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Tahoe boxer gets down with a legend

Simon Ruvalcaba’s boxing career reached an all-time low on Monday.

And it made for quite a highlight.

The 22-year-old who wants to become a professional fighter was in the ring with one of the sport’s greatest, Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker, a defensive tactician who sometimes drops into such a low crouch baffled opponents can’t reach him.



In the third round of their sparring session at Caesars Tahoe, Sweet Pea backed into a corner and, like a cobra ready to strike, went into his trademark stance.

Ruvalcaba reciprocated, dropping down to the six-time champion’s level and audaciously trading blows with him.




“I was watching tapes of his fights last night and no one ever tried getting down low with him,” the South Lake Tahoe resident said. “He probably wasn’t expecting it. I felt I did good.”

While it may have come as a surprise to him, Whitaker was pleased to see someone try the strategy.

“It brings a smile to my face,” Whitaker said. “It’s a tricky situation when you’re using that style. He’s a good young fighter.”

So good, in fact, Whitaker’s manager Lou Duva took notice.

“I think he’s a helluva prospect,” Duva said. “I offered him a spot on the card.”

But the devil may be in the details. Ruvalcaba, who had 71 amateur bouts, needs to be licensed in Nevada, which will cost $700. He and manager-trainer Juan Torres had hoped to get the paperwork in California for what would cost less than $200.

However, the opportunity to debut in his hometown on national television would be a sweet one for Ruvalcaba.

After a two-year layoff, Whitaker will begin a comeback on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights when he faces Carlos Bojorquez in a 154-pound bout.

Duva told Torres he would split the Nevada licensing fees and try to complete the paperwork with the Nevada Athletic Commission in time to get Ruvalcaba on Friday’s undercard.

“We need somebody like Duva who has the pull,” Torres said. “If he can pull it through, we’ll be more than happy to fight in Nevada.”

Regardless of when or where Ruvalcaba has his first pro fight, he doubtless will fondly remember his time in the ring with Whitaker.

A steady crowd of about 40 meandered about Caesars’ Circus Maximus showroom while Whitaker skipped rope and shadowboxed in the ring. Clearly happy to be back in the spotlight, Sweet Pea bantered with spectators, including some personal barbs for Ruvalcaba’s younger brother, Jesus.

Ruvalcaba walked through the ropes, donning headgear, dripping with sweat ready for the champ. A few minutes later, Whitaker was ready.

A veteran of 44 fights, 24 of them for a world title, Whitaker’s heavy training is complete. The five rounds he went Monday – three with Ruvalcaba and two with Carson City junior welterweight Miguel Ruiz – would be his final sparring session of the week.

He tossed a steady flow of right jabs at Ruvalcaba, while bobbing away from punches. At one point he backed the Tahoe fighter into the ropes. Then he allowed himself to be backed into a corner.

Ruvalcaba appeared tentative in the first round. Duva instructed him to throw more jabs.

As the session went on, Ruvalcaba appeared more comfortable and was more active. The crowd, many of whom work at the Caesars spa where Ruvalcaba works, cheered at the end of each round.

“(Ruvalcaba’s) got a lot to learn, but for what he knows now, he’s pretty good,” Whitaker said.

Torres said Ruvalcaba performed well.

“Sweet Pea was pulling his punches, of course,” Torres said. “You don’t want to go full out on the week of the fight. But it was good exposure and experience for Simon. Now we know where he stands.”

He might be standing in the same ring on Friday in front of an audience of 1,500 and millions more in front of television sets.


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