The CyberBoxingZone News

Katherine Dunn

December 7, 1999

Boxing at the Chinook Winds Casino in Lincoln City, Oregon, Saturday, Dec. 4, 1999

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 elsewhere.

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 convention rooms.

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 it.

[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.]


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 KO's.

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 Rios.

Chinook Winds intends to offer four more professional boxing shows in the year 2,000.


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