For years, Mike Dallas Jr. dreamed of capturing a world championship belt as a testament to his father’s sacrifices. Until recently, the 26-year-old never envisioned reaching the precipice of the summit without him.
“We always talked about winning a title, me and my dad,” Dallas said before Saturday’s WBC interim junior welterweight title fight against Lucas Matthysse at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel (Showtime, 10 p.m.). “He brought me up. I know I have to leave it all in the ring.”
This past November, Mike Sr. succumbed to a prolonged battle with leukemia at the age of 45. Before his passing, the longtime chief of the Bakersfield PAL program steered his son to a 115-12 amateur record and laid the foundation for Mike Jr. to later grow as a pro.
“Mike learned a lot from his dad outside the ring, but as far as boxing, one thing he learned was how to outbox people,” said middleweight Paul Mendez, who also fought under the tutelage of Dallas Sr. as a teenager. “He’s also fast. Mike’s got that speed, and that’s why he can beat anyone on any given night.”
For the past year and a half, Dallas Jr. (19-2-1, 8 KOs) has plied his trade in Hayward with two-time NorCal Trainer of the Year Virgil Hunter, who has added some new elements to his fighter’s game. In addition to polishing his basic tools, Hunter has fine-tuned the 140-pounder’s defense and ability to trade shots on the inside.
“Mike is as ready as he’s going to be,” Hunter told RingTV.com’s Ryan Songalia. “He has the style to give Matthysse problems.”
Dallas Jr. must maximize every one of his stylistic advantages if he wants to play spoiler against the incumbent Matthysse (32-2, 30 KOs). A destructive slugger with one-punch knockout power, the 30-year-old from Argentina’s gameplan will center on closing the distance and getting in range to unleash a highlight-reel finish.
After all, aside from a controversial points loss to Mauricio Herrera that many felt should have gone the other way, Dallas has been stopped before; in 2011, he incurred a seventh-round knockout defeat at the hands of Josesito Lopez. Will history repeat itself on Saturday, or will a more mature Dallas pull off the upset?
“I'm a man of few words,” Matthysse said. “I'm in great shape and I am ready to fight. What else can I say? Bring it on. This is a very important fight for me not only to win, but to look good.”
During the final press conference, Dallas acknowledged esteem for his foe, but warned reporters not to mistake it for intimidation. With everything he’s endured over the past couple months, Dallas enters the showdown inspired to make good on his childhood vow to his dad.
“I respect this fighter,” he said. “He is strong and tough, but I am ready to prove and show to everybody what I can do.”
KNIGHT EYES VAZQUEZ, THEN BATTLE OF SEXES
IBF flyweight champion Ava Knight is creating quite the stir south of the border ahead of her latest title defense, a rematch against Susana Vazquez this Saturday in Chihuahua, Mex., that will air on Mexican station Televisa.
In their first bout, Knight (NorCal No. 5; 10-1-3, 5 KOs) injured her hand in the third round, opting to cruise to a wide decision win. This time around, the Chico native will try for a more emphatic ending.
“I feel that with both hands I will have two weapons instead of one and that will be the key to a knockout,” she told CSNBayArea.com.
Knight then revealed her desire to do her best impression of Billie Jean King afterward.
“I'm sure that I'm the best boxer in the world. I've shown that in the ring and I think that no one can argue. At my 24 years of age I think I still have a lot to do in boxing, and one of the things I have in mind is to face a man in an exhibition match,” Knight told Mexican reporters at the prefight presser.
Provided she gets by Vazquez (8-7-1, 3 KOs), Knight would like to face the winner of the March 9 male flyweight title bout between Edgar Sosa and Ulises Solis in a four-round exhibition.
While the 2012 NorCal Female Fighter of the Year craves the opportunity to test her limits against the opposite sex, she will not forsake her duties on Saturday against a dangerous lady in Vazquez.
“Susana is a very tough girl and she deserves great credit for wanting a rematch,” Knight said.
ANDRADE SET FOR SHOBOX BOUT IN EMPIRE STATE
Junior middleweight Demetrius Andrade, another new pupil in Hunter’s growing Hayward stable, hopes to apply what he has learned against veteran Freddy Hernandez this Friday in Huntington, N.Y. (Showtime, 10 p.m. PT).
Andrade (18-0, 13 KOs), a 2008 Olympian and 2007 amateur world champion, has not yet come close to the same success as a pro. But after witnessing many of his contemporaries annex championship belts at the next level, the Providence, R.I., native feels this fight will be the catalyst for a title run of his own.
“Everybody has their opportunity and when the time comes I’ll be ready,” Andrade, now a junior middleweight, told RingTV.com’s Mike Coppinger. “If I had it my way, I’d be fighting for a title by the end of the year. My opportunity is coming and I’m going to take advantage of it.”
In his way stands Hernandez (30-3, 20 KOs), a former world title challenger from Mexico City who is easily Andrade’s most seasoned foe thus far. The rangy Hernandez will make it tougher than usual for the southpaw Andrade to utilize his right jab to keep the opposition at bay.
“Everybody is saying [Hernandez] is a good step-up,” Andrade added. “He’s a good fighter and it’s going to be a good experience for me.”
DONAIRE, MARES SPAR ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Though WBO/Ring Magazine junior featherweight champion Nonito Donaire still appears headed for a clash with WBA titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux (11-0, 8 KOs) of Cuba on Apr. 13 (a move from the originally scheduled date of Apr. 27), a war of words has erupted between “The Filipino Flash” and another would-be suitor.
Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, who handles Southern California-based WBC 122-pound holder Abner Mares (25-0-1, 13 KOs), went to the press Wednesday offering Donaire’s team at Top Rank a $3 million fee for the rights to promote the bout.
While both fighters have expressed their interest in such a marquee matchup, it seems improbable, given that their two companies remain embroiled in a bitter feud, chafing at the very thought of co-promoting a show. The effects of this cold war had the fighters taking it to cyberspace Thursday night.
Donaire (NorCal No. 2; 31-1, 20 KOs) directed the first salvo at Mares from his @Filipinoflash Twitter account, indicating his manager Cameron Dunkin had yet to see an actual contract reach his desk: “Calld Dunkin, sd he hasnt receivd a $3mil proposal come thru fax or email. U wnt it dn send it.”
Mares (@AbnerMares00) fired back: “[B]elieve me you will be receiving it soon , And i just hope that when you do, you sign it!!”
If the bigwigs at Golden Boy can proverbially put their money where their mouths are, the ball would certainly be in Top Rank’s court.
VENEGAS, REGION 11 READY FOR NATIONAL SILVER GLOVES
Region 11, the area encompassing Northern and Central California, will send its contingent of amateurs next week to the National Silver Gloves in Independence, Mo. Our reigning Boxer of the Week, Daly City’s Suray Mahmutovic, will certainly enter the 176-pound bracket as a prohibitive favorite given his current form.
Helping to lead the charge in the 14 and 15-year-old division is 95-pounder Fernando Venegas, who trains out of the Golden State Bloodhounds in Sacramento under his father Ray.
If the Venegas name sounds familiar, it’s because Fernando’s older brother, Brent III, recently burst onto the Senior Open scene last year as a nationally recognized 114-pound flyweight.
“Both of them get better every day, and next week, it’s Fernando’s time to shine,” said Brent Venegas Sr., their grandfather. “[Fernando] can switch between orthodox and southpaw, and he can adapt to several situations.”
Earlier this month, Fernando, a freshman at Elk Grove High School, edged Nevada’s Alejandro Dominguez in the Regional Silver Gloves final by a 3-2 decision. Now he guns for an even bigger prize, although just getting to Missouri has posed a challenge.
“Sending someone on a trip can get pretty expensive,” Venegas Sr. added. “We’re hoping to get some help so that Fernando has all he needs for Nationals.”
If you would like to donate to Fernando’s cause, check out his fundraising site at http://www.gofundme.com/FVenegasSilverGloves2013.
CSN Bay Area Boxing Insider Ryan Maquiñana is a voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and panelist for Ring Magazine’s Ratings Board. E-mail him at email@example.com, check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.