Neeco Macias and Jesus Soto Karass top tonight’s “Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN” show from Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.
The main event, a scheduled 10-round junior middleweight bout, is of no real significance in the boxing world. Neither Macias nor Soto Karass are considered top-10 contenders. It’s just a good ole fashioned dust-up between aggressive volume punchers, and the younger punching machine, which is Macias (by 10 years), is heavily favored to win.
Soto Karass (28-13-4, 18 knockouts) is no longer the reliable gatekeeper that forced welterweight prospects, fringe contenders and former beltholders to EARN their top-10 ranking if they were worthy.
There’s no top-10 junior middleweight ranking waiting for Macias (17-0, 10 KOs) after a Soto Karass victory. Macias’s victory is the mere fact that he’s headlining an ESPN-televised show at Fantasy Springs, where the 27-year-old southpaw fought six non-televised undercard bouts from 2014 to 2016. At that time, Macias, who started boxing at the advanced age of 19 following a brief amateur stint, was viewed by most insiders as a “colorful” club fighter. He was a scrappy, happy guy that brought in locals with his “Rooster” schtick and relentless style, but he wasn’t thought of as a prospect.
However, Ken Sheer and Lyle Green, the CEO and Vice President of Sheer Sports Management, saw more than just a swarming pressure fighter in the Antelope Valley native – the saw real potential. They liked his positive attitude, as well as his desire to improve, and singed him in mid-2016. Fast forward two years: The Rooster returned to Fantasy Springs where he upstaged ESPN’s Prospect of the Year, Ryan Garcia, by upsetting Mexican amateur champion Marvin Cabrera in the co-featured bout of the Facebook Watch stream.
Macias shattered CompuBox records on his way to overwhelming Cabrera, an 8-0 prospect signed with Golden Boy Promotions, in Round 6 of their scheduled eight. Fans got a taste of “The Rooster” and wanted to see more, which brings us to tonight’s showcase on The Worldwide Leader of Sports. Macias makes his ESPN debut as a Golden Boy fighter, having signed with the Los Angeles-based company last month.
“I couldn’t be happier for Neeco,” Green told The Ring. “He’s an example of how hard work and the right attitude can impact a fighter’s career. He’s also an example of the kind of fighters we want to be involved with. We want outstanding, high-character individuals.”
Macias was willing to relocate from his usual training environment in the remote mountain area of Tehachapi to Buddy McGirt’s busy gym in Northridge, California, in order to be at his best for Cabrera. Aaron McKenna, another Sheer Sports fighter who is scheduled to appear on tonight’s ESPN broadcast, made the same move one year ago. The 19-year-old welterweight prospect joins Macias, David Mijares and fellow Irish amateur star Jason Quigley as Sheer Sports fighters in the Golden Boy stable.
Other Sheer Sports fighters include unbeaten super middleweight Ronald Ellis (15-0-2), who is promoted by New Jersey-based GH3, and heavyweight gatekeeper Scott Alexander (14-3-2), who is promoted by California-based Thompson Boxing. They have young fighters, such as Victor Morales Jr. (9-0), Miguel Contreras, and Macias’ younger brother Chazz (1-0), who are unsigned.
Some, like McKenna (5-0) and Quigley (15-0) and had extensive amateur careers. Others, like Macias and Alexander, had less than 30 amateur bouts. Those with limited amateur backgrounds receive just as much attention and push as the amateur champs. And setbacks, such as Scott’s razor-thin majority decision loss to the vastly more experienced Travis Kaufman last September, don’t count against them.
“Losses don’t scare us away,” said Sheer. “It lets us know where our fighters are. We were proud of the way Alexander fought Kaufman. He gave Travis all he could handle, and he did it on one week’s notice.
“He didn’t want to take the fight with that short of notice, but I made him take it. I told him he could tell me no, but I also let him know that I truly believed that he had the ability to win the fight. He almost did. And he was mad at me immediately after the bout, maybe for about 10 seconds he was down on himself, but that fight also let him know what he could do with a proper camp.”
Green, who spends a lot of time with the 29-year-old Los Angeles native in the gym, talks about Alexander with the same enthusiasm most managers save for blue-chip prospects.
“He’s extremely fast, very strong, and he moves like no heavyweight you’ve seen in recent times,” said Green. “He just didn’t have enough amateur bouts to put it all together and to be confident against those boxers that have that experience. It’s all mental, it’s all upstairs.”
Boxing is also physical, and Sheer and Green have stood by their fighters that have suffered injuries and illness that required significant healing time. Mijares (6-0) returned to the ring last month after being sidelined with health issues for 18 months. Both Quigley and Ellis had to sit out for an entire year (most of 2017) due to broken hands.
One of boxing’s older adages – one that is often repeated among managers and promoters – is “Never fall in love with your fighter.” Sheer and Green can’t help themselves. They’re too entrenched in the sport.
Sheer’s grandfather, Al Lang, trained and managed fighters for 40 years (1940s-‘70s), mostly out of the New York City/Long Island, N.Y. area. Green, who is in his late 40s, is a former Ohio amateur boxing standout with Cincinnati roots.
Both guys look like they could spar 10 rounds with a solid pro. Both are gym rats (Sheer, who is 54, owns and the IRON Fitness Gyms, which have locations in Brentwood, Santa Monica and a newly opened center at ground floor of the Golden Boy building in downtown Los Angeles). Both are boxing historians who love to talk about the sport and can’t get enough or learn enough about it.
“I understand that old saying ‘don’t fall in love with your fighter,’ but I love the sport and there is no sport without the fighters,” Sheer said.
“It’s impossible not to care about the fighters,” said Green. “It’s an individual sport, you have to care for the individual combatants in order to care about boxing.”
That why they don’t intend to add too many more fighters to their stable (which currently numbers 11).
“We’re never going to have 50 fighters like Al Haymon or Cameron Dunkin,” said Sheer. “We want to know our fighters and be as involved as we can in their careers and their growth.”
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