Granite Chin Promotions (GCP) and Rivera Promotions Entertainment (RPE) hosted a press conference on July 18 at The Ballot Box in Worcester, Massachusetts, to make a major announcement, as well as introduce local fighters on the August 17th pro boxing card at The Palladium in Worcester.
Three-time, two-division world champion “El Gallo” Jose Antonio Rivera (41-6-1, 24 KOs) is making his return in the “Making History” main event, in large part because he wanted to fight on the same card as his son, A.J. Rivera, who was to become the first pro boxer who was born with Spina Bifida. A.J., who is a rising matchmaker in New England, was unable to get medically cleared in time and he will not be fighting Aug. 17.
The event has been renamed, “Homecoming”, because six of the competing fighters, including Jose Antonio Rivera, live in Worcester.
“Unfortunately,” announced promoter Chuck Shearns, who co-promotes Granite Chin Promotions with Chris Traietti, “A.J. isn’t fighting on this show because he couldn’t get medically cleared in time.”
“I trained hard and was within five or six pounds of my contract weight,” a disappointed A.J. Rivera explained. “I passed all of the medical tests except for the CATSCAN. I fought the doctor a little and said I wanted a second opinion. Those results won’t be in time, so I can’t fight on this card.”
“The reason I’m coming back was to make history with my son,” Jose Antonio Rivera added. “We had talked about it a long time but, unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be for A.J. for this card. He’s already part of history already as the only fighter born with Spina Bifida who fought as an amateur. I feel bad, but everything happens for a reason and as a father, my son’s safety always comes first. He will continue to be an important part of our team to make our company a success. People are thrown curveballs in life like this and we’ve regrouped to turn this into a positive. We’re still fighting for the cause (Spina Bifida).”
Now 45 years old, Rivera has already lost more than 30 pounds, and he is within eight of his contracted weight for his eight-round fight against Ruben “Modern Day Warrior” Galvan (27-26-4, 10 KOs).
In 1997, Rivera captured the International Boxing Organization (IBO) World welterweight title, stopping Gilberto Flores in the second round. Six years later, he traveled to Germany to take on undefeated, hometown favorite Michel Trabant (38-0) for the vacant World Boxing Association (WBA) World Welterweight Championship, in which Rivera won a 12-round decision and the belt.
Two fights later, in front of nearly 10,000 hometown fans in Worcester, Rivera won a 12-round unanimous decision in 2006 over defending champion Alejandro Garcia (25-1) for the WBA World super welterweight title.
Middleweight Kendrick Ball, Jr. (9-1-2, 6 KOs) and junior middleweight Khiary Gray (15-4, 11 KOs), both promoted by CES Boxing, will be making their pro debuts at home in Worcester. Ball faces an opponent to be determined in the six-round co-featured event, while Gray (15-4, 11 KOs) meets Antonio Chaves Fernandez (9-33, 4 KOs), of Brockton, MA, also in a six rounder.
Undefeated light heavyweight prospect Richard “Popeye The Sailor Man” Rivera (8-0, 7 KOs), fighting out of Hartford, CT, is slated to fight in a six-round bout vs. TBA, as well as his stable mate, two-time New England Golden Gloves champion “The Chosen One” Sharad Collier (1-0, 1 KO), who takes on his Mexican opponent, Emmanuel “Pollo” Valadez (5-4, 4 KOs), in a four-round match.
Also scheduled to fight on the undercard in four-round bouts are Springfield, MA welterweight Jose Angel “KO” Ortiz (4-13-1, 1 KO) vs. Seth Basler (0-8) and pro-debuting featherweight Joshua Orta vs. Worcester’s Edwin Rosado (1-7-1, 1 KO), Southbridge, MA welterweight Wilfredo “El Sucaro” Pagan (4-0, 2 KOs) vs. TBA, Worcester lightweight Francisco Irizarry (4-0, 2 KOs) vs. TBA, Worcester’s pro-debuting lightweight Eslih Owusu.vs. Mexican Engelberto “Guarura” Valenzuela (11-14 (3 KOs).
All fights and fighters are subject to change.
Tickets, priced at $75.00 (ringside) and $45.00 (general admission), are on sale and available to purchase at http://www.ThePalladium.net or the Palladium box office (general admission only), or by contacting Jose Rivera (firstname.lastname@example.org/508.864.6954), AJ Rivera (email@example.com/774.272.2269) or any of the fighters.
Doors open at 6 p.m. ET, first bout 7 p.m. ET.
Event sponsors include Lundgren Honda, Elm Wealth Group, Atty. Maria M. Rivera-Cotto, Championsofhealth@USANA.com, Chieftain Liquors, Centro Las America, Baystate Savings Bank, Pamela Laporte Realty, Worcester Vocero, ChrisFIT Xperience and Grille 57 (hosting the official weigh in and after party).
A portion of the proceeds will go to Spina Bifida Association of Greater New England.
PRESS CONFERENCE QUOTES
Joe Antonio Rivera: “I want to thank everybody for coming. Tomorrow is four weeks to the weigh in. It’s an important date because fighting is easy, making weight isn’t. I want to thank Granite Chin Promotions
“Four Worcester fighters (Ball, Gray, Irizarry and Owusu) on this card have never fought here. It’s huge having Kendrick and Khiary on this card and I’d like to thank CES Boxing for allowing them to fight here. I’m proud of Kendrick and Khiary and excited to have them fighting on this show. Chuck and Granite Chin are running this show, I’m only focused on my opponent.
“I’m excited to have an opponent who is coming to fight. He’s my third opponent, but that’s part of boxing. I’m training hard, passed my medicals, and it’s like I’m hungry again. I haven’t fought in years, but I’ve taken good care of my body. I didn’t visualize doing this at 45. I’ve also heard that, after August 17th, there’s a possibility of a title for me by the end of this year.”
Chuck Shearns (GCP co-promoter): “I’m honored to be involved in this show. Jose and I have been friends for years. Months ago, this all started with a text conversation (Chuck, Jose and A.J.). A week later, it started getting serious, and then we had Jose and A.J. fighting on this card. Unfortunately, A.J. isn’t fighting on this card, but the show will go on.”
Jimmy Burchfield (CES promoter): “What’s important is that Jose Antonio Rivera is fighting on this card and that’s why I’m allowing ‘Pepper’ (Ball) and Khiary to fight on this card. I’ve had a good relationship with Chuck and I’ve known Jose and A.J., who worked for me, for a long time. Nothing was happening in Worcester boxing for years, until Jose and A.J. started promoting here, but Worcester has always been a good fight town. All the fighters here will be proud of your victory. This is beautiful! They’ve been around him and know what he’s accomplished in life. Jose has never abused his body, he’s taken good care of himself.
“We (CES Boxing) had an event scheduled August 17th at Twin River (Lincoln, RI), but we moved from that date, and now everything is focused August 17th on Worcester. How could I not have my Worcester fighters on Jose Rivera’s comeback card? ‘Pepper’ and Khiary really wanted to fight on this card. These kids (fighters seated at head table) look up to Jose for what he’s done and in life and his comeback is a really big story. I know what ‘Pepper” and Khiary are going to do and I know what Jose is going to do because he’s a veteran. I believe this will be a sell out!”
Kendrick Ball, Jr.: “I want to thank my promoter, Jimmy Burchfield, for giving me the okay to fight on this card. I also want to thank Granite Chin Promotions and Rivera Promotions Entertainment. I’ve waited for this a long time. This fight will give me a chance to redeem myself and show why I’m the next great middleweight to come out of Worcester. I’m ready to get it on.”
Khiary Gray: “I want to thank Rivera Promotions Entertainment, CES Boxing and Granite Chin Promotions for giving me a chance to fight at home for the first time. This is a rematch for me. I stopped him in the first round, but there was some controversy. I know he’s coming to fight.”
Eslih Owusi: “I just graduated from high school and I wasn’t going to turn pro until after that. Fighting as a pro will be much more exciting than in the amateurs.”
Jose Angel Ortiz: “I’m very excited. I haven’t fought in two years. I was supposed to return before, but things didn’t work out. I never left boxing because I’m in the gym all the time working out or training other fighters. Jose and I are both in our forties. We’re going to show everybody that we can still fight.”
Edwin Rosado: “I will try and put on the best show I can.”
Joshua Orta: “I’m very happy about my first pro fight. I’ve dreamed of this day. Everybody is going to see an exciting card. I love this sport and always train hard.”