By David Robinett at ringside
In the co-featured bout of the evening, 2012 U.S. Olympian Jamel Herring (18-2, 10 KOs) captured the vacant USBA junior lightweight title with a ten-round shutout over John Moralde (20-2, 10 KOs). All three judges scored the bout 100-90. It was a solid performance by the southpaw Herring, who looked tentative early but by the second round was landing his left hand with consistent success, both as a lead and following the right jab. Herring started mixing in the left to the body in round three, with Moralde unable to provide an answer other than tying Herring up when in close. Herring nearly dropped Moralde with a borderline shot in round five that caused Moralde visible discomfort, but outside of that neither fighter seemed in danger of going down. An accidental headbutt in the final round opened up an ugly gash over Herring’s right eye but was late enough in the proceedings to have no effect on the outcome. The victory was the second in a row for Herring after suffering his second loss in 13 months last August. Herring, a former Marine who served two tours in Iraq, also earned the first belt of his career with the USBA strap.
18-year old Gabriel Flores, Jr. (10-0, 5 KOs), bounced back from a first round knockdown to earn a unanimous decision over Roger Gutierrez (7-2-1, 4 KOs), by scores of 58-54, 59-54, 59-54, in a six-round lightweight bout. Flores, who two years ago made news as Top Rank’s youngest ever signee, went down from a right hook to the ear just as he landed a left hook of his own on Gutierrez. The youngster rose from the canvas no worse for the wear and was able to regain the momentum in round two by repeatedly landing his left jab, right hand combination and keeping out of range of Gutierrez’s counterpunches. Flores appeared comfortable with this formula, picking off Gutierrez with both the left and right hand before darting out of range as Gutierrez was desperate to draw Flores into a slugfest but couldn’t pin him down. Gutierrez was dangerous when able to land on Flores, but he just wasn’t able to do it consistently enough to slow the youngster down.
18-year old super bantamweight Santos Ortega (3-0, 1 KO), a former Junior Olympic National Champion, took a competitive four-round unanimous decision over his game opponent Sebastian Baltazar (1-2, 0 KOs.) Ortega, who at 5’10” had a visually striking eight inch height advantage over his diminutive opponent, almost ended the fight early, rocking Baltazar with a big right hand, and then following up with a series of unanswered punches in the opening stanza. Baltazar had a lot more fight in him than what he offered in the first round though, coming back to give as good as he got in spurts over the remaining three rounds. However Ortega landed a little more consistently each round and just looked the classier fighter, which was enough to earn the four-round shutout.
Another impressive Top Rank prospect, welterweight Alexander Besputin (11-0, 9 KOs), overwhelmed the normally competitive Alan Sanchez (20-4-1, 10 KOs), earning a stoppage at 1:44 of round nine in a scheduled ten-round bout and capturing the vacant USBA welterweight title. Besputin, a former amateur standout in his native Russia who also did a semi-pro stint in the World Series of Boxing, moved to the boxing hotbed of Oxnard, California, in 2015 to train with Robert Garcia. His skills were not tested much in this fight though, as Sanchez was surprisingly in full retreat mode from nearly the opening bell.
The early rounds featured little action, as Besputin struggled to keep pace with Sanchez’s dancing around the ring. But with Sanchez slowing down as the fight progressed Besputin began to land his heavy punches with more frequency, dropping Sanchez from the southpaw stance with a right jab, left hand combination in round four that the referee generously ruled a slip, and buzzing Sanchez with a powerful right uppercut in round six. Besputin finally vanquished Sanchez with a series of lead left hands in round nine, one after the other driving Sanchez clear around the ring, which seemed to break both Sanchez’s spirit and his nose, the blood streaming out as his corner called to the referee to stop the fight.
Former WBA super featherweight titlist Bryan Vasquez (38-3, 20 KOs) continued his quest towards another title opportunity with a stay busy fight against journeyman Carlos Cardenas (21-15-1, 13 KOs), earning an easy ten-round unanimous decision fighting at lightweight, by scores of 96-94, 96-94, 98-92.
Vasquez, who only just turned 31 despite seemingly having been around forever, was in a bit soft against Cardenas, who came in 3-9 in his last 12 fights, and appeared to treat the bout as a sparring session, fighting in spurts and looking completely at ease even when Cardenas was on the attack. After Cardenas had some success early landing with power punches behind a stiff jab, Vasquez put an end to that in round four, unleashing a series of left and right hooks to the body that visibly hurt Cardenas, as if to say, “not so fast buddy.” Vasquez eased off the gas the following round, content to potshot Cardenas from distance so long as Cardenas didn’t push the pace too aggressively. Not much drama after that as Vasquez got some solid rounds while waiting for his next big fight. The close margin on two of the scorecards was more a symptom of Vasquez coasting for periods during the fight rather than Cardenas being competitive with the former champion.
Kicking off the undercard Friday night at Save Mart Center on the campus of Fresno State University in California, recently signed Top Rank contender Hiroki Okada (19-0, 13 KOs) struggled against the solid but unspectacular Cristian Coria (27-7-2, 11 KOs), surviving a final round knockdown to earn an unpopular but deserved split decision. Scores for the ten-round super lightweight bout were 95-94 twice for Okada, with Coria taking the other judge’s card by the same score.
Okada, a longtime holder of various regional belts while fighting exclusively in Asia, found the going much tougher in his American debut, getting outhustled in the early rounds by Coria. A left hook by Okada in round four caused Coria to wobble briefly but Okada did not follow up with any urgency, allowing Coria to make it to the bell relatively unscathed. Okada started to pull away in round five, increasing his output and starting to outland his tiring opponent, but Coria continued to land his right hand cleanly several times each round, finally dropping Okada with a minute left in round ten with a straight right. Okada looked more tired than hurt, and was able to get off the canvas and avoid any further damage en route to the victory.