Posted by Don Smith on Aug 3, 2015
Southpaw Reviewed, Iron Boy XXIII Recap & More

Southpaw Reviewed, Iron Boy XXIII Recap & More

Arizona Boxing News & Notes With Don Smith:

Boxing Fans, AMC Theatre, On Camelback Road in Phoenix, was very gracious in inviting me to review Southpaw, a film directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day & Brooklyn’s Finest) from an original screenplay written by Kurt Sutter (Sons of Anarchy & the Shield). The AMC venue on 25th Street & Camelback is a Dine in Theatre featuring reclining seats, very comfortable and the menu offers finger and gourmet cuisine delivered by courteous servers.

I was granted access because Southpaw incorporates boxing in the film’s genre and I, for more than a decade, I served as a movie reviewer for print and broadcast entities. Every year, while working as a journalist in Texas, I was invited annually to attend the prestigious USA Film Festival, held at the Bob Hope Theater on the Campus grounds of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.

It was at one of the annual Festivals that I met Award winning critics Judith Crist and Roger Ebert who set lofty standards for critiquing film during their celebrated careers. I had lunch with Ms. Crist on at least one occasion and she flattered me by praising my interview skills. I may have blushed; it was high praise from a writer known for her insightful and erudite critiques. I thought of her and Roger as I wondered aloud about the rust I had acquired since my last movie review, years ago.

Director Fuqua, a onetime boxer, assembled an all-star cast led by Jake Gyllenhaal who plays a flawed character (Billy Hope) that successfully defends his light heavyweight title in the beginning of the film even though his emotional state and questionable defense worries his wife Maureen Hope (Rachael McAdams) thinks he should take a respite from boxing; however the Champ doesn’t share her gloom and doom perception and nobody else around him (management) cares about his obvious need for help. The other shoe is about to drop.

A personal tragedy, brought on by an explosive altercation, costs him dearly and sends him sprawling and spiraling downward into a frightful depression he can’t cope with and as a result he loses his boxing title and his most precious remaining treasure, his devoted daughter Leila (Oona Laurence ) is removed from his custody.

Director Fuqua detailed focus on Billy Hope’s fall from social grace and Boxing Kingdom was a humbling segment to watch and movie goers watching with me were riveted to their seats waiting to see if the fallen champion would rise again. It is a journey I enjoyed watching even though some cinema goers may find the dialogue too much F laden, it is appropriate for the story and this fictionalized tale would lose its’ punch if it wasn’t rated R.

It isn’t a perfect film, but the flaws, too many clichés and an occasional questionable camera angle, are minor glitches and not enough to dissuade me from seeing it again.


Overall, the cast is very good. Jake Gyllenhaal (Billy Hope) is very believable as a boxer and a beleaguered parent who is on the eve of destruction. He worked weeks to convert to a southpaw and the fight scenes throughout the film to credit to the sweet science of boxing. Ironically the movie was created for Rapper Eminem who backed out and was replaced by a bigger and more experienced Gyllenhaal. A bit of movie trivia for free.

One boxing purist called me to point out that the movie poster advertising the film depicts Billy Hope as a right hander and because of what he called “blatant” misrepresentation; he wouldn’t pay to see the film. In reality, the switch to southpaw is suggested by his principled trainer (Titus Tick Willis) played by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker in a strong supporting role. That is my defense of the poster issue, but I don’t think it matters because it isn’t a boxing movie in the same genre as Raging Bull although the amount of spilled blood and bruising is comparable.

According to an interview he granted on a late night talk show, Gyllenhaal lost15 lbs. to scale down to 175 (light heavyweight) and the 34 year old actor is buffed and wears enough body art to be accepted at the Central boxing Gym as a card carrying boxing member. His performance could find favor with members of the Academy, next year even though he is getting a bit of criticism for mumbling through his dialogue which I thought was appropriate for his character, a self-taught product of the projects.

Rachael McAdams portrays his loving wife (Maureen Hope) and her brief but intense role is memorable and the chemistry between her and Gyllenhaal provides some onscreen magic between the charismatic stars.

I was happy to see Oona Laurence cast as the young Hope daughter and she delivered a powerful understated role that resonated with the audience. I didn’t want to see a young blonde blue eyed over the top teenage actress ruin the part and the decision to have her wear a pair of ordinary looking glasses was smart. Later in the film her visiting father asked her why she wasn’t wearing her glasses and the young actress replied “it isn’t cool.” She could have a long career ahead of her.

Other acting bouquets go to Forest Whitaker for his portrayal of Titus Tick Wills, a venerable boxing trainer who doesn’t want to re-enter the world of professional boxing   but he is convinced to get Billy Hope ready for the battle of his life. Curtis Jackson aka 50 cent steals a scene or two with his wise cracking street wise portrayal of Hope’s confident and sneaky business manager is worth more than 50 cents to watch. Also, boxers Roy Jones Jr. , Victor Ortiz and HBO boxing commentator Jim Lampley are featured in cameo roles and only Ortiz deserves a pat on the back for his role as a sparring partner.

Miguel Gomez also stands out as Billy Hope’s militant smack talking adversary and Hope’s title successor during the Champ’s rehab stint. His in your face dialogue creates some explosive moments between the once undefeated champion and the new champion gives fressh meaning to the word disrespect.

I saw it from an aisle seat and I didn’t get up until it was over. Production cost was 30 million and I was told it recouped that amount in a week. It ranked # 5 nationally after the first weekend of showing.

Southpaw continues to play at AMC Theatres across the country and if you reside near the Phoenix neighborhood; check out the Dine in Theatre on Camelback Road. The making of Southpaw was dedicated to the memory of composer James Horner who died in a plane crash after completing the musical score for the film. I suspect he will receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for his memorable score. Remember, it has an R rating and deservedly so!

Sorry To Report: Due to circumstances beyond control, the men’s portion of the Pathway to Glory Olympic Trials Qualifier II, September 7-12 in Baltimore Md., has been postponed. Any male competitor’s ad supporting coaches should not make any additional travel plans to Baltimore at this time. For additional information contact: USA Boxing Arizona President Jake Magallanez at: [email protected] or Brandon Dyett at: [email protected].

Gripe Corner: Celebrity Theater is a good place to watch a fight unless your vantage point is behind a post or behind the stationary rear end of a cameraman. Iron Boy listened to my politely forwarded complaint and promised to make adjustments. Also, there was an alleged reporter who was sitting in the press section, drinking a Red Bull and Tecate Beer while shouting out instructions to his favorite fighters as they were working; something he wasn’t doing. I would love to read his critique of the Iron Boy XXIII show. Iron Boy was duly notified.

As far as number of occupied seats, I saw two printed attendance counts and both were incorrect. According to box-office and security officials, the final patron head count was rounded off was and reported to be 1,500; boxers Mikayla Nebel, Joey Ruelas and Emilio Garcia appeared to bring in the most fans. I wish people without math skills would ask me for help. I taught math for years in the Phoenix Union High School District; most people nowadays have to take their shoes to count, unfortunately…..referees never complain, but in my opinion, the Arizona boxing commission is assigning them too many bouts per show in most shows.


Bout Maker Boxing Promotion News: Super Flyweight Elihu Soto, younger brother of onetime prospect Jesus Soto, will fight on the BMBP Card on August 29, at LA Princesa in Phoenix. Soto’s dad was deported a few years and the ordeal forced Elihu to forsake boxing and take care of his family. Soto made his debut in Mexico last year and won with a 1st round knockout. He will fight Victor Torres in a scheduled four rounder on the card. Elihu was at the Iron Boy XXIII show and we spoke briefly; he is a well-mannered young man who represents boxing well.

The show will also feature Tim Riddell, Manuel Romero, Jesse Ruiz, Jose Luis Gallegos, Francisco Chavez, Cesar Valenzuela, Alex Ochoa and Marco Antonio Sustaita. The boxing company will continue to donate tickets through the auspices of Vet-Tix a valid nonprofit organization that reroutes ticket donations to all qualified veterans. BMBP will also earmark a portion of proceeds to One Way Only Sports League, a community organization that provides sports programs to both youth and adults.

Media Makeover: I expect major changes within the next month concerning the criteria for members of the press covering Arizona boxing events. Already, one promotional company has eliminated press passes and substituted wrist bands to save money and the number of ring girls at a recent boxing event was reduced to two from the normal four.

As for members of the media here is what I hear may happen and these suggestions or proposed rules aren’t set in concrete. (1) Members of the press will be given a table near the ring and their view will not be obstructed by inconsiderate camera personnel who stand directly in front of writers; thus comprising their ability to report the ring action accurately.  (2) Access will be limited to journalists and media members who actually cover boxing events and can present a “tear” sheet displaying a printed or broadcasted sample of their work. (3) Anyone double dipping or working for various boxing and combative sports organizations in a variety of roles will exclude applicant from joining the press pool. Promoters want to avoid conflict of interest and a background check will flesh out applicants with questionable work motives. (4) A new policy on interview requests is being considered and time limits will be addressed. There have been complaints that one or two members of the paparazzi corral the fighters first and waste other reporter’s time by asking mundane questions. Logical solutions are simple and easy to be implemented.

Iron Boy XXIII Recap: On August 25, Iron Boy XXIII presented 9 bouts at the Celebrity Theatre and the highlights included a winning debut by local favorite Edward Ceballos, a spirited ladies fight (Montano vs. Nebel) and an unexpected close battle between Emilio Garcia (9-1-1-1) and Victor Cobain a virtual unknown who was making his professional debut. Additional Kudos go the continued success of undefeated Carlos Castillo (Tucson Arizona) plus the hard punching performance of California’s Danny Valdivia who ran his record to 8-0. Overall it was a good card and attendance slowly built to an estimated 1,500 before the evening drew to a close.

The Garcia vs. Cobain verdict ended in a draw. Cobain listed Phoenix as his hometown, but none of the local boxing beat writers ever heard of him; it must have ben a typo. And there was only one person sitting at the press stable who was drinking and no one knew him either. I was impressed with Cobain’s ring poise and he threw harder punches while three more. Chris Flores was the third man in the ring.

It was an impressive UD victory for the 18 year old Ceballos who now heads to LA to fight Adrian Rodriguez on August 8.

In the second bout, Tucson fighter Carlos Castillo broke the nose of Danny Montoya Eloy Arizona) in the final stanza and referee Wes Melton stopped the bout. Castillo is now 3-0 with 3 knockouts while Montoya’s record is even at 1-1.

Bernardo Marquez took some time to figure out the awkward style of Daniel Arambula on his way to a unanimous 4 round victory to push his record to 3-0-1. After the bout, Marquez, an easy interview, called out former Olympian heavyweight Michael H Hunter, but based on his performance against Arambula (3-1), there is no rush.

Mikayla Nebel (2-6) used her jab effectively to score a UD decision over tough Kristen Montano who fought fiercely but found the reach and experience of Nebel more than she could handle. Both fighters received standing ovations at the end of the fight. Nebel donated portion of her purse to an animal rescue charity . She is signed with Iron Boy and could be returning to Phoenix, soon. Montano’s record dropped to 0-2 in a battle of 115 pounders.

Local favorite middleweight Joey “The Boxer” Ruelas (10-1-1) went the distance Hector Mercado ((2-5) from Mexico. Ruelas controlled the action, but Mercado kept taking shot after shot to his credit. After six rounds of action, all three judges scored it in favor of Ruelas, 60-54. It was a solid performance.

Phoenix boxer Carlos Castro (11-0) methodically wore down California’s Cesar Garcia (11-19-1) for the first three rounds and then ended it with a barrage of punches near the climatic end of fourth round. Referee Wes Melton declared Castro the TKO winner in a scheduled for six in a bout from the super bantamweight division.

In a battle of super welterweights, Danny Valdivia was too strong for Wilfredo Acuna of Nicaragua and referee Chris Flores stopped the one sided contest at 1:59 into the 1st round. Valdivia delivered the strongest punch of the night and his 9-0 record is for real; Acuna’s record dropped to 15-17.

The Main Event featured veteran Jose Silveria (15-15) vs. Iron Boy star Francisco C. De Vaca (12-0) in a six round contest with Vaca winning a UD victory by throwing more punches an d showing better defense. There is talk about Vaca fighting for a minor title next year and my suggestion would-be to address his lack of power in recent fights. Francisco has the coaching staff t correct his power shortage and I know they will.

Another highlight for me was the inclusion of a special tribute to one of our fallen hero roes, Staff Sergeant Roberto Andrade killed in Iraq, 2013. His family was present to accepted a commemorative flag and receive boxing’s prestigious “Ten Count” salute. Announcer Sonny Franco, a military veteran) was exquisite in handling the emotional tribute; good job, Iron Boy and on behalf of all the veterans who served, thank you Staff Sergeant Andrade for giving the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country. Andrade grew up in Arizona.

Bout Maker Promotions has teamed with the Kroc Center (Salvation Army) to hold a back to school supply drive for youth in South Phoenix. If interested in finding out more information: go the BMBP Facebook [email protected] If you don’t have Facebook, no soup for you; seriously, click on the website and contact BMBP.

Gum Spit Spat: Boys will be boys and sometimes Men will too. At the recent Iron Boy XXIII Weigh-in (in Mesa, Arizona), two men engaged in a verbal altercation that became heated after one of the verbal combatants spit his gum into the face of his counterpart which brought forth a shove and a warning from event coordinators. Iron Boy was upset and rightfully so. Before the childish behavior was terminated, another male person decided to air his past personal grievance with one of the men until I walked over and asked his name for the sake of my report; he became very quiet. I tried to find out the flight distance of the gum or brand name, but no one wanted to venture a guess.

Hall of Fame Induction: Mike Tyson will present Muhammad Ali for induction into the Nevada Hall of Fame on Saturday August 8 at Cesar’s Palace. Also expected to attend the 3rd annual charity event is “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Lennox Lewis, Felix Trinidad, Marco Antonio Barrera, Roger & Floyd Mayweather and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad.

Remaining tickets are available at prices ranging from $75.00 -$300.00 and are fully tax deductible as the NVBHOF is an IRS 501 © 3 Charity. Tickets can be purchased through the Hall’s website,

Boxing News: New World Sports Gym owner/Instructor Neil Sarembock is off to South Africa to visit his mother. Neil has worked and trained in combative sports since he was 11 years old; we won’t divulge his age, but he has a grown son (Shawn) who boxes and will watch the store while pop is gone….. The big Russian heavyweight prospect (name still a mystery) whom I thought was scheduled to fight journeyman Chad Davis on the WE KO PA Resort & Conference Center at Ft. McDowell near Phoenix was rescheduled to fight in Mexico on August 28, but visa complications have scuttled those plans….Arizona prospect Luis Olivares (ribs) is mended and could be back in action soon…. confirmed Light Heavyweight Trevor McCumby’s August fight at a county Fair in Fallon Nevada at the Churchill County Fairgrounds on August 22. Special thanks to Nevada officials for responding to my request.

McCumby (19-0) has paid his ring dues and could be fighting for a NABF sized title soon if he beats his TBA opponent; the 22 year old will blow out 23 candles in September and he has a jack hammer right hand that has helped him end the night early for 15 of his 19 foes. Trevor resides in Glendale Arizona. Top Rank is promoting the show and other fighters on the card include: Saul Rodriguez (17-0-1-13 knockouts) vs. Ramsey Luna 12-3, Victor Pasillas (10-0), Oscar “Chapito” Vasquez 8-1 and Louis Ramos 23-2.

More News: Ralph Velez Jr. publicist Giovanni Luhay took to the internet to announce that his friend (Mr. Velez Jr.) is talking to Siam Fighting Productions about joining their team. He is already linked to Rage in The Cage (One show in Yuma), Jose Benavidez Sr. Gym, Wild West Promotions and he is reportedly talking to another promotional company about employment. He is doing it all, wrestling, MMA, boxing, Muay Thai and has served as a spokesperson for commercial products. What will he do next?…Ray Lampkin Jr. is working out at Phoenix’s Central Gym in preparation for an upcoming fight in Mexico…..Edward Ceballos, fresh off his debut bout at the Celebrity Theatre, will fight Adrian Rodriguez 1-4-1 in LA on August 8…After his recent victory, Mario Esparza has been taken off the bad boy list and may be welcomed to fight in Arizona, again…….Big fight night on August 6 when 8 Republican candidates (trimmed from 16 total)vying for the office of President of the United States meet on a stage in Ohio; sorry couldn’t resist the jab: have the tissues handy……Jim Grieshaber play by play announcer for Iron Boy Live Stream broadcasts has decided to move on to different opportunities. We wish him well.

Roy Jones Jr. Promotions: The WE KO PA Resort & Conference Center at Fort McDowell is pretty well set and the details forwarded to dour desk. The weigh-in will be held on Friday August 14 at the Lucky 7 Saloon in the Fort McDowell Casino at 6 PM; check-in time for boxers is 5 PM. The after fight party will also be held at the Lucky 7 Saloon following the Saturday night main event. Here is the fight card lineup.

Main Event: Louis Rose (12-2-1) vs. Andrew Hernandez (9-1-1) 8 rounds for the “junior” NABF Middleweight Championship on LA TV Check area distributor for designated channel to watch. Fans can also catch a taped rerun the following week.

Under Card: welterweights Benjamin Whitaker 9-1 vs. John Guillen 7-0 8 rounds (LA TV), 6 round featherweight contest: Carlos Castro 11-0 vs. Johnny Guillen 7-0 (LA TV), 6 round super flyweight contest: Alexis Zazueta 5-0 vs. Sergio Lopez, 6 round super lightweight contest: Keenan Carbajal 6-2-1 vs. Manuel Rubalcava 2-13, 4 round super bantamweight contest: Paul “Ziggy” Romero 4-0-1 vs. Raymond Chacon 5-16, 4 round super bantamweight contest: Jose Rodriquez Herrera vs. TBA – Check Roy Jones Jr. Promotions website for ticket prices and fight times…Until Next Time!


About Don Smith

Don Smith has written 79 post in this blog.

Don Smith became interest in boxing from age 8 when his Dad gave him a pair of gloves, he eventually wore them out. During his Don Smith served in the US Army as a Military Police Desk SGT. The skills he learned while writing reports laid the foundation for him becoming a journalist. According to Don “I didn’t really flip the switch to journalism until I was detained in Belfast Ireland for taking pictures during my vacation in Ireland. I made the questionable mistake of trying to albii my way out of the situation by claiming to be a journalist, wrong move. No diplomatic immunity, ha ha. II returned to college in Texas, wrote for my college paper as a paid staffer”. He grew up during the Friday Night Era, and In his role as a sports writer, he has rubbed elbos with Leonard, Norton, Ali, Mancini, Cokes, Paez and other champion boxers. His his works have been high lighted and published by Community Newspapers in Texas, Sports Stringer, Dallas Morning News, WRR Radio Critic Dallas Texas, KCHU Radio Talk Show Host Dallas, Texas, Talk Shoow host, Plano Texas, Interviewer for OPUS & STARSHINE Networks, Interviewed more than 1,000 celebrities including 7 US Presidents, Athletes, Movie Stars, etc.

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