831 Magazine, By Mark C. Anderson
Two-time heavyweight champ and former 49er top a rare boxing benefit.
They don’t make too many underdogs like this; former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Dana Stubblefield is a world champion weighing more than 300 pounds. But Stubblefield, an All-Pro defensive tackle for the San Francisco 49ers during a dominant run that peaked with the ‘ 95 Title, is just that, given he’s facing two-time heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe. And theirs is just one of the uniquely intriguing—and unlikely—match ups at Saturday’s Celebrity Boxing for Charity at the Monterey Hyatt Regency.
Case in point: It seems it would make more sense for local celeb-chef Rich Pepe (Little Napoli, Péppoli) to focus on throwing pizzas rather than punches, to stick with pounding calamari in Carmel rather than a pro fighter who grew up on a Salinas Avenue called “Killer Street.”
But the 57-year-old Pepe, after training with the Salinas’ Garcia Boxing for three months now, has a date to dance with Jesus “Chuy” Rodriguez (19-3), an eyelid-quick 29-year old whose next fight is May 1 in Las Vegas against former undisputed welterweight champion of the world Zab Judah.
“Hopefully Pepe doesn’t hurt him too much,” says Kathy Garcia, of Garcia Boxing, whose stable of fighters (trained by husband Max) includes top local talents like Rodriguez, “so Chuy can fight on the first.”
Pepe’s wife might be hoping something is different, like, say, that Rodriguez doesn’t leave hubby’s face looking like the Bolognese di Bari at Little Napoli.
But Pepe has his own hopes for the evening, which starts with a 6pm champagne toast, moves into ringside dinner in the ballroom before the fight card—with Stubblefield-Bowe at the top—starts unfolding.
“ I want to give him some inspiration for his next pro fight“, Pepe says. “But really I’m looking forward to upping awareness to some of issues we have on the Peninsula, children who have fallen on hard times, to help support The Kinship Center, a really worthwhile group that a log of people on the Peninsula don’t know about.”
Then Pepe paraphrases: “I’m willing to step in the ring and get my ass kicked to bring attention to this cause.”
He’ll get plenty of help in his efforts to support the Salinas-based center, whose mission is to create, preserve and support foster and adoptive families for kids that need them the most: Event masterminds Melissa and Sam Garcia (Max and Kathy’s kids) have stacked the night with a number of personalities and pugilists with impress…