By David Robinett at ringside
Joseph “Jo Jo” Diaz (28-1, 14 KOs) successfully moved up from featherweight with an easy unanimous decision over Charles Huerta (20-6, 12 KOs) in a ten-round super featherweight contest. Scores were 99-91 across the board in a matchup between two close friends outside of the ring. The southpaw Diaz relied on his superior hand speed and movement to pepper Huerta with lead left and right hands, mixing in an occasional right jab, then moving out of range before Huerta could effectively counter. Diaz’s lack of punching power at featherweight was a liability that may follow him up in weight, as he was teeing off on Huerta in round ten but still could not drop the journeyman despite having softened him up the previous nine rounds, but unless he faces an opponent as fast as he is, Diaz should be an immediate title contender at super featherweight.
In a shocking yet predictable upset, unheralded Adrian Estrella (29-3, 24 KOs) was awarded a questionable ten-round split decision over formerly undefeated prospect Oscar Duarte (15-1-1, 10 KOs) to capture the vacant WBC Continental Americas lightweight title. One judge scored it 97-93 for Duarte, while the other two judges saw it as 96-94, and an unsupportable 98-92.
Duarte, managed by popular Mexican actor Gabriel Soto, was undone by his lack of urgency, which rears its head in nearly every one of Duarte’s bouts. As usual, Duarte started glacially slow, taking two rounds to observe and feel his opponent out, allowing Estrella to dictate the action with an occasional jab and constant movement around the ring to stay out of Duarte’s range. Duarte finally decided to throw in round three, and, as usual, when he let his hands go, he dominated his opponent, ripping blistering two hand combinations to Estrella’s body. Duarte busted up Estrella’s right eye when he started to go upstairs in round five. Estrella, who was fighting in the United States for the first time, looked overmatched in these middle rounds and on the verge of being stopped, but just as suddenly as he heated up, Duarte’s activity started to wind down over the last three rounds, allowing Estrella back into the fight. Not that Estrella was able to hurt Duarte, but by the later rounds Duarte had effectively stopped throwing, allowing Estrella to take the final rounds with ineffective punches that nevertheless landed, and therefore counted. While the 98-92 scorecard was excessively generous, it would not have been unreasonable to award Estrella two or three rounds at the beginning and end of the fight due to Duarte’s lack of activity. For his part, Duarte has the talent and skill to be a contender, but he’s going to have to figure out that he needs to fight for more than a few rounds each bout.
Looking every bit like a fighter returning to the ring after a nearly 18-month layoff, former middleweight contender Tureano Johnson (20-2-1, 14 KOs) labored to a split decision draw with journeyman Fernando Castaneda (26-13-1, 17 KOs) in an eight-round middleweight bout. Johnson, who represented The Bahamas at the 2008 Summer Olympics and was slated to face a prime Gennady Golvkin in 2016 before an injury scuttled the bout, looked sharp early, landing his right uppercut at will while stalking Castaneda around the ring. However Castaneda steadily worked his way back into the fight, consistently landing punches with both hands after the early onslaught by Johnson. By the final round, Castaneda was the aggressor, walking down Johnson and loading up with big left and right hooks on his visibly spent opponent. Each fighter earned one 77-75 scorecard, with the third judge tallying a 76-76 draw.
In the opening bout at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California, Azat Hovhannisyan (16-3, 13 KOs) knocked out Lolito Sonsona (22-3-4, 9 KOs) at 2:23 of round five in a scheduled ten-round super bantamweight bout. Hovhannisyan dropped Sonsona twice in round five with shots to the body, the second time for the full count.
In the walkout bout, Rommel Caballero (5-0, 4 KOs), younger brother of former world champion Randy Caballero, continued to gain experience in the pro ranks, blowing out Javier Rojas (1-3, 1 KO) at 1:58 of the first round in a scheduled four-round super featherweight contest. Caballero knocked Rojas back into the ropes with the first punch of the fight, before dropping him with a right hook to the body moments later. The end came with a Caballero left hook to the body that crumpled Rojas into an agonized heap under the bottom rope.