By David Robinett at ringside
In a stunning upset in the main event at Fantasy Springs Casino Resort in Indio, California, old warhorse Jesus Soto Karass (29-13-4, 18 KOs) earned his first win since 2013, outlasting the younger, previously undefeated Neeco Macias (17-1, 10 KOs) in a ten-round super welterweight bout by majority decision, 95-95, 96-94, 97-93.
Macias, one of the more locally popular Southern California fighters, whose fans often sport signs and masks in honor of his moniker “the Rooster,” wasted no time shifting into high gear, rushing Soto Karass into the corner at the opening bell and essentially staying there, trading punches for the next ten rounds. As he always has, Soto Karass was more than happy to oblige, returning fire with his back to the corner or ropes for the entire fight. Although it was fun and dramatic, it was not a total free for all, as both fighters kept their punches short and took as much time slipping and avoiding punches as throwing them early on. Soto Karass appeared to have the edge throwing the heavier punches though, as well as showing the greater ring discipline by occasionally stepping back or to the side to create more space for his punches. Ultimately though, each round was essentially a carbon copy of the previous round, the only difference being which corner the two fighters would station themselves before trading punches.
Fatigue and a lot of smothering of punches in close quarters also minimized the risk of a knockdown by either fighter. If someone was going to be stopped, it would be through attrition rather than sheer power. In the end, neither fighter was badly hurt despite the record 3,353 punches thrown between them. At the final bell, it was the slight edge in skill and ring generalship by Soto Karass in close quarters that carried the day.
In the evening’s walkout bout, one of Golden Boy’s two standout Irish prospects, 19-year old Aaron McKenna (6-0, 4 KOs), easily dispatched part-time fighter Abel Reyes (4-2, 4 KOs), by second round knockout in a scheduled six-round welterweight contest. Reyes, in the ring for the first time since 2016 and for only the second time in more than six years, was game, taking the fight to McKenna in the opening stanza. However McKenna quickly put a stop to that with a combination to the body in round two that dropped Reyes to his knees. Reyes beat the count but another left hook to the body a short time later kept him down for good. Official time of the knockout was 2:27.
Undefeated Manny Robles III (17-0, 8 KOs) struggled to a lackluster split decision victory over journeyman Jose Gonzalez (23-7, 13 KOs), retaining his NABF featherweight title over ten rounds by scores of 96-94 and 97-93, while the other judge scored the bout 96-94 for Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who has not beaten a fighter with a winning record since 2014, gave the more spirited performance, coming forward and trying to make the fight while Robles was inactive for long portions of the early rounds. In one strange sequence late in round five Robles covered up on the ropes while Gonzalez seemed to load up with all his might throwing punches at Robles for a good ten seconds before Robles simply moved off the ropes and danced away. Gonzalez showed his frustration with the lack of action from Robles by loudly exhorting him to fight. Round six was mostly a jabbing contest favoring Robles until Gonzalez got caught during a violent exchange, awakening Robles from his stupor and prompting the undefeated prospect to throw punches in bunches trying to close the show. Gonzalez survived the round but the sequence seemed to kick the fight into a higher gear, relatively speaking, with the fighters exchanging more often, which favored the stronger, more accurate Robles. Still, although Robles did enough to shade most of the later rounds, it was an oddly detached performance that did little to showcase Robles as a future threat to the division’s titleholders.
Emilio Sanchez (17-1, 11 KOs) continued working his way back from an upset knockout earlier this year, earning a technical unanimous decision over Enrique Bernache (24-12, 12 KOs) after an accidental headbutt caused a cut over Bernache’s left eye that prompted the ringside doctor to stop the fight at the start of round ten. Scores for the scheduled ten-round super featherweight contest were 97-94, 99-92, 100-91. Prior to the stoppage Sanchez was cruising, outworking Bernache and controlling the ring with his superior accuracy and movement. Sanchez, who was laid out by the unheralded Eugene Lagos with one punch in March, had no such problems here, using his length to pepper Bernache with jabs and straight right hands while avoiding Bernache’s attempts to counter. Inside, Sanchez was effective working the body while mostly slipping or absorbing Bernache’s slow-developing left and right hooks to the head.
In a competitive super middleweight fight, D’Mitrius Ballard (19-0, 12 KOs) earned an eight-round unanimous decision over Alan Campa (17-4, 11 KOs) by unfairly wide scores of 80-72 and 79-73, and a more realistic 78-74. After an evenly contested first round, Campa was the first to seize momentum, ripping several left hooks to the body in round two, visibly bothering Ballard. Campa continued to work the body in round three, but Ballard’s right to the head landed consistently, keeping him in the fight. Campa had his best round of the fight in the fourth, catching Ballard with a right hook to the head late in the round that stunned Ballard, allowing Campa to land a series of unanswered punches before Ballard fired back a combination at the bell. The momentum began to turn in round five however, with Ballard coming back strong with several right hooks of his own, causing Campa to shake his head to the crowd that he wasn’t hurt after one particularly nasty hook caused his head to swivel. Ballard, another highly touted prospect on tonight’s card, with National Golden Gloves and PAL titles to his name, began to show his class through the middle rounds, repeatedly outlanding a tiring Campa with combinations to the head while Campa continued working the body, but with less frequency than before. By round eight Ballard was in control despite Campa still forcing an honest pace, punctuating the round with a straight right that caused Campa to hold in order to buy some time to recover, though neither fighter ever appeared in danger of going down.
Featherweight Jordan White (5-1, 4 KOs), a 21-year old former amateur standout who recently returned to the ring after a 16-month layoff following his first professional loss, continued his climb back up the ladder with a first round knockout of Cristian Renteria (7-7, 6 KOs) at the end of round one in a scheduled four-round contest. White, a cousin of 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Clarence Vinson, barely got warmed up before dropping Renteria onto all fours with a body shot during a brief exchange in the center of the ring. Renteria failed to beat the referee’s count at the end of the round, giving White his second win in the last seven weeks after suffering his only loss to Adam Lopez last May.
Kicking off the undercard at Indio’s Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, located in the heart of the Southern California desert, Uzbek prospect Sanjar Tursunov (1-0, 1 KO) made a successful debut, earning a second round stoppage over Miguel Cubos (11-20, 8 KOs) in a scheduled four-round cruiserweight bout. Tursunov, a 20-year old who, like many European and Asian prospects, spent some time fighting in the semi-pro World Series of Boxing, certainly looked polished for a rookie, throwing crisp punches with both hands and coming in from multiple angles before the referee stepped in to end the fight at 1:26 of the second stanza.