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Chicas ready to swing in national spotlight

Three years after his professional boxing debut, San Francisco’s own Jonathan Chicas is coming home.

The 25-year-old Chicas (13-1, 6 KOs) will defend a five-bout win streak during a special Bay Area edition of Golden Boy Live! on Fox Sports 1 Friday night.

Photos by Godofredo Vasquez/SFBay

Chicas will fight fellow undefeated junior welterweight Emmanuel Robles (10-0-1, 3 KOs) in an eight-round co-main event at San Francisco’s Longshoremen’s Hall at Northpoint and Taylor streets in Fisherman’s Wharf.

The proud Salvadorian-American told SFBay he is very excited and hopes a win will open up bigger opportunities down the road:

“Obviously, to be fighting in San Francisco is a great opportunity and a blessing. I’m really excited that we’re back in San Francisco. All my fans, friends and family are able to come watch and support me.”

Chicas said training camp has been one of his best so far and is ready to go to war with Robles or make it an easy night — all while giving the fans an entertaining fight:

“(My team and I) are 110 percent ready come July 18. You guys are going to have a great show. It might end early or it might go the full rounds. We’ll see.”

Also at the top of Friday night’s card is a 10-round lightweight bout between former title contender Mercito Gesta of San Diego and Mexico’s Luis Arceo.

Chicas’ Bay Area brethren and teammates will also showcase their talent, including Andy Vences and Arturo Quintero of San Jose and San Francisco’s own Ricardo Pinell.

One thing making Friday night special for Chicas is the venue. Longshoremen’s Hall is the same ring where he made his pro debut in April 2011.

Chicas said it feels good to return to the hall where, donned in black trunks with red trim, he needed only 67 seconds to dispose of Oakland’s Maja Khali.

Chicas did damage right from the start, wobbling Khali with an overhand right and flooring him with a crisp left hook. As soon as Khali got up, Chicas punctuated the win with a brutal left hook to the body that sealed Khali’s fate.

Chicas went on a seven-fight winning streak before suffering his lone pro loss to Moris Rodriguez via third-round TKO in December 2012. Rodriguez swarmed him with punches, scoring two knockdowns and prompting referee Edward Collantes to stop the bout.

Chicas said he has learned to train harder and become emotionally stronger as a result of the loss. More importantly, he takes every fight seriously because of how devastating a setback can be to his career:

“Every loss is a setback in boxing. It brings you back a couple of more fights. Since I have an aspiration of becoming a world champion, I feel that I just have to be ready for everything, for any (fighting) style and just be mentally, physically, and spiritually prepared.”

He’s rebounded from the disappointing loss by winning his last five fights, including a first-round blowout of Rodolfo Armenta last December, and an impressive four-round dismantling of Rogelio Castaneda Jr. in February.

This isn’t the first time Chicas has battled to prove himself. Prior to becoming a fighter in the ring, he became one in life at a young age.

Raised in the Mission District by parents who immigrated from El Salvador, Chicas learned to fight simply to survive in a rough neighborhood.

He also got into mischief by hanging around the wrong crowds. By age 13, Chicas had multiple run-ins with law enforcement:

“It was just tough growing up, being in the streets and trying to be tough like the crowd. You had to fight to actually show that you were tougher than everybody else and survive.”

Spending 10 months at a Montana boarding school and seeing both a cousin and best friend incarcerated helped Chicas realize he needed to redirect his life.

Having always wanted to learn how to box, Chicas was introduced by a friend to the Straight Forward Club (SFC) boxing gym at age 17.

Chicas started training under Ben Bautista, and has honed his craft at Third Street Gym under the tutelage of current trainer Oscar Rivadeneyra since 2009.

Born in Lima, Peru, Rivadeneyra competed as a professional boxer from 1979 to 1990, compiling a record of 20-3 with 16 knockouts. He even challenged Michael Spinks for the WBC and WBA light heavyweight championships in a losing effort in November 1983.

Experience as both a professional and an amateur is what Chicas believes makes Rivadeneyra’s training methods so unique:

“He always instills hard work in my training. Every time I’m training, he makes sure that I’m focused on training and not doing anything else. He brings a lot of knowledge not only from (the Spinks) fight, but his whole career. He’s been doing this for so long that he has so much experience and knowledge about the game and sports – not only inside the ring, but also outside of the ring.”

Years as a pugilist has helped Chicas acquire many of life’s key values, including hard work, perseverance, commitment and sacrifice.

Of all the support he’s received, he is most grateful for the love of his family, who, ironically, didn’t want him caught up in the fight game early on:

“It’s just something that I took passion for. They supported me ever since and I love them for that. It feels good to have people have your back like that.”

Chicas hopes to become a world champion, with his sights first set on a regional belt by the end of the year.

But he is already a champion in life, having overcome challenges of early life to emerge as an exciting young boxing prospect from the Bay Area.

In doing so, he hopes to not only make his fans, family and friends proud, but also give back to his community by serving as an inspiration to troubled youth who want to escape the temptations of the streets in hopes of a better future:

“I want to be able to inspire other fighters and other people — not only in boxing, but in other things. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you’ve done. Anything is possible with hard work, dedication, and sacrifice.”

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