December 7, 1999
Boxing at the Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City, Oregon, Saturday, Dec.
When Fernando Vargas left sunny California last week, he flew in to
Portland, the biggest city in the state, and a car picked him up for the
two hour drive West to the sea. The narrow road tacks through foothills
upholstered with hazelnut orchards and vineyards, and then climbs into the
forests of the Coast Range mountains, a deep wilderness of dark firs and
white water streams. Recent heavy rains and flooding had ripped out a
section of the main road, leaving a narrow lane with an orange clad
traffic guide to leak the traffic through, one slow direction at a time.
Past that point the mountains stare out into the roiling liquid metal
of the ironically named Pacific. There at the edge, as far West as you can
get without becoming East, the small town of Lincoln City spreads along
the shore. It's a tourist town. The motels have beachy names and the art
galleries feature sea-scapes and driftwood carvings. The place is designed
for summer, but even in the winter it doesn't shut down. There is a small
core of depraved afficionados of mayhem to cater to--the storm watchers,
and the gamblers headed for the Chinook Winds Casino.
The casino is an enterprise of the Siletz tribe and it is far enough
from any major population center to worry about the slower trade of
winters. After several years of debate the Siletz decided to try boxing as
a draw for crowds. They created their own professional athletic commission
rather than have the state commission regulate events. After hearing
pitches from many a would-be fight promoter, the tribe contracted with
Ringside Ticket, Inc. of California, which has a track record of
successful shows at Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville, OR and at
Legends Casino in Yakima, Washington as well as in California and
The kick-off event couldn't be an ordinary club show for the tribe to
learn the ropes on. No. It had to be a big title fight--Fernando Vargas
defending his International Boxing Federation Jr. Middleweight title
against dark-horse southpaw Ronald "Winky" Wright, with a semi-main of
newly minted 130 lb IBF champ Diego Corrales defending against
mini-monster John "The Eastern Beast" Brown. To be televised on HBO's
Boxing After Dark. With a full undercard. This Frankensteinian monster
meant lots of elbows--big influence from Main Events promotions, which has
Vargas. Snips and tugs from Don King, who has Wright, and from Bob Arum's
Top Rank, which runs some of the other talent.
The casino was willing to do it right. Big advertising. The local
business all excited and supportive. The motels offering fight packages,
and opening some of their non-smoking rooms to the smokers in the fight
crowd. They brought Vargas and Wright in five days early and featured them
in free public training sessions in a gym set up in one of the big
But the floods and the road closures spooked the regions fight fans and
the sessions were sparsely attended. The tribal athletic commission never
quite got it together to grapple with the legal requirements and forms and
licenses. With only one week to go, promoter Patrick Ortiz of Ringside
Ticket brought in a consultant, the retired former director of the Oregon
Commission, Bruce Anderson, who pulled it together.
The ticket prices were probably miscalculated. The flat-floored
convention room holds around 2400 and the cheap seats, way back at the
horizon line, were going for $75 bucks. The ringsides were $750.
Apparently somebody thought Bill Cosby would fly into Lincoln City for the
occasion. Didn't happen.
There was a fantasy buzz, though. Before the show the ladies rest room
ricocheted with rumors that somebody in the next stall had seen Arnold
Schwarzneggar and Sly Stallone in the casino smoking cigars. Somebody else
swore they'd seen Tom Cruise. On the casino floor the slot players busily
spread the news that Tom Selleck and Woody Harrelson had just walked by.
As far as we know, none of these tales was true. But there were a
number of lean, elegantly suited young men floating around with their hair
bleached and cut in the Fernando Vargas special, Fade and Coxcomb. There
were legit fight celebrities--ex light heavyweight champ Eddie Mustapha
Muhammad, former lightweight contender Ray Lampkin, Don King's matchmaker
Bobby Goodman, and hot contender Ike Quartey, among others. And of course
the HBO commenters, Merchant and Lampley.
Only half or so of the tickets were sold, but the line to the door
stayed long, trailing up the escalator to the restaurant and convention
level until the big room was packed and happy with some people saying "A
woman just came up to me at the roulette wheel and asked me if I wanted a
free ticket to the fights..I said sure!"
The first bout started at five p.m. and there were some early stoppages
on the undercard so at 7:30 it was announced that there would be a thirty
minute intermission. The co-main events had to start at 8 p.m. for the
live HBO broadcast to the East coast. The cheerful, easy-going crowd went
out for a smoke or a drink and came blithely back.
As all the HBO world knows, Fernando Vargas won a majority decision
over Ronald 'Winky" Wright who pressed and impressed the previously
impervious Vargas. This was a close, smart match between excellent boxers.
Expected to run, Wright surprised Vargas and everybody else by standing in
and swapping with his unique variation on a stand-up European style.
Vargas had the edge in pop, but Winky's hand speed and blocking defense
kept him in the game and made him dangerous. That ninth round blast that
sent Vargas' mouthpiece sailing was a test with Vargas scoring high in
heart to come out wailing in the tenth. Still, Wright was ahead on my
card until he threw away the final round by throwing virtually nothing.
Was he tired? Or showing off that using only his gloves to block he could
nullify much of Vargas' attack? HBO house judge Harold Letterman called it
115-113 for Wright. Because of that 12th round, I would have called it a
draw. The official judges called it 114-114, 115-113, 116-112 for Vargas.
A close shave for Vargas--as close as his newly shorn skull.
[Fernando Vargas (154 lbs), now 18-0, 17 KO's, of Oxnard, CA, by
Majority Decision over Ronald "Winky" Wright (154 lbs), now 39-3, 24 KO's,
of St. Petersburg, FL. Scores were: 116-112, 114-114, 115-113]
The case of Diego Corrales (130 lbs) now 30-0, 24 KO's, vs John "The
Eastern Beast" Brown is another matter. Now, having watched the videotape
of the TV broadcast, I can see that Corrales deserved the win. Sitting ten
feet from the ring, live, I thought Brown deserved at least a draw and
probably a win. Let's admit that unless you sit with your chin on the
apron, the view is better on a good television broadcast with three camera
angles and a lens that puts your eye seven inches from the punch. A word
in defense of what commentator Larry Merchant implied are the ignorant
hicks of O-ree-gawn who were chanting "Bullshit" at the decision win for
Corrales because they "haven't seen enough world class boxing." This is
why I and some of my fellow mossbacks from Oregon thought the shut-out
decision for Corrales was wrong. Brown made everything happen. He came
forward for twelve solid rounds. He did some good body work and his
occasional haymaker right hands (telegraphed from New Jersey) caught
Corrales whenever they were launched. Brown even landed a few lefts, as
proven by the swollen and seeping right eye of Corrales. In the third
round Corrales threw that nifty combo that rocked Brown to the boots and
flung him back onto the ropes. But even then Corrales didn't really follow
up. He didn't make anything happen. He was in the lackadaisical business
of preventing things from happening. His punches were at waist level (OK
Brown IS short) rather than whole body commitments. He was never really
trying to stop Brown and, except for tying him up frequently, he didn't
try to move Brown around. Those little cuffs and nudges were enough to
score, and to keep Brown off track--that's certainly visible on the TV
version. But those punches were scarcely notable from the first, much less
the fifth row. Brown may be crude but he's strong and you could tell he
was trying. Corrales is apparently a likeable young man, and if he's going
to win these things, we wish he was a little more visibly enthused about
[Diego Corrales (130 lbs) now 30-0, 24 KO's, of Sacramento, CA wins a
unanimous decision over John Brown (128 3/4 lbs) now 20-7, 10 KO's of
Atlantic City, New Jersey. Two judges saw it at 116-112, and the third
judge called it 117-111.]
ON THE UNDERCARD:
In a mis-match scheduled for eight, Hector Velazquez (128 lbs) of
Tiajuana, Mexico improved to 26-6-1, 21 KO's by calmly blasting out
hapless and helpless Jose DeJesus Garcia (130 lbs) of Juarez, Mexico.
Garcia fell to 24-13 and should take up knitting.
Marginally better competition in a scheduled six ended abruptly when
undefeated Gary Jones (156 lbs) of Sugar Ray Leonard's stable in
Washington D.C. went to 15-0, 7 KO's with a right uppercut that caught and
dropped Francisco Mendez (152 1/8 lb) of Bacibamopo, Mexico. One close
observer at exactly the right angle says the uppercut coincided with an
accidental headbutt. Mendez went down quick, and got up so slow the ref
didn't bother to count. It was all over at :52 of the second round. Mendez
devolves to 12-17, 6 KO's.
A nice four round women's scrap developed quickly between slick and quick
Kelsey Jeffries (123 1/4 lbs) of Gilroy, CA and the tough, crafty Brenda
"Tigress" Burnside (weight not available) of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The
shorter Burnside, with the fluffy, cropped do and the serious tiger stripe
tattoos on her back, came forward low with hooking combos. Jeffries, the
tall blonde with the increasingly popular French braids employed snappy
multiple jabs and lateral movement to keep the action at her chosen range.
Burnside charged and Jeffries blocked and countered with deft short hooks
that stopped Burnside in her tracks. The game Burnside rallied from lots
of punishment but failed to impress the impressive, though less
experienced, Jeffries. The judges called it 35-44, 37-39,36-40, all for
Jeffries who moved up to 3-0, 1 KO. Burnside's record dropped to 7-9-2, 4
Spunky brawlers Jose "Shibata" Flores (156 lbs) of Los Angeles and Carlos
Bojorquez (156 lbs) of Los Mochis, Mexico made for a lively 8 rounds with
one freaky interruption. Flores dominated the first and second rounds and
Bojorquez went to his knees from a substantial low blow as the bell ended
the second round. Confusion flared when the ref and the ringside physician
thought Bojorquez was saying he did not want to continue. It was finally
made clear that Bojorquez would simply take the five minute recovery time
allowed. When the fight resumed, Bojorquez attacked eagerly in the third
but was still outpointed by Flores combos. Flores took the fourth round
but was on the ropes soaking up leather in the fifth. The merriment
involved heavy trading and a blood bath for both--compliments of
Bojorquez' nose-- to the final bell. The judges called it 78-77, 79-74,
79-73, all for Flores, who earned his move up to 38-8, 22 KO's. Bojorquez
needn't be embarrassed by his drop to 10-2-4, 7 KO's.
On the other hand, Juan "The Hispanic Causing Panic" Lazcano (137 1/2 lbs)
of Sacramento, CA gets no glory for blasting burnt-offering Mark Fernandez
(139 3/4 lbs) of Commerce City, Colorado out of the game with a KO at 2:34
of the first round in a laughably scheduled ten. Lazcano is now 20-2-1, 15
KO's. Fernandez is 33-22-1, 14 Ko's.
In a women's welter six, Lisa "Lightning" Holewyne (142 1/4 lbs) of
Austin, Texas stopped Jennifer "Loose Cannon" McCartney (149 lbs) of San
Diego, Ca at 1:34 of the second round. The KO win takes Holewyne to 8-5-1,
4 KO's. McCartney is now 2-5.
Referees: Mark Nelson, Joe Cortez, Sixto Rodriguez, Guy Villegas
Judges: Greg Baker, Jim Howard, Denis Ryan, Paul Weitzel.
IBF judges: Debra Barnes of New Jersey, Glen Hamada of Washington, Dave
Hess of Iowa, William James of Kansas.
Ringside Physicians: Flip Homansky, Earling and Robert Oxenholt, Luis
Chinook Winds intends to offer four more professional boxing shows in
the year 2,000.