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Boxing appears to have found a home in the Inland Empire

Brothers Jose and Daniel Roman from Riverside are big boxing fans, but until Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario was constructed last year, their options to watch a match were restricted to hotel ballrooms, casino parking lots or a lengthy drive to a pricey seat at Staples Center.

“One hundred bucks on the floor here, I’m mingling with fighters,” Jose Roman, 27, said. “There’s a strong base of fans like me in this area who want this.”

The Romans aren’t alone, and arena executives and boxing promoters have noticed, as evidenced by Saturday night’s show headlined by heavyweight title contender Cris Arreola, which drew more than 6,000 fans to the 10,000-capacity facility.

“We’d love to have more fights just like this,” said Sue Oxarart, the arena’s director of marketing. “We have 125 events a year here, and boxing is right up there among sporting events we want to be here.”

The arena, home to the Ontario Reign minor league hockey club, gives fans closer proximity to the ring than Staples but is large enough to draw cards such as Saturday’s. It’s operated by AEG, which owns a share of Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions. No Golden Boy show on the books yet, Oxarart said, but “we certainly hope to have them here soon,” she said.

“We’re here because it’s in Cris’ backyard,” said Dan Goossen, the promoter of Saturday’s fight. “But as far as I’m concerned, this is a viable location. Number one, it’s here, and it’s all about the fans. For big-time boxing, this is a great alternative to places like Staples and Nokia Theatre” in Los Angeles.

(Arreola’s fight against Poland’s former light-heavyweight and cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek was decided after press time. See latimes.com/boxing for full coverage of the card.)

Covina lightweight John Molina, who knocked out Mexico’s Jose Antonio Izquierdo in the second round Saturday to improve to 20-1 with 16 knockouts, said it’s “extremely important” to have a venue such as Citizens Business Bank Arena that can draw a wealth of fans from San Bernardino and Riverside counties.

“It’s a big, state-of-the-art place, and there’s not a bad seat in the house,” Molina said. “It means the world to me to fight in my backyard, a hop, skip and jump away. I have a good following, and it’s easy to get here.”

“There’s a lot of Mexican fans out here who want to come to the fights,” Daniel Roman said. “Tell them to put it out here even more.”

lance.pugmire@latimes.com


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