Ring is everything to brothers

Aug. 22 was Ivan Vergara’s 22nd birthday. He did not go to college after graduating from Vacaville High School in 2015 and is not planning to do so anytime soon. His part-time job is teaching a 90-minute boxing class four days a week that earns him just enough money to take his girlfriend to a movie.

Vergara cannot afford to leave the nest. He lives in his mother’s three-bedroom house with his grandmother and four brothers. His oldest brother has his girlfriend and their two sons under the same roof. His other three brothers share a bedroom, which is not where Felipe expected to be at the age of 23.

Felipe, who goes by the nickname of Bubba, is much like Ivan in that he has put the real world on hold. Ivan is a professional fighter with aspirations of fame and fortune in the ring. Bubba will be in his corner figuratively and literally to guide Ivan on his way to what they hope will be a world championship.

Felipe “Bubba” Vergara tapes Ivan’s hands before the Aug. 2 bout against Malikia Johnson in Sacramento. Ivan lost by unanimous decision to drop to 8-1 as a pro.

Ivan is a product of Al Lagardo and the Vacaville Police Activities League boxing program. Ivan continues to train with Lagardo at Georgie Duke Sports Center, but Bubba is at his brother’s side on fight night.

Or in his face. That was the case Aug. 2 when Ivan took his 8-0 record to Sacramento to battle Malikia Johnson (4-0-1). The two met in 2016 as amateurs in Vacaville on the Fiesta Days boxing card with Ivan winning by decision. The Aug. 2 fight was in Johnson’s backyard at the Doubletree by Hilton hotel.

Ivan admitted he started slow to gauge Johnson’s hand speed and power. Bubba implored Ivan to be more aggressive by putting his punches together instead of throwing just one at a time and stepping back. Ivan put himself in a precarious position by giving away the first two rounds in the six-round bout.

“I knew he needed a knockout,” Bubba lamented after Ivan lost by unanimous decision. “He could have pushed the action more (in the first two rounds). He could have been busier. We have to turn the page, but it’s not going away anytime soon. His undefeated record was taken away, but it’s not over.”

The brothers could not conceal their disappointment when the judges’ scores were announced. Two judges had it 59-55, meaning they believed Johnson won five rounds. The third had it 58-56 for Johnson. Swallowing the the loss was easier for Ivan and Bubba than accepting how anyone thought Johnson won five rounds.

“Toward the end of the third (round) and in the fourth, I thought I had control of the fight.,” Ivan said. “I was more aggressive. I pushed the action more. I landed the cleaner shots. I still feel like I won the fight.”

Ivan maintained his composure after leaving the ring and making his way through the crowd to his dressing room. By the time his family joined him, Ivan was sobbing with his head buried in his wrapped hands.

Anita not only grabbed a pair of scissors and began to cut the tape from her son’s hands. She also let everyone within earshot know “It’s not like Ivan hasn’t lost a fight before.” Ivan was 30-15 as an amateur.

The stakes were not as high in those days, however. Ivan believes he has what it takes to be a champion. So does Bubba, who was also an aspiring boxer until a detached retina knocked him out at age 16. Bubba refuses to turn his back on the sweet science because his dreams are now his brother’s to pursue.

“You could see there was something special in (Ivan). You could see the potential,” Bubba said. “This is what we’ve been doing since we were seven or eight years old. This is our life.” 

Will new be improved at Wood?

Will C. Wood has a new offense with Kirk Anderson employing the spread option.

Kirk Anderson has the utmost respect for all that Carlos Meraz achieved in nine years as Will C. Wood High School’s football coach. Respect apparently does not go that far these days, however, because Anderson has wasted no time in getting rid of Meraz’s pistol offense and buying new home uniforms.

Putting his stamp on the program does not mean as much to Anderson as devising an offense that suits his philosophy. That would be the spread option. The quarterback will have the option of handing off to the fullback, pitching to the halfback or carrying the ball himself. Whoever starts at quarterback could have as many rushing attempts as passing if all goes as planned for Anderson and the Wildcats this season.

“Stylistically, we’re polar opposites,” Anderson said of Meraz. “Carlos did a lot of good fundamental things. I have my own ideas and thoughts. It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but we’re making a lot of progress.”

In 2016, junior Carson Strong had 266 passing attempts and Wood had 279 rushing plays. All those attempts led to Strong throwing for 2,732 yards and 26 touchdowns. Strong missed his senior season with a knee injury and is now in competition to be the starter for the University of Nevada as a redshirt freshman.  

Meraz used three quarterbacks in 2017 with Strong sidelined, and they combined to pass for 676 yards and four touchdowns. Jhalen Grayer was one of the three as a junior. He returned in 2018 to throw for 2,081 yards and 18 touchdowns. There is little chance of the 2019 quarterback coming close to those numbers.

And that is just fine with Anderson, who joined Meraz’s staff in 2018 after being hired as a physical education teacher. Anderson was no stranger to the Monticello Empire League after spending three years as an assistant at Napa. He resigned at Napa in 2017 as the football program was investigated for hazing.

Troy Mott resigned as Napa’s head coaching in March 2017 after being informed he could not hire assistants without the school’s approval. Mott’s assistants at the time were informed they would have to reapply to stay. Anderson opted not to do so and jumped to American Canyon in 2017 as an assistant.

Mott praised Anderson when asked if the Wildcats will be in good hands with their new coach. “He’s very good at teaching the game to his players. He believes fundamentals are important along with effort and a belief in what you’re doing can win games,” Mott wrote in a text message. “He really is the total package as a coach and he will grow nicely into the role of ‘CEO’ as he gains more experience.”

Anderson will make his debut Aug. 23 when Wood travels to Vintage. The home opener is Aug. 30 against Clovis East. Instead of wearing blue jerseys at home, the Wildcats will have new gray jerseys and gray pants. The white helmets remain as do the white jerseys for road games, but the Wildcats will have the option of wearing blue or white pants when they travel. The blue pants could also go with the gray jerseys at home.

Wood will host the Black and Blue Bowl against Vacaville in Wildcat Stadium for the first time on Nov. 1.

NFL back gives back to Vallejo

C.J. Anderson has returned to his Vallejo roots by giving high school students an opportunity to prosper in the classroom this summer. The Bethel High School graduate not only organized the four-week camp with his Dreams Never Die Foundation, but he also has visited classrooms to encourage the students. Anderson is also preparing for his seventh NFL season and first with the Detroit Lions after helping the Los Angeles Rams reach the Super Bowl last February.