Even though he hasn’t been in the classroom for the past several months, the summer has been anything but a vacation for bantamweight hopeful Gabriel Muratalla (4-0, 3 KOs). The preschool teacher has found a moment in the spotlight, capturing the sport’s attention with his past two performances inside the Top Rank bubble at the MGM Grand Conference Center.
On June 11, Muratalla scored a first-round stoppage of Fernando Robles. One month later, he secured a four-round unanimous decision against Sergio Lopez. On Saturday, he’ll make his third appearance, facing Justice Bland (2-0) in another four-round bout.
Top Rank’s bubble created opportunities for fighters who wouldn’t have otherwise had them, and Muratalla was the prime example of someone cashing in on a little bit of brightness during a dark time. Plus, with less time in school, he has had time to live the life of a full-time professional prizefighter, and he has taken full advantage of it. His boxing career now has some momentum behind it.
In his own words, the 26-year-old Californian recounts the most unique summer of his life.
Editor’s note: Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Getting the call for the first fight
I remember my dad said, “Hey, Robert [Garcia] just sent a text seeing if you were willing to take a fight on June 11.” And I was ready, doing conditioning, and I said, “Heck yeah, let’s do it.” That was an exciting moment.
It was amazing winning that first fight. It was something else. Honestly, going into that fight, the guy I was facing, he was also a younger opponent. So I’m thinking I’m going to go all four rounds, and it was just a blessing to get that first-round knockout. It definitely gave me a lot of followers. I think I gained, like, a thousand followers on Instagram in one day, just from that fight. It was definitely an experience.
Being able to train as a full-time fighter
I definitely miss the school life and my children, but as of right now, during COVID, I can’t really complain. We have the gym at our house, training 24/7. It’s become a lifestyle, and I’m starting to get used to it. It has been awesome.
My dad and us, we’ve always been very big boxing fans, and during our amateur times we had so many fights, we’ve gone around the States. My dad just got in contact with someone we knew who was selling a boxing ring — just the pieces, so nothing was built. Spontaneously, he agreed to purchase the ring.
It has been a while, about seven years since we’d done it, but he said, “You guys want to build a ring?” You can’t say no to that.
As a family — we got friends as well to help — we built the ring in the backyard. I believe it took, like, a good two weeks. And we have a big tarp around it so the sun isn’t beating on it too much. So it’s perfect right now.
The opportunity to train full-time, I’m excited for it, honestly. It’s an opportunity that’s come along, and I’m just taking advantage. The free time has definitely benefited me with boxing. I wake up in the mornings, and I’ll actually do a workout. I’ll go for a run, or I’ll do a leg circuit or get in the ring, some type of workout in the morning. I couldn’t do that before.
Then once it hits 5 p.m., that’s when I do my actual boxing training. With so much new free time, I’m actually getting in, like two, three workouts in a day.
The second fight and looking forward
I definitely had more pressure because we actually had a friend in Vegas who knew my opponent, and he was telling us from the start this was going to be a tougher fight than the first one. So I definitely had to be ready.
I knew everyone wanted a knockout, and I tried my best. It was a tough fight. I just couldn’t get the knockout. He was a tough opponent. I did what I had to do to get the win, and now I’m getting ready for the next one.
I’m not with Top Rank yet. It’s being worked on, from what I know. I’ve got another fight right away, so I’m definitely hoping after this fight I’ll officially be signed by them.
That second fight was on a Tuesday. I took Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday off — five days. It felt like forever, to be honest. It felt like a long time, but I was back in training right away on Monday.
For this fight, I’d say it’s tougher, and we’re sparring more. We’re doing sparring every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We’re going to Robert Garcia’s gym on those days and just training at our home gym Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
It definitely is more strenuous just because of more fights. I know it’s going to get tougher.
We just got a message two weeks ago that the fall school year has been canceled. So honestly, I’m just waiting to see what they’re going to do for next year.
I believe the children, right now, lose a lot. I believe the interaction with other children, just in general, is important. That’s No. 1 for children, and not having that opportunity right now, that is a loss. Hopefully with our technology and how students are getting involved with computers and tablets, I’m hoping that’s helping out from a school perspective.
If school starts back up in January, I’ll definitely go back. My shift was from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., so it wasn’t too hard hour-wise. I would still be able to involve boxing afterward, starting training at 5 p.m. It’ll definitely work out.
The bubble life
It’s hard being in the bubble. It’s definitely hard. Especially after weighing in, you want to go out and just splurge on food. You have to eat what they have at the cafeteria. A van takes you to the cafeteria area, and then you go back to the hotel. So you definitely are on quarantine. But again, I love what Top Rank’s doing. They’re taking it very serious. You can’t really complain. It’s definitely helping us.
I do the whole social distancing thing. People are like, “Man, you don’t do anything.” We can’t really do anything. I’m home 24/7. The only time we really go out is to Robert Garcia’s gym, and also there at Robert Garcia’s gym, we wear masks. Everyone has masks.
Garcia has the gym sprayed, and he also hired someone to do all the cleaning and all the sanitizing. We’re definitely safe at the moment, just not going out, just staying home.
Especially close to this fight, right now, we’re definitely just staying in.
Being on the same card with his brother
We’re always talking about boxing as a family. Raymond, my brother, is actually with Top Rank, and we’re both fighting on [Saturday]. This is the first time we’re doing that as professionals. I’m super excited.
It brings me back to our amateur days with the head gear. We’d always enter tournaments. We’re in different weight classes, of course, but we’d fight on the same day. Now, being professional and just having this opportunity with my brother, it’s amazing.
It hasn’t hit me yet, but I think it’s definitely going to get my nerves up, and [I’ll] be more excited once we get to Vegas. It’s an exciting moment.