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Englebrecht Trying to Give Ballroom Bouts More Credibility : Boxing: La Mirada's Mike Walsh is one of the fighters the Irvine promoter has signed to a long-term contract.


WESTMINSTER — In its 11-year history, the Irvine Marriott's boxing cards primarily have featured big names on their way down or bright stars on their way up. With the exception of Rosemead's Rudy Zavala, most of the has-beens and talented young fighters have been from outside the area.

But lately, promoter Roy Englebrecht has begun finding local boxers with talent and, more importantly for Englebrecht, box-office appeal. Seizing the opportunity, Englebrecht has decided to keep his winning lineup of Orange featherweight Mike Semaza, Huntington Beach bantamweight Johnny Vasquez and La Mirada junior welterweight Mike Walsh intact by signing the trio to promotional contracts.

Semaza and Vasquez have already signed eight- and three-fight deals and Walsh is expected to sign an eight-fight contract today. Walsh and Semaza, who are heading tonight's Marriott card, will get about $15,000 guaranteed with bonus clauses for more and Vasquez will get between $4,000 and $6,000 over the length of the contract.

"We've developed the 'Battle in the Ballroom' to the next level," Englebrecht said. "I'm taking a chance, but I feel very good about it. I owe it to the fans who've supported us to give them good cards and some personality to go along with it."

Already, Englebrecht's gamble appears to be paying dividends. He said Monday he is expecting about 1,200 spectators, which would be his biggest crowd in about two years, for tonight's six-bout card. By Monday, Semaza and Walsh had sold 225 tickets, or about 20% of the gate.

The danger, of course, is that one or all three fighters could fall flat on their face early in the contract and lose their appeal or their license to box. Englebrecht, however, has a clause built in that nullifies the contract if a fighter loses two bouts.

Walsh (14-1-2 with 14 knockouts) probably is the least likely to break the contract and the most likely to fight for big money down the road. Although coming off his first professional loss--a six-round split-decision defeat to Joel Garcia of Los Angeles six weeks ago in Las Vegas--Walsh is only 21 and he appears to have the power, hand speed and market value to contend for a title someday.

Walsh, who graduated from La Mirada High, has had five of his bouts on the Prime Network or ESPN. Jesse Reid, trainer and manager for Walsh and Semaza, is bringing Walsh along slowly.

"When he's 30-1, he'll be ready to fight people like [Oscar] De La Hoya," Reid said. "With his counter-punching ability, movement and power, he'll be tough to beat when he starts fighting 10- and 12-rounders."

Tonight, Walsh will fight his last six-round bout of the contract against Miguel Moreno of Los Angeles (8-7). From there, he will fight five eight-rounders before finishing his contract with two 10-round bouts. Englebrecht had wanted Walsh to fight three 10-round fights, but Walsh and Reid said they wanted to move more slowly.

"I'm happy with the contract," Walsh said. "The money's OK and I don't have to travel. I get to fight in front of my hometown fans. It's a lot more convenient and I know [Englebrecht] will take extra steps to make sure I'm protected."

Walsh said he didn't feel comfortable or protected in his recent loss.

"[Garcia] was not one of my toughest opponents," he said. "After four rounds, I was confident I was out in front. By the sixth round, I was going through the motions. In Vegas, they like a big, strong finish. Still, if that fight was here, I don't think I'd have lost it."

But Walsh admitted he learned an important lesson--never take anything or anybody for granted.

"I have a real defensive style and Jesse would like to see me more aggressive, especially after that last fight," he said.

Walsh's counter-punching style will give a fighter such as De La Hoya fits, Reid claims. Reid said Walsh knocked down Genaro Hernandez, De La Hoya's next opponent, during a sparring session last year.

"That's the fight that can make Mike Walsh millions," Reid said. "That's the fight I want to see. Oscar is the complete package now. I don't think he's going to learn a lot more. I think Mike has a style and the power to beat De La Hoya."

Walsh, who turned pro three years ago, doesn't necessarily disagree.

"Skill-wise, I think I'm ready to take on anyone," he said. "It's just the length of the fights that are holding me back now. The speed and the power are there."

So too are the financial security and the comfort of fighting in front of his own fans.


Mike Semaza (13-0 with five knockouts) is fighting Carlos Rubio in the eight-round main event. Also on the card is Long Beach heavyweight Jason Williams, the younger brother of top-ranked contender Jeremy Williams. Williams is fighting Anthony Moore of San Diego. The first fight begins at 7:30 p.m. and tickets will be on sale at 9 this morning at the Marriott.

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