Trailblazer Paul Gonzales Finishes a Golden Career : Boxing: East L.A. hero became the first Latino to win an Olympic gold medal. But life as a professional fighter brought mixed results.
On Aug. 11, 1984, Paul Gonzales started a gold rush at the Los Angeles Olympics, becoming the first of nine American boxers to win a gold medal. The victory also was significant because Gonzales became the first Latino to win an Olympic gold medal.
On the 10th anniversary of his achievement, Gonzales announced his retirement from boxing at the Amateur Athletic Foundation in the Adams District.
“Boxing has been a very important and exciting period of my life,” Gonzales said during Thursday’s press conference. “But it’s time to close that chapter of my life.”
Al Stanke, the Los Angeles Police Department officer who transformed Gonzales from a barrio street punk to a Olympic champion, spoke first about his protege.
“I met Paul when he was 9 years old,” Stanke said. “He was a mischievous kid. A cute kid. . . . He was scrappy, and good and tough. And he had attitude.”
Stanke brought Gonzales to the Hollenbeck Division, where the building’s basement had been converted to a boxing gym. "(Paul) threw punches even when he was on the ground. I knew he had all the D’s: dedication, desire and determination.”
Coached by Stanke, Gonzales won 18 national Amateur Athletic Union titles. As a pro, Gonzales had an 18-4 record as a flyweight and a bantamweight. His success was limited by injuries.
Before he announced his retirement, Gonzales asked Danny Valdivia, who was ring announcer of that fight, to re-enact his gold medal victory announcement from the 1984 Games.
“The gold medal winner of the 106-pound division, from East L.A., Paul Gonzales!” Valdivia said.
In his farewell speech, Gonzales said that he wants to end his much-publicized feud with Oscar De La Hoya, the 1992 Olympic champion and fellow East L.A. resident.
“Oscar and I, as Olympians, need to work together and need to show kids a brighter future,” Gonzales said.
The Great Western Forum reshuffled its boxing card for Monday night when Mark Johnson of Washington failed to recover from a shoulder injury.
Johnson, ranked No. 2 by the International Boxing Federation, dislocated his right shoulder during workouts for his scheduled 12-round bout against Narcisco Rodriguez of the Dominican Republic.
“No one feels worse about this than me,” said Johnson, who is 20-1 with 13 knockouts. Rodriguez, who was making his U.S. debut, is 13-0 with seven knockouts.
The main event will match Marco Antonio Barrera (31-1, 21 knockouts) against Vinicio (Junior) Rodriguez (14-3-1, 11 knockouts) in a super bantamweight bout. Preliminary bouts begin at 7:15 p.m.
Of local interest, Julio Cesar Borboa of East Los Angeles will make his sixth IBF junior bantamweight title defense against Harold Grey of Colombia on Aug. 29 at the Forum. Borboa, originally of Sonora, Mexico, is 23-4 with 21 knockouts. Grey is 15-0 with 14 knockouts.
Frankie Avelar of San Diego will challenge undefeated Roberto Garcia of Oxnard in a 10-round featherweight bout as one of two main events Aug. 27 at the Olympic Auditorium.
Avelar is 16-4 with eight knockouts, and Garcia is 14-0 with 11 knockouts.
Pepe Reilly of Glendale (7-1, 6 KOs) will be the other headliner, against an opponent to be named.
In amateur boxing, Carlos Navarro returned to Los Angeles after an impressive showing at the Goodwill Games in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Navarro, the U.S. National flyweight champion from South Central, took the silver medal in the 112-pound division.
Amateur bouts will be held today at the Toberman Settlement House, 131 N. Grand Ave., San Pedro. Weigh-ins begin at 9 a.m. The Bassett Boxing Club canceled its amateur bouts last week because of lack of interest.