NorCal Boxing Report: Jan. 29

Trainer Hunter Begins Building Stable In The Bay

Northern California Trainer of the Year Virgil Hunter had a banner year in 2011, leading Oakland, Calif.-based super middleweight champion Andre Ward to victory in the inaugural Super Six World Boxing Classic. Ward compiled wins against Arthur Abraham in the semifinals and followed it up with a victory over Englishman Carl Froch to unify both the WBA and WBC belts as well as earn the Super Six Trophy in the finals.

Hunter also helped raise the profile of middleweight hopeful Brandon Gonzales, who earned a narrow victory over venerable gatekeeper Ossie Duran in his ShoBox debut last October. Gonzales was set to fight on the Jan. 20 edition of ShoBox against Caleb Truax but suffered a torn hamstring just more than a week away from the fight. Hunter noted that Gonzales will likely begin work in the gym again in about three weeks from the time of this writing.

If Hunter’s stable were any deeper, he would have earned more consideration for the accolade of Trainer of the Year among the more notable publications.

It looks as though Hunter is taking that as a challenge in 2012 as he is undertaking the process of adding a few other young promising fighters to his fledging stable.

Over the last few weeks, Hunter has begun to work with Bakersfield, Calif. junior welterweight Mike Dallas Jr., (at right) who is also part of the Goossen-Tutor family along with Ward and Gonzales. Hunter has also taken on lightweight Stan Martyniouk (10-1, KO) of Antelope, Calif., who has not fought since suffering his first defeat underneath Ward’s WBA defense against Sakio Bika in Nov. 2010.

“Both Stan and Mike called me and asked if I would help them, and I am not one to turn someone away,” said Virgil, following a sparring session that also included junior welterweight contender Karim Mayfield as the three were in the process of helping junior lightweight Eloy Perez prepare for his upcoming February title shot against Adrien Broner.

Hunter took Andre Ward from an adolescent to pound-for-pound entrant and is far different from Southern California counterpart Freddie Roach, who finds his way into a fighter’s corner as they are on the verge of achieving high marks.

“It’s a lot more difficult to see a fighter from root to fruit than it is to come along a little later,” surmised Hunter.

“Virgil has Mike looking as good as I have ever seen him,” noted Sam Garcia, who co-manages Perez along with his mother Kathy Garcia.

Griffin On The Road Again

In an attempt to end his three-fight losing streak, Sacramento, Calif.-based Otis Griffin (23-9-2, 9 KOs) will hit the road for the third consecutive time as he travels north to Montreal’s Bell Centre to meet emerging 175-pound prospect Eleider Alvarez (7-0, 5 KOs) in a 12-round bout for the vacant WBC Latino light heavyweight title on Feb. 18.

Griffin stood one fight away from a world title when he lost via split decision to Yusaf Mack in March of last year. A shot at Tavoris Cloud’s IBF strap having eluded him, Griffin then travelled to Germany the following May to battle Karo Murat, with whom he was competitive until he was stopped in the eleventh. His most recent outing in October, 2011 ended in yet another defeat, as Griffin lost a controversial 10-round split decision to Shawn Hawk in Worley, Idaho. A win over Alvarez, however, would catapult Griffin back into the world rankings.

Though Griffin has spent ample time in the Great White North sparring with many of their top pros — including super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute — Feb. 18 will mark his inaugural fight there. The Columbian Alvarez, a former Olympian who has steadily established his name in Montreal since his August, 2009 debut, shows a wealth of promise but has yet to pass six rounds as a pro.

“He was a good amateur talent,” said Griffin in a phone interview with TQBR earlier this week. “He has decent talent but he doesn’t have any experience. He’s got seven pro fights, I’ve fought seven championship fights.”

“I’m just coming in to shoot down the young kid,” continued Griffin. “I’m the young Bass Reeves, the only law in the western territory. They will tell stories how I use to bring back the bounty.”

Griffin is perhaps best known for landing on the wrong side of an egregious decision against Jeff Lacy in April 2009. Possibly his last shot at light heavyweight supremacy, a win against the touted Alvarez could work wonders.

Woodland, Calif. Solo Boxeo Card Shapes Up

On March 3, as intially reported by’s Ryan Maquinana, Woodland, Calif. will play host to TeleFutura’s SoloBoxeo, headlined by an intriguing junior bantamweight crossroads clash between hometown hero Vicente Escobedo (24-3, 14 KOs) and Las Vegas, Nev.’s Lonnie Smith (14-2-2, 10 KOs).

As per Paco Damian of Paco Presents, who is co-promoting the fight with Golden Boy Promotions and Don Chargin Productions, the undercard is slowly but surely taking shape.

The televised portion will include 122-pound Golden Boy prospect Manuel Avila (6-0, 2 KOs) of Fairfield, Calif., in a six-round bout.

Russian middleweight Dmitry Chudinov (6-0, 3 KOs) will return in an enticing matchup against Delano, Calif.-based Paul Mendez (7-2, 2 KOs), likely in another six-rounder between 160 and 168 pounds. Chudinov had proven himself a promising prospect under the now defunct Las Vegas-based TKO Boxing Promotions banner. The demise of the company spelled the demise of Chudinov’s stateside ties; for more than 18 months, the fighter sat idle before reappearing in Woodland, Calif. this past December, against gatekeeper Tony Hirsch. Chudinov earned a close majority decision victory as both fighters tipped the scales a few divisions above their optimum weight. Mendez is coming off an October win in Salinas, Calif., over tough journeyman Loren Myers.

Also slated to appear is San Jose, Calif.-based cruiserweight Anthony Johnson (5-0, KO) against Sacramento, Calif.’s Harry Gopaul (0-2) in a four-round bout.

Rounding out the card is Sacramento native and light heavyweight Payton Boyea, making his pro debut against an opponent (to be determined) in a four-round bout. Boyea holds the distinction of being managed by former multi-division world champion Tony “The Tiger” Lopez.

Mark Ortega can be reached via e-mail or followed via Twitter at @MarkEOrtega. Mark also contributes to notable British boxing publication Boxing Monthly as well as Ring Magazine.