By Steve Kim Updated on June 27, 2024

California Dreamin'

Picture for California Dreamin'

This upcoming weekend features two cards taking place on consecutive days in the state of California. First from the Pechanga Arena in San Diego, WBO featherweight titlist, Emanuel Navarrete, faces Joet Gonzalez. Then the next night at Chukchansi Park in Fresno, a card lead by Mikey Garcia is being staged.

While Fresno in recent years has become a hot boxing market with the popularity of former unified junior welterweight champion, Jose Ramirez, and the tireless work of his manager Rick Mirigian (who basically markets and promotes these events in the 559), San Diego has largely been an untapped market in recent decades.

Top Rank, which is promoting Navarrete-Gonzalez (which will be streamed on ESPN+) does have a bit of history in 'America's Finest City'.

"I know I promoted the (Muhammad) Ali-(Ken) Norton first fight in that arena. Also an Oscar (De La Hoya) fight early on his career that was on ABC, and an Orlin Norris fight," recalled Arum, earlier this week. Ali-Norton I, most notable for the broken jaw suffered by Ali in a 12 round split decision loss, took place in 1973. While 'the Golden Boy' faced Curtis Strong in his fourth pro outing in 1993. Norris, fought several times at this building when it was called 'the San Diego Sports Arena'.

Picture for California Dreamin'
Pechanga Arena

Arum continued, "I think this would be my fourth or fifth fight in that arena."

Built in 1966, it has housed an assortment of sporting events and concerts. It can be charitably described as an aged venue with.... uhhh, 'character'. 

For years many have wondered why San Diego, with it's close proximity to the Mexican border, and just two hours from Los Angeles, hasn't been utilized more. It's a major metropolitan market with a large Latin base.

"I really have no input on that, but you're right," admitted Arum. "I mean, it's across from Tijuana, which is a big city, maybe it's difficult getting over the border. I don't know. But yet, Emanuel Navarette is a resident of Tijuana."

What they are getting in this fight figures to be a fan-friendly affair, between the long-limbed Naverette, who just keeps whacking away at this opponents with unusual combination sequences, and Gonzalez, who never shies away from a fight. There will be an abundance of leather chucked in there on Friday evening. 


Picture for California Dreamin'

Photo Credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

But the reality is that while it's refreshing to see boxing events put in other markets other than Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York, this is still ultimately a business. The bottom line matters.

Arum stated, "You want to develop as many markets as you can. But no market, other than a market that is financed by the government, like when Eddie (Hearn) went to Saudi Arabia with the second (Andy) Ruiz-(Anthony) Joshua fight. No market can really compete with Las Vegas because Las Vegas is a destination, the casino's attracting customers to buy tickets and the prices for tickets in Vegas are generally much higher then they would be any other place that you'd put up the event."

It's not clear just how much the gate will be effected by travel restrictions at the border, but should Top Rank do well at the box-office there is a good possibility that they return.

"100-percent, because everything in San Diego putting on an event is less expensive than L.A. -- including hotels," stated Arum.



I've dubbed Mikey Garcia in the past 'Mexican' Sinatra.

No matter what anyone says, or advice he's given, he has a particular view of the boxing business and his career that often confounds even his own family. But to him, boxing is first and foremost a business, not necessarily a passion like it is with his father and brother. And yet to his credit he's parlayed this clinical approach into a very lucrative vocation.

This Saturday he faces Sandor Martin in Fresno. The late, great Bert Sugar would've said of a guy like Martin, ''he's not even a household name in his own household.''  There had been a good amount of discussion -- and anticipation -- regarding a showdown with the respected Regis Prograis, but Garcia asked for a tune-up after not having a fight since February of 2020.

He does it his way.


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Also on this card is one of the most talented young fighters in the world in Jesse 'Bam' Rodriguez, who many pundits are sky high on. This 21 year from San Antonio (and the younger brother of Joshua Franco, who holds a version of the WBA 115-pound title) is a complete boxer, who can both box with precision and punch with power. 

He is pugilistic poetry in motion out of his southpaw stance. 

If Rodriguez, who currently competes at junior flyweight, doesn't become a multi-division champion, it would be a stunner. 

Honestly, he is the fighter I'm looking forward to seeing perform the most on this bill. Boxrec has his opponent listed as Jose Alejandro Burgos in a scheduled 10 rounder.



So coming off that insta-classic heavyweight slugfest, does current WBC heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury and his team, even care about any mandates from sanctioning bodies? Recently, the WBC announced that the winner of the October 30 match-up between Dillian Whyte and Otto Wallin, would then be in line to face Fury next.

To which Arum told, "I have great respect for Mauricio (Sulaiman), he's a good guy, and he wants to do the best for boxing. He'll handle the situation appropriately."

Picture for California Dreamin' Photo Credit: Mikey Williams/Top Rank

Then he dropped this gem.

"The truth is, looking at the Wallin fight with Whyte, I favor Walling to beat Whyte."

Which would be interesting since Wallin has already faced Fury back in 2019, where he threw a scare into everybody by cutting Fury early on in that contest and putting the rematch with Wilder in jeopardy.  "It's not a smorgasbord sandwich -- he's a tough guy," Arum said of the Swede.

Regardless, look for 'the Gypsy King' to fight more than once next year.

"I talked to him today, this morning," said Arum on Tuesday afternoon, "he had just gotten back to Manchester, he wants to be active and he'll probably end up fighting the first quarter (of '22), or maybe as late as April. Then later in the year, certainly."

As for where he might fight, or the possibility of a British homecoming, Arum stated, "He's not contractually bound to fight any place. He's going to fight wherever it's the most advantageous to fight.

"I mean, this is is still a business."



The Top Rank card on Friday begins streaming on ESPN+ at 8:30 pm, ET/5:30 PT.... This card also features Lindolfo Delgado, Javier Martinez, Henry Lebron vs Manuel Rey Rojas and the pro debut of heavyweight Antonio Mireles. The co-feature is a welterweight bout between Giovani Santillan and Angel Ruiz in a 10 round welterweight contest....The card from Fresno begins on DAZN at 7:30 pm, ET/ 4:30 PT....The WBO light flyweight title is on the line between Elwin Soto and Jonathan Gonzalez is featured, as our prospects Brock Jarvis, Diego Pacheco, Nikita Ababiy, Marc Castro and Khalil Coe....Can Mack Brown put Miami Hurricane fans out of their misery this weekend in Chapel Hill?....Is Lamar Jackson the early front-runner for NFL MVP?....The new edition of 'the Wonder Years' on ABC has been very good....'Billions' on Showtime will not be the same without Damian Lewis.... I can be reached at

About Author
California Dreamin'
  • Hosted 'the Main Event' on KIEV 870, and then later XTRA AM1150 ( a three hour show devoted to boxing) from 1996 to 1999.
  • Joined one of the first boxing websites, 'House of Boxing' in 1999, and then later became one of the founders of Maxboxing, that started in 2001, till his departure in 2014.
  • From 2014 to 2018, he was the lead columnist for
  • Was a boxing reporter for from 2018 to 2020.
  • He has written for Ring Magazine, International Boxing Digest and Boxing News.
  • Is the co-host of 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' with Mario Lopez, which has become of the most popular boxing podcasts the past several years.
  • Steve has also served as an announcer and analyst for RingTV, Thompson Boxing, 360 Promotions and CBS Sports Network.