LAS VEGAS, Nevada, September 16, 2017 – Undercard fighters on the HBO PPV telecast for Canelo vs. Golovkin responded to the opportunity for significant exposure to fans by putting on a great show.
In the co-main event, both fighters risked their undefeated records for the opportunity to become the WBC mandatory challenger for super bantamweight Gary Russell, Jr. Joseph “Jo Jo” Diaz Jr. penciled his name in with a unanimous decision over Rafael Rivera. The judges’ scores were 119-109 X 2 and 120-108 for Diaz.
Diaz (25-0, 13 KOs) of South El Monte, faced a last-minute substitute in Rivera (25-1-2, 16 KOs) of Tijuana. Rivera was the originally named opponent, but the higher ranked Jorge Lara edged him out of the bout. Lara then withdrew due to injury. Rivera had been training for another fight and gladly stepped back in.
Diaz was a cool customer, delivering chopping power punches and solid body work as he walked Rivera down round after round. While he surely would have loved to land a highlight reel knockout, he was patient and piled up round after round while respecting what Rivera had to offer. It was a mature and smart performance by the 24-year-old featherweight.
“I feel like I had a good performance overall,” said Diaz. “I was able to put pressure and dictate the pace of the fight, and be able to enter into a lot of exchanges. Rivera is strong, has good body shots, and had good speed. I think we gave them a good show tonight.”
Diego De La Hoya of Mexicali, Mexico (20-0, 9 KOs) defeated Southern California’s Randy “El Matador” Caballero of Coachella (24-2, 14 KOs) via unanimous decision in ten rounds of rough and tumble boxing. Scores were 100-90 and 98-92 X 2.
De La Hoya, naturally the bigger fighter, found a home for his left hook all night long against Caballero. As the fight went into the later rounds, he added a right hook to follow. De La Hoya invested in body work early to stay in command throughout the fight. Caballero did have his moments, connecting to the head at times, but he didn’t have nearly enough of them. When De La Hoya began to apply more pressure and increase the action, he wasn’t able to answer the same way.
De La Hoya said, “I trained for this fight, knowing it was going to be a really great battle. All my sacrifice, I fueled into this fight.”
“The winners tonight are the fans,” said Caballero. “When we did this fight, we knew it was going to be a great opportunity to put on a good show. Diego is a good kid, and a great fighter and I wish him the best.”
Ryan “Blue Chip” Martin of Chattanooga, Tennessee (20-0, 11 KOs) did not get a cake walk fight in his Las Vegas debut against a tough Francisco Rojo of Mexico City (19-4, 12 KOs). Martin squeaked by with a split decision. Scores were 96-93 and 95-94 for Martin; and 98-91 for Rojo. Martin was deducted a point in the eighth round for a low blow.
Rojo, a far shorter, square fighter compared to Martin, a tall lightweight at 5-foot-11, didn’t seem the least bit intimidated. Rojo pressured Martin with body shots and a relentless forward pressure. Martin didn’t seem able to put together combinations or leverage power the way he usually does.
“I didn’t feel 100% tonight, even though I got the split decision,” said Martin. “I know I fought a good fight despite the adversity in the ring. I know the judge that scored in favor of Rojo recognized good boxing in him. I’m glad I have this new belt and it’s on to the next.”
Perhaps it was the bright lights, but with manager Tim Van Newhouse yelling encouragement to Martin ringside plus some help from the judges, he dodged disaster. It will be a valuable fight for the 19-year-old Martin if he learns from it as he begins facing tougher competition.
Additional results from the non-televised undercard streamed live by HBO and RingTV:
Super welterweight Serhil Bohachuk (5-0, 5 KOs) of Los Angeles via Ukraine remained undefeated with a 100 percent stoppage ratio as he took out Joan Valenzuela of Tijuana, Mexico (5-9-1, 5 KOs). Bohachuk dropped Valenzuela midway through the second round. Valenzuela beat the count, but after Bohachuk delivered a vicious left hook to the body, referee Jay Nady decided Valenzuela had enough.
Bohachuk is trained by Abel Sanchez, trainer of Gennady Golovkin. No mystery where Bohachuk picked up his body shot technique.
Super lightweight Vergil Ortiz (7-0, 7 KOs) of Dallas kept his perfect knockout record intact as well, scoring a 1:22 stoppage in the second round of Cesar Valenzuela (8-1, 2 KOs) of Phoenix to remained undefeated. Ortiz roared right out of the gate throwing bombs, and the fight was over barely four minutes later. Ortiz hit Valenzuela with a left hook body shot a minute into the second round. Valenzuela beat the count, but 45 seconds later took a knee after getting blasted again, and referee Robert Byrd called it a day.
“I just do what my coaches tell me to do,” said Ortiz. “They knew how this fight was going to end, and kept reminding me to go towards the body. I’m super happy to get the win, and this is just another fight on the way.”
American Olympian Marlen Esparza (3-0, 1 KO) of Houston opened the card with a solid performance, defeating Aracely Palacios (8-8, 1KO) of Durango, Mexico by unanimous decision in the women’s flyweight division. All three judges had a 60-54 shutout.
“Even though my opponent, on paper, looked like she had more ring experience, I’ve been in the ring way more than she had,” said Esparza. “Because I had three-minute rounds, I was able to think a lot more in the ring and was even told by my trainer I had to slow down … I’m satisfied with my performance because this was my first six-round fight.”
Sadly, the American debut of Rio Olympic gold medalist Nicola Adams (2-0, 1 KO) of Yorkshire, England will have to wait. The bout was scratched when opponent Alexandra Vlajk (11-6, 2 KOs) of Debrecen, Hungary failed her pre-fight medical exam due to an undisclosed reason.
Perhaps it was due to the entire card starting an hour early, or perhaps it reflects the limited interest of casual boxing fans, but the T-Mobile Arena was still two-thirds empty as the co-main event began at approximately 6:50 p.m. local time. The young men and women on the undercard may not be household names, but they train and fight just as hard as the stars. Fans should give them their attention and respect and be in their seats. You can stroll around outside and drink in Las Vegas another time.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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