Appropriately, home-grown professional boxers filled the first card at the Ventura Theater last month.
Robbie Ruiz, 21, of Camarillo, Mario Solorio, 26, of Port Hueneme and John Ramirez, 26, of Oxnard all hail from the La Colonia Boxing Club in Oxnard.
The club, located in the La Colonia barrio, is a dingy two-room facility with punching bags wedged between the walls and one boxing ring with red indoor-outdoor carpet instead of the traditional canvas covering. It has been known for many years as a club that turns out good Golden Glove boxers.
While it is still turning out quality amateurs, the club is taking on an added dimension with its crop of young professionals.
Ruiz played football, baseball and wrestled at Camarillo High before graduating in 1985. He played linebacker on Camarillo's 1985 Southern Section 4-A Division championship team. But after attending Moorpark College to play football, the fight bug bit him and he dropped out of school to pursue boxing.
Ruiz gained an interest in boxing through his uncle, Joe Ponce, who trained Bobby Chacon.
"It was just something I decided I wanted to do myself one day, and maybe a little from watching my uncle train Chacon," said Ruiz, who is a recent addition to the La Colonia stable. "I started driving to North Hollywood to box and train every day at the North Hollywood Boxing Club for the last two years."
The quiet and shy Ruiz would like to make a name for himself in boxing as someone kids can look up to.
"I looked up to guys like Lupe Aquino and Chacon," Ruiz said. "Something went wrong for those guys with drugs and alcohol and I got let down by them. I want to see that image of boxing change so kids don't get let down and disappointed."
Ruiz, 21-4 as an amateur, is still looking for his first pro bout as a junior middleweight. His fight in March was cancelled when his opponent did not pass the fight-day physical.
An opportunity for a Forum fight also fell through, as did a scheduled bout in Bakersfield. The April card at Ventura was full, so Ruiz continues to search for that opening night.
Solorio, on the other hand, got his hometown bout in March and won a unanimous decision over Eduardo Alvarado. Solorio, a welterweight, is 3-0 as a professional.
A 1981 Hueneme High graduate, Solorio postponed his professional career until the age of 26. He went on to earn an Associate of Arts degree from Ventura College and a bachelor's degree in liberal arts from UC Santa Barbara.
Aquino, a friend and sparring partner of Solorio, thought he should turn professional after posting a 49-2 amateur record with 35 knockouts.
"Lupe told me I was wasting valuable time by going to school, but I told him I had to get my degree first. That way if I don't make it in the pros I have something to rely on," said Solorio, who is known as the fighting schoolteacher because he is a substitute for the Oxnard Unified School District.
Featherweight John Ramirez is also getting a late start on his boxing career. Ramirez (3-1), who suffered his first professional loss last month in Ventura, says that his most difficult fight is juggling his boxing career around his family and a full-time job.
"It's really tough for a long time when you start out because the money is not there," Ramirez said. "You work your regular job, you workout every night and some times you are on the road for a few days.
"You really don't make any money until you start getting some 10-rounders, but it's like anything you want to accomplish, you have to work hard for it."
Another La Colonia product is junior welterweight Daniel Garcia of Oxnard, who scored a second-round technical knockout of Steve Lewis last week at Ventura. Garcia (9-3) is a 22-year-old truck driver.
The work ethic and clean boxing image is something that seems to come out of the boxers from La Colonia. It has been attributed to co-managers Richard Ruiz (Robbie's father) and Martino Noriega and trainer Eduardo Garcia.
"We stress obedience, respect, no drugs and alcohol and a positive attitude in our kids," Noriega said. "We want them to remember who they are and where they came from."