Mark E. Ortega

Bits & Pieces: Friday Night Fights notes

Abie Han (left) and Glen Tapia (right) fight in the co-feature to tonight’s Friday Night Fights broadcast. The showdown between undefeated prospects was easy to make, according to Top Rank matchmaker Brad Goodman

 

Tonight, a well-matched ESPN2 Friday Night Fights card takes place in Las Vegas at Texas Station Casino as Chris Avalos meets Drian Francisco in the 10-round junior featherweight main event while unbeaten prospects Abie Han and Glen Tapia put their “0s” on the line against each other in a 154-pound bout.

Top Rank matchmaker Brad Goodman shared the story on how Han-Tapia came together.

“Louie Burke (Han’s trainer) informed us they were ready for a step up, so we offered Mat Korobov (who is coming off a career-best stoppage of Ossie Duran),” Goodman told RingTV.com shortly after Thursday’s weigh-in finished up.

“They told us, ‘No, we want Glen Tapia,’ and I said, ‘but Louie, Tapia is a 154-pounder.’ Louie told me Abie can make 154 pounds easy and that they wanted the fight.”

Tapia took it as a challenge and accepted immediately. Neither has fought on major television of any sort in the past and it will be both guys’ first 10-round bout.

“We feel the time is right,” said Tapia’s manager Pat Lynch, who was also behind the late Arturo Gatti for the duration of his career.

“Credit to both guys, realistically, this could be an HBO opener. Too many times, guys try and duck out of challenging fights at this stage in their career, yet here they are.”

Tapia sparred with Danny Jacobs, Ossie Duran, Jason Escalera, Marcus Browne, and Yordenis Ugas among others in preparation for the bout.

“The thing is, often with these great ‘on-paper’ matchups, things end up not living up to expectations,” remarked Goodman.

Let’s hope this is one of those special cases where two young fighters on the national stage for the first time turn in memorable performances.

 

Speaking of Lynch and Gatti…

Thursday marked the fourth anniversary of the late Gatti’s tragic death. On July 11, 2009, Gatti was found dead in Brazil while on vacation. The death was ruled a suicide, though there were enough loose ends that leave that in question.

Gatti is a large part of the reason this writer fell in love with the sport. There is no fighter in recent boxing history with as many top-notch battles under his belt, and one of my biggest disappointments is never getting the chance to shake Gatti’s hand and thank him for helping me along in my fandom of the sweet science.

Meeting Lynch was the next best thing, and I thanked him for helping give boxing so many memorable moments. From there, it was just a conversation in which the two of us exchanged favorite moments of ours that involved Arturo.

“There’s one fight, if you ever get a chance, you have to check out,” Lynch told me.

“It was early in Arturo’s career against a guy named Leon Bostic at the Friar Tuck Inn in Catskill, New York. Arturo dropped him early in the second round and I thought it was another easy one, but it turned out to be an extremely difficult fight. We’re talking a back-and-forth slugfest that had me very nervous at ringside.”

Lynch’s charge Tapia grew up in New Jersey, which was basically the home court of Arturo Gatti for the duration of his career. When asked if there were any similarities between Tapia and the late hero, Lynch said there was.

“One thing that Glen has that reminds me of Arturo is he’ll never quit,” said Lynch. “He’ll give it all he has.”

Tapia also shared his passion for Gatti shortly before weighing in.

“How could you not love him? So much heart, so much intensity,” said Tapia. “I feel I have that same intensity and hope to prove it in the ring.”

Lynch and I talked about Atlantic City and how it was the house that Gatti didn’t build, but helped keep thriving.

“People that lived and worked in Atlantic City used to tell me all the time, ‘We love when Arturo comes to town, because we know we are all going to make money,’” said Lynch.

“I don’t know if anyone else will be able to capture the magic there the way Arturo did. They tried it with Kelly Pavlik, but it wasn’t close to what Arturo was able to pull off.”

Gatti fought at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall the final nine times of his career, and though he wasn’t always on the winning end, that didn’t keep the fans from coming to see him.

It’s a real tragedy that Gatti survived what he did in the ring, epic wars with Micky Ward, Gabriel Ruelas, Ivan Robinson, Wilson Rodriguez, and Tracy Harris Patterson, and not live to enjoy the moments that came after a memorable career.

Gatti was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame this past June in Canastota, and Lynch shared how special that moment was, though it wasn’t the same as if Arturo was there.

“It was really nice,” said Lynch. “It was great to see some of Arturo’s family. I picked up his daughter and she got to speak a bit about her dad when he was inducted, it was just a special weekend altogether.”

Gatti’s induction was cause for much debate amongst the purists and hardcore fans of the sport. Many argued his credentials weren’t the caliber of a fighter necessary to be enshrined. My feeling personally is that you cannot say heart, will, and determination aren’t important characteristics needed to make it in boxing, and Gatti had those in spades.

Obviously, the conversation shifted a bit to Round Nine, which both Lynch and I pointed out how you don’t even need to say anything other than “round nine” to a boxing fan and they know exactly what fight you are talking about, Gatti’s epic first encounter with Ward in May 2002.

“For him to have taken that body punch in the first thirty seconds and come back, I couldn’t believe it,” said Lynch.

Tapia recalls those old glorious moments of Gatti happily.

“I wasn’t able to ever see Gatti fight live and in person, but I remember all of those fights. In fact, if you checked my YouTube, you would probably find that I’ve viewed many of them multiple times, sometimes back to back,” he said.

Doesn’t it just feel as though Arturo Gatti’s career is the reason YouTube exists?

 

Impromptu retirement for Heraldez

Juan Heraldez, a 22-year-old Las Vegas junior welterweight prospect, was set to take the scale on Thursday ahead of his scheduled six round bout against Randy Fuentes in a battle of unbeaten fighters.

Heraldez’s manager Cameron Dunkin received an interesting text message just before this that made it clear Heraldez wasn’t going to make it.

“I’m done with boxing. I am retiring. I can’t do this anymore,” is what the text message read.

To quote Adam Sandler in the film The Wedding Singer, Dunkin must have been thinking, “Gee, you know, that information would have really would’ve been more useful to me yesterday.”

Dunkin said he is, however, glad to find this out now, while Heraldez is a young professional with only a handful of fights rather than when the fighter had built himself to 20-0.

It is one of the oddest things the prominent manager has ever seen at a weigh-in, and he’s been around the block a few times.

There’s no guarantee Heraldez would have made it, but the fighter was featured on March’s Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado rematch undercard at the Mandalay Bay, so obviously he was to be a fixture on Las Vegas undercards.

As young as he is, I wouldn’t guess the door is all the way shut, but one wonders what makes a fighter decide at the very last minute to call it a day.

 

 

Photo / Mary Ann Owen-Top Rank

Mark Ortega is a contributing writer for RingTV.com. He can be emailed at markeortega@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarkEOrtega

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