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INTO THE RING | Wrestling stars throw it down in Port Hueneme at Championship Wrestling from Hollywood

Dec 5, 2018 | , , , |

Vince McMahon and his World Wrestling Entertainment empire may be the most legendary pro wrestling operation in America, having created iconic stars such as The Rock and Hulk Hogan over the past several decades. But Ventura County has been home to another thriving operation for the last 20 years, as Championship Wrestling from Hollywood (CWFH) has been presenting live monthly showdowns that are syndicated to 120 TV stations nationwide.

They’re bringing another action-packed year to a close this Sunday, when the annual Milestone event closes out the season with a stacked card of matches at the Oceanview Pavilion in Port Hueneme. The bill features numerous brawls between colorfully competitive archrivals with wild backstories, yet a Wild Card Battle Royal will also be offered to the first 10 men who sign up —

TJ Black catches some air as he jumps off the ropes toward National Wrestling Alliance World Champion Nick Aldis during an April 2018 CWFH match at Oceanview Pavilion. Photo by Jonathan King

with the winning wrestler earning a spot competing for the CWFH championship in the spring’s Percy Pringle III Memorial Cup Tournament.

“I’ve been in wrestling for 29 years, and worked for everybody who’s out there in pro wrestling,” says CWFH owner David Marquez. “There’s not too many wrestling promoters who produce their own show, let alone nationally. What sets us apart from others is we take a more traditional approach to producing pro wrestling for television: Don’t over-sensationalize or do shock television.”

“We try to make each match mean something, whether it’s the championship or a cash prize these guys are competing for,” adds Marquez. “The WWE is 1,000 percent entertainment and have a completely different demographic, audience and mission. We’re more back to the sport’s roots.”

Marquez’s main partner in CWFH is veteran wrestler Peter Avalon, who is one of the league’s top stars and was the longest-reigning Hollywood Heritage Champion at 672 days. Avalon will be prominently featured at Sunday’s event, since he is facing off against his prime rival, Tim Storm, the former world heavyweight champion of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) who presently wrestles nationwide for Marquez.

“At Milestone, we’ll have stories culminating, stars aligning and big time main event matches and championships on the line,” says Avalon. “It’s all in the creative process. We look at pluses and minuses and find who might excel in a situation or allow the other person to excel. The characters are based in the individuals’ true personalities, just turned up.”

Sunday’s matches will feature the league’s women’s division championship between Heather Monroe and Ayoka Muharah, and fresh talent from the New Japan Pro-Wrestling league’s recently established Los Angeles dojo will square off against CWFH’s “young lions.” Avalon himself will face off against Storm after losing a “humiliating” Kiss My Foot Match to wrestler “The Perfect Storm” at NWA’s 70th Anniversary event last summer.

Marquez notes that it’s common for many WWE stars to develop their character and style in smaller leagues like the CWFH, estimating that 40 percent of the stars in McMahon’s behemoth enterprise started in smaller West Coast promotions he dealt with. Marquez recalls watching John Cena in Santa Ana alongside the likes of Karl Anderson, Nakamura, Finn Bálor and Samoa Joe. And many former WWE stars have passed through his matches as special guests, including the legendary Rowdy Roddy Piper and Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

One might wonder how a league that brands itself as being from Hollywood wound up staging its matches in Port Hueneme. Avalon notes that the CWFH originally shot from a facility on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood before Oceanview Pavilion sought them out with “an offer we couldn’t refuse,” making the move five years ago.

“We create 52 hours a year of TV wrestling, and that’s something to be proud of,” notes Marquez. “What gets this for me is that after close to 30 years of doing this, I’m allowed to create and nurture young talent and get them to the next step of international wrestling or the WWE.”

“Not too many people understand pro wrestling and television operations and we have that,” he adds. “To put all these talents into a big bowl and come out on television each week is really the magic, giving a very loyal fan base some quality to watch. There are not too many things that are Americana, and pro wrestling is definitely one of them.”

Championship Wrestling from Hollywood presents Milestone on Sunday, Dec. 9, 3-6 p.m. at Oceanview Pavilion, 575 E. Surfside Drive, Port Hueneme. Admission is free, but seats are first-come, first-served. For more information, visit @CWFHollywood or www.hollywoodwrestling.com.

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Jazz Ambassadors make their Port Hueneme debut next month

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO The Jazz Ambassadors of Washington, D.C., will make their Port Hueneme debut March 12, performing two free concerts at the Oceanview Pavilion Performing Arts Theatre by the Beach

By Alicia Doyle, Special to The Star

The Jazz Ambassadors of Washington, D.C., one of four performing groups of the U.S. Army Field Band, will make their Port Hueneme debut Saturday, performing two free concerts at the Oceanview Pavilion Performing Arts Theatre by the Beach.

The musicians have not performed in California for more than seven years, said Sharon Kloeris, executive vice president of the Oceanview Pavilion, and have never been to Port Hueneme.

“They had performed in Oxnard years ago, and that is when I contacted them to perform at Oceanview Pavilion,” Kloeris said.


What: Jazz Ambassadors of Washington, D.C.

When: 3 and 7 p.m. March 12.

Where: Oceanview Pavilion Performing Arts Theatre by the Beach, 575 E. Surfside Drive, Port Hueneme

Cost: Free, with a maximum of four tickets per household.

Free tickets and information: 986-4818 or www.oceanviewinfo.com

The ensemble of 19 musicians is the official touring big band of the Army and has appeared in all 50 states, as well as Canada, Mexico, Japan, India and throughout Europe. The group has performed jointly with the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall, the Seattle Symphony Pops and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

The Jazz Ambassadors will perform March 12 at 3 and 7 p.m. Each performance is 90 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

Local students will join them at each show. The 3 p.m. matinee will feature three students from Hueneme High School: trumpeter Miguel Angel Guzman, John Mijares, who plays the alto saxophone, and trombonist Miguel Ceja.

At the 7 p.m. show, the band will be joined by three musicians from the Oxnard High School Jazz Ensemble and Marching Band: Arthur Wahl, a tenor saxophone player, trumpeter Cody Pallasigui, and trombonist Adrian Hawthorne.

“This gives the students an opportunity of a lifetime to play a selection during the formal concert with the Jazz Ambassadors — such an incredible experience and honor for these high school students,” Kloeris said.

The Jazz Ambassadors’ repertoire includes big band, swing, bebop and Dixieland, as well as patriotic selections, many of which are written or arranged by band members.

The group is on tour 100 days a year, said Master Sgt. Adam Getz, tour coordinator.

“Not only are they a professional musical ensemble, they are also ambassadors for the Army,” he said.

Kloeris noted that the concert is designed for all family members.

“Whether you are 5 or 105, music is the one element that will bring folks together,” she said. “We at Oceanview Pavilion strongly believe in giving back to our communities, supporting our military and bringing the finest entertainment to Ventura County.”

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Local Boxing: Port Hueneme card features top matchups

CONTRIBUTED PHOTOSaul Rodriguez will take on Carlos Rodriguez in an eight-round bout as part of the Oceanview Pavilion card in Port Hueneme on Saturday.

By Francisco Salazar

Once they graduate high school, most 18-year-olds head to college, join the work force or the enlist in the military.

When Saul Rodriguez turned 18, he received an education in boxing from renowned trainers Eduardo and Robert Garcia.

The unbeaten junior lightweight will fight Carlos Rodriguez in an eight-round bout at the Oceanview Pavilion in Port Hueneme on Saturday night. The eight-round main event will pit unbeaten junior welterweight Jose Zepeda against late-sub Orlando Vazquez.

Both bouts will be broadcast on UniMas, beginning at 8 p.m.

Saul Rodriguez (15-0-1, 12 KOs) is one of Top Rank’s highly regarded prospects. With devastating power in his six-foot frame, the Riverside native has also developed his ring generalship and skill set. The plan is for Saul Rodriguez to fight a couple of more eight-round fights this spring and summer before eventually fighting 10-round bouts later this year.

The 21-year-old splits time at a gym in Riverside with Eduardo Garcia, the longtime trainer of Fernando Vargas, and in Oxnard with Robert Garcia.

In his last fight on Dec. 6, Saul Rodriguez scored an impressive sixth-round technical knockout over Juan Ramon Solis in Glendale.

In his last bout on Dec. 20, Carlos Rodriguez (9-1, 4 KOs) stopped Walberto Gaxiola in the first round in Nuevos Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico.

The hard-hitting Zepeda (21-0, 18 KOs) scored a first-round knockout victory over former world title challenger Victor Cayo on Nov. 8. Vazquez (15-5-1, 9 KOs) of Puerto Rico has won his last two bouts by technical knockout.

Oxnard resident Abraham Lopez (5-1) will fight Bilal Mahasin (5-1) in a six-round welterweight bout. Junior lightweight Michael Franco (9-0-3, 6 KOs), who trains in Oxnard, fights Sergio Najera (8-16-2, 2 KOs) in a six-round bout.

Two more bouts round out the card.

The weigh-in will take place Friday at 3 p.m. at La Fonda del Rey restaurant (formerly Sugar Beets) in Oxnard. It will be open at the public.

Doors open Saturday at 6 p.m., with first bell scheduled for 6:30. Tickets cost between $40 and $80.

Information: 805-889-8162 or www.boxingbythebeach.com


Junior welterweight Michael Perez will fight former world title-holder Miguel Acosta on Tuesday at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia.

The bout will be part of a Golden Boy Promotions card and will be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports Deportes at 5 p.m.

Originally from Newark, New Jersey, Perez (21-1-2, 10 KOs) has been working with trainer Robert Garcia in Oxnard for the last six months.

In his last bout on Sept. 6 in Cincinnati, Perez dropped Jared Robinson in the second round en route to a 10-round unanimous decision win.

Garcia is familiar with Acosta. Brandon Rios of Oxnard won the WBA lightweight title from Acosta in February 2011. The Venezuelan-born Acosta (29-7-2, 23 KOs) has lost his last three bouts.


Three fighters that live or train in Ventura County fought last weekend with mixed results.

On Friday night, welterweight Francisco Santana (22-3-1, 11 KOs) scored a resounding first-round knockout over Kendal Mena. Santana, who trains at Knuckleheadz Gym in Ventura, landed a left hook that dropped Mena flat onto his back, prompting referee Jack Reiss of Oxnard to immediately stop the bout at 1:43.

Santana, who resides in Santa Barbara, has won his last 10 bouts. Mena, who was fighting outside of his native Dominican Republic for the first time, fell to 20-1, 11 KOs.

Also on Friday, lightweight Ivan Redkach stopped Yakubu Amidu after the sixth round at the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa in Cabazon.

After a slow start, the Ukrainian-born Redkach (18-0, 14 KOs) began to dominate Amidu with each passing round. Redkach, who is trained by Robert Garcia, dropped Amidu twice in the sixth round. The bout was stopped when Amidu (21-6-2, 19 KOs) did not come out for the seventh round.

On Saturday night, Erik Ruiz (13-2, 6 KOs) of Oxnard lost an eight-round unanimous decision to Jessie Magdaleno at the Texas Station Casino in Las Vegas. Ruiz, a 2010 Oxnard High graduate, came to fight, but Magdaleno (20-0, 15 KOs) landed the more telling blows, winning 80-72 on all three judges’ scorecards.

Also on the Top Rank card, light heavyweight Zlatko Ledic (1-3-1, 1 KO) of Thousand Oaks stopped Jonathan Blue (0-2) in the second round.

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Redeemed ‘big homie’ to perform in Port Hueneme

Art Blajos (left) is bringing his play, “Blood In, Blood Out,” about his experiences as a gang member who found the Lord, to Port Hueneme’s Oceanview Pavilion at 7 p.m. Friday.By Mark Storer

Art Blajos had no real reason for hope. Born and raised in Los Angeles and abandoned by his parents by the time he was 9 years old, he was influenced from the earliest he can remember by gang culture. His biggest goal was to be a “big homie.”

It was a goal he achieved.

Before it was over, Blajos had spent more time in prison than free. He’d done time at San Quentin and in the last four and a half years of his incarceration was sentenced to death for his crimes, told he was beyond redemption and locked away in L.A. County jail.

But redemption happened, and he was released with a full acquittal in 1985.

For Blajos, the story is incredible. What he refers to as a true jailhouse conversion happened.

“I achieved my goal at the age of 19,” Blajos said. “I had a brush tattoo of the Black Hand, the mark of the assassin, and I was living what I call the thug life. But it wasn’t the last word. God gets the last word.”

Blajos, who now lives in San Bernardino with his wife and four children and works as a full-time evangelist with Victory Outreach Church, wrote first a book and then a play about his experience called “Blood In, Blood Out.” He will be in Port Hueneme with the cast and crew, performing at the Oceanview Pavilion at 7 p.m. Friday. The performance will be free.

“Might was right and I thought you had to be the most ruthless person at the top of the food chain,” Blajos said. “And I was. But that was until 30 years ago when a man I was supposed to kill was in the cell next to me, and he began to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with me. I had no choice but to listen to him, and I did.”

Blajos said the man’s name was Eddie, and he, too, was a gang assassin.

Blajos said Eddie preached to him while he was high on cocaine, yet still he was preaching.

“He told the story of Jesus being alive and that in his death, he died for the homies, he died for the felons. He said God still loves the felons. What he said about Jesus being alive began to penetrate the hardest substance around — not steel or concrete, but my heart,” Blajos said.

“The next day when I was ready to strike, when I was in the ‘kill zone’ as they say, the miracle happened. I didn’t want to strike. I didn’t want to kill him.”

Blajos explains the extent of his conversion in his book, which he wrote in 1994 in London. Through his pastor at the time, Sonny Arguinzoni of Victory Outreach, Los Angeles, Blajos spent four years in London in a rehabilitation program.

“Pastor Sonny encouraged me to write the book as an inspiration to other gang members and youth,” Blajos said. “He thought it would be a tool to use to explain how people can change, no matter how deep the darkness, no matter what you’ve done.”

After he wrote the book and returned to the West Coast, Blajos wrote the play using the book as a transcript.

“My life changed,” he said. “I’m a happy man, and I’m a grateful man and this is my calling now.”

Blajos spends his time preaching and leading rehabilitation sessions — and he travels around the world to do it. He’s preached and led seminars in Europe, South America, Asia and Africa, as well as here in the U.S.

“I go to prisons,” he said. “I speak at universities and we do the play, too. If the Lord opens the door to me, I’ll do it.”

Learn more: Call 986-4818 for free tickets and information on “Blood In, Blood Out.”

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Salazar: Garcia-trained Gradovich to defend title in London

ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE Russia’s Evgeny Gradovich, who trains in Oxnard with Robert Garcia, will try to defend his IBF featherweight title Saturday in London against Lee Selby.

No rest for the weary as Evgeny Gradovich has travelled abroad once again for a big fight.

This time, the fight will not take place in Macau, China, or in America’s heartland.

Gradovich will also have to win in a fighter’s backyard.

The Russia-born fighter will try to defend his IBF featherweight title against Lee Selby on Saturday at the famed O2 Arena in London. The bout will be one of three world title fights on the Top Rank/Matchroom Promotions card.

The card will be shown live on SKY Box Office throughout the United Kingdom.

Gradovich (19-0-1, 9 KOs), who lives and trains in Oxnard, will be making the fifth defense of his world title belt. Gradovich fights under the Top Rank banner and is managed by Egis Klimas of Thousand Oaks.

In his last bout on Nov. 29, Gradovich fought to a 12-round split decision draw against Jayson Velez of Puerto Rico.

Gradovich, who is trained by Robert Garcia, has fought across the United States and three times in Macau, China. Garcia will be in Gradovich’s corner Saturday night.

Selby (20-1, 8 KOs), who is Welsh, has won his last 16 bouts. In his last fight on Oct. 11, Selby, who is the mandatory challenger for Gradovich’s title, stopped Joel Brunker of Australia in the ninth round.


Lightweight Saul Rodriguez will fight Antonio Capulin on Saturday in a battle of unbeaten fighters at the Florentine Gardens in Hollywood.

The eight-round bout will headline a Top Rank card and will be aired on Unimas at 11 p.m.

Rodriguez, who is co-trained by Eduardo and Robert Garcia, was scheduled to fight on March 14 in Glendale, but had to withdraw when he came down with chicken pox.

In his last bout on Jan. 17, Rodriguez (16-0-1, 13 KOs), who splits time between his hometown of Riverside and Oxnard, knocked out Carlos Rodriguez in the second round at the Oceanview Pavilion in Port Hueneme.

Capulin (14-0, 6 KOs), who hails from Houston, will be fighting for the first time outside of Texas. In his last bout on Nov. 15, Capulin won a one-sided, six-round decision over Marteze Logan.

In other action, Alex Saucedo (17-0, 12 KOs) will fight Jake Giuriceo (17-3, 4 KOs) in an eight-round welterweight bout.

Information: 626-388-8888.


The fight card scheduled for the Town Center in Simi Valley on Saturday has been postponed.

Organizers of the card said a number of fighters suffered injuries or simply withdrew from their respective fights.

Robert Ortiz of Simi Valley and Andrew Ruiz of Oxnard were some of the local fighters scheduled to fight.

Organizers are hoping to reschedule the card for the next month.


Amir Khan will fight Chris Algieri on Friday night in a 12-round bout at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The bout will headline a “Premier Boxing Champions” card on Spike TV, beginning at 6 p.m. Khan (30-3, 19 KOs) hopes a win puts him in line for a fight against Floyd Mayweather. Algieri (20-1, 8 KOs) has not fought since losing to Manny Pacquiao on Nov. 23.

Unbeaten Lateef Kayode (20-0, 16 KOs) will fight Nick Kisner on Friday night in a 10-round cruiserweight bout at the W.C. Handy Pavilion in Memphis. The bout will headline a card that will air on CBS Sports Network, beginning at 7 p.m. Kayode fought a number of times at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez. Kisner (14-1, 5 KOs) has won his last two bouts.

Francisco A. Salazar covers boxing for The Star. Salazar also covers boxing for RingTV, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached on Twitter @FSalazarBoxing.

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Public safety officers in Ventura County to square off for charity

Richard Quinn/Special to the Star Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputy Moe Gonzalez (right) works out on a heavy bag with coach Rick Perez during a training session at Powerhouse Gym in Port Hueneme. Local law enforcement officers will be squaring off against firefighters in the Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association’s Battle of the Badges.

Public safety officers in Ventura County to square off for charity
By Jeremy Foster Special To The Star

Ventura County Firefighter Mike Fuller said he doesn’t mind getting punched in the face, provided it’s for a good cause.

On Jan. 26, he’ll have that chance when he steps into a boxing ring, opposite a police officer, at the Oceanview Pavilion in Port Hueneme as part of “Battle of the Badges IV.”

Inspired by a friendly rivalry between law enforcement officers and firefighters, the boxing show benefits the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Oxnard and Port Hueneme, which serve more than 9,000 youths a year.

Fuller, a decade-long veteran of the fire department, has boxed in the past three shows with a perfect record that includes two knockout victories.

The 34-year-old said he signed up because he loves new physical challenges and wants to show the camaraderie between firefighters and law enforcement officers, while also helping a good cause.

“Outside of the ring, we and law enforcement officers work together on numerous things, from simple traffic accidents to possible hostage situations to especially tragic events, like the recent Newtown, Conn. school shooting,” Fuller said. “But there is some competition there, and this is a chance to one-up the officers.”

Ten matches, each three, two-minute rounds, will pit police officers and sheriff’s deputies against firefighters from agencies, including the Bakersfield Fire Department, police and fire departments of Oxnard, Ventura and Port Hueneme, and Ventura County’s sheriff and fire departments. The bouts, which are expected to attract 800 people, are licensed by the California State Athletic Commission and include professional ring doctors and referees.

Last year, the charity show raised more than $22,000. Organizers hope to top that amount this year, said Rick Shimmel, executive director of the Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association and a licensed amateur boxing promoter.

Battle of the Badges was the idea of county firefighter Jason Hodge, a former a board member for the Ventura County Professional Firefighters Association, Linda LeBrock, the former development director for the Boys & Girls Club, and Shimmel.

“We all saw it as a great way to raise money for the kids who need it most, the underserved kids that the Boys & Girls Clubs are so important for,” Shimmel said. “Contestants get the opportunity to represent their agencies, their stations and their fellow officers or firefighters, while those groups get the chance to cheer on their friends and co-workers. The best part is, it’s for a great cause and there is a real sense of doing something good for the community.”

Though the community’s overall response to the first event was “incredibly positive,” the first year prompted a letter-writing campaign from some who believed the event was promoting violence, according to Shimmel.

“We’ve never looked at it that way,” he said. “What we’re doing is showing the community that these ladies and gents who are boxing are willing to put it all on the line, even in the ring, to help a cause that’s so vital to the community.

Outside charitable events that square firefighters against officers and deputies for bragging rights often involve golfing tournaments, hockey games and blood drives. But because Oxnard has a rich history of boxing, staging a boxing event was a no-brainer, Hodge said.

Plus, Shimmel added, “there’s nothing quite like boxing show to excite a crowd and bring everyone to the edge of their seats.”

Police officer Gherrett Levette of the Oxnard Police Department, who will compete for the first time this month, believes the boxing event deters youth from committing crimes.

“Having worked in the main jail custody division and now in court service, I see a lot of young guys getting wrapped up in gangs and other stupid things,” said the 29-year-old. “If kids get involved in something that gives them the discipline, structure and motivation to get off the streets and back in school, then I want to promote that.”

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By Francisco Salazar
Ventura County Star

Unbeaten junior middleweight Hugo Centeno of Oxnard has been sparring with top contenders and champions in recent months.

Last August, Centeno traveled to Mexicali, Mexico, to spar with former WBO junior middleweight champion Alfredo Angulo. Recently, Centeno has been sparring with current former WBA super welterweight champion Nobuhiro Ishida at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood.

Last April, Ishida scored a major upset by knocking out previouslyunbeaten and hard-hitting James Kirkland in the first round. Ishida is preparing to face two-time world champion Paul Williams on Feb. 18th in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Centeno (11-0, with 6 KOs) has benefited from the sparring as he prepares for his Feb. 25th bout against Octavio Narvaez at the Oceanview Pavilion in Port Hueneme.

“I’ve had to switch from my conventional style to a southpaw style (to emulate Williams),” said Centeno, a 2009 graduate of Oxnard High. “As for me, I’m ready for my fight on the 25th. My fans won’t have to drive a long ways to see me fight. It’ll be literally down the street for them.”