Catching up with Carlos…

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BY TONY CHEONG: A movie about Westminster High graduate and former WBC Welterweight Champion Carlos Palomino — one of the greatest fighters ever — is set to open in theaters in 2016.

"Palomino" is a biopic, and it should be fascinating.

BY TONY CHEONG: A movie about Westminster High graduate and former WBC Welterweight Champion Carlos Palomino — one of the greatest fighters ever — is set to open in theaters in 2016.

"Palomino" is a biopic, and it should be fascinating.

Palomino, a member of the vaunted International Boxing Hall of Fame, wasn't your ordinary pugilist. He earned his degree in recreational administration from California State University, Long Beach while still in his boxing prime. He showed his acting chops on TV shows such as "Taxi" and "The White Shadow. " He was once referred to as "A gentle guy in a cruel sport."

Gentle seems about right.

This year marks 35 years since he lost his brother Paul died in a plane crash that claimed a 22-member contingent of the U.S. National boxing team on its way to Poland for a match. Palomino has never gotten over it, which is why Paul (one of 11 siblings) is a prominent part of the film.

Family togetherness is emphasized, as well.

“It’s an inspirational story that talks about never giving up and always fighting for your goals,” Palomino, who lives in Studio City, told the press. “Then telling our family story. It’s one of those stories that I think should be told. Survival.”

Palomino was last seen in Westminster in the late 1990s, training at Westminster Gym for his comeback. He was 48 years old.

After moving from his homeland to Santa Ana, then Westminster, Palomino cut his teeth as a boxer in Westminster, a city known for its boxing history, and for its many places to train.

After graduating from Westminster High, he joined the Army, where he became All-U.S. Army boxing champion in 1971 and 1972.

Stardom was right around the corner for the most famous boxer ever to come out of Westminster.

Palomino became welterweight world champion when he stopped John Stracey in the 12th round in London in 1976. Palomino made seven successful defenses before losing his title via split decision to Wilfredo Benitez in Benitez’s native Puerto Rico in January 1979. Palomino fought once more, losing a 10-round fight that June to Roberto "Hands of Stone" Duran, then retired.

Almost 20 years later, he launched a comeback. In middle age, he won four of his five bouts before unlacing the gloves for good with a career record of 31-4-3 (19 KOs).

My favorite Palomino moment came when he appeared on one of my all-time favorite sitcoms, "Taxi," a brilliant show about a bunch of taxi drivers struggling to achieve their dreams (except for Judd Hirsch who, as "Alex," had accepted his fate). The show launched the careers of Danny DeVito (who played the cruel dispatcher, "Louie DePalma"), Marilu Henner (the sexy, sassy "Elaine"), Andy Kaufman ("Latka") and Tony Danza ("Tony Banta").

Anyway, Tony Banta's dream is to become a champion boxer. Only… he's not very good, and he's got no killer instinct. I mean, this is a man who's heartbroken when his goldfish die. So his buddies — the drivers support each other; DePalma dehumanizes them endlessly — are thrilled when he's asked to spar with the champion of the world: Carlos Palomino (they gave him a different last name in the show; I forget what it is).

And they're ecstatic when he knocks down the champ.

Only there's a catch. The whole thing was set up by the champ's manager to sell tickets to his next fight. It seems the champ is so good that his bouts have lost their sense of suspense.

Banta chats with the champ in the locker room and gets a little too full of himself. The champ promptly delivers a one-two combo that knocks Banta to the ground and also knocks some sense into his head. He's a cabbie, not a boxing phenom on the rise.  

But I digress. My point was it all started here, in Westminster, for Carlos Palomino, a caring man in a careless world. Did I mention he devotes most of his time these days, at 65, to charity?

Do you have a question, comment or news tip for Tony? Email her at tonyontown@yahoo.com.