Bay Area college boxers begin national title chase


Bay Area college boxers begin national title chase

March 17, 2011

Ryan Maquiana

College boxings answer to March Madness features fighters from Cal, San Jose State, Santa Clara, and USF.

These often overlooked student-athletes seek their own version of One Shining Moment in the ring this spring. Their bid for greatness begins Thursday in Reno with the National Collegiate Boxing Association's Far-West Regional Tournament.

The winners will advance to the national championships an the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., April 7-9.

MAQUINANA: What does Donaire's move to De La Hoya mean?

Cal's Andrei Vasilj, San Jose State's Pablo Diaz, Pat Welde of Santa Clara University and USF Ramsey Ayloush represent the Bay Area contingent. Here's a sketch of each fighter:

Andrei Vasilj, light middleweight, Cal
Its been a rebuilding year for the Golden Bears, and head coach Jim Riksheim pulls no punches regarding that feeling.

With the tournament coming up, I feel like Im going into a tiger hut with a pea shooter, he said. Were all brand new, and as far as bout experience, our most veteran guy heading into this season only had three bouts under his belt.

One bright spot has been Vasilj, a 156-pound junior with a penchant for combat, having past experience in Muay Thai. For an international development studies major with designs on joining the Peace Corps after graduation, the 22-year-old junior from North Hollywood is quite the walking dichotomy when the gloves are on.

We practice twice a day, so Ive been able to learn faster than usual, Vasilj said. I love boxing because I love to be active, and it helps me get through my studies.

Hes got a unique style, said team captain Mike Hastings. He comes out hard and fast in every fight, which is surprising for being one of the new guys on the team.

Styles make fights, and such a maxim has carried Vasilj to the regionals in only his first year of competition.

Im aggressive when I need to be, Vasilj said. I have a really long jab, and I use it to set up my opponents for the left hook and straight right.

Andreis a very unusual fighter in that hell catch you off-balance with his footwork or uppercuts at unpredictable times, said Riksheim. You can never figure out what hes going to drop on you.

Nonetheless, due to his lack of experience, Vasilj acknowledges that he will be a bit of an underdog to make it to West Point.

I trust the coaches, and weve worked on a couple techniques these last few weeks, he said. Id say Im the underdog, but Ive got a lot of heart.

Pablo Diaz, welterweight, San Jose State
When he first laced up his gloves last September, Diaz never thought hed find himself competing in Reno this year. That is, until the Fremont native surprisingly outdueled teammate Oscar Gomez in a box-off to be the Spartans 147-pound entrant on Tuesday.

Oscar was a bronze medalist in last years nationals, said SJSU head coach Candy Lopez, who doubles as the lead trainer at the San Jose PAL. However, what Pablo lacks in experience, he makes up for in enthusiasm and technique.

Unbeaten in three bouts this season, the humble first-year graduate student was quick to credit his teammates for his rapid development.

Oscar and a lot of team members have showed me the ropes, Diaz said. He and I both wanted to go to regionals, so we had a box-off. It couldve gone either way.

The 26-year-old American High School has tried to liken his style to light middleweight world champ Miguel Cotto as a nod to his Puerto Rican heritage.

Im half-Mexican, too, but Ive always been a fan of Cottos, because of his poise and confidence in all situations, he said. Hes a warrior when he has to be, though.

The former green belt in Krav Maga chose to attend San Jose State not only for its masters program in counseling, but for the boxing club as well. Upon closer inspection, however, Diaz has a lot more on his plate than books and boxing.

I work at Smart & Final in the morning, then at Durham Elementary School where I tutor second graders, he said. Then I have boxing and then class from until 10 p.m.

While pugilism is undoubtedly a passion Diaz would like to continue after his time at SJSU, he hasnt lost sight of his goals outside the ring.

For the longest time, Ive wanted to participate in the Golden Gloves, he shared. Ultimately, however, I want to be a high school or college counselor. I want to help others reach college and return the favor to the community Im from.

Pat Welde, light welterweight, Santa Clara
Veteran leadership has been the mantra of this seasons Bronco squad, and head coach Pierre Moynier has enjoyed the luxury of having two senior co-captains in his roster.

Its pretty rare to have a boxer all four years in college boxing, said Moynier. To have two like Pat Welde and Luis Sierra has been great for our team.

Welde, a 139-pounder from the fighting city of Philadelphia, has boxing in his blood, even if he didnt want to admit it at first.

Growing up, I wasnt a huge boxing fan, but I started training in fifth grade with my dad, he said. He trained with Robert Hines, who was the light middleweight champion of the world back in 1989. Hes become a great mentor and I do love watching fights now.

Despite being an avid fan of former light welterweight world champ Ricky Hatton, Welde doesnt regularly employ a face-first approach.

Im a southpaw, so that brings an advantage, said the 22-year-old finance major. I can brawl if my opponent wants to brawl, but my game is more working on the outside.

Weldes boxing skills were on full display last Thanksgiving when he defeated a favored fighter from the Naval Academy at the prestigious New York Athletic Club Invitational. This weekend, he looks to make amends for dropping last years regional final.

He lost to a fighter from Cal last year in a pretty bad decision, so this is kind of like redemption for him this time around, said Moynier.

Ramsey Ayloush, middleweight, USF
As the Dons send their contingent to Reno, one of them has been steadily building a reputation for finishing his opponents.

Ramsey Ayloush is 7-0 with six technical knockouts, said USF head coach Angelo Merino. Hes knocked out fighters with three times his experience with body shots. The kid is gifted. Hes like the Energizer Bunny out there.

Ayloush, a 21-year-old senior from Fullerton, has gone from a 190-pound out-of-shape junior to a 165-pound powerhouse in his final campaign.

Ive just always had a chip on my shoulder, he said. Ive always trained super hard. My dedication has been the reason behind my record.

In fact, Ayloushs work ethic has impressed his coach more than the actual results.

Ramseys the first one in the gym waiting for me, and he wont leave until I say hes done, said Merino. Hes always asking me for more work even after my other students leave.

Such drive has fueled his march toward a degree in international business, where he plans to get into the aerospace field someday. However, those dreams can wait for now.

Something Im battling every day is if I want to take a serious shot at pro boxing or go into business, said Ayloush. But as of this moment, my main concerns are doing well at regionals and finishing school.

Freelance writer Ryan Maquiana is a regular contributor to

New Cal coach Wyking Jones ready to prove critics wrong amid changes


New Cal coach Wyking Jones ready to prove critics wrong amid changes

Even the most passionate Cal fan might struggle to name a single player on the current basketball roster. The team's top five leading scorers from last season have all departed. Ivan Rabb and Jabari Bird moved on to the NBA, Grant Mullins graduated, and both Charlie Moore and Kameron Rooks elected to transfer.

But perhaps the most significant change is on the sideline. Out is Cuonzo Martin, who agreed to a massive seven-year contract with Missouri, worth a reported $21 million. Replacing him is 44-year-old Wyking Jones, a longtime assistant coach, who spent the past two seasons as Martin's top aide in Berkeley.

Jones' promotion was met with heavy criticism from many in the media, both locally and nationally. Skeptics believe Cal settled for the cheap option, rather than the best option. But why can't both be true? There's no denying that salary played a factor in the hire - the athletic department's financial troubles have been well documented in recent years. But Jones impressed Athletic Director Mike Williams in other areas too, reportedly acing his job interview with a detailed plan for the program moving forward. And unlike the other candidates, Jones already has direct experience dealing with Cal's unique set of circumstances.

“It's not something that you can walk into and just get a really good grasp of,” Jones explained. “It's a learning curve that, if you walk into this situation for the first time, it would take you a tremendous amount of time. Knowing who to go to when you need things, who's in charge of this, who's in charge of that, just having a familiarity of how to really get things done around here.”

Jones also discovered the challenges of recruiting at a school like Cal, where not every athlete can qualify academically. While many coaches would view that as a negative, Jones chooses to embrace it.

“In my mind, that's what makes this place special,” he said. “It's the number one public institution in the world for a reason. Your recruiting pool shrinks quite a bit, but that's okay because typically what happens is if you get a kid who has a lot of discipline on and off the court, you're not going to run into troubles on the weekends when they're in the dorms. They're usually kids who have a lot of respect for the community and other students.”

From a coaching standpoint, Jones has unquestionably paid his dues in the world of college basketball. Prior to joining Cal as an assistant in 2015, he made stops at Louisville, New Mexico, Pepperdine, and Loyola Marymount, where he also played from 1991-95. Now, after nearly 15 years in collegiate coaching, Wyking Jones is a head coach.

“I think initially it's very exciting to have an opportunity to coach, have your own program at a storied program like Cal, to follow in the footsteps of some great coaches,” he said, smiling. “But now the smoke has cleared and it's time to get to work.”

That work has already begun. As previously mentioned, Jones will have to replace his top five scorers from a year ago, who accounted for nearly 56 points per game. The Bears will count on increased production from senior center Kingsley Okoroh and junior guard Don Coleman. They will also rely heavily on redshirt senior forward Marcus Lee, who sat out last season after transferring from Kentucky.

“It's an adjustment, for sure,” Jones admitted. “But you have 13 scholarships for a reason. It's just an opportunity for the guys who are still here to earn their scholarship. It's an opportunity for them to make a name for themselves and have an impact on this program.”

Under Cuonzo Martin, Cal established itself as one of the best defensive teams in the country. Last season, the Bears ranked 18th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 63.4 points per game. Jones hopes to continue that trend while also implementing a full-court pressure defense, similar to the one he coached at Louisville, which resulted in a national championship in 2013.

“It's a process,” he acknowledged. “In year one, hopefully we can be good at it. In year two, look to improve. In year three, hope to be great at it... It's a type of defense, when you're talking about pressing, it's reading all the other guys on the court. It's never scripted. It's being able to read when is the right time to go trap, when is the right time to go switch, when is the right time to bluff and stunt at a guy to slow him down. So there's a learning curve in it.”

Jones knows there will also be a learning curve for him personally as a head coach, especially with such a young and inexperienced roster. He expects his team to be overlooked and undervalued by much of the college basketball world, but that's just fine with him.

“I think a lot of people will probably guess that we won't be very good, and that's motivation right there. That's motivation for my staff, for our managers, for the support staff. It's motivation for everybody that's a part of this program to exceed those expectations. So I think that makes for an exciting season.”

Hundley comes through late for Giants, pick up walk-off win vs Padres

Hundley comes through late for Giants, pick up walk-off win vs Padres


SAN FRANCISCO  — Nick Hundley singled in Kelby Tomlinson with two outs in the 12th inning, lifting the San Francisco Giants to a 5-4 victory over the San Diego Padres on Saturday.

Pinch-hitter Tomlinson reached on a fielder's choice and took second on a wild pitch from Kevin Quackenbush (0-2). After Hunter Pence flied out, Hundley lined an 0-1 pitch over the head of left fielder Jose Pirela as Tomlinson rounded third and scored without a throw.

It was Hundley's fifth game-ending hit of his career and his first since July 11, 2014, with Baltimore.

It was the Giants' second win in the last nine games against their division rivals at AT&T Park.

Eduardo Nunez had three hits and two RBIs, Hundley singled twice and San Francisco took advantage of an error by San Diego shortstop Allen Cordoba that led to three unearned runs.

Will Myers hit his second homer in two days as part of San Diego's four-run fourth but the Padres wasted multiple opportunities and lost for the fourth time in six games.

Josh Osich (3-1) retired five batters and struck out three in getting the win.

One day after the teams played 11 innings in a game that lasted nearly 5 hours, the Giants and Padres had another extended battle.

The Giants left the bases loaded in the sixth and stranded runners at second and third in the eighth.

San Diego got the go-ahead runner to third with two outs in the ninth but came up short when pinch-hitter Hector Sanchez grounded out.

Both teams had the leadoff runner on in the 10th but failed to score.

Luis Perdomo hit his third triple of the season in the fourth inning. The last pitcher to hit three triples in a season was Dontrelle Willis in 2007. Perdomo's three triples this season are the most-ever by a Padre pitcher in team history (since 1969). The Padres have four triples in the first three games of this series.

Padres: INF Erick Aybar was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a bruised left foot. The injury happened Friday night when Aybar fouled a ball off his foot. LHP Buddy Bauman was reinstated from the 60-day DL to take Aybar's spot.

Giants: C Buster Posey was held out of the starting lineup after catching all 11 innings of Friday's game. San Francisco's All-Star struck out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth.

RHP Dinelson Lamet (3-4, 6.40 ERA) pitches the series finale for San Diego on Sunday while the Giants counter with LHP Ty Blach (6-5, 4.36 ERA). Lamet has had seven or more strikeouts in five of his nine starts this season.