Oxnard, California is a study in the boxing equivalent of the concept of “they tell two friends, and then they tell two friends, etc.” A city that only 20 years ago was never a blip on the boxing map, now has more professional fighters per capita than any other U.S. city. Local boxing prospect Erik Ruiz says, “There weren't any boxers I looked up to or even knew about that came out of Oxnard at that time. Growing up my brother would always watch Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. that was one of the fighters I looked up to.” The Garcia family may be the catalyst for this rapid growth, and trainer Robert Garcia brought the city its first world champion, however it was another fighter out of that same gym that put the city on the scene.
Fernando Vargas’s career spanned 11 years as a pro, following an Olympic appearance. He spent most of that time on television, and was the first to vocally praise his hometown of Oxnard. He was your classic boxer’s story… single mother raised, tough neighborhood, but many people did not realize this reality existed in Ventura County, an hour northwest of Los Angeles. South Central and East LA were the rise-from-the-ashes story people knew and understood. Once it was made public knowledge that a tough lifestyle was breeding fighters in Oxnard, it seems the confidence of the local fighters soared.
Yet the Oxnard explosion would not come as a result of young local fighters. It actually came in the form of transplants, who have made Oxnard home. This happened in two ways. Established champions like Sergio Martinez came to Oxnard. The Middleweight champion did so in following his trainer Pablo Sarmiento, and this led not only to other Argentines, such as Marcos Maidana making the trip… but also Martinez’s former opponents, such as Kelly Pavlik. The other way the stable of fighters grew was an almost “sister city” program with Garden City, Kansas.
As local fighter Herbert Acevedo puts it, “I grew up in Garden City, Kansas, and lived in the same neighborhood as Victor Ortiz. He is actually the one who told my dad to take me to the gym when I was 10 years old. That’s when I first came to the sport of boxing. I really looked up to Brandon Rios and Victor Ortiz since I came out of the same gym and town as them. Seeing their accomplishments in this sport motivated me.” Acevedo has a record of 11-1-6 KO’s. His activity stagnated after his first 3 fights out of Kansas, yet he has been steadily busy since his move to Oxnard.