Outside the Ring: David Avila

By Jill Diamond on November 18, 2017
Outside the Ring: David Avila
David Avila’s values and skills take me back to a time when the print bled off your fingers.

“I would like to be remembered as a game-changer. Someone who was not afraid to do what it takes to make change that is needed…”

Sports and Philanthropy: A series of articles dedicated to those who’ve given their all and still give more. Each article will feature a different community champion; no belts, no medals, no ratings… just good people passing it on.

David Avila, a soft spoken man who writes with conviction and passion. He has boxing in his DNA and journalism in his heart.  He is a crusader when it comes to women’s sports, but that’s not all he is. David is an articulate and dedicated reporter at a time when anybody can write anything about anyone. He’s schooled and, more than that, he’s just. His values and skills take me back to a time when the print bled off your fingers and smudged your shirt. A real writer, with interesting views and a fair focus. Thank you, Mr. Avila, for joining us. Boxing is better for your presence.

Your family has a long and vital relationship with boxing. Give us some background.

Well I have boxing on both my mother and father’s sides of the family. My great grandfather Battling Ortega fought from 1916 to 1930. In his career he met in the boxing ring more than a dozen world champions including some that are not listed on his record such as Benny Leonard, Harry Greb and Jimmy McLarnin. Also, my grandfather boxed in amateurs. On my father’s side, he was a professional boxer and fought several times at the Olympic Auditorium. He was trained by Harry Kabakoff, a known trainer in Los Angeles. Both his brothers boxed amateurs and both participated in tournaments during World War II. My grandfather on my father’s side also fought during World War I and stopped boxing to join the military.

You are one of the few sports journalists who have actually competed. How does this affect your choices?

I was started in boxing at age four by my father who entered me in tournaments very early. I was tall for my age but not very good. I lost most of my bouts until age seven. Most of my bouts were in East Los Angeles. My two brothers also boxed. I competed until age 14 but my heart was in baseball, not boxing.

Your dream was baseball. What happened?

I played baseball until age 45. I was scouted by numerous Major League Baseball teams including the Atlanta Braves during my youth. I played in high school at Cantwell High in Montebello and also played in the Joe DiMaggio League for East L.A. Our team won the state championship for three consecutive years. I only played on the first team but was too old for the other years. During college I was a walk-on at UCLA during Coach Gary Adams first year in September 1975. But my studying suffered so I dropped off the team mostly because I knew I would not be a starter as a pitcher or first baseman. I had injured my arm a couple of years earlier and it helped me realize I was not going to reach my dreams of playing professional baseball on a high level. So I concentrated on my studies as a history major.

You’re also a pioneer in validating women in combat sports. Why?

I met Mia St. John around 1997 as a writer for Uppercut Magazine but never got a chance to actually see her perform. Around 1999 I finally saw a female boxing match in person when Wendy Rodriguez fought at Pechanga Entertainment Center in Temecula, California. It was her pro debut but she fought amazingly well. I didn’t think it possible for a female boxer to showcase skills like she did that day on her pro debut. I became immediately intrigued and was eager to see other females box. Later I saw Bridgett “Baby Doll” Riley fight at the Arrowhead Pond and she also displayed outstanding boxing skills. After that I began investigating more into women’s boxing and watched them train. I felt there was a big future for the sport and that it would prosper. But it bogged down and suddenly female boxing was put in the back burner despite the large number of talented boxers. I vowed to try and make it succeed. 

Tell me a fight you’d like to sit ringside for?

I would love to see Layla McCarter fight Cecilia Braekhus.

Your favorite fight(s) of all time?

My favorite female fights were Layla McCarter vs. Chevelle Hallback; Elena Reid vs. Mariana Juarez; Kaliesha West vs. Ava Knight 2. Favorite male fights were Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo 1, Oscar De La Hoya vs. Shane Mosley 1, Carlos Zarate vs. Alfonso Zamora.

The fighter you respect most, and why?

Muhammad Ali because he was more than just a boxer, he was an instrument of change in society with his stand against the war in Viet Nam.

One with unrecognized potential?

James Toney could have been more recognized if given the opportunity.

A fight you regret not covering?

The proposed fight between Lucia Rijker and Christy Martin that was canceled.

Why do you think there are so many mismatches in the women’s divisions?

A variety of reasons cause mismatches in female boxing. First, there are not as many female boxers. Second, travel expenses preclude promoters for getting talent from afar. Third, many boxers want to protect their records unless there is big money involved. Fourth, promoters do not want to work at finding suitable opponents.

Has to be asked… Mayweather/McGregor, the aftermath?

It was a waste of time. It proved nothing except that “there is a sucker born every day.”

Tell us about the 2min Round:Hooks and Jabs?

It was a concept developed by Felipe Leon of Mexico. He invited me to join him and I agreed. We both want female boxing to succeed and see a bright future for the sport. It’s only a matter of time.

Any honors/awards?

I’ve won writing awards as a news reporter in general news, politics and crime reporting. I stopped submitting stories for awards because it seemed pretentious. My reward is having people tell me they read my story. That means more to me than an award.

What charities/programs are you involved in?

I’m not a part of any charity program at the moment. In the past I worked with the Catholic Church, American Cancer Society and homeless shelters.

Who are your role models?

I have so many role models in my life beginning with my parents, grandparents and uncles and aunts. I had a doctor I worked with who was a paraplegic but taught me a lot about different cultures. He passed away in the 1990s. I also had many school teachers who gave me their time, I’m forever grateful.

If you could change one thing about boxing, what would it be?

Use of Performance Enhancement Drugs by prizefighters.

Do you think there should be a National Commission?

Yes, there should be a National Commission but it would take someone with money to start the ball rolling on his or her own dime. The government would not ever budget boxing.

What is the biggest problem a fighter faces today?

The biggest problem is money. Not all boxers are helped financially and boxers should realize this. Is it worth the time and risk?

Do you believe the media is fair in their coverage of fights?

In the past 20 years I feel coverage is very biased mainly because of the lack of professional journalists. Many are people who start a web site and write their opinions. There is too much editorializing and not real journalism. But at least they are writing. Newspapers are failing to cover boxing at the lower levels so it has left a wide door open to web sites. Some of the boxing web sites are very good and feature true journalism. But most do not.

What about the credibility of the officials? How can this improve?

Many of the officials are very good especially in California, Nevada and New Jersey. But other states that do not have a lot of boxing events do not get enough practice. There are states like New York that have subpar officiating and smaller states Arizona that surprisingly have decent officials.

How do you see the future of the sport in general?

Believe it or not boxing has never been bigger especially in California.

What would help women’s boxing the most?

Simply putting women on fight cards would be of great help. But women are always ignored. The American promoter who invests in women wholeheartedly will benefit. It’s almost ready to explode.

What do the fans need to stay interested?

If newspapers gave boxing the attention it deserved it would already be extremely popular. But many of the editors and sportswriters know nothing about the sport. They only know about the top tier and nothing else. They have no idea about the huge audience out there waiting for boxing news.

Do you see any potential issues with so many combat artists crossing over?

The only issue I see with boxers going into MMA is that their bodies are not ready for the change. It’s different muscles and that can prove dangerous to their health.

Advice to a young journalist who wants to be David Avila?

I set goals while at UCLA to be a journalist and slowly moved up to attain my first major goal of writing for a major newspaper. I had a plan and stuck to it. Then I made another plan to make boxing big and moved to an area where boxing was under-served. I then convinced newspaper editors to cover boxing. It took years.

When you leave the room, what do people say?

I’m not sure what people say but I try to be passionate about everything I do.

How would you like to be remembered?

I would like to be remembered as a game-changer. Someone who was not afraid to do what it takes to make change that is needed.

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  1. Bruno Schleinstein 07:14pm, 11/19/2017

    Great write up….extremely unflattering photo above!

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