All ages box for glory in the ring

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Jose Rodgriguez, left, boxes his opponent at the “Fiesta in B-Town” at the WSM auction facility at the Bakersfield Auto Mall. The event had 40 fighters competing in a variety of weight classes and ages.

Luis Garcia, Photographer

A crowd gathered at the WSM auction facility at the Bakersfield Auto Mall, but no fast talking auctioneer was on hand to sell automobiles. Instead, they came together to see the Central Valley’s finest in amateur boxing brawl it out at the fourth annual Fiesta in B-Town boxing event on Sept. 29.

Forty fighters competed in 20 bouts in a variety of divisions and weight classes.

The event was fiesta-themed and was rich in Mexican decor. Vibrant colored party decorations lit up the spacious warehouse, as well as the dining area where an assortment of Mexican cuisine and beverages were being sold.

The boxing ring was surrounded by a VIP table area and general admission seating, which was mostly occupied by family members of the athletes. The lobby of the facility doubled as a locker room where fighters got their hands wrapped by their respective coaches before each fight. The event was sanctioned by the Central California Association (CCA) of USA Boxing and was coordinated by Joe Cardenas, owner of Bakersfield boxing club Refuse to Lose.

Fiesta in B-Town was much more than just a boxing event. For Cardenas, it’s a way to reach out to the community and create a support system for fighters who lack one.

“Given some hard circumstances, I want to give support to these kids and help them reach the big time,” said Cardenas.  “I used to fight in the ’70s and ’80s and I didn’t get to make it where I wanted to in my career. So I figured I want to help these kids around the area in any way that I can.”

“I want them to know that there’s someone out here looking after them,” Cardenas added.

Fighters as young as eight years old competed in three one-minute rounds. Fifteen year olds and older fought for three two minute rounds. Competitors from as far away as Riverside and Sacramento traveled to Bakersfield in hopes of winning a belt.

Antoine Adams, 18, fighting out of the Bakersfield Police Activities League, got off to a rough start in the first round when his headgear kept slipping off, which he admits messed him up. He came back in the second round and won the match, earning him his second career win. Adams explained how the days leading up to the fight proved to be a challenge.

“I actually had to gain 10 pounds and I ate a lot to make weight,” said Adams. “Then over these last two days I couldn’t train, because I had to give some time for my knees and back to heal from a previous injury. Those were my flaws, but there’s no excuse for it. You gotta do what you gotta do.”

On this date, some boxers began their amateur careers. Michael Klever, a 24-year-old boxer from Bakersfield, gave an impressive performance considering he doesn’t yet have a gym he trains out of. He credited his coach Tommy Tillery’s instructions for his victory. Klever beat Richard Soto, 18. Soto has been fighting out of Central Valley gym in Dinuba and has been competing for over a year and a half. He has five wins under his belt. Klever dominated in the second round landing punches to Soto’s mid section and chin.

“I think it went very well,” said Klever. “I hope I can do better next time, but I am happy with it.”