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Zavala Puts Career in Overdrive : Boxing: Unbeaten super-bantamweight’s rise through the ranks has been slowed only by freeway commuting.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

At 23, Rudy Zavala looks at his boxing future and pretty much likes what he sees.

He sees lots of money, maybe a championship or two, some fame to dress it all in.

He also sees a lot less of something.

Traffic.

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Zavala used to arise at 5:30 a.m. each day in Rosemead and drive to Huntington Beach, where he ran six miles on the beach. Then he drove back to Rosemead.

Then at 11:15, he drove to Westminster for a two-hour gym workout with his trainer and manager. Then he drove back to Rosemead, where he lived with his wife, two children, and his parents.

Before his recent move to Costa Mesa, he had put 15,000 miles on his ’88 Mazda since July.

So far in his career, Zavala, a super-bantamweight (122 pounds), has been pressed more by freeway traffic than by opponents. He’s 14-0 and recently signed a two-year deal for eight fights a year with Las Vegas promoter Bob Arum.

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At the outset, Zavala will make about $7,000 a fight for Arum’s firm, Top Rank.

The onetime San Gabriel High soccer and baseball player had been knocking opponents stiff--he has 11 knockouts in his 14 victories--on Forum cards. Predictably, his manager’s phone started ringing.

“Rudy reached the point . . . where he had three options,” said Herb Stone of Newport Beach, who owns an El Toro bicycle shop and manages Zavala.

“He could have signed multifight deals with the Forum, with Cedric Kushner or with Arum. We weighed everything and decided Arum offered Rudy much more exposure.”

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Arum’s boxing promotion firm, Top Rank, owns ESPN’s weekly boxing series and Zavala made his ESPN debut for Arum Nov. 14 in Bozeman, Mont., stopping journeyman Lee Cargle in five rounds. On a card headlined by 1988 Olympian Todd Foster, the show was seen in 2,179,000 homes, according to Top Rank.

Zavala’s next ESPN appearance is scheduled for Dec. 19, at the Hacienda Hotel in Las Vegas.

Zavala catapulted to ESPN with a dramatic one-round knockout of Mark Brooks Oct. 21 at the Forum. It was another step up in the caliber of his opposition.

Brooks had fought in Japan for the last several years and was an experienced, competent boxer.

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But Zavala just blew him away.

Zavala’s explosive right hand is delivered quickly, with no warning. There is no windup, just a short right, straight from the shoulder. He knocked Brooks flat on his back with it.

“Rudy throws punches properly, and that’s rare to see these days,” said Bruce Trampler, matchmaker for Top Rank.

Zavala also has shown he can think as well as hit. On Aug. 26 at the Forum, he was paired with a rough Filipino fighter, Virgilio Openio. For the first two rounds, Openio had his way with Zavala, who stayed cool while he figured out his opponent.

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And when he had figured him out, he closed the show with a sixth-round knockout. Zavala’s timing was good that night, for Arum was a second-row spectator.

Once, Zavala was on track to become a jockey. His father, Rodolfo, who brought his family to Rosemead from Tijuana in 1977, once had his son walking horses at Caliente Race Track.

“I wanted Rudy to be a jockey, and when he was very young I got him a job walking horses at Caliente,” he said.

That was when Zavala’s weight was in double digits. Then 100 pounds came and went. Today, he’s a muscular, very lean 122 pounds. Arum and Trampler hope he can win a title at featherweight (126 pounds) in a year or so.

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And here’s one fighter who didn’t learn his trade on the streets.

“I never allowed Rudy to run around,” said Rodolfo Zavala, a watchmaker. “He stayed in school, stayed busy with sports, like soccer and baseball. I didn’t even like it when he told me: ‘I’m going over to my friend’s house.’

“When he was 15, I took him to a gym in El Monte and got him boxing lessons.”

Long gone are the after-school, 85-cent RTD rides from San Gabriel High to the South El Monte Gym. And now, finally, gone, too, are the twice-daily commutes between Rosemead and Orange County.

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