Local boxing fans will be seeing less and less of Jim Mullen. And even for the most-ardent supporters of the fiery Simi Valley fighter, this is not necessarily a bad thing.
Mullen is on a diet.
Not a liquid diet. Not a fat-free diet. Not a Weight Watchers or any other brand-name diet.
His is more of a self-preservation diet. The rationale: The less there is of him, the harder he is to hit and, therefore, the better his chances of survival.
Mullen, 25, was moderately successful in nine bouts as a heavyweight. But his record of 6-3 is more the result of promoters skillfully protecting him than it is an indication of his boxing proficiency.
The former amateur kick-boxing champion’s best attributes have been his unbridled enthusiasm and courage.
Now a new trainer is trying to add a few boxing skills to the mix.
Phil Paolina, who runs his own West Los Angeles gym, has been working with Mullen for the past month. If nothing else, it appears he has successfully tipped the scales in the right direction.
Mullen, a soft 227 pounds on a 5-11 frame before their first workout, should be near the cruiserweight limit of 190 for his undercard bout Wednesday against Gil Jacobs, scheduled for four rounds at the Warner Center Marriott.
Just don’t expect a complete metamorphosis.
“He still has a lot of baby fat on his body,” Paolina said.
In the past, Mullen talked of plans to gain weight. Now he’s changed his tune.
“I had a couple of losses and I finally realized I wasn’t the hardest puncher in the world,” Mullen said. “Some of the guys I was facing, guys 6-6, 6-7, 250 pounds. I was hitting them clean and they weren’t going anywhere.”
Paolina predicts that with a proper diet and continued training, Mullen’s weight will settle somewhere between 168 and 175 pounds.
Mullen’s daily itinerary includes a morning run, a nap, boxing in the early afternoon and a late afternoon cardiovascular gym workout, with healthy meals between.
“I’m on a hard-core, eat-right diet, which I’ve never done before in my life,” Mullen said. “I’ve changed all my habits.”
Not to mention his boxing style.
Mullen, a left-handed kick boxer, was made a right-handed boxer by his former trainer. Now he’s back to being a southpaw.
“I’m listening more, growing up a bit,” Mullen said. “You’ll still see the same heart and desire, but now I’m more of a boxer. I’m learning the trade, learning the art.”
Promoter Gerrie Coetzee, himself a former world heavyweight champion, has billed Wednesday’s bouts at the Marriott as “Big Guns"--and with good reason.
The six-fight card includes, for a club show, an unusual amount of big boxers.
The main event, Gary Ballard against Roman Santos, is a battle of light heavyweights. The other two featured bouts match heavyweights Shane Sutcliffe against Brad Powell and Billy Wright against an as-yet undetermined opponent.
On the undercard is the cruiserweight matchup between Mullen and Jacobs.
Coetzee also has attempted to add a local flavor.
Mullen is from Simi Valley and Santos is from Lancaster.
Jose Herrera, a lightweight who will box on the undercard, is from Glendale. His opponent, Danny Lujan, is managed by Encino businessman Harry Kazandjian.
The Ballard-Santos fight will be televised on tape delay by the South African Broadcasting Corp.
Ballard, a former South African amateur champion, is being primed to fight for the vacant Penta-Continental light heavyweight title, Sept. 20 at the Marriott.
Ballard’s only loss in 20 professional fights was to Thulanie (Sugar Boy) Malinga, the International Boxing Federation’s top light heavyweight contender.
Four amateur fighters from the La Colonia Youth Boxing Club in Oxnard will box for Junior Golden Gloves state championships on Saturday in El Monte. State title winners advance to the Junior Golden Gloves national tournament, Aug. 15 in Cincinnati.
Mario Aguiniga, a 14-year-old from La Colonia who boxes in the 85-pound classification, is seeking his third national championship.
Other Oxnard boxers who won state semifinal bouts are Aguiniga’s 13-year-old brother, Jose, in the 75-pound class; Sergio Martinez, 12, in the 80-pound class; and Joel Salas, 14, in the 132-pound class.
The La Colonia club has a blossoming tradition for churning out top young fighters. Among its other products are U.S. amateur champion Fernando Vargas and Robert Garcia, holder of the North American Boxing Federation junior lightweight title.