Winter championships breathe life into San Francisco boxing scene

SF Boxing
Terry Fernandez (right) tries to connect with Vince Hernandez (left) during a match at the Boxing SF Winter Championships in San Francisco, Calif., Dec. 2. Photo by Elijah Nouvelage

Nargis Shagasi is a straight-A student. In the spring, she will graduate with honors from the University of San Francisco with a degree in political science. She was her high school’s valedictorian. She excels in volleyball and basketball. Shagasi is the type of person people aspire to be.

Tonight, however, no one would want to take her place. Tonight she is getting the hell beat out of her.

“I worry that her nose or her eye is going to pop out,” said Nargis’s mother, Najia Shagasi.

Shagasi, a member of the USF boxing club, was knocked out in the second round of her fight against Stelicia Leggett during the San Francisco Boxing Winter Championships at Longshoreman’s Hall Friday night.

“This is our third event of the year under the Boxing SF group,” said promoter John Chavez. “We decided to take it to a bigger stage, a bigger platform.”

Boxing SF hosted the event, which featured 14 bouts with fighters representing 16 gyms from all over the Bay Area. The boxers ranged from experienced amateurs with pro aspirations to newcomers getting in their first few swings in the ring.

Shagasi was one of many fighters who are in the early stages of their careers. Before her fight, she spoke about the dedication it takes to develop as a boxer.

“It’s a club team. It’s not mandatory, you’re not on scholarship. What gets you to where you want to be is the passion and love you have and your coaches, the drive they install in you,” she said.

The grizzled mugs of former union roughnecks on the wall were just a few of the hundreds who watched local young boxers duke it out for area supremacy. The night was a showcase for the Bay Area’s large, but often unsung, boxing community.

“There’s over 1000 registered amateur fighters in the Northern California region. There’s over 60 boxing gyms in the Bay Area in itself,” Chavez said. “There’s not a whole lot of publicity about (boxing in the Bay Area) so it seems as though it’s nonexistent, but there really is an underlying, thriving community,”

That community was well-represented in the form of an engaged crowd, which cheered each match throughout the night.

“I don’t even know who’s fighting. I just want to see some boxing,” said retired federal agent and boxing enthusiast Julie Ramirez.

An early highlight came when youth division fighters Paris Wallace and Joseph Santos, neither weighing more than 60 pounds, made entrances with all the booming music and strobe lights of heavyweight champions. The fun of watching the two kids go at it was dampened when the fight had was ended due to an unstoppable flow of blood coming from Santos’s nose.

The honeycomb dome of the Longshoreman’s Hall created a curious, but fitting, atmosphere for the fights. Massive black rigging hooks and a chalkboard work schedule were juxtaposed by throbbing stage lights and energy drink ads. Negligibly clothed ring girls from companies with names like Desire Temptations paraded in front of fading pictures of the salty union men who used to roam the hall.

There were some truly exhilarating fights on the card, none more so than the main event between Keynoe Fenner of BabyFace Boxing in Pacifica, Calif., and Ricardo Pinell representing B Street Boxing of San Mateo, Calif. The crowd was on its feet, answering each big punch with the distinctive deep “Oooohhh” that one only hears at a boxing match.

Another high point was an absolute brawl between Phight Club Oakland’s Terry Fernandez and Vince Hernandez, also from B Street Boxing. The two pummeled each other for three tough rounds before Fernandez was given a win by the judges.

Tatiana Almarez and Casey Morton put on a show with a hard-fought bout, which Almarez won in a decision.

Among the crowd were a number of local professional boxers who made their way up through the ranks at the very gyms represented in the fights. The pros, who were honored at intermission, included five-time world champion and current high-level contender Robert “the ghost” Guerrero.

The big winner of the night was 3rd Street Boxing Gym in Potrero Hill. Trainer Paul Wade’s fighters swept all three of their matches.

“I went out there (into the ring), did what I love doing. I train three times a day, work hard for it. I don’t see how I wasn’t going to win,” said 3rd Street boxer Brandon Adams after winning his fight.

Chavez said he has received a good response about the event and is encouraged for the outcome of future competitions. He said the next boxing event for San Francisco is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 27.

Boxing SF
Casey Morton (left) lands a punch on Tatiana Almarez (right) during a match at the Boxing SF Winter Championships in San Francisco, Calif., Dec. 2. Photo by Elijah Nouvelage
Boxing SF
Humberto Otoya (right) tries to connect with Jessie henderson (left) during a match at the Boxing SF Winter Championships in San Francisco, Calif., Dec. 2. Photo by Elijah Nouvelage
Boxing SF
Keynoe Fenner (red gloves) swings at Ricardo Pinell (blue gloves) during the middleweight championship at the Boxing SF Winter Championships in San Francisco, Calif., Dec. 2. Photo by Elijah Nouvelage.