Sunday, September 20, 2009

Frankie Duarte vs Alberto Davila II

The Forum
Inglewood, California
June 27, 1987
NABF Bantamweight Title

Scott Gombrich and I were working the Saturday of the fight. We had been talking about the upcoming fight between Duarte and Davila, figuring it would be a fight that we shouldn't miss. We had no tickets and we had no idea if we were going to be able to get any but as soon as we got out of work we headed to the Forum. We were immediately set upon by a horde of scalpers and we negotiated two ringside seats for $60.00 each. It was the best $60.00 We have ever spent. The fight itself is a local classic but it is much more than that. It was a great fight period. This is boxing at it's best. My thanks to West91491 for posting this video on youtube.

Following is an excellent article written in 2007 by Lee Groves

Closet Classic: Frankie Duarte vs. Alberto Davila II

By Lee Groves

Rematches occupy a long and storied place in boxing lore. Many times matches spawn far more questions than answers and the only way many of them can be resolved is by pairing them a second time – and sometimes a third or fourth time.
On other occasions, circumstances demand that a second fight take place long after the first had happened, and this was what occurred when bantamweights Frankie Duarte and Albert Davila clashed on June 27, 1987 at the Forum in Inglewood, California. Normally, one would have thought their first fight – a dominating fifth round TKO by Davila at the Olympic – would have emphatically settled the issue. But the stories surrounding this second fight were hardly normal.

First was the time element – their initial bout took place 10 years and 20 days earlier when the 22-year-olds were jockeying for position for a title shot against either WBC bantamweight champion Carlos Zarate or his WBA counterpart Alfonso Zamora. Since Davila's victory, much had happened to both men. For Davila, his adventures took place inside the ring as he failed in title shots against Zarate, Jorge Lujan and Lupe Pintor before finally capturing the WBC belt vacated by Pintor with a 12th round TKO of Kiko Bejines. Davila's jubilation turned to tribulation as Bejines subsequently died of his injuries. Davila would defend his belt just once against Enrique Sanchez before being forced to surrender it due to the effects of a back injury that prevented him from defending in a timely manner.

Since returning to the ring in August 1985 after a 14-month hiatus, Davila tried to regain the WBC title against the gifted Colombian Miguel "Happy" Lora. Their fight, held before 50,000 in Baranquilla, Colombia in November 1986, saw Lora win a comprehensive decision, but Davila still entered the Duarte rematch as the Colombian's mandatory challenger. A win over Duarte could set the stage for a second crack at Lora, a shot at IBF king Kelvin Seabrooks or perhaps a chance at the winner between newly-crowned WBA champ Chan Yong Park and Wilfredo Vazquez, who were scheduled to fight in the fall.

In contrast, Duarte's troubles occurred outside the ring – and his wounds were mostly self-inflicted. Shortly after the loss to Davila, Duarte descended into a nightmare of alcohol and drugs. Still, he managed to win four consecutive fights, including the California featherweight title from Francisco Flores. But he suffered a frightful beating from future WBC super featherweight champion Rolando Navarrete over 10 rounds and following another 10-round loss to Neptali Alamag in Honolulu he eventually quit the ring.

Over the next 39 months, Duarte subjected his body and his family ties to tremendous abuse, but while he wasn’t bingeing, he was searching for his place in life without boxing. One time he attended a welding class and some of his classmates recognized him and recalled how they used to chant his name. Back then, the chants provided fuel for Duarte's fire, but the fighter's precipitous descent only inspired disillusionment from his classmates – and himself.

Once Duarte reached bottom, he was pushed into the most important decision of his life – either fight back or die. Knowing Duarte's fortitude, it was no surprise that he chose to live. He quit drugs cold turkey and one day he walked into Ten Goose Gym, which was headed by trainer Joe Goosen. At first, Duarte worked out just to drop excess weight (the onetime bantamweight now weighed 138) but as the pounds melted off some of his old skills began to resurface. When he made his return against Luis Hernandez on May 30, 1984 (a seven-round TKO win), he weighed a svelte 122 but while he resembled his old self physically he was definitely not the same fighter as before.

He was better.

Yes, he was still a slow starter but the punishment he absorbed in the early rounds wasn't nearly as severe. His defensive skills improved under Goosen and his offense produced the victories of old. The first big test of his comeback came on April 9, 1985 when he fought undefeated WBA bantamweight champion Richie Sandoval in a 10-round non-title go. Duarte gave as good as he got before dropping a split decision. Heartened by his tremendous showing against a reigning champion, Duarte continued to progress. He went 4-0-1 in his next five fights, with a two-round head-butt induced technical draw to top contender Freddie Jackson being the only blemish.

Following a stirring nine-round TKO over Jesus Salud for the NABF title, Duarte earned a crack at WBA bantamweight king Bernardo Pinango on February 3, 1987 at the Forum. Pinango had defeated Sandoval's conqueror Gaby Canizales eight months earlier and he entered the fight as the favorite. Despite scoring a knockdown in the 12th and being the beneficiary of three penalty points, Duarte somehow lost the decision by one, two and five points. Crushed by what many saw as a robbery, Duarte was left to begin again and the fact that Davila once again was the man who stood between him and a title shot just added to the fight's "full circle" flavor.

Duarte-Davila II was for Duarte's NABF belt and at 117 ½, Duarte (42-7-1, 32 KO) was at his lightest weight in a decade. Davila (53-8-1, 25 KO) scaled 118. Both men appeared in the prime physical condition befitting such an important contest.

Duarte came out of his corner with his shoulders hunched forward and his chin tucked into his chest while Davila fired several range-finding jabs. A masterful boxer, Davila's quicker jabs were delivered fluidly while Duarte's stiffer jabs had the pop of those thrown straight from the shoulder. After an initial feeling-out period, the action began to pick up midway through the round as Duarte landed a good inside hook and Davila tossed quick-fisted clusters in unpredictable sequences. His double jabs landed squarely on Duarte's nose while Duarte's light one-two sparked cheers from his supporters. But it was Davila's jabs and his still-effective defensive skills that carried the round.

Duarte picked up the pace in the second by landing two clean lead rights to the jaw and a solid one-two forced Davila to take a backward step. Davila bounced a crisp lead right off Duarte's jaw and soon the two bantamweights were swapping fast, sharp blows while still maintaining a high level of technique. Seconds after Duarte connected on a left-right, Davila replied with a crunching counter right to the jaw, a hook to the body and a pinpoint jab. Davila's superior hand speed enabled him to beat Duarte to the punch time after time, but it was Duarte who drew first blood as he opened a small cut over Davila's left eye.

The intense boxing became even more so in the third as they executed every punch in the book with a level of skill that could only be explained by their experience. They spent much of their time in the center of the ring rotating around one another in tight circles. They very rarely clinched and at 32 they maintained a pace that would have made their 22-year-old selves proud. The action gradually moved into the trenches – Duarte's turf – but Davila's quick hands enabled him to maintain the edge.

A left followed by two rights shook Duarte with 30 seconds remaining but Duarte furiously fired a quick combo capped by a scorching hook to the jaw that rocked Davila's head back. The crowd was in an enthusiastic uproar as the two fighters not only met, but also far exceeded, the already high expectations this neighborhood showdown generated.

Things got even more exciting one minute into the fourth when Davila planted his left foot and turned his jab into a jarring hook that found the point of Duarte's chin and sent the Ventura resident crashing to the canvas. It was only the second knockdown of Duarte's long career and the first since Davila turned the trick in their first fight. Duarte immediately regained his feet with a look of disgust on his face, a face that now sported a welt under the right eye.

Knowing he was not a one-shot knockout artist, Davila wisely chose not to gun for the early knockout but instead banked on his precision. A sharp left uppercut popped back Duarte's head and he was fighting with the supreme timing of his prime. But Duarte was still very much in the fight as he tore at Davila with combinations at every opportunity, though his punches lacked his opponent's speed and snap. In the final 15 seconds, Duarte summoned a fresh supply of adrenaline as he unleashed nearly 30 punches as the blood began trickling down his cheek.

Davila continued to work effectively in the fifth but Duarte slowly began turning the fight with body shots that forced Davila to reset. The infighting heightened the risk of unintentional head butts, and one caused Davila to complain to referee Lou Filippo, but no warning was given. Duarte continued to pick up steam as he marched forward behind quick combinations. While Davila still occasionally tagged Duarte with quick hooks, they weren't coming as frequently. Duarte invested a lot of energy into his rally and his exertion was made clear when he stole a deep breath coming out of a clinch. Still, the fact that he had just won his first round had to have fortified his resolve.

Sensing a turn in the tide, the Duarte fans began chanting "Frankie! Frankie!" to give their man a further jolt of energy and he responded by reopening the cut over Davila's eye and firing a flurry highlighted by two rights. A triple right uppercut sparked another Duarte salvo and suddenly Duarte appeared to be the fresher man. His punches were snappier than in previous rounds and Davila looked more concerned about the cut than about Duarte.

Davila went back to basics in the seventh as he worked Duarte's swelling with sharp jabs. But Davila's rally was short-lived as Duarte again forced a give-and-take battle on the inside.

With a minute remaining the fight took a dramatic turn. While both men were leaning forward, the tops of their heads rubbed against one another and the clash created a horrible cut around the left eye that caused blood to cascade down Davila’s cheek and onto his chest. Both men continued to maintain a hard pace as Duarte sought to take advantage of his sudden good fortune and Davila tried to keep his opponent at arm's length.

As Davila walked to his corner, he lodged a brief complaint to Filippo to let him know that his cut was the product of a butt. Under a recently passed rule in California, the break between rounds was extended to give the doctor ample time to examine the cut while also giving the cornermen the time they need to administer treatment.

"Let it go for a while," Dr. Bernhardt Schwartz told Filippo. "But if it gets worse, tell me."

Duarte's chance to snatch victory was as plain as the blood on Davila's face and he came out throwing a long series of rights. Soon, thick dark crimson covered everything on his face from the left eye down and Duarte made it worse by popping in short shots on the inside. A tremendous right made Davila back away, and though Davila retained the sharpness of previous rounds it was Duarte's work rate that enabled him to win his third consecutive round. The last five seconds saw both fighters blasting away with furious flurries that belied both their relatively advanced ages and the punishment they had absorbed.

Davila's cutman John Montes Sr. worked hard to stem the bleeding but no matter how much treatment he administered, it couldn't be stopped. Had it not been such a meaningful fight for both men it would have been stopped at the end of round seven, but Davila had fought so well that he deserved every benefit of the doubt – and Duarte in turn deserved every opportunity to produce a conclusive finish.

Davila speared Duarte's face with jabs to start the ninth, snapping his head back and keeping far enough away to give the medicine a chance to take hold. But for Davila it was a race against time, physics and the willingness of those in charge to let the fight continue – and all three were beginning to run out. Davila's face was such a gory sight that it made Duarte's lumping face look good by comparison.

The ringside physicians allowed the fight to continue into the 10th, and Davila was battling bravely through a number of deficits. But Duarte was in the midst of his trademark late surge and he appeared to make up significant ground on Davila's early lead. But just as the fight was about to head into a dramatic homestretch, it was over.

During the fight's most sustained exchange, Filippo stepped in, formed the traditional signal for "time out" and escorted a disheartened Davila to his corner. Dr. Schwartz examined the cut and, after a brief consultation, the cut was deemed too dangerous to continue. As Filippo walked over to Duarte and raised his right arm, a dejected Davila hung his head and walked toward the neutral corner. Though Duarte was announced as the TKO victor at the 2:09 mark, the real fight was just about to begin.

When the scene shifted to a lower floor at the Forum, Davila and his corner people issued a complaint to Marty Denkin, the assistant executive officer for the California State Athletic Commission. They said Davila's fight-ending cut was the result of a head butt and Denkin himself indicated as much at the end of the seventh round. Filippo, however, did not see the butt and because of that he didn't feel it necessary to consult the judges.

Denkin said California rules dictated that the referee poll the judges and Denkin made it known that he himself had talked to the judges – and each said they saw a butt. If Filippo had consulted the judges and if even one of them had seen a butt, that would have been the official ruling.

Denkin also said that the NABF didn't have a rule addressing this situation, but part of the agreement between California and the NABF stipulated that the state’s regulations would be applied in situations the NABF rules didn't cover. So Denkin recommended that the commission reverse the result to a technical decision for Davila since he was ahead 87-83, 87-83 and 87-84 on the scorecards.

"I was worried about the cut, but I have a good cutman in John Montes," Davila told Prime Ticket broadcaster Rich Marotta after the fight. "I feel like the winner now and I feel I should have gotten all the glory there on national TV because I felt I won the fight. The cut was caused by a headbutt and being ahead I felt I should have won the fight. I honestly feel he doesn't feel in his heart that he won the fight, and I felt I got cheated out of it."

"I was really enthused right after the fight because I felt I was coming on," Duarte countered. "I felt, even though I was down in the fourth, by the 10th I felt I had everything in control so I had nothing but good feelings because I thought in the next couple of rounds I would definitely win those. Maybe then I would need a knockdown just to get the decision or possibly stop him.

"When I went to the press conference – not worrying about the scoring; I was the winner you know – I heard I was behind on points by a pretty good margin and then I got really crushed. I said 'awwww, man!' It took my wind away from me knowing that was ahead on points."

When asked if he felt like it was a hollow victory, he said "yes, because I was unable to get to my best rounds. It was so typical of my fights: I would lose the early rounds and I come back after the guy wears down, then I completely take over. I was disappointed that the fans didn't get to see me at my best. People are coming up to me every day and tell me 'did you hear about this or that?' and I tell them 'don't tell me nothing about it. On the 17th when they give the decision, well, then, tell me about it.'"

Epilogue: The battle outside the ring raged for some time and it wasn't until July 17 that the issue was settled – sort of. The six-member California State Athletic Commission split 3-3, but because a seventh member was absent no determination was made and Duarte kept the title.

Despite Duarte being declared the winner, it was Davila who would get the first title shot. Following victories over Juan Jose Estrada (a three-round technical decision) and Gil Contreras (W 12), Davila received his rematch with Lora. Though Lora won a wide decision, the match was clouded by controversy as a bottle filled with sugar water was confiscated from Lora’s corner midway through a fight that saw the champion tiring. Despite the apparent evidence, the WBC retained Lora as champion and Davila, just nine days short of his 33rd birthday, never fought again. He retired with a record of 56-10 (26 KO).

Duarte took one year and two days off before returning to the ring with a seventh round TKO of Ron Cisneros. A pair of 10-round decisions over Miguel Juarez and Jorge Ortega followed, and on August 31, 1989 Duarte received his long-awaited second shot at a title against WBC super bantamweight champion Daniel Zaragoza at the Forum. Just four days short of his 35th birthday, Duarte was too slow for the razor-sharp southpaw and after losing every round on two scorecards the fight was stopped in the 10th round. Duarte retired immediately after the fight, saying with a wry smile that he "needed to get a job." His record stands at 47-8-1.

E-mail Lee Groves

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