Fathers and Sons



Fathers and Sons

Tommy O’Leary’s Gym was no longer called O’Leary’s when it caught fire in the late summer of 1970.

O’Leary’s nephew, Ray Valine, kept the gym open in honor and out of respect for his uncle, even though he was losing money every month.

The Vietnam War had removed many active boxers from the local scene, and with the gym doing little business Valine constantly threatened to close it, which he did earlier in 1970.

The Capitol Boxing Gym

The writer boxed out of this gym

It opened again a few months later as Guido’s Gym, run by Guido Giometti, long-time local fight figure and former manager of Trinidad “Trino” Savala, who nearly died in the fire.

Also injured were Arturo Vingochea, who broke the heels of both feet by jumping to the street from the second floor gym, and Alfredo Barrios, who had been cut by breaking a window through which to escape.

Savala had once been a bantamweight heartthrob, and the first man to beat Jesus Pimentel. Whatever magic Savala bottled that night must have spilled elsewhere, for he would lose ten of his next twelve fights to end his career.

Found unconscious due to smoke inhalation by firemen in the burning building, Savala was hospitalized in intensive care for some time before his release and would be severely disabled for the remainder of his life, dying in 2004 at age 61.

Vingochea was once thought to have as much, and possibly more, potential than Savala, but whose nickname, “Vino,” hints at what might have undone his career, would die four years after this fire.

Presumably intoxicated, he climbed from the window of his second floor residential hotel room, falling to his death.

There were lawsuits and settlements, of course, and although everyone agreed the boxers were not to have been in the gym that night, where they had decided to stay after a night of drinking, there were arguments about how regularly the men might have been using the gym as a dwelling, and also about who really owned the gym and was therefore financially responsible for damages.

The argument was over whose pockets were deeper.

Sacramento was a desert without a boxing gym for only a short while.

The classified section of the Sacramento Bee included a notice by Ed Vinson, who was looking for a building that could serve as a gym.

The Capitol Boxing Gym opened at 3703 Stockton Boulevard in the fall of 1970, with Ernie Guevara and Sam Costa, friends of Vinson, as proprietors.

Guevara had been a professional fighter in Utah before relocating to the Broderick section of what is now West Sacramento.

He drilled his sons in the fundamentals of boxing, but not until he had the gym did they begin training seriously, eventually competing, a couple becoming professionals.

A younger son, Joe, was 14-0 and the state bantamweight champion, with victories over Frankie Duarte and Davey Vasquez, when his ambition and the impatience of manager Jerry Jacobs led to consecutive, brutal losses to Carlos Zarate, Roberto Rubaldino, and Wilfredo Gomez.

His confidence shot, Guevara would be stopped twice more before enlisting in the Marines.

He returned four years later as a featherweight – stronger, more powerful, but also slower – and was entertaining but not a world-beater.

A couple doors down from the gym, George Capachi ran an automobile upholstery business.

Capachi had been born across the street and a few blocks north, in an Oak Park house located where the Colonial Theatre would be built in 1940.

Technically speaking, Stockton Boulevard separates the districts of Oak Park and Tahoe Park, but for all practical purposes, the gym was in Oak Park, which had once been a solid, working-class community.

The neighborhood was established in 1910, and was known as a “street car suburb,” with transportation provided by an electric street car.

The Colonial Theatre was an attractive building, designed with art deco features, one of about 20 movie theaters in the Sacramento area.

Cars and buses would eventually replace the street cars.

Multiplex cinemas on the edges of town or in suburbs took business away from the single theaters, with many going bankrupt or the land upon which the theaters stood becoming valuable for other types of commerce.

Most would eventually be torn down, the stately Alhambra Theatre among them, now the site of a Safeway grocery store.

This was 50 years ago, but I know people to this day who live within a block or two of Safeway but refuse to shop there for how it came to be.

The Colonial still stands, but no longer shows major movies.

The attractive building

The only theatre among the originals still operating as a movie house as we know them is the Tower, on the corner of Broadway and Land Park, which now shows art films and independent features.

The construction of US highway 50 and state highway 99, bifurcating Sacramento along both north-south and east-west axes, and Interstate-5, set alongside the Sacramento River as the inducement for a downtown location of a Macy’s Department Store, separated what was once a whole city into private quarters, effectively creating gated communities.

Highway 50 insulated the affluent Land Park area from the Sacramento population to the north, and 99 segregated Oak Park from where it once merged with the Curtis Park and Land Park areas.

Urban development and the interstate dislocated the economically disadvantaged, with many moving into Oak Park.

I am not sure how consciously intent city leaders were in isolating communities from one another within Sacramento, but a map would provide not much defense if such charges were ever filed.

Broadway and Stockton Boulevards, major thoroughfares of Oak Park, suffered as a result. Evidence of unemployment, drugs, and prostitution was everywhere.

The Colonial Theatre declined greatly and began showing blue films, a softer shade of blue at first that darkened as economics demanded. It would also show Spanish language films, primarily Mexican movies, and Indian art films.

The City of Sacramento contributed funds to restore the Colonial to its art deco brilliance, hoping the theatre would serve as the keystone for the return of Oak Park to its former comfortable and safe days of dignity.

But the Colonial Theatre was not a place most people thought about when taking someone on a date.

Joint was more sassy than classy

A 2000 Bee feature described the Colonial almost like an old fighter, how “In the past 60 years, the Colonial Theater in Oak Park has been through urban blight and neglect, received face-lifts and paint jobs, seen good times and bad, all the while avoiding the wrecking-ball fate of most single screen theaters.”

New ownership restructured the interior, laying to rest the movie days, converting the Colonial into more of a small performance center.

Stand-up comedians, musical bands with a modest following, small scale professional wrestling.

It once featured a boxing card, promoted by Sacramento resident Rogelio Castañeda, with his two professionally boxing sons scheduled to headline.

Castañeda grew up in the Mexican state of Michoacan.

The Bee reported Castañeda dreamed as a boy of being a musician or a fighter, of “leaving the countryside for the bright lights he knew were meant for him.”

He made his way to Tijuana, but had difficulty learning how the play the guitar.

“I didn’t have musical ability,” Castañeda said.

Boxing came easier, though, so he became a fighter, the first-half of his career spent in the Tijuana area. reports Castañeda’s record as rather spotty, having lost slightly more fights than he won, many of the losses coming near the end of his career.

But many of Castañeda’s early fights were most certainly at such a low level of sanctioning and supervision that little evidence of this history exists. only details fights for which it finds verification.

One Bee writer reported Castañeda’s record as being 45-13. This range seems to be more plausible, a more accurate reflection of Castañeda’s talent.

He eventually made his way to Los Angeles, occasionally fighting at the Olympic for promoter and matchmaker Don Chargin.

Chargin thought highly of Castañeda.

“Rogelio was a sound fighter,” Chargin said. “He had above average power and he probably had the best chin in his weight division.

“He was tough but he was mismanaged. He’d get a good win at the Olympic, then his handlers would take him elsewhere and he’d get beat.”

Castañeda agreed with this assessment. “I didn’t have anybody looking out for me,” he said.

“[H]e never took bad beatings and he held his own against some excellent fighters,” Chargin said.

Castañeda would fight three world champions in non-title fights, losing each fight.

“I was always in shape, and I was used a lot as a last minute replacement,” Castañeda said. “I took a lot of fights on short notice.”

He retired from boxing in 1980, believing the “establishment was stacked against guys like him.”

Castaneda and his young family moved to Sacramento in the early 1990s.

Castañeda was friends with Javier Quintero of the musical group Los Acuario de Mexico.

The band members lived in Sacramento but toured throughout the US and Mexico and were best known at this time for a couple hits, 1984’s “Mi Corazon Liora Porti,” and 1991’s “La Hielera.”

Quintero said his dream was to come up with another hit, but that Castañeda’s dream “is to train a world champion.”

Enter Castañeda’s sons, Rogelio, Jr., and Ernesto.

The son of Rogelio, Rogelio Jr

It is through the Castañeda boys that the father meant to claim what he felt had been denied him.

“He was famous once, Quintero said of Castaneda. “Everyone wanted to have their picture taken with him.”

“I never had a chance to fight for a world championship and I’m hopeful one of my sons, if not both, will get that chance,” Castañeda said. “Everything I learned as a fighter I want to pass along to my sons as their trainer.”

The careers of both boys began well enough, especially for Rogelio, Jr., victorious in 12 of his first 15 fights with one draw and being promoted by Chargin.

The young Castañeda was in good hands and in the middle of a serious apprenticeship.

But, as often happens when fathers and sons are involved together in the boxing business, the father can become agitated when another man begins to exert influence upon the son.

Don Chargin is not as famous a name to the casual boxing fan as a Bob Arum or a Don King or, currently, Oscar de la Hoya. But

Chargin was as an astute observer of boxing talent as has ever breathed air. If he is devoting his time to the development of your son’s professional career, that means he thinks your son has potential.

So it is almost incomprehensible, from a rational perspective, that the father did what he did, severing the ties between Chargin and his sons.

But Castañeda, Sr., was not the first father in boxing, nor will he be the last, to confuse the boundary separating the self of the son with the desires and ambitions of the father.

Chargin wanted to develop Castañeda’s sons slowly, allowing them a well-rounded education in the ring with ample experience before being tested against other top talent.

This is how he promoted Loreto Garza to a WBA championship – Garza had 28 professional fights before receiving his title shot.

Don Chargin

Tony “The Tiger” Lopez had 30 fights before taking Rocky Lockridge’s IBF title in what was Ring Magazine’s fight of the year.

Chargin had a good track record and over 50 years of experience in boxing. He knew what he was doing.

Castañeda, Sr., disagreed with the plan of cautious development, which is especially ironic given his own personal history.

He knew as well as anyone what Chargin could do for a fighter.

He knew what happens to talented boxers who don’t have top promoters looking after them.

“I’m going to make sure my sons get a chance at world championships,” the father said, thinking the “boxing establishment” was “stifling” his sons.

The boys might have been stifled, but it wasn’t by Chargin.

Castañeda, Sr., took his namesake on the road, fighting other emerging prospects. Rogelio, Jr., fought and lost to the then undefeated Richard Sierra in Miami, for something called the WBA Fedecentro lightweight title.

He fought the experienced James Crayton in Las Vegas in a losing effort. He would lose eight of thirteen fights.

One of the fights Castañeda, Jr., won was an eight-round decision over the struggling neophyte Victor Manuel Gomez.

This was the fight promoted by his father at the Colonial Theatre, in the father’s attempt to usurp Chargin’s power and influence.

Fighting someone like Gomez, who had been unvictorious in three previous fights, is no more helpful than fighting a world champion when you are still in the learning stage of your career.

Rogelio, Jr., under his father’s guidance, was either in over his head or fighting someone who had no business being in the ring with him.

The paid attendance at the Colonial that night was 152 people.

But Castañeda, Sr., who knew what was coming business-wise, was obstinate. “If people don’t show up I may bend, but I won’t break,” he said.

Described by Bee columnist Marcos Breton as “A barrel-chested, boastful, defiant man,” Castañeda, Sr., held a grudge against Chargin. The feeling was not mutual.

“I wish them luck,” Chargin said of Ernesto and Rogelio, Jr. “They come from good stock. Their father was a good fighter.

“I’m very fond of both boys, but me and their father didn’t see eye to eye.”

Ernesto would remain with his father throughout his career, retiring with eleven victories and two draws out of 21 fights, never really advancing beyond the six-round preliminary stage.

But Rogelio, Jr., would separate, realizing his success required a different path.

He associated for a short time with someone less helpful than even his father, but then reunited with Chargin, who, according to the Bee’s Jim Jenkins, “attempted to gradually build Castañeda’s confidence against more realistic competition.”

When Castaneda beat the previously undefeated Craig Weber in July, 2003, Jenkins wrote that the “victory helped resurrect Castaneda’s career.”

Chargin served as an advisor for de la Hoya’s promotional company, Golden Boy, and with the help of the two promoters Castañeda’s career flourished.

Chargin spoke of a possible Castañeda fight with Ricky Hatton on Showtime.

Castañeda won the IBA 140-pound championship in 2005 and defended it a couple times. But he also proved to be his father’s son, in matters of pride and willfulness.

“We’ve invited Rogelio to some better gyms around the state where he can get good sparring, but he prefers to do his training locally,” Chargin said.

Castañeda did his floor work near his North Highlands home, and traveled to Sacramento gyms for sparring.

“With most fighters that would be a concern,” Chargin explained. “But so far, it hasn’t been with him. You tell him what the weight of his next fight will be, and he makes it. He knows how much work to put in. He’s very disciplined.”

“Since I’ve started fighting for Mr. Chargin, I decided to train myself,” Castañeda said. “When it’s time to fight, he makes sure I have cornermen I’m used to working with. Later on, maybe, I will have a regular manager and trainer. But not now.”

Although political and business pragmatics separated father and son, the Castañedas were still a family.

Rogelio, Jr., sometimes trained with his younger brother, and Castañeda, Sr., admitted how nerve-wracking it was to watch his son fight without him, without being able to provide some sense of help.

Chargin arranged for the young Castañeda to fight Demetrius Hopkins, nephew of Hall-of-Fame middleweight Bernard, in an IBF title eliminator match.

The winner was to fight Juan Urango for the championship. The son was approaching his father’s dream for him.

But Castañeda lost what he admitted was “the biggest fight of my career.” The hard, dry years under his father’s tutelage had undoubtedly taken a toll, and the blossoming of his career would be a short-lived bloom.

Castañeda would have more chances with Chargin, though, coming up second best against Francisco Bojado and Lamont Peterson.

A first-round loss to future champion Lucas Matthysse in 2010 should have spelled the end of a career, and for Chargin it did.

But Castañeda would return in 2013 to lose seven more times before retiring for good.