By Ricardo Ibarra
Photos by Mike Blair/Boxingprospects.net
In a battle for the vacant WBO International featherweight title, Mexicali, Mexico’s Luis Alberto “El Venado” Lopez (17-1, 8 KOS) scored a unanimous technical decision win over Ray Ximenez, Jr. (18-2, 4 KOs), of Dallas, Texas, on Thursday night at the Legends Casino in Toppenish, Washington.
Putting on a dominant performance over eight rounds, Lopez used good lateral movement and an aggressive pace to control the action before the fight was called in between rounds due to a nasty cut over the left eye of Ximenez.
Lopez went to work quickly as the fight got underway, opening up with a spirited assault and setting the tone for the bout early. The Mexican fighter was quicker on the draw in the first round, landing sharp lead right hands and left hooks on Ximenez, who for his own part pressed with his own assault throughout the round.
Lopez worked at range for the first half of the second round, moving in and out with an assertive boxing style. Ximenez’ determination to cut the distance paid off late in the round, however, as was able to slow his opponent down and drill him with a volley of hooks along the ropes.
In the third Lopez’ quicker footwork and accurate counter-punching began to give him a wider edge in the fight. Maneuvering around the ring and using his jab to keep his opponent at a more favorable range, Lopez repeatedly found his target with one-twos and lead right hands. Ximenez was able to cut the distance and corner his opponent in spots, but when he did so Lopez peppered him with sharp counter punches before pivoting out of the pocket.
As the fight wore on, Lopez increasingly seemed to find his rhythm, landing heavy shots from the outside and continuing to counter effectively as Ximenez barreled his way forward. In the sixth a cut that had opened over the left eye of Ximenez began to flow blood more freely. Lopez maintained a busy work rate in the seventh and eight rounds, consistently popping Ximenez with blistering combinations. Ximenez pressed forward throughout most of the fight, making every effort he could to stifle his opponent’s movement, but simply couldn’t find a solution for the elusive Lopez. Before the start of the ninth round, referee Jack Reiss called the doctor in to look at Ximenez’ eye and, after conferring with the ringside physician, made the decision to call an end to the bout. At the end of eight completed rounds all three judges had the fight for Lopez with scores of 80-72, 78-74, and 77-75.
With the win, Lopez adds his fifth consecutive win and claims a notable title in his first fight outside of his native Mexico.
“It means a lot to me to win this title,” said Lopez after the fight. “And it means a lot to win it in the United States. It is my first fight on American soil, and I think people loved my performance. I feel very happy with my performance, honestly. I hope to win more titles and hopefully keep winning them here in the United States.”
Ximenez, meanwhile, suffers only his second career loss in twenty fights.
A five-fight undercard featuring competitive match-ups between regional fighters made up the remainder of the line-up. In the co-main event of the night, Tacoma, Washington’s Juan Jackson (2-0) scored a unanimous decision win over John Peak (3-1, 1 KO), of Bonney Lake, Washington, in a four round light heavyweight fight. Jackson used his jab and side-to-side movement to control the action in the first two rounds, maintain a workman-like pace and landing the cleaner punches. Peak upped his tempo in the third round and began to close the distance, drawing Jackson into a brawl an making the round a close one. He continued to press the action in the last round, finding success in close and outworking Jackson for a majority of the round. All three judges favored Jackson with scores of 39-37 all around.
Fairbanks, Alaska’s Taylor Shirley (2-0, 1 KO) claimed a four round unanimous decision win over Luis Iniguez (1-2-1), of Portland, Oregon, in a light heavyweight contest. Shirley used the ring well in the bout, taking control of the distance with his lateral movement and stepping in and out of close range with precise combinations to the head and body. In the second round Shirley rocked Iniguez with a big left hook and a follow-up right hand with a minute left in the round. With ten seconds to go in the round, Shirley cracked Iniguez with another left hook, buckling the Oregonian once again. Shirley looked to pick up where he left off in the third, smashing Iniguez with a big left hook early in the round, but Iniguez showed some resiliency and rallied back with his own assault. Shirley covered up and countered well, showing some improving fundamentals, and continued to have the upper hand in a close round. Down the final stretch of the fight, Iniguez gave a spirited effort, standing and trading with his opponent in spurts, but it was Shirley’s harder and more accurate punching that carried the round. The final tallies read 39-37, 39-37, and 40-36, all for Shirley.
Notching his first win as a paid prize fighter, Gerardo Esquivel (1-1), of Tacoma, claimed a well-earned unanimous decision victory over the formerly undefeated Shae Green (3-1-1, 1 KO), of Kent, Washington. Esquivel was a buzz saw from the start, pressing forward with a resolute attack, forcing his way in close and unloading with heavy artillery. Green tried to bring the fight out to the center of the ring, but for the first three rounds the relentless attack of Esquivel drew him into a close-quarters fight, which favored the shorter Esquivel. Green was able to claim some ground in the fourth, forcing some distance between himself and his opponent and landing one-twos from the outside. By then, though, Esquivel’s busier work-rate had carried most of the fight. All three judges saw the fight for Esquivel with scores of 39-37 and 40-36 twice. The bout was contested in the Jr. welterweight division.
Portland, Oregon’s Alex Cazac (1-2) claimed his first win as a pro, pitching a four-round shutout over Roman Avetisyan (0-2), of Pasco, Washington. Cazac worked at a steady pace early in the fight, working off his jab and firing off follow-up right hands. Cazac began to use his legs a bit more in the second round as Avetisyan began to find some success in close. Punching from a distance and catching his opponent with one-twos, Cazac kept a more favorable range through the third round and by the fourth, appeared to be finding a steady rhythm. In the final minute of the round Cazac unloaded, drilling his opponent with hard hooks to the body, closing out the fight in strong fashion. All three official scorecards read 40-36 for Cazac.
In the card’s opening bout, undefeated Tacoma welterweight Nicholas Jefferson (8-0, 5 KOs) boxed his way to a clear-cut four round unanimous decision win over Antonio Neal (4-10, 3 KOs), of Yakima, Washington. The fight opened with Neal pressing well early in the first round, cutting down the distance and drawing Jefferson into a firefight. Jefferson pulled the fight out to a more favorable range mid-way through the round, though, and took over with stiff jabs and effective combinations. In the second round Jefferson smashed Neal with a massive right to the chin, buckling his knees and leaving him in some trouble. The round ended before Jefferson could capitalize. Jefferson continued to work at long range for the remainder of the fight, firing off quick combinations and out-landing the game but slower Neal. The official judges’ scorecards read 39-37 and 40-36 twice.
Playing to a sold-out crowd, the card was streamed live on UFC Fight Pass and promoted by Roy Jones Jr. Boxing Promotions.