Kendall’s boxing center at Tropical Park is helping give birth to a new worldwide sport — the “World Series of Boxing.” And even if you’ve never heard of the “Miami Gallos,” you will, if team boxing can resurrect a sport that once drew millions to tiny black and white TV screens more than a half century ago.
That’s when both fans and families gathered to watch Gillette’s “Friday Night Fights” at 10 p.m., creating celebritylike stardom for such fighters as Rocky Graziano ( Somebody Up There Likes Me), Cuba’s Kid Gavilan, with his “bolo” roundhouse punch, and Carmen Basilio, the onion farmer from New York state.
If all plans jell as hoped, the Kendallbased team of 14 fighters will help heighten boxing’s appeal during bouts with international boxers, all training for a shot at the London Olympics just two years away, explained Mike Sophia, Gallos general manager, who serves as executive director of the Miami-Dade County Sports Commission, charged with bringing new sports to this area.
“I could see the same interest in reviving boxing as both tennis and soccer have accomplished by forming leagues with citylocated franchises,” Sophia said, noting that his interest in re-creating boxing stemmed from serving with the U.S. Olympic Committee since 1993.
The World Series of Boxing is 75 percent owned by the International Boxing Association (AIBA), recognized world governing body for boxing with 196 national federations. The remaining 25 percent ownership reflects a partnership with IMG, boxing’s leading sports promotion agency.
“We’re embarking in the United States to repopularize boxers and boxing as a team sport with global competition. What this does is permit young amateur boxers to compete at international levels without losing their status for Olympic Game competition,” Sophia said, noting that those gunning for pugilistic fame in the WSB will be paid salaries, not professional purses for their team appearances.
“Essentially, we wanted to establish international competition with teams located where boxing has had impact in the past. Miami with its historic identity with Muhammed Ali, the Fifth Street gym on Miami Beach, and a long traditional of professional boxing, seemed a natural place to develop a team sport identity,” he added.
The word “Gallos,” first of four in “Americas Conference” to reveal an official team name, is loosely translated as a “gamecock,” a name Sophia believes showcases “the personality of both the team and the City of Miami. The name has a connotation of ‘proud fighter,’ a unique identity we hope will connect well with our local culture, our community and our fans.”
The “Gallos” are training at Tropical Park’s boxing center under head coach Pat Burns before a scheduled opening date of their regular season on Nov. 23 at Miami’s downtown AmericanAirlines Arena.
Of the 14 “Gallos” boxers, seven are from U.S. cities (none from Miami) while seven others hail from places varying from Argentina to Australia. All are young talents eager to find a spot on their country’s team when the Olympic trials begin.
They sharpened skills by hosting members of the “Baku Fires” for a sparring session at Tropical Park in early November. The session gave both teams an opportunity to experience new opponents and new fighting styles, according to Burns, a High Pines area resident and a lifelong boxing coach who has mentored fighters like Oscar de la Hoya.
The seven visiting members of “The Fires,” all from Azerbaijan, will compete in the WSB Asian Conference while Miami’s “Gallos” join the Los Angeles “Matadors,” Memphis “Force” and Mexico City “Guerroros” (i.e., “Warriors”) to make up a four-team Americas Conference; two other conferences are based in Asia and Europe.
The season continues until the weekend of Mar. 18, 2011 with each team playing the others in its conference twice (home and away). Teams with top records from each conference, plus the best second place enter a playoff in April, with its individual winners competing for the world team championships during May 2011.
The “Gallos” will meet the “Matadors” as part of a six-match home schedule at the AAAthat also includes a Dec. 9 date against Mexico City; bouts with the Memphis franchise Jan. 5 and Feb. 7; Mexico City, Feb. 24, and the Matadors again on Mar. 17.
The Miami team roster (weights in kilograms) includes: (54 kg) Fernando Martinez, Buenos Aires, Argentina and Jose Luis Meza Ochoa, Ecuador; (61 kg) Leonid Malkov, Ukraine; Adrian Martinez, Milwaukee, WI, and Robert Navarro Gonzalez, Dominican Republic; (73 kg) Anthony Campbell, Covington, TN; Darius Ervin, Charlotte, NC, and William Williams, Conyers, GA; (85 kg) Kenneth Egan, Clondalkin, Dublin, Ireland; Paul Koon, Philadelphia, PA, and Sijuola Shabazs, Las Cruces, NM; (91 kg) Donovan Dennis, Davenport, IA; Craig Lewis, Detroit, MI, and Trent Rawlins, Melbourne, Australia. Head coach is Patrick Burns; assistant coaches are Joseph Burns and Angel Nazario.
For more information on the WSB, visit online at www.worldseriesboxing.com. For details on the Miami Gallos and tickets, call 305-818-6880.