The original ‘SuperFly’
Tonight from the Forum, the second installment of the highly popular “SuperFly” series takes place, headlined by what is considered a “can’t-miss” match-up between WBC 115-pound beltholder Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Juan Francisco Estrada.
The two other bouts on this HBO broadcast feature another super flyweight bout between Carlos Cuadras and McWilliams Arroyo and IBF flyweight champion Donnie Nietes, defending versus Juan Carlos Reveco.
Back in September at the StubHub Center, in nearby Carson, California, “SuperFly I” took place and it was a commercial success and a critically acclaimed card that saw Sor Rungvisai halt Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez in four rounds and the nip-and-tuck battle between Estrada and Cuadras (that actually had Michael Buffer announcing both men the winner at different points before Estrada was officially named the victor). It also featured the Stateside debut of Naoya Inoue.
Both of these cards were showcased on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” and it’s clear that this series – which was created by Tom Loeffler (whose new company 360 Promotions is staging this event) – has its version of the “Transformers” and you’ll see sequels of SuperFly.
However it says here that the genesis of all this took place on a cold, rainy night on November 17, 2012, at the now-long-gone L.A. Sports Arena, where a doubleheader headlined by Brian Viloria, who faced Hernan “Tyson” Marquez, in a flyweight title unification tilt and Gonzalez (then the WBA junior flyweight champion) facing an unknown upstart, Estrada, came off.
“That was a great show that no one ever saw,” said Gary Gittelsohn with a laugh. Gittelsohn, best known for managing Viloria and Junior Jones in the past, did his damnedest to get this card televised on HBO or Showtime, to no avail. The card ended up being broadcast on AWE (which had Larry Holmes as its color commentator), while HBO broadcast a card on that evening from Atlantic City, featuring Adrien Broner versus Antonio DeMarco.
(It was pointed out to me on Twitter by @alibomaye7: I was at Demarco-Broner that same night in Atlantic City. Both Broner and Atlantic City are now out of boxing…..As for the LA Sports Arena, well, a brand new soccer stadium is being built over it.)
However it wasn’t for a lack of trying that this card, which saw Viloria stop Tyson in a memorable 10-round battle and Chocolatito hold off the late charge of Estrada, was not put on a bigger platform. The respected Gittelsohn spent weeks and months reaching out to network executives, to no avail.
“It was terribly frustrating. I always felt that the smaller weight categories were deserving of more attention and I remember a time when HBO wouldn’t even look at the bantamweights till Junior Jones and Kevin Kelley made names for themselves and, back at that time, it was Lou DiBella and Seth Abraham, who took a flier on it and did it – but no one ever really below 115 pounds. So I was terribly upset because I know those fights were worthy of attention.”
While in Mexico and in Asia, the little big men of boxing are featured, in the States, there has always been a (…and please excuse the pun) short ceiling for fighters below the featherweight limit. The question is: Is this a size bias or ethnic prejudice?
Gittelsohn ponders that question and answers, “I don’t know; I think it’s size. Or at least that’s what I’d like to think it is. But I never really understand it; I still don’t but the fact that it’s finally getting attention and there’s really a buzz about this, it’s late in coming, but I’m glad it’s here.”
That fight card back in 2012 was promoted by Zanfer (who is involved in this weekend’s show) and it was one of the most fun nights this reporter – and many of his colleagues – can recall. For one, it wasn’t exactly the most organized show, seeing that it was put together a bit hastily. And as you got there, you found out that press row wasn’t actually press row. In fact, there were no tables, just rows of seats (very good ones, at that) to which we were assigned. With that, basically everyone put away their laptops for the night and just enjoyed the proceedings. (Lets be honest: the L.A. Sports Arena, which had become antiquated in the 1980s, probably didn’t have wi-fi anyway.)
Ask anyone who was there and they’ll tell you it was one of their favorite nights “covering” a card. Honestly, with the casual set-up, we all were fans that evening.
There was a crowd of around 3,500 and, yes, there was actually a contigent of Nicaraguans for Chocolatito, who made his American debut that April at the Fairplex, in Pomona, on a UniMas card that was promoted by Top Rank, in which he stopped Ramon Hirales in four. There was a time when this venue (where the fight scenes for “Rocky” were shot) was a regular destination for world-class boxing but hadn’t hosted a title fight since the mid-1990s.
”The principle memory I have is Brian turning in a great performance,”recalled Gittelsohn.”That could’ve been a ‘Fight of the Year’ candidate and I know it was going to be a great show and it was my introduction to Chocolatito, who fought Estrada and that fight was unbelievable. And that introduced me to Estrada.”
Viloria, who was riding high, ended up facing Estrada in his very next bout in Macao, China, in April and was defeated by the talented Mexican, who unified the WBA and WBO flyweight titles.
Fast forward to this evening, Viloria will be facing Artem Dalakian for the vacant WBA flyweight crown right before the HBO lights go on. Estrada is in the night’s main event versus the man who defeated Gonzalez twice last year.
Perhaps this is really “SuperFly 3.”
Loeffler announced on Friday that his first 360 club show will take place on March 27 (yes, a Tuesday) at the Avalon Theater…Anyone else really (not) surprised that the GGG-Canelo rematch is taking place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas?…There is a fan-fest for that event on Tuesday at LA Live but GGG-Canelo will not have a national press tour…Joseph Diaz Jr. looked sharp in stopping Victor Terrazas early. If he isn’t ready for WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. by now, he never will be…Seriously, I’m glad SuperFly 2 is at the Forum. It’s been cold (by our standards). StubHub Center is a great venue but I’m not sure I’d use it between November and February…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.