Saturday night, on a small club show in Natomas, Calif., former WBA welterweight beltholder James Page returned to the ring for the first time in more than a decade at 41 years of age in the six-round main event at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel against journeyman Rahman Yusubov of Azerbaijan.
In the first 30 seconds, Page (25-5, 19 KOs) nearly made it a triumphant return as he wobbled Yusubov (9-9, 7 KOs) with the first left hook he landed, but due to a deterioration of skills caused by spending 11 years behind bars after being a party to multiple bank robberies, he was unable to land the follow-up barrage that would have ended the night early.
In the closing seconds of the opening round, Yusubov landed some harsh shots with Page on the ropes that rocked the comebacking Pittsburg, Calif. native badly. In the 2nd round, Yusubov would continue his assault, landing tremendous blows that had Page in bad shape from the first moments of the round. Page took shot after shot, somehow remaining upright before Yusubov finally put him down in a heap at the midway point of the round and the referee called the bout off.
Though Page's comeback wasn't a success, it was an incredible story to see unfold as he returned to the gym soon after being released from jail, sparring with middleweight prospect Omar Henry and junior middleweight contender Alfredo Angulo, who was returning from his own layoff due to spending seven months in an immigration detention center. From all accounts from those who had seen Page in the gym, he looked good, far better than you'd expect from a guy who hadn't traded blows since Limp Bizkit topped the Billboard charts.
Unfortunately, sparring and working in the gym are vastly different things from trading punches without headgear, and Page showed that although his power still existed, he wasn't the same fighter that obliterated many foes with left hooks in the late 90s. He did, however, show that he had a lot of people behind him as he accounted for a majority of the tickets sold, even more than the evening's promoter thought he would sell.
A high-standing member of the California State Athletic Commission, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that due to the result of the bout, they would likely not license Page for a fight again. Though is ring career is likely over, Page's experiences as a fighter and man are worth learning from, and hopefully he stays on the straight and narrow to where the younger crop of fighters emerging in Northern California could stand to learn from him.
On the undercard, Hayward junior middleweight Aaron Coley (4-0, 2 KOs) scored a 2nd round stoppage of Chad Dietmeyer (1-2) of Arizona. Coley was a little stiff in the opening round but loosened up and rocked Dietmeyer on the ropes in the second before putting him down with a flurry. Dietmeyer would get up, but only mere moments later would get stopped.
Sacramento featherweight Alberto Torres (2-0) survived what was ruled a 1st round knockdown in order to earn a tight unanimous decision over Christian Navarro (0-2) of Los Angeles. Scores were 38-37 thrice.
Richmond, Calif. junior welterweight Aldwayne Simpson (4-0, 2 KOs) won a clear but difficult four-round majority decision over Los Angeles' Joaquin Chavez (1-5-2, KO). Simpson, who sparred with Robert Guerrero and spars with top trainer Virgil Hunter's emerging northern California stable, was the superior fighter but often got a bit wild with his shots, allowing Chavez to be effective in spurts. Simpson landed the far superior punches throughout the bout, as his handspeed troubled his outclassed opponent. Scores were 40-36, 39-37, and 38-38.
Sacramento junior featherweight fan favorite John Abella (3-0-1, 2 KOs) fought to a technical draw with Chula Vista, Calif.'s Salvador Cifuentes (1-4-1) when the two clashed heads in the 2nd round, causing a bad cut for Abella. Neither fighter had really established control up until that point and the fight was up for grabs.
In the opening bout of the evening, Las Vegas middleweight Maricela Cornejo (2-0, KO) stopped debuting Terri Lowe of Sacramento in the 3rd round of their scheduled four-round womens bout. The bout featured tons of action but little in terms of skill as the two slugged it out, with Cornejo's straighter, faster shots finding a home regularly. Lowe was game, staying upright but taking a pounding in the process before referee Ray Balowitz stopped the fight at 1:13 of the round.
The card was the second promoted by new Sacramento based promoter OPP Presents and a near packed house showed up in support. Their next show is slated to take place in February, and there are talks of exciting Sacramento featherweight Guy Robb headlining, according to Robb, who engaged in one of 2012's best fights with Joel Diaz, Jr. back in January on ShoBox.