The city of Solvang is named after the Danish word for “sunny fields,” and the picturesque town lives up to its name with the beautiful rolling landscapes, and of course, Danish architecture.
So, it might seem odd for the dreamy town to host an amateur boxing event filled with grit, determination, sweat and just a little bit of blood.
But, that is just what happened Saturday at Solvang’s Veterans Hall with the inaugural Viking Cup, featuring ten amateur boxing bouts with fighters from Santa Maria, Lompoc, Santa Barbara, and even from the San Fernando Valley. Proceeds from the event will be used to help pay for equipment and fees of several boxing clubs.
Jim Richardson, Solvang’s mayor, was on hand to catch his first boxing match in person while also helping out with some of the judging.
“I find it really exciting,” Richardson said. “And to see these young kids and the sportsmanship, it’s really something to behold. And the matches are wonderful, it’s real exciting to watch.”
The matches certainly were wonderful, especially for the Santa Maria Boxing Club as the group won three out of their four fights including the “Fight of the Night” that went to Manuel Romero who defeated Miguel Sanchez in a slugfest.
“The fights are great and a lot of kids are fighting out here so everything is pretty terrific,” the 25-year-old Romero said after just his second amateur fight.
Romero’s battle may have won the award for best fight, but there was certainly plenty of competition for that crown, especially from the youngsters who displayed their ability to put on a great show no matter their diminutive statures.
“I find that the younger boxers provide more of an exciting bout,” Richardson said. “The older guys have more technical skill and punch harder, but there is usually more time in between those punches.”
Branden Gutierrez, 12, of the Santa Maria Boxing Club dazzled the crowd with his winning performance. Gutierrez has been boxing for almost two years and says he likes the daring nature of the sport.
“I like that it’s aggressive,” he said after improving his record to 7-2. “I was always aggressive when I was small, I would get mad easily, but it calms me down.”
Gutierrez currently attends Miller school and said he models his skills after his favorite boxer Manny Pacquiao.
Getting the show started for the Santa Maria Boxing Club was Steven Flores who took on Karil Vivi from Tahiti.
Before the fight Vivi presented a traditional Tahitian necklace as a gift to Flores who returned the favor with a rosary and a T-shirt. The crowd erupted into applause for the endearing display of cultural understanding and sportsmanship. The crowd then went onto applaud Flores who went to work showing off his arsenal of punches.
“I’m trying impress the judges and take over the fight,” the 16-year-old Flores said. Flores sports an undefeated record of 7-0 and is a sophomore at Santa Maria High. He said boxing keeps him focused and out of trouble.
“During my freshman year I wanted to get into a sport,” he said. “It keeps me busy. At first I didn’t want to take it seriously but now I am.”
Salvador Vaca, 23, of Lompoc had his hands full with Zlatko Ledic in his bout. Vaca and Ledic were similar in weight but Ledic towered over Vaca.
Vaca started off strong with a feisty first round, eliciting shouts from the crowd several times. But he may have ultimately tired himself out as Ledic went on to control the rest of the fight with his reach and conditioning advantage.
The bouts took place in the Vets Hall main room that attracted nearly 300 spectators. The crowd was treated to plenty of exciting bursts of punching flurries and all the fights went off without a hitch.
Mayor Richardson said events like the Viking Cup help boost tourism in Solvang, which Richardson said is the ‘lifeblood’ of the city.
“Well you have to understand that tourism provides about 50-percent of the revenues to operate the city,” he said. “To have events like these of course bring in the tourists. I think this could become one of our regular events.”