Going to the Fights, 1951
Eddie Gomez was watching a boxing match on a nineteen inch TV when his dad, Rudy, came in the house.
“Eddie, look what I have here.”
“Pops, did you get some tickets for the title fight?”
Eddie had been bugging his pop to take him to see the Art Argon vs. Jimmy Carter lightweight title fight at the Olympic Auditorium for some time, but his pop thought that Eddie; being twelve years old, was too young to go to the fights.
“Yes, Eddie, I bought four tickets. Your uncles, Tony and Ray, will be going with us. Now I hope your mom doesn’t get mad at me. She too thinks you are too young to go to the fights”.
Eddie’s mom, Lupe, was not too crazy to see Eddie going to the fights, but she did agree with Rudy that their son would be disappointed if he was not allowed to go with his pop and uncles, so she gave her okay for Eddie to go.
Eddie couldn’t wait to find his best friend, Cheno Diaz, to tell him the good news. He found Cheno tending his two cows and one goat at a nearby pasture. “Cheno, my pops is taking me to see the Aragon and Carter title fight.”
“Gee Eddie you are lucky. I wish I could go.”
“I’ll ask my pop if he can get another ticket for you. Cheno. You think your mom and pops would let you go?”
“I’ll ask them,” said Cheno.
Eddie asked his pop if he could get a ticket for Cheno.
“Yes, I’m sure I can get one, Eddie, you tell Cheno that if his mom and pop say it’s okay for him to go; we’ll take him with us”.
Next day in school, Eddie told Cheno the good news. “Cheno, my pops said that he’ll get you a ticket if your mom and pop say that it’s okay for you to go.”
“Eddie, Mom and Pop said I could go as long as your father was going, they trust your father, but not your uncle Ray. They say he is crazy, that he himself will get into a fight at the fights.”
“Yeah, Uncle Ray is a bit wild, especially when he is drinking beer, but Pops won’t let him drink too much, he’ll be okay.”
Two weeks later, they all piled into Rudy’s 1946 Dodge and headed west from Simons on Washington Boulevard. Eddie and Cheno were so excited that they couldn’t sit still and it was starting to bug Uncle Ray.
“If you kids don’t sit still, we are going to stop and drop you off here; and you are going to have to wait for us to pick you up after the fights.”
“Leave them alone Ray, they are just excited to be going to the fights. After all, it’s their first time to see boxing live. You remember when you went for the first time and you got all crazy on us, wanting to fight everybody there?” said Uncle Tony.
“Yeah, but I was drunk; and let me remind you that I was doing okay until that big guy cold-cock me and knocked me on my ass,” Uncle Ray said, laughing.
The area was so packed that they had to park three blocks away. Eddie and Cheno were shadow boxing as they walked up 18th Avenue.
“Hey Eddie, Cheno, you two want to become fighters? Because if you do, I’ll train you guys,” said Uncle Ray.
“Ray, what the hell do you know about training fighters?” Rudy demanded.
“Hey, Rudy, I have fighting experience.”
“Yes, you do, but it’s street fighting experience, and I don’t think you ever won a fight!”
“At least I’ve never been ko’d—always finished on my feet,” laughed Ray.
As the group approached the front entrance of the Olympic, they started seeing movie and boxing celebrities hanging around the sidewalk of Grand Avenue.
“Cheno! There’s John Wayne and Pedro Armendariz!” said the excitable Eddie.
“And over there is Rosemary Cooney and her husband Jose Ferrer,” Uncle Tony added.
“I see Tommy Campbell, Frankie Muche, Bob Murphy, Enrique Bolanos—and Babe Herman’s over there talking to two men!” said Cheno
“That’s Cal Eaton and Babe McCoy they are talking to. Probably talking about upcoming fights,” said Rudy.
Before entering the Olympic, they all bought the Knockout program from Speedy Dado. Eddie and Cheno started getting autographs on their programs to show their friends in school the next day.
They found their seats in the second-to-last row in the peanut gallery. No sooner had they sat down when rolls of toilet paper started flying around, soon even some ladies’ underwear were flying by, too. Eddie and Cheno started making paper planes and flying them down to the ring.
“This is fun, Eddie, thanks for bringing me” said Cheno.
“Thank my pop, Cheno. He is the one who bought your ticket”
The fighters for the first fight came into the ring. Rudy, Tony, and Ray started betting on the fights. They would bet one dollar on the white or black corner—whatever fighter went to the corner they had, that was their bet.
The first fight was won by Al Galindo over Bobby Brewer. Rudy and Tony won a dollar each, Ray lost a dollar.
The second fight was between Joey Gurrola and Sammy Figueroa.
“Cheno, see that big guy in Figueroa’s corner? That’s big Jake Horn, he’s a great trainer,” said Eddie
The fight ended in a draw.
“Guess it didn’t help Figueroa having Jake Horn in the corner, did it, Eddie?” Cheno said, as he threw a roll of toilet paper.
“He didn’t lose did he?” Eddie retorted
“Well no, he didn’t.”
After a couple of more fights it was time for the main event. Art Aragon and Jimmy Carter would be coming into the ring soon.
Aragon, looking weak, entered the ring first.
“Aragon is going to lose,” said Eddie
“How do you know?” asked Uncle Ray.
“Look how pale he looks. I read in The Mirror that he was having trouble making ’35,” said Eddie.
Carter came into the ring looking great. After both fighters had been gloved in the ring they were introduced by Jimmy Lennon, then referee Mushy Callahan called the fighters to the center of the ring for their instructions.
The fight started fairly even for the first four rounds, but from the fifth round on it was all Carter, who won an easy 15-round unanimous decision.
Right after the fight ended Uncle Ray wanted to leave. “Okay, our guy lost; let’s get out of here.”
“No! We have to stay and watch Keeny Teran fight Bobby Garza. They are fighting a six rounder,” said Eddie.
Uncle Tony agreed. “Ray, Keeny is the toast of the town. We have to stay and watch him fight.”
They stayed and watched Keeny win a unanimous decision.
On the way home Uncle Ray again asked Eddie and Cheno if they wanted to box. “Guys, if you want to fight, I’ll train you. After you train for a couple of months, I’ll take you to the downtown CYO where Johnny Flores runs the boxing program. I’m sure we can get you some sparring. Johnny is my friend and he’ll help us out.”
“Ray, you don’t even know Johnny Flores,” said Rudy
“Well maybe not, but I know where the CYO is at,” laughed Uncle Ray.
The next day Eddie and Cheno were the toast of the school as they were holding court with their friends.
“You should have seen Aragon land that left hook of his!” said Cheno as he threw a left hook in the air.
“Too bad he didn’t landed it enough,” Eddie moaned.
“He was too weak from making weight.”
“Yes he was,” agreed Eddie.
“But you should have seen that little Keeny Teran,” Eddie and Cheno said in unison.
“Guys, Cheno and I are going to start training next week. My uncle Ray is going to train us,” said Eddie.
Their lives had been forever changed by a single night at the fights.
Frank “kiki” Baltazar is a retired boxing manager and trainer and a member of the California Boxing Hall of Fame. More of his writing can be found at From Bricks and Rosin: Stories by Frank “kiki'”Baltazar.