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Mark Kriegelespan

The seduction of Frank Espinoza – from Simmons Avenue to East Los Angeles, accidental member of the City Terrace gang, son of a welder whose hands were paralyzed by arthritis – began when he was a teenager in his mid-sixties on his first visit to the Grand Olympic Auditorium, 1801 S. Grand Avenue.

He remembers many fight posters, one of which showed a champion of the time and future champion named Mando Ramos, who fought a total of 27 times at the 1965-1973 Olympics. The pale yellow walls were shiny and bumpy. The air was thick, brownish and stale from unfiltered cigarettes. Men in hats and short sleeves held bundles of worn bills. The poles were shabby and continuous. Pabst Blue Ribbon boxes became makeshift projectiles if the crowd felt the action wasn’t bloody enough.

Espinoza was immediately suspended. “I knew right away that I wanted to be a boxer,” he said.


Best rated boxing match on ESPN and ESPN+. Subscribe to ESPN+ for exclusive boxing events, weigh-ins and more.

6:30 p.m. AND Saturday on ESPN+: Miguel Berchelt against Oscar Valdez in a card fight.

10 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN and ESPN+: Miguel Berchelt against Oscar Valdez, 12 sets, for the WBC Junior Lightweight World Title.

More than half a century later, Espinoza has fought more than 100 fighters, all Mexican or Mexican-American, including 10 champions. The first, Isidro Garcia, was eating a hot dog and drinking a Coke in the stands of Fantasy Springs Casino when he was invited to fight for the WBO Welterweight title because his opponent had just given up. The latest is Oscar Valdez, two-time Mexican Olympic champion and former welterweight champion. Valdez fights his old friend and neighbor Hermosillo’s WBC junior bantamweight champion Miguel Berchelt, the bogeyman of the division, on Saturday in Las Vegas.

You will therefore hear many edicts of absolute authority on the “Mexican warriors,” warriors whose pride dictates that they never retreat. This is a theme Espinoza learned the hard way. “The guys I compare to Oscar and Berchelt are Vasquez and Marquez,” he says.

He is referring to Rafael Marquez and Israel Vasquez, whom he managed. Their fights took place between 2007 and 2010, with the second and third fights being named “Fight of the Year” by Ring magazine (among others)-despite their impressive brutality, of course, but mostly because of it.

Error. specified.Frank Espinoza, non-director, signed the Oscar Valdez in the summer of 2012. Boxing Espinoza

I remember Vasquez in his home in Huntington Park after his third fight. Earlier that morning, the stitches had been removed – at least two dozen. He was not in a good mood – judging by the purple slit on his red eye – but he was in a good mood.

“They were not deep,” he says of his wounds. “I’m happy.”

In fact, his satisfaction bordered on ecstasy. A few years earlier, a promoter had advised Espinosa to send Vazquez back to Mexico City – that he had no future as a fighter in the United States. Espinosa had a hunch, however, and had the man stay home for about a year.

Vasquez was a man with two sons. He had his own house. He imprisoned his wife in the beauty parlor with his winnings. And he had just won the fight of the year.

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Problem is, he wanted to start again, a fourth fight with Marquez. “I didn’t want him to fight again,” Espinoza said, “but I couldn’t stop him. He felt his honor was at stake.”

He would lose the fourth fight. And a few years later, he lost his right eye during surgery.

Espinoza doesn’t like to talk about it, but I wonder if she tells her curious mother about his reputation as a cheater (only in boxing) because he “keeps” his fighters. Among those she whispers to is Valdez, who – to some extent – wants to be the archetype of the Mexican warrior.

In 2018, Valdez took on Scott Quigg, weighing nearly four pounds too much to fight for the featherweight title. Espinoza asked him to stop the process. Valdez wanted no part of it.

In the fifth round, Quigg broke his jaw. It was a horrific fracture that made it impossible for the coaches to remove his mouthpiece, and his mouth turned into a bloody lagoon. But over the next seven rounds, Valdez responded that his attack would continue and that he would win unanimously.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted since I was a kid,” he told me the following year.

He wasn’t talking about hugging the jaws. He was talking about recognition at home in Mexico, where more than a few fans thought Olympic-style boxing was, well, sweet. “Everyone sees me as a fighter, a true champion,” he said. “And sometimes that’s worth more than money.”

After the battle of Quigga – Valdese’s third consecutive “war” – Espinoza begged him to hire the famous Eddie Reynoso as his coach. The idea was that Reynoso, best known for his work with Canelo Alvarez, would prolong his career by making Valdez a better defensive boxer. But the results have been mixed so far.

Berchelt, on the other hand, is what he is: bigger, stronger and 5 inches taller, the scariest fighter in the 130-pound division. “Everybody thinks he’s a monster,” Valdez told me this week. “I don’t think so. He hasn’t boxed against anyone who can box yet. He’s slower. I see a lot of openings.”

Still, Valdese believes on some level that he can beat Berchelt Warrior. The only time Berchelt has been knocked out is in the first round against a certain Luis Flores in 2014 – he was knocked out. Valdez was knocked out twice and won unanimously and by technical knockout each time. Here’s the jaw. But that’s not all.

“I fought twice with a broken rib,” he said, referring to the injuries he suffered in the fights for his first title defense and his fierce fight against Miguel Marriaga. “It’s something I never said before because I didn’t want to make excuses.”

But now he wants Berchelt to know.

“He didn’t go through what I went through,” Valdez says. “I don’t think, ‘What if it happens again?’ But I do know that if I can fight through a broken jaw or a broken rib or get out of the web, I know I can still do it.’ I know I’m going to make it to the top because of my state of mind. Losing is never an option.

He stands 28-0.

I will ask him about Espinosa.

Error. Not specified.Oscar Valdez, but Miguel Berchelt will fight for the Junior Bantam weight championship title on February 20. AP Photo/Cooper Neill

“My family,” he says. “He worries about me. But he worries a lot.”

For his part, Espinoza hopes the Nevada State Athletic Commission will allow him to do his usual duty. He likes to put his fighters in the ring, give each their mouthpiece and send them into battle. But he’s not sure what the officials will allow in the upper bubble.

It’s not that he cares that much about the bubble. Nor is it that he lives in the past. But for one night he will miss cigarettes and beer, the seductive stench of general bloodlust. He will miss the men in hats who waved bills, the profane oaths they took and the patriotic oaths:

Mexico, Mexico, Mexico…

“A fight like that,” says Frank Espinoza, “would be great for the Olympics.”

Frequently asked questions

What time is Berchelt against Valdez?

WBC champion Miguel Berchelt (37-1, 33 KOs), currently the longest-serving titleholder at 130 pounds, will attempt to defend his eighth title when he takes on former bantamweight champion Oscar Valdez (28-0, 22 KOs) at the MGM Convention Center (10 p.m.). and on ESPN and streaming …

Who won the fight in Valdez?

Oscar Valdez will knock out Miguel Berchelt to win the WBC lightweight title. LAS VEGAS — Many expected Saturday’s WBC Lightweight Championship fight between Miguel Berchelt and Oscar Valdez to be a rematch between the two Mexican fighters. As it turned out, the violence was mostly one-sided.

What time does Oscar Valdez fight?

Miguel Berchelt (38-1) enters the ring to take on Oscar Valdez (28-0) in the main event, which will take place at 10 p.m. (Eastern time) on ESPN. Six fights begin at 6:30 p.m. on the subcard.

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