Forget Who’s on First? this month, let’s round the bases and take a look back at all of the stories we covered in 2014!
When it comes to sports in the county, nothing is bigger than high school football. This year’s annual game between Ventura High and Buena High was proof, as it had the feel of a rock concert complete with actual beer drinking, tailgating in the next-door neighborhood turned parking-lot party. Thousands of all ages and backgrounds packed Buena’s stadium to watch the home team lose by a fairly wide margin, but no matter the outcome, it’s got our vote for local sporting event of 2014.
At the game, Ventura High alumni were all smiles, including mixed martial arts fighter, and former Ventura High wrestling standout Chris Beal. You may remember Beal from our feature on him in this column earlier this year detailing his battle with cancer and his being selected to appear on the TV show The Ultimate Fighter. While an injury led to a heartbreaking loss on the show, Beal was offered a surprise opportunity to fight in the UFC a few months later. To say he seized the day would be an understatement. With an action-movie-worthy flying knee stopping his opponent cold, not only did he make ESPN’s Sportscenter’s Top 10 Plays of the Day, he also earned a $50,000 performance of the night bonus, instantly changing the young man’s life and bank account. He went on to fight again last year, and win, and he will now travel to Stockholm, Sweden, in January for his third fight with the UFC. With another victory or two, a title shot and fame in the MMA world could be in Beal’s future in 2015.
Everybody loves titles and championships and two Ventura schools made us all proud in 2014. The Ventura College Women’s basketball team took home the state championship; and more recently Ventura High’s boys’ cross country team led by running protégé Garrett Reynolds, won the state championship as well.
Spencer Makenzie’s Throwdown, the annual cornhole, aka beanbag, tournament that took place this summer outside of the downtown restaurant is shaping up to become a bona fide national event. Two-man teams, from as far away as Illinois, did battle, and with a $3,000 prize on the line, the tournament was technically the third-biggest cornhole competition in the country.
For now, what the world thinks when it comes to sports in the 805 is undoubtedly boxing. The popularity of pugilism continues to grow with the success of locally based fighters, and former champions like Brandon Rios and Victor Ortiz, and the influx of world-class fighters from around the world like Argentina’s Marcos Maidana and Russia’s Evgeny Gradovich, who came to the 805 in 2014 to train at gyms like Robert Garcia’s Boxing Academy in Oxnard and Knuckleheadz Boxing in Ventura. Three local cards took place this past year, which saw homegrown fighters like Oxnard’s Abraham Lopez and Santa Paula’s Indian Banuelos notching the Ws. This new crop of local boxers, led by Oxnard’s Hugo “The Boss” Centeno, who made his debut on HBO last month in stunning fashion, should continue to keep the spotlight on Ventura County.
The main-event headliner of two of those previously mentioned local fights was “The Real Million Dollar Baby” Maureen Shea, who scored a lightly regarded women’s belt, technically making it the first-ever world title fight to take place in Ventura County. Now 2015 is set to be a dream-come-true year as Shea is in negotiations for a legitimate world title shot, a fight that could end up being the first female title fight on national television in years.
The unlikely, and awesome, rise of Ventura BMX and its dirt track at Kimball Park located on the East End of Ventura, got the star treatment when it hosted the Seaside Nationals, an official stop on the National BMX USA tour that saw thousands in attendance. The event will be coming back in 2015 and is only expected to be bigger and better, officially making Ventura a hotbed for the “rad” sport.
BMX wasn’t the only massively popular sport of the ’80s that’s in the midst of a full-on resurgence. Professional wrestling is back in a big way, too. There’s a few regional promotions that have decided to fight the Goliath, and one has set up shop in Port Hueneme at the Oceanview Pavilion. Championship Wrestling from Hollywood (CWFH), has been holding totally free television tapings at the supercool beachside venue.
Keep the tips and suggestions coming on who you want to see covered in Who’s on First? in 2015 and be sure to have a sporting year!