Michael Dutchover goes to school in Southern California
When you ask junior lightweight hopeful Michael Dutchover – who headlines the latest Thompson Boxing Promotions card, from the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario, California, tonight – with whom he has sparred since migrating to Southern California, to embark on his pro career in 2016, some familiar names come out of his mouth.
“Oscar Valdez, Jessie Magdaleno, Darleys Perez, Petr Petrov, Manny Robles (Jr.), Edgar Valerio, the list keeps going,” said the native of Midland, Texas, this past Monday, before his day’s work at the Santa Fe Springs Activity Center. “I gotta think back but those are some of the notables, just off the top.”
And is that type of quality work available for him in Texas? He answered quickly, ”No.”
When his trainer/manager Danny Zamora hooked up with Dutchover, that was one of the parameters of their deal – that he would relocate to California.
“That’s why he came out his junior year, after that summer, to let him know, ‘Hey, this is how it’s going to be. This is how you’re going to get better, and this is the only way it’s going to work out,'” said Zamora, who runs the gym in Santa Fe Springs. And one of his other boxers quickly humbled Dutchover, and gave him his “Welcome to pro boxing” moment.
Dutchover recalled, “My first time coming down here, I was living with Darleys Perez, and he was a world champion, at the time, and in the Danny Zamora camp. Danny put me up against him, and said, ‘This is what you’re going to be going up against’ – and (Perez) dropped me. It was the first time I was ever dropped in my career. He dropped me with a body shot. I was like, ‘Man…’
“But I got up and I showed my fight, showed my grit and kept coming, and that motivated me. I’d never been dropped before, and, in my hometown, I was the big dog. I’d have to drive five hours to Dallas to get good sparring, and now it’s within five minutes.”
The key for young boxers – no matter how talented – is that, for them to truly develop, they can’t be a big fish in a small pond. “I think they all should be tested in the gym, and humbled – especially in sparring,” said Zamora, a veteran of the sport. “When these kids are starting off, they’re fighting fights they should win, so you’ve got to test them in sparring, so they can get better. They’re not going to get better in fights because usually the opponents are there to lose.”
Zamora has a point; Dutchover is facing Sergio Ramirez Martinez, 5-2 (5), in this upcoming bout. Chances are his sparring for this match-up will have been more challenging. Zamora continued, “When I spar my guys, I try to spar them with the best guys out there, and see where they’re at and that’s the only way I’m going to be able to get them better and have them adjust.”
Southern California has about as many fertile gyms as it does palm trees. If you’re willing to drive, you will get quality work.
“Because you start from Coachella (Indio) all the way down to Freddie Roach’s gym to Big Bear, and everywhere else in-between, Legendz (Boxing); you got Maywood (Boxing Center). You’ve got some fighters there. Every gym has their fighters, and whatever talent you want or style you want, you can find it in LA, no matter what,” said Zamora, who didn’t even mention the Ten Goose Gym, in Van Nuys, or the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy in Oxnard.
For the 20-year-old, this is basically like going away to college.
“That’s how I think about it. A lot of my friends, after we graduated, they’re going off to college – this is my college. The ‘School of Hard Knocks,’ and that’s what I’m doing,” said Dutchover, who believes boxers in his position should take the same route he has. “I believe just like me moving over here to L.A., it’s the boxing Mecca; you have to make sacrifices for success. That’s what I’m doing, sacrificing time away from my family, my friends. But I’m here to get better. I think it’s shown in my past fights, and I’m going to look even better in this fight.”
Dutchover, like other boxers who have been handled by Zamora, lives at the home of Zamora’s mother, in Santa Fe Springs. The Texan has adjusted to life in the big city. “It’s easy now; at the beginning of my career, it was difficult,” he admitted. “I was very young and I missed my family a lot but it’s very easy for me now. It’s my second home; it’s my life. It’s a lifestyle, and I love it. I love going to the gym; it’s great work, and it’s the daily grind and I’m here to become a world champion. So that’s my mind state.”
This will be his third fight in 2018. Back on March 17, he battled Ricardo Lopez to a unanimous decision, over six rounds, and then, on May 11, he stopped Mike Fowler in three rounds. The outing versus Fowler was much more pleasing to Zamora, who wants to see his charge be one who is as cerebral as he is tough.
“When he first got here, everything was about throwing hard, just toe-to-toe,” Zamora explained. “Two fights ago, it went back to that and I chewed his ass out because he went against the plan, and, from his last fight, you saw more of boxing, using that jab – I’m big on the jab – it’s like I’ve been telling him, ‘You can’t fight with your heart every time. You have to use your brain and not get hit and move.'”
Dutchover admitted, “Coming from Texas to over here, I used to fight with my heart a lot, and I think that’s the biggest adjustment, using my skills and that’s what we worked on a lot – using my skills and not my heart because I’m in great condition. I don’t think a lot of people are in the same condition that I’m in, and so I use my skill now. I use my skill, my ring IQ.”
Currently Dutchover is 9-0 (6), and will most likely box twice more to close out 2018. So where will he be in a year or so?
“In a year I’d like him maybe fighting for a regional title, an NABO, an NABF title, just to get that eight, 10-round fight,” said Zamora, who also handles the career of featherweight prospect Ruben Villa. “So I know this is his last eight-round fight that he’s going to do this Friday but, I think, within a year, I’d like to see him get a regional title, towards the end of next year.”
Also at the gym, working alongside Dutchover, was another one of Zamora’s prospects Ruben Torres, who is also on tonight’s card, in Ontario. Torres, 5-0 (5), is a lanky puncher who looks like he has some real upside. Torres actually returned to boxing a few years ago, after taking a three-year hiatus from the sport.
“For him, it worked out. His body was rested; his mentality was a lot different because he was young when I had him,” said Zamora, who first worked with him when Torres was nine years old. “So growing up, he was very young, still that immature kid but I think him going away and wanting it made him better when he came back to learn. So I see a lot of improvement; he still has a lot more improvement to make and I think Ruben’s in the stage where his body still hasn’t gone to where it has to be.”
However early on, Torres just looks like a real puncher, scoring some eye-opening KOs.
“The kid hits hard. He’s a good puncher; he puts his punches together,” Zamora said. “It’s just him adjusting to his footwork. I call him ‘Bambi’ because he’s so tall for his age (20), and he hasn’t grown into his legs.”
Fighting at lightweight, Torres’ listed height is 5-foot-11.
Zamora said with a chuckle, “His legs are going one way, his body the other way but I see it more because I’ve known him for so long, and I see the bad. As a trainer I want to see everything bad, so I can work on it but, come fight time, he looks good.”
It was a momentous occasion for Thompson Boxing, as WBA 122-pound champion Danny Roman signed a deal to be part of the new streaming platform DAZN, beginning with his next fight, on October 20, in Los Angeles, versus Gavin McDonnell.
Alex Camponovo, the general manager and matchmaker for the company, explained to UCNLive.com, “We’re taking this turn, and it will be for the better of this company. I think it’s good for the industry, overall. It gives us a little more space to work with. The dates on television – as I’ve said a million times – have dried up on regular television. There’s only a couple of promoters that handle them. We have a historic network that is basically non-existent in the sport.”
(Camponovo is likely referring to HBO.)
“That takes away a big chunk of what we could do and there’s a necessity for us, as promoters, and for the fighters to keep growing. So it gives us a great shot in the arm. We have the ability to work with (Matchroom Boxing Group Managing Director) Eddie (Hearn) and DAZN and bring some of our other fighters that we have, like Giovanni Santillan, and some of the other young guys that we have. We’re talking to him actually about doing other stuff with all the other fighters we currently have.”
“We’re still the decision makers in what’s happening with Danny’s career, and we couldn’t be any happier with what’s happening with him.”
Here’s the latest installment of “The 3 Knockdown Rule,” in which Mario Lopez and I talk about Manny Pacquiao’s future, and preview this weekend’s HBO card from Las Vegas:
With Beto Duran on assignment, I’ll be calling this Thompson Boxing card alongside Josesito Lopez. The stream, which can be viewed at ThompsonBoxing.com and its Facebook page, will begin at around 8 p.m. PT…Speaking of Mr Duran, I’ll be in Vegas, on Saturday, where I’ll be doing the international call with him for the Jaime Munguia vs. Liam Smith card…OK, I’m all flurried out for the week…I can be reached at email@example.com and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.