Arizona’s tough laws bump Lara off Tucson card
By Norm Frauenheim
TUCSON – Prospect Erislandy Lara is the latest and most prominent example of how tough it is to do business in Arizona, where the process for a boxing license has been complicated by new immigration laws.
Lara, a former world amateur champion from Cuba, was dropped from a Golden Boy Promotions card featuring middleweight prospect Daniel Jacobs (16-0, 14 KOs) against George Walton (20-3, 12 KOs) Friday night at Desert Diamond Casino because he was not able to acquire a work visa in time to get a license. Arizona is the only state in the U.S. that requires fighters to get the visa, a so-called P-1, which became mandatory about 18 months ago.
Luis DeCubas Jr., Lara’s manager, said an attorney was hired several weeks ago in an attempt to get the visa. However, Lara learned Wednesday after he arrived in Tucson from Miami, Fla., that the paperwork would not be done in time for the junior middleweight (6-0, 4 KOs) to appear in an ESPN2-televised bout against Willie Lee (16-5, 11 KOs) of Biloxi, Miss.
“I’m calmer about it than expected,’’ Lara said in Spanish that was interpreted by DeCubas. “I was looking forward to this. I prepared and trained to fight as I always do. But I cannot let it get me down. I did my job.’’
John Montano of the Arizona State Boxing Commission said between 10 and 15 boxers without U.S. citizenship have not been able to fight in Arizona since a work visa was mandated by the state legislature. Golden Boy vice president Eric Gomez told 15rounds.com last November that it was more difficult to put together a card in Arizona than in any other state because of the visa. A few years ago, boxers from nearby Mexico could get an Arizona license with a touri st visa, which is relatively easy to acquire.
“It’s sad because there is a big Latin community and big boxing community here,’’ Golden Boy matchmaker Robert Garcia said. “I think anybody who has seen Lara so far can only be impressed. …He is a leading candidate to become a world champion in a short period of time.
“Like I said, it is sad. But it is the law and we have to go by it. A lot of fighters, a lot of trainers, lots of management are not used to it because they fight all over the U.S. without this regulation. Unfortunately, we were led by the attorney, who said it would be fine, that we would have it. We went with that. Maybe, this will teach us. But it is just unfortunate. I’m very sorry to the fans, to the casino and to the television network that they will not get chance to see him this time.’’
There was some speculation that Lara’s history slowed down the process. Lara and teammate Guillermo Rigondeaux left the Cuban team in July, 2007 during the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro.
He and Rigondeaux were arrested. Lara, a native of Guantanomo, went back to Cuba only to later escape by a speed boat. He then turned pro, first in Turkey and then in Germany, before signing with Golden Boy Promotions, which displayed his evident potential with a one-sided over Chris Gray on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s stoppage of Ricky Hatton in Las Vegas on May 2.
With Golden Boy’s backing, the cost — $1,500 to $2,000 – for a work visa was not considered a problem for Lara. But the time-consuming process – one month to six weeks – might have been.
Time and money, however, are issues that are already damaging Arizona, once a lively boxing market, according to the state’s trainers and matchmakers. Roger Woods of Tucson said the mandatory work visa has restricted, if not eliminated, the pool of opponents from Mexico who would regularl y appear on Arizona cards. Most don’t have the time or the money to get one.
“For boxing to survive, you need those guys,’’ Woods said.
A longtime Phoenix trainer, Ricky Ricardo, said kids in his Madison Gym with roots in Mexico leave when they decide to turn pro.
“They’ll go to New Mexico or California or Nevada, someplace where they don’t have to go through this,’’ Ricardo said.
Fear of immigration raids by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose jurisdiction includes Phoenix, is a factor, said Ricardo, who will be in a Desert Diamond corner for junior-featherweight Robert Guillen (4-2-2) against Isaac Hidalgo (4-4).
“It’s very, very sad, but Sheriff Joe is going to continue doing what he’s doing,’’ Ricardo s aid. “He’s making headlines everywhere. It’s the law. But it’s very strict and it’s a black eye for so many of us. I’ve got these young kids who come up to me and say: ‘I can’t fight here.’
“Hey, that’s scary.’’
Notes, quotes, oddservations
· Jacobs, who was 161 ½ pounds at the Thursday’s weigh-in, I scheduled for his first 10 rounder against Walton, who tipped the scale at 161 ¾. “It means I’m stepping up in class, said Jacobs, who won an eight-round decision over Michael Walker in his last outing on the Pacquiao-Hatton undercard. “It’s a step up. …I know I have the skills for the top guys in the world. But I need the experience. Hopefully, I’ll be ready for 12 rounds in my next fight or after a couple of more 10 rounders. But I’ll definitely be ready.’’
· Heavyweight Deontay Wilder (5-0, 5 KOs), of Tuscaloosa, Ala., will fight his sixth pro bout since he won bronze, America’s only boxing medal, at the Beijing Olympics last August. Wilder, who faces Kelsey Arnold (1-2-2) of Lexington, Tenn., had only 35 amateur bouts, unlike most of experienced Olympic teammates. But only he won a medal. That might have been a good thing. In-fight tore apart the American team amid reports of repeated feuds with the American coaching staff. “Looking back, I’m kind of glad I didn’t know that much about amateur boxing,’’ Wilder said. “So many of the guys had so much experience. But I couldn’t say ‘I know, I know, I know.’ I was new to everything. I had to listen and learn.’’
· Golden Boy President Oscar De La Hoya is expected to be at ringside for the Desert Diamond card, which is scheduled for 10 bouts.