Some LA Eastside legends, who’s the greatest?

Oscar De La Hoya retires, was he the greatest athlete to ever come out of the Eastside? He certainly was the most popular worldwide, and definitely the most successful financially, He was #2 on the 2007 list of wealthiest athletes, only behind Tiger Woods. De La Hoya made $55 million that year. His Golden Boy Promotions have revolutionized Boxing and have taken it to new heights worldwide.

De La Hoya says he’s retiring from ring

LOS ANGELES — Oscar De La Hoya stopped battling himself Tuesday, deciding after much internal turmoil to retire and end a career in which he won 10 world titles in six divisions and became boxing’s most popular fighter.

He made his announcement at an outdoor plaza across the street from Staples Center, where a 7-foot bronze statue of the 36-year-old Golden Boy stands.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s over,” the East Los Angeles native said before hundreds of fans, including comedian George Lopez and Oscar-nominated actor and former fighter Mickey Rourke. “It’s over inside the ring for me.”

Some other great athletes to come from the Eastside include many characters and in some instances have sad endings, but it also included many groundbreakers in civil and human rights. One thing they all seemed to have in common was a fierce determination and warrior spirit.

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Bert Colima

The great Bert Colima from “Jimtown”, one of the greatest boxers and crowd pleasers ever to put on a pair of gloves. Colima was the darling of the Hollywood crowd and his fights at the Olympic and the old Hollywood Legion were famous for the great Mexican actress Lupe Velez yelling loudly “Geeve eet to Heem Colima!”

Kenny Washington

“One game, some redneck Missouri players were riding Washington pretty good and they would take chalk from the sidelines and rub it in his face. But Kenny…”

The great Kenny Washington from Lincoln Heights, Lincoln High School, the first consensus African American, All American, football player. At UCLA where he played on one of the greatest football teams in college history his teammates were Woody Strode (later a popular actor), and the legendary Jackie Robinson. Kenny Washington was also the first African American Pro Football player who set many records with the LA Rams.

Mike Garrett

Mike Garrett is a member of The Pigskin Club Of Washington, D.C. National Intercollegiate All-American Football Players Honor Roll. Mike Garrett, Aliso Village, Boyle Hts., Roosevelt High School. “The Noblest Trojan of them all”, Heisman Trophy winner, now Athletic Director at USC.

Pancho Gonzáles

“Next to Jackie Robinson, Pancho Gonzáles was the most competitive athlete I’ve ever known” Legendary sports broadcaster, Howard Cosell. (From Latino Sports Legends)

When Ricardo Alonzo “Pancho” Gonzáles was the age of 12, he asked his mother for a bike for his birthday. His mom thought riding a bike was too dangerous so she bought him a tennis racket for fifty-seven cents instead. Richard fell in love with the racket and the game of tennis and began playing as often as he could.
Although Gonzales grew up around the LA Coliseum I’m including him as an Eastside athlete because one of the few places a Chicano like Gonzales could play tennis in those days was at Belvedere Park in East Los. Gonzales was a mean, fierce competitor who was disliked by many. As a young player he not only had being a Mexican American against him  but was a juvenile delinquent and high school dropout and was shunned by the uppity So California Tennis Association .
Considered on everyone’s short list of greatest tennis players of all time Gonzales always hated the nickname “Pancho” which he felt was derogatory towards Mexicans, he preferred to be called Richard.

Gene Brito

“Gene Herman Brito (November 23, 1925 – June 8, 1965) was an American football Defensive end in the National Football League who played nine seasons for the…”

Gene Brito from Lincoln Hts was said to be one of the toughest most fierce competitors ever to play sports,  in high school (Lincoln), College (Loyola), or in the pros, Calvary Stampede, Washington Redskins and the LA Rams.

Bobby Riggs

Bobby was always looking down the road. ‘I want you to know who’s the boss, for the rest of your life, Kid,’ he told me. Bobby Riggs was always candid.”
Bobby Riggs from Highland Park, Franklin High School. A great tennis player and hustler who is best remembered for his tennis match against Billie Jean King that was televised nationwide at the time.

Ben Davidson

“Benjamin Earl Davidson (born June 14, 1940) is a former American football player between 1961 and 1971, most notably in the American…”

The big, vicious, ferocious, Big Ben Davidson from El Sereno, Wilson High School, East LA College, and part of the outlaw Silver and Black Oakland Raiders. With his famous handlebar mustache he also made some money in Hollywood as an actor.
Although many great athletes have come out of the LA Eastside, including Dodgers Willie Davis (Boyle Hts) and Bobby Castillo (Lincoln Hts) the Eastside is most known for it’s boxing greats including Paul Gonzales the 1984 gold medal Olympic champ.

Others include: Don Jordan, welterweight champ in the 1950’s from Boyle Hts (Primera Flats), half black and half Mexican he was a great boxer who unfortunately got hooked up with gangster Mickey Cohen and Mafia boss’s Frankie Carbo and Jack Dragna. He was accused of throwing fights and spent some time in prison.
A couple of other legendary fighters who were rivals on the Eastside were Keeny Teran, who many considered the most talented fighter ever out of the Eastside, and Gil Cadilli who fought some fierce battles, unfortunately Keeny Teran could never lose the heroin habit that he picked up as a kid from El Hoyo Mara, it eventually cost him his life.

Art Aragon

Art Aragon (November 13, 1927 – March 25, 2008), nicknamed “Golden Boy”

Art Aragon was one of my favorites though; he was a real character who Muhammad Ali is said to have patterned himself after. Aragon was a good-looking ladies man who had heated public affairs with Mamie Van Doren, Jane Mansfield, and Marilyn Monroe. He had a vicious rivalry with the Mexican legend Lauro Salas; they had a series of fights including one in an alley behind a restaurant bar in Echo Park.
When Aragon and Salas got older they became friends and I remember an article once in the LA Times, Art Aragon said “I got a surprise visit today from Tony Curtis, only it wasn’t Tony Curtis after all, it was Lauro Salas who got plastic surgery on his face (Salas was an ugly man with lots of scar tissue).
Aragon later became a well known bails bondsman, his motto on his signs and business cards stated proudly “Art Aragon, Bail Bonds, I’ll get you out if it takes ten years”, quite a character.

25 thoughts on “Some LA Eastside legends, who’s the greatest?

  1. Great Post….I’m Gonna have to go with Mike Garrett..He grew up in the Maravilla projects in East L.A then moved to Boyle Heights some where by 1st & Lorena st, not exactly sure..I will ask him next time i see him….So many EastSide Legends to name..
    Lynn Cain, Paul Gonzalez, Willie Davis, Joe Gold, Pancho Gonzalez,Art Aragon, Ray Rodriguez, Ben Davidson, Etc…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQzZ8GZi35s&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uvxdC4GGjs&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xlK5m5wqZQ

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-UzLPTeDiZA&feature=channel_page

    http://s201.photobucket.com/albums/aa318/rhsghs/ELASS/MIKE%20GARRETT/

    Pancho Gonzalez…video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nd0gJzm_EQY

    Willie Davis..video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQ8UBQezEDc&feature=channel_page

  2. Great Post! I’ve noticed over the years that some voices in ELA were not really complimentary of De La Hoya. What’s your take on it? I’ve heard that one reason is that he beat Julio Cesar Chavez who was a big hero here. I also am aware that De La Hoya did lots of community based philanthropic work in the Eastside, but I sometimes got the impression that many individuals were also looking for free handouts from him and badmouthed him when they didn’t get it.

  3. I was not familiar with most of these athletes except De La Hoya and Mike Garrett and I had no idea Mike Garrett was from Boyle Heights. So cool. Thank you for this information donquixote.
    I think De La Hoya’s philanthropic efforts go above and beyond. He donated over $5 million dollars (as of date)to the Oscar De La Hoya high school (where I occasionally work), which is operating in Downtown and its permanent campus under construction on 8th and Lorena.

    Some notable Eastside alumni from Roosevelt High School: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Roosevelt_High_School_(Los_Angeles)

  4. Hey Victoria – I read that ODLH HS is kicking academic ass. How do they do it?

  5. Thanks Eric, and I’m sure I left out some other great athletes and characters from the LA Eastside. I can’t argue with your choice of Mike Garrett who was my favorite as a USC fan, and his pick of Pete Carroll as coach, made Mike Garrett a genius as AD.
    I will hold my tongue though Eric because Kenny Washington and Gene Brito from Lincoln Hts (my old hood), also Pancho Gonzales, transcended sports and were ground-breakers and historical figures as minority’s that smashed racial barriers due their outstanding talent and fierce competitiveness.
    I dug Art Aragon, Bobby Riggs and Ben Davidson for their “don’t give a fuck” outrageous and charismatic personalities.
    The tragic figures of Don Jordan, Keeny Teran, and many others from the LA Eastside, who despite their talent took the wrong fork in the road and fell short are still great stories to be told.

    Al thank you, I have been a big boxing fan all my life and as far as the hate thrown at Oscar by some of his own people I can only say it’s nothing new.
    You are I’m sure well aware of the ingrained cultural tendency of Raza towards envidia when a Mexican is moving on up, the old Mexican Crab Pot theory, It’s still alive and well. Also, in boxing there has always been a fierce rivalry between Chicanos and Mexicanos. Art Aragon, Mando Ramos, Fabela Chavez, Raul Rojas, Bobby Chacon were all Chicanos who were hated and booed by the Mexicano fans. It’s a weird psychological phenomena that could be someones doctoral thesis if they could explain it. Some say that it goes all the way back to when the USA took over the Southwest and Mexico accepted a few million dollars for all that land and it’s inhabitants. It’s said that there was much bitterness from the Mexicano’s left in the USA and who berated the Mexicano’s for “selling not only your land but your own people to the Gringo’s”.
    A very interesting subject that might be dealt with sometime by someone here at the LA Eastside.
    I also remember when De La Hoya was beginning his rise to fame, everyone was criticizing him for not helping the people of the Eastside more. Shit he was just a young kid on the way up and there was everyone with their hand out already and whining that Oscar forgot his own people, bunch of jealous, greedy, bullshit.
    Another irony is that Julio Cesar Chavez son who is a very good boxer is being brought along just like Oscar was, so go figure.

    Victoria there is a ton of history that took place on the Eastside. And you know what is said about people who forget their own history.
    And your right on about De La Hoya’s efforts to help out our young people, good job.

  6. Edward J. Olmos who grew up right next to El Mercadito get’s more credit in East Los but dosen’t do shit for the eastside. Oscar has done so much, while he went flip flop with The First Street Store and Sears he still up there..

    aunque perdistes, your the champ Oscar!

  7. cantinflando, isn’t is great to have representing the Eastside not only a well spoken, clean living, athlete who cares about his community, but a role model who has more than competently invested his own money wisely.
    According to Forbes magazine Oscar is worth upwards of a quarter Billion dollars.
    Not bad for a kid from the Eastside.

  8. Greatest What??? Great topic although a little vague!!
    If I were to say who was the most famous worldwide I would have to say Anthony Quintanna aka Anthony Quinn!!
    World famous accomplished actor, well known around the world!!
    I was never impressed with Oscar,or his money,he didn’t help his old alma mater much after the fire( a multi-millionaire who gives a minimal token donation!!) Wow!! And if he is worth a quarter billion he should be ashamed of himself!!

  9. Vince, sorry about the misunderstanding but I think if you read the post I am asking in the first sentence if Oscar is the greatest athlete to come out of the Eastside. I then go on to submit a number of other athletes for consideration.
    As far as Anthony Quintanna, there is no such actor as far as I know, there is an actor who was born in Chihuahua and raised on the Eastside (Hammel St Elementary), who’s birth name was Antonio Quinn better known as Anthony Quinn and who is one of the greatest individuals to come out of the Eastside, but he wasn’t an athlete,which was what my post is asking about.

    Anthony Quinn – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Anthony Quinn (April 21, 1915 – June 3, 2001) was a Mexican-American actor, as well as a painter and writer. He starred in numerous critically acclaimed and …

  10. I gotta give props to Kenny Washington after looking at his resume..He was a true Pioneer in College & Pro football..Also being teammates with Jackie Robinson at UCLA must have been something Amazing!!…As far as Oscar De La Hoya i could care less bout him like everybody else in East L.A , especially after throwing in the towel against Manny pacquiao..People from the EastSide dont Quit like that….But i give him a little credit for giving back to the community even though he gots Millions & Millions of $$$$$$$$$$$$….

  11. Good job. Oscar De La Hoya did what few others could hope to achieve. He’s a kid from East Los who made more money than any other boxer in history, won championships in more divisions than maybe one or two others and did it with class.
    Your list is great. Although putting Highland Park is a stretch, but acceptable. I grew up in City Terrace and Highland Park was considered North.

  12. I agree Eric, Kenny Washington was one of the all time great athlete’s period, it makes one wonder about how good they would certainly be nowadays with all the modern training techniques and facilities. Besides Kenny Washington’s teamate the one and only Jackie Robinson, how about the incredible athlete and actor Woody Strode? His story is another whole episode in civil rights, and battling against the odds and racial injustice. Strode, after his athletic career was over became a great Hollywood actor (Spartacus, The Professionals,)and a close friend of the famed director John Ford.
    What a backfield UCLA had!
    Also another little tidbit of info, if you ever get a chance to see film of the great historic Jesse Owens winning the 100 meter dash at the 1936 Munich Olympics in front of Hitler and the Nazis, take notice of who was second and lost by a whisper, it was Mack Robinson, Jackie Robinson’s brother and a great athlete in his own right.
    Could be I’m wrong but it seems that those giants of athletic competition and battlers for civil and human rights from yesteryear are in short supply nowadays.

    Brother D, you know 20 or 30 years ago I might agree about Highland Park not being Eastside, but nowadays it is definitely an Eastside community in all aspects.
    It seems the Eastside is expanding even in the face of gentrification moving into the Eastside.

  13. Dq- I was looking at your title, ‘Some LA Eastside Legends’,who’s the greatest? Please excuse my misunderstanding!! You and Mr Desmadre, post the most interesting and notable posts on this website in my opinion!! Perhaps, and it is true Mr. Quintanna was not born on the Eastside, yet he was raised here as a child, and had a very significant impact on the area! In my humble opinion I have to consider him an Eastsider, (but not an athlete, im sorry) yet Oscar was born in East Los Angeles, and trained in his early years, but he will always be considered a “Montebello Boy”, due to his graduation from Schurr High? He also attended Garfield as well, as we all know.

  14. Vince, there is no doubt that Anthony Quinn is a product of the Eastside and one of the most influential people ever to come out of the area. He is one of the greatest actors ever, period. His roles as Zorba the Greek, and in the great great moral story and movie “The Oxbow incident, “La Strada”, and as Zapata’s (Marlon Brando) brother in “Viva Zapata”, are in my humble opinion a spot on authentic portrayal of the philosophy and lives of Mexicano’s and Mexican Americans. Stoicism, pride, humor even in the face of danger and death, that peculiar brand of fatalism that I found and recognize in most of my ancestors from past and present generations.
    Quinn took those peculiar traits and made them universal qualities.

  15. One of the most notable Eastsiders, Guy Gabaldon, who was responsible, almost single handedly, for the the surrender of an entire island of Japanese soldiers and civilians during World War II.

    Atoy Wilson, was one of the first black ice skaters to go after a gold medal and ended up doing ice capades (he was also in Our Lady of Lourdes Boy Scout troop). Lived and grew up off of Brooklyn and Evergreen.

    Los Lobos, Dave Hidalgo graduated from Garfield in 74.

    Thee Midniters, Little Willie G, another band from East LA, come on who hasn’t danced to ‘Sad Girl’

    And, the story as I have heard it, there was a band called the Euclid Avenue Express, who wrote a song that was supposedly stolen and renamed “Expressway to Your Heart”

    Mural Artist George Yepes, grew up near Belvedere Jr High and graduated from Salesian (where he painted the first Mustang Logo on the old gym) in 74, he has also done album covers for Los Lobos “La Pistola y El Corazon’ Album and a large mural in the capital building in Sacramento.

    Another Salesian graduate, Rick Alatorre (73), heads up the LAPD helicopter division, and has been heard once in a while doing local traffic reports.

    Whenever I mention to people that I was born in East LA, everyone brings up Cheech Marin, who didnt even live in East LA, he lived in South Central. But Paul Rodriguez, and Carlos Mencia both did live in the eastside.

  16. Don’t forget, Oscar has titles in like 8 different weights. My vote is for Oscar. Loved how he would enter the ring holding both the Mexican and American flags. A true Chicano.

    Envidia means “envy,” but it also implies backbiting and in commerce, even sabotage. Envidia is behind the common Mexican proverb “Pueblo chico, infierno grande” (Small town, big hell). When discussing envidia, particularly as it relates to business, many Mexicans tell the story of crabs in a pot of boiling water. When one crab tries to get out of the pot, the others pull him back down; if they can’t get out, why should he?

  17. There was another boxer from E.L.A during the late 40’s and early 50’s. His name was Fabela Chavez. I went to Lorena St School with his brothers, Robert and Mike.
    Fabela donated some printed T shirts for our baseball team at Fresno Playground. We were called the “Fabulous Midgets” after his first name.

    Danny Sanchez

  18. Thanks Danny, I remember Fabela Chavez well, a great fighter from the East Side in the 50’s. Chavez was born in New Mexico but grew up on the Eastside like Art Aragon.
    Chavez just recently passed away but his great heart and fighting skill will be long remembered.

  19. Although I wouldn’t classify them as legendary I would acknowledge the following two as great atheletes for making it all the way to the Major Leagues: Pitchers Bobby Castillo and Fred Martinez of Lincoln Heights. Castillo, as many of you know, led Lincoln High to the L.A. City Championships, made the L.A. Dodgers roster from 77-81,taught Fernando the screwball,was Minnesota Twins Pitcher of the Year in 1982 and wound up winning 38 big league games. He also appeared in the NL championship in 1985 against the St. Louis Cardinals, doing some mop up work after Bob Welch got bombed. Castillo is still employed by the Dodgers and you’ll see him partying in the Westside,rooting for the Dodgers during playoff time. Fred Martinez pitched for the Angels in 1980 going 7-9 and then was not heard from again in baseball. His topps card list Lincoln Heights as his residence and my bro Victor worked with his bro,Sergio at Shop Wise on Broadway and Hancock. I can’t seem to recall anybody else from the Eastside making it as far as these two.

  20. Looking back a few years, how about the people who contributed to the music field from Boyle Heights, especially from Roosevelt High School to name a few?
    Andres Rabago Perez aka Andy Russell, singer and actor.
    Lou Adler, record producer and Grammy award winner.
    Edmundo Martinez Totado aka Don Tosti, Bassist (Pachuco Boogie). Lennie Niehaus, Saxophonist, arranger and composer. Lionel “Chico” Sesma, Dee Jay and promoter.
    Anybody remember Alex Yawhis? Radio Host for “The Make Believe Ballroom” and T.V. Dance show for teenagers in the fifties. Alex was better known as Al Jarvis.

    Danny Sanchez
    Roosevelt High School
    Class of 1955

  21. I love to read about the names from the old neighborhood. All I can add is that I remember as a child being around Pancho Gonzales, and Gene Brito. My dad would drag us kiddies along while he played tennis with Richard (Pancho) up at the courts in Verdugo Hills. After Gene Brito was diagnosed with Lou Gerigs disease the teachers and administrators who knew Gene at Lincoln high school would often ask us about Uncle Brito’s condition. Although we never met Anthony Quinn, my dad mentioned they were classmates at Belmont High School in Los Angeles. It’s good seeing them mentioned all together here. Oh, and as for Bobby Riggs…we bought the house he lived in on North Sichel Steet .

  22. Thanks Ann, I also knew and was around Brito a lot as a kid, my dad “Chuck Trujillo” was one of his best friends at Lincoln and afterwards when they both played fastpitch softball for the Airliner. My father is considered the one of the greatest softball pitchers to ever come out of the Eastside and as a child I vividly remember a night game at Arroyo Seco playground when my dad was pitching in a tie game that went into extra innings. I can still see that winning home run ball sailing high over the lights of center field that exploded off of Brito’s bat.

  23. This is very cool!! My father ROBERT A Gonzales aka Bobby Gonzales was the born and raised in Boyle Hights E L A Calif. He was the 1936 Golden Gloves Champion of the pacific coast and besides being a great boxer was the leader of the 1st ST gang. Shortly after his boxing he was drafted and fought in world war 2 for 4 years. After the service he came home and worked with his father at Juan Gonzales Realty. After his fathers death in 1956 my father changed the company to R. A. Gonzales Real Estate. My father and mom Owned and operated that business for 50 years. He had locations on E 1st and on 3rd and Hicks. My father passed in 1997 at almost 80 and mom passed away Feb of 2015 There’s so much more.. thought I’d pitch in my 2 cents. Thanks for reading. Charles Gonzales

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