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Long Beach Takes Garza Fight Under Its Wing

November 08, 1986|STEVE SPRINGER

There has never been a fight quite like this.

For one thing, Howard Hughes will have a ringside seat. For another, the fighters will trade punches underneath a wing of the world's largest airplane.

When former World Boxing Council super-bantamweight champion Jaime Garza answers the bell for his next fight Wednesday, he will do so inside the Spruce Goose Dome, which houses the 200-ton flying boat.

It's part of a plan to bring boxing back to Long Beach after an absence of more than a decade. For the site, organizers have selected the most spectacular building in the city--a white dome that contains the Spruce Goose, built by Hughes to serve as a transport plane in World War II.

It actually flew only once, in 1947. By then, with the war over, there was no need for anything that size, so it sat in a hangar until the construction of the dome in 1983. The Spruce Goose is now on display for the public, complete with a life-size model of Hughes in the cockpit.

Its wingspan is 319 feet, a little longer than a football field. A DC-10 could fit comfortably under each wing.

Instead, on Wednesday night, a ring will be placed under one wing along with enough seats to hold 1,900 fans. Plans call for a fight a month for the next half a year under the dome.

The first will feature Garza, formerly of Pacoima, who is 43-1 with 41 knockouts. Garza's only defeat came two years ago when he was knocked out in the first round of a title defense against Juan Meza in New York.

The mental shock of that blow was far greater than the physical damage. It was a year before Garza was able to climb back into the ring. Now 27 and living in Alhambra, he has won three fights, all by knockout, on the road back.

His opponent in Wednesday's 12-round featherweight main event will be Darryl Thigpen of St. Louis (20-4, 17 knockouts). Thigpen is a former ESPN bantamweight champion, but he's coming off a seventh-round loss at the Forum during the summer to Jorge Diaz.

Wednesday night's card will include six fights, with the first bell set for 7:30.

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