reasons we went over there," he says.
Paez, a flamboyant creature who once shaved the Bat Signal into his hair before a title fight, proved his mettle by sparring with two opponents for two rounds each--this despite scrapes and soreness because of a fall from an all-terrain cycle the day before.
Estimates of attendance range from a low of 800 to a high of 3,500. Judging from the videotape, 1,000 to 1,500 spectators seems like a reasonable estimate. No matter how many people watched the fights, one thing is clear: Too few of them paid to get in.
That's why Young had to hightail it out of Puerto Pe¤asco on October 4. That's why the Puerto Pe¤asco police would still like to talk to Young. And it's why he claims he is now $30,000 in the red.
The convolution began in May when, after pledging a percentage of the proceeds from the Shootout to Cruz Roja, Young says he got the blessing of Puerto Pe¤asco Mayor Fernando Martinez. He then hired a Mexican front man known as "Juan." Every boxing debacle requires someone like Juan, who emerges as a convenient scapegoat for myriad misdeeds. Juan, of course, could not be reached for comment. Everybody knows everything about him, except where he is.
Young says he paid Juan $1,000 to make local arrangements--advance ticket sales, trade-outs (for sponsorships) with hotels to house fighters and their entourages, advertising, security and volunteers from the Red Cross to help stage the event. Young returned to Phoenix to begin promotion and advance ticket sales on this side of the border.