Boxing: Hometown Showdown in Celina to feature top area pro talent

By Jose Nogueras -

CELINA — The Lima area is brimming with boxing talent and fans will have the opportunity to see some of these rising professional pugilists Saturday at the Hometown Showdown promoted by APEX promotions at the Mercer County Fairgrounds Junior Fair Building.

Doors open at 7 p.m. and fights begin at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by calling 353-201-1909 or by going to Admission is $30 with VIP tickets for $50 and ringside seats for $100.

“A lot of these kids from small places don’t get to be the headliners and are often overshadowed by the bigger cities so most on this card are from a small place,” said Aaron Rodriguez, who along with Lisa Vondrell, are putting on and promoting the event. Vondrell, a Celina High School graduate, has been working with Rodriguez the last year and a half.

Originally slated for June 1, the event was postponed due to flooding at the Lakefront Racquet and Health Club and so the duo has been working diligently to reorganize and refocus their efforts to put on the event.

From finding a new venue on short notice to scheduling the boxers to ticket sales, the promoting pair has put in countless hours and overcome numerous obstacles to stage the event.

Rodriguez said they modeled this program like casino shows, and he is treating it like a television event.

“It has been a lot of stress because of you have to get every little piece right because we are not doing it small,” Rodriguez said. “We have the ring girls. We have some one doing the national anthem. We have seat covers. Everything we are doing is professional. You will know your fighters plus the hype of a big event.”

The changing of the venue to the fairgrounds was another logistical dilemma, and Vondrell admits the junior fairground building is kind of vanilla but they are going to put their touches on it to give it that big-time feel.

“It didn’t have the character of the last place but it is big and the facilities are great,” Vondrell said. “They have been great to us and there is lots of parking and think people will enjoy it.”

Rodriguez added that a “ton of tickets” were sold for the initial event in June and admits he will probably lose money or at least break even on the venture and so it has become a labor of love, and they are doing it for the love of boxing.

“I’ve been doing this because I love it,” Rodriguez said. “It has been a passion. As long as I could read I have been reading about boxing. I am like a historian. I have had some dark years and that was away from boxing. A lot of what I do I do for myself.”

Rodriguez, who has helped promote other shows throughout the United States, decided it was time to bring boxing back to Celina. It has been more than 100 years Rodriguez said that boxing has been held in the city and added that a show was put on in 1882 and the last two were in 1912.

Rodriguez, a former boxer himself, got into the promotion business in 2013, teamed up with a friend and helped promote matches in Philadelphia, Detroit and Atlanta. However, Rodriguez took a step away from the promotion aspect and allowed his partner to continue what they started while he returned to Celina.

The task of finding boxers was next on the list and Rodriguez, who is known for his “matchmaking skills” or knack for finding fighters for top matchups, and he used those talents to find local boxers for his event.

Scheduled to box are middleweights Tipton Walker (Benton Harbor, Michigan) vs. Fred Wilson Jr. (Cleveland); superfly weights Carlos Suarez (Lima) vs. Rondarius Hunter (Atlanta) and lightweights Darnell Pettis (Cleveland) vs. Eddie Hines (Lima) and super flyweights Raymond Castaneda (Defiance) vs. Maurice Anthony (Ypsilanti, Michigan). Making their debuts will be cruiserweights Paul Barton (Van Wert) vs. Michael Widmer (Toledo) and Caleb Fickert (Celina) vs. Justin Parks (Findlay).

Walker and Wilson come into the fight with identical 6-0-1 marks and Caseneda, known as the “Little Rock,” is 5-0 in his young career.

“These guys are never going to be in a show where they are on the right side of things,” Rodriguez said. “They are always going to have to be in someone’s hometown or big city and if it goes to a decision they are going to lose. These guys aren’t given a fair shake a lot of times.”

Rodriguez added that some of the fighters have a legitimate shot to make a name for themselves in the pro ranks.

Vondrell said this is going to be great entertainment even if you are not a boxing fan.

“A lot of people haven’t been to many boxing shows because there are none,” Vondrell added. “Since it has been such a big part of our life we want to share it with family and friends and give them a glimpse of what this world is all about.”

Rodriguez added that a lot of people have asked him to put an event like this on and Vondrell responded by saying it is a big gamble financially.

“It is like Murphy’s Law on steroids,” Rodriguez added.

Despite all the obstacles, the promoting pair said they also wanted to do something positive for the community.

“We have a real bad drug problem in this area that the youth gets sucked into and what these guys are doing is pretty amazing in my opinion,” Rodriguez said.

In line with this, there will be a 50-50 raffle with proceeds going to the Mercer County Drug Prevention Coalition.

By Jose Nogueras

Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.

Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.

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