Tolleson rejects bid to stage boxing, martial arts matches
Many who voiced opposition feared violence
A City Council member partnered with a Valley promoter to bring boxing and mixed martial arts matches to Tolleson, but concerns over security, parking and alcohol have knocked out the proposal.
The council last week voted, 3-3, on Councilman Jose "Diego" Espinoza's use-permit request. The tie effectively defeated the application.
Espinoza abstained from voting. The matches would have been held Saturday in the parking lot of his business, Fuego Bar & Grill, 9118 W. Van Buren St. The capacity would have been 1,000 fans.
Council members Juan Rodriguez, Albert Mendoza and Linda Laborin rejected the use permit. Mayor Adolfo Gámez, Councilwoman Clorinda Erives and Vice Mayor Kathie Farr voted in favor of it.
Rodriguez described boxing as a great sport, but mixed martial arts as dangerous. He would have approved the event if Phoenix-based Ayala Promotions had taken mixed martial arts out of the mix.
Boxing, which is traced to the first boxing match in England in 1681, consists of punching above the waist and defensive moves.
Mixed martial arts, which was popularized in the early 1990s, combines martial arts that include punching, kicking and grappling. Mixed martial arts
can be engaged in standing and on the ground.
Erives said she watches TV and has seen chairs thrown in martial arts events. She was concerned about flying chairs.
Some neighbors also opposed the event, including 11 who signed a letter against it. Residents filled the Nov. 10 meeting in opposition, some saying it would bring violence to the community.
Resident Eva Ledesma said neighbors are concerned about the fighting spilling over into the streets.
"You can protect the people inside, but once the people walk out, there will be issues with the situation," she said. "When there's drinking and a lot of aggressiveness involved, I think it could be something worse."
Promoter Steve Ayala said mixed martial arts actually is less dangerous than boxing. He said he had hired plenty of security for inside and outside the venue, including off-duty police officers.
Ayala believes some council members misunderstood his promotion, noting no one throws chairs.
"I don't know if they mixed up MMA with WWF," Ayala said. WWF was the World Wrestling Federation, which is now the WWE, World Wrestling Entertainment, a mix of professional wrestling and showmanship in which sometimes chairs are thrown and used to batter opponents.
Ayala said his event is family-oriented and is sanctioned by the Arizona Boxing Commission, which is run by the state Department of Racing. The fights would operate under Arizona regulations.
Ayala said the fighters he features are professionals working to improve their skills and records. He planned to donate half the proceeds from liquor sales to Tolleson's annual Thanksgiving dinner.
Ayala still plans to hold the event in Tolleson. He said that only his request to serve alcohol was rejected.
But Gámez and City Manager Reyes Medrano Jr. said the council voted down the use permit. In order for the event to go on, it would have to come back before the council for another vote before Saturday.
"I don't think there was any misunderstanding," Gámez said of the vote.
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