The “Gold Rush” is a Winner!

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Michele Chong - Posted on 17 June 2009

The “Gold Rush” is a Winner!

Huge crowd at star-studded amateur boxing show

By Michele Chong

Boxing’s brightest young prospects were all at last Friday night’s “2009 Gold Rush” Amateur Boxing Show at the El Monte Expo Center in El Monte, California. Co-promoted by Steve Harpst Bronzes, Adolfo Perez Jr. and Jarhead Entertainment, the large venue was a sell out with 900 ticket holders in attendance.

Scheduled for 12 bouts, additional fights were added due to the demand and huge turnout at the crowded weigh-in. It was a veritable “Who’s Who” of boxing as some of the best gyms around L.A. were represented: El Monte, Eddie Heredia, Maywood, Bell Gardens, L.A.Y.A.C., Burbank Boxing Club, La Habra, The Rock, Wild Card, South El Monte/Teamsters, Gladiator and more. The fighters who got a prized matchup spanned from ages 10 to 30, ensuring a wide range of sizes and styles to the delight of the fans.

“For the last several weeks everyone’s been calling about our show,” said Co-promoter Steve Harpst. The founder of the Burbank Boxing Club adds, “We have fighters here who traveled all the way from Vegas and San Diego to be on the card. The response has been incredible!”

So with all the top trainers and fighters clamoring for a matchup, the bouts were guaranteed to be great. And the audience was not disappointed–it was a gold mine of gleaming talent. From the tough ten-year-olds who got the night started to the hulking heavyweights who closed the show (and won “Bout of the Night”), it was three hours of non-stop exciting action on the canvas. Vying for the first-ever “Gold Rush” insignia boxing gloves that were presented to the winners, the boxers got a chance to shine during the three hours of pugilistic action.

Cheering on the brave, young warriors were tons of pro fighters, WBC Champions, legendary trainers, and Hall of Famers including: Carlos Palomino, Simon Brown, Martin “El Gallo” Castillo, Larry “The Legend” Donald, Alfonso Gomez, Giovanni Segura, Shawn Estrada, Walter Sarnoi, Michael “Lil Warrior” Franco, Al “Ice” Cole, Rodolfo Gonzalez, Bobby Chacon, Pepe Correa, Prentiss Byrd, Rudy Hernandez, Frankie Duarte, Phil Barba, Eddie Martinez, Frank Baltazar Sr., Frankie Baltazar Jr., Joey Olivera, Kevin Brown, Rick Farris, Danny Valdivia, Golden State Boxers’ Association President Larry Montalvo, former World Boxing Hall of Fame (WBHF) President Adolfo Perez Sr., WBHF Treasurer Josie Arrey-Mejia and current WBHF President Mando Muñiz.

The champs all wanted to come out and show their support for the amateurs in the squared circle–the prizefighters of the future.
And that was the most important thing at this show: the focus remained on these young amateur fighters who gave their hearts in the ring fueled by their dreams of making the Olympic team or going pro.

“We came all the way from Victorville to be at the weigh-in,” said Henry Garcia. The father/trainer of Ryan Garcia was happy his son was one of the lucky ones to get a matchup. The young prospect won his bout, and both father and son were thrilled to be part of the show, “This was a good fight for him. Ryan loves to box–he wakes up shadow boxing! He’s only ten and a half, and he’s also an A student. He’s already had over 50 fights–his dream is to be in the 2016 Olympics!”

Watching the young prospects battle in the ring brought back memories for a lot of the pro fighters as they recalled their own beginnings when they were just starting out. Remembering their amateur roots in the sport, they observed the busy weigh-in and enjoyed watching the whole process unfold. “It’s been about ten years now,” pro fighter Alfonso Gomez told me as we watched the hot and heavy action in the weigh-in area. “But this does bring back the feel of it when I was an amateur boxer.”

For new pro fighters middleweight Shawn Estrada (2-0, 2 KOs), a 2008 Olympian, and super bantamweight Walter Sarnoi (3-0, 2 KOs), a 2008 California Golden Gloves Champ, it was only last year that they were duking it out with headgear and tank tops, amateur-style. Now both are planning to fight on the undercard at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on March 27th. The two fighters received a loud round of applause from the fans as they presented the boxers with commemorative gloves and medals, and certainly inspired the amateurs in their own paths to the pros.

“I will continue to support amateur boxing. This is a great environment,” Sarnoi explains. “They’re just starting out their careers. And boxing shows like the “Gold Rush” really motivates the fighters. It was a great show for them!”

For well-respected boxers like Carlos Palomino, the reward of working with the kids is a benefit he’s enjoyed for a while. “I’ve been training at-risk kids for a long time, over 20 years. Boxing helps to give them confidence. I work with both amateurs and professionals,” says the former WBA Welterweight Champion. ”I love shows like this. They are really, really unique and it helps young people who are striving for goals.

The kids get exposure with so many people coming out and supporting them. The kids see this and work hard for something worthwhile.”

Palomino won the 1972 National AAU Light Welterweight Champion during his amateur career and continues to show his dedication to the sport. At the “Gold Rush,” he was in the corner for his fighter Ramith Nukruma, out of the Van Nuys Jeopardy gym. Nukruma was declared the winner in the Co-Main Event of the night. This heavyweight bout against The Rock’s Travis Tofi brought down the house and certainly gave the eventual “Bout of the Night” winner a run for the title.

For all the trainers and boxers, the results of the show brought satisfaction. “It was a great show, a great venue,” said David Lopez, right after the “Gold Rush.” The father of 13-year-old Damien Lopez (Burbank Boxing Club), who fought on the show continues, “There was everything–food, drinks, even a workout area for the boxers. And anywhere you sat, it was a good view!”

The evening’s main emcee was the classy Bill Dempsey Young, whose father is the famed Dick “Tiger” Young (referee of the Ali-Norton fight). He announced the bouts and also held a ”Ten Count” for legendary cutman Chuck Bodak, who was a mentor to the Burbank Boxing Club. Bill’s son, RC, was at the weigh-in hoping to get a matchup. RC is a fourth-generation boxer, proving that boxing really is in the genes–Bill is a 1960 Golden Gloves Champion and the current Vice President of the Golden State Boxers’ Association.
A special guest emcee was welterweight Alfonso S. Gomez, who was a big crowd pleaser as he presented first-place gloves to the winners and also hosted the night’s raffle with female boxer Katarina De La Cruz. Up for grabs were some cool prizes including an autographed Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola glove (courtesy of cutman “Indian” Willie Schunke), a deluxe skateboard, fun super hero items (donated by Randy and Julie Broadrick), T-shirts, fight gear and more.

The popular Gomez was there with his band Hy3rid and is getting widespread attention from both fight fans and music fans–as he goes from boxing star to rock star.

Another surprise guest at ringside was Rachel Bush. Known as Lindsay Greenbush, she played Carrie Ingalls (along with her twin sister, Sydney) on the ’70s popular TV show “Little House on the Prairie.” She had an up-close view as the bouts got underway. The former actress stays fit through boxing. She trains out of Kid Gloves Boxing Gym in Simi Valley and is a big fight fan herself. Bush also dedicates her time to youth boxing along with trainer Robert Ortiz.
The Kid Gloves owner and father of pro fighter Robert “Scrappy” Ortiz (who is making his comeback on April 18th) says, “Rachel works out with the young girls and gives them empowerment through boxing. She’s great.” Ortiz enjoys being involved in amateur shows and came out to support the array of talent showcased during the event.

The “gold standard” of entertainment was certainly fulfilled at the packed arena, beginning with an amazing live rendition of the National Anthem sung by 15-year-old Montserrate Gastelum. The petite singer with the big voice has already performed at the White House, but this was her inaugural appearance at a boxing show. Her father/manager, Armando Gastelum was impressed by the large crowd and the energy of the evening, “It was great for Montserrate to sing in front of everyone. And it was very exciting for her to be in the ring for the first time.”

“It was a great event, very well organized,” says Santos Hernandez, trainer at the El Monte Boxing Gym, which is adjacent to the Expo Center where the bouts were held. With his club’s fighters on the card, he said, “It’s great exposure for the kids and it helps them realize their dreams of the Olympics or becoming pro. I also thought it was incredible to see a lot of current fighters and champions there, and members of the World Boxing Hall of Fame too. The kids enjoyed meeting all of them.”

And the shining stars of amateur boxing definitely “struck gold” at the show, bringing their own unique boxing bling to the ring. For the attendees, it was their golden opportunity to see the next world champs. From the action inside the ropes, it looks like bright futures for the young athletes once they go pro. So the future of boxing looks safe and secure in these young fighter hands (or gloves)–today’s amateurs could well be tomorrow’s next superstars in boxing!

A special thank you to Dr. Ralph Vega and USA Boxing’s Irma Ortiz for their top-notch crew of officials. And a big thanks to the
“MVP Team” of “Gold Rush” volunteers, VIP Sponsors, celebrity fighters and special guests.

Congratulations to all the fighters at the 1st Annual “Gold Rush”–see you at the 2nd Annual “Gold Rush” Amateur Boxing Show!
Photos by Michele Chong and Steve Harpst: The fighters “Goin’ for the Gold”; Bill Young–Emcee; Montserrate Gastelum–Anthem Singer; The fabulous officials; Prizes in the ring; A “Contender” mini-reunion with Alfonso and Pepe; Shawn Estrada, Walter Sarnoi, Bobby Chacon, Mando Muñiz, The Baltazars, Rick Farris, Rodolfo Gonzalez, Martin Castillo, Al “Ice” Cole, Larry Donald, Carlos Palomino, Rachel Bush, Franco boys, Roy and Marlene Marquez, “Team Gold Rush”