By David Robinett at ringside
In a largely tactical affair with occasional bursts of action, Jose Zepeda (31-2, 25 KOs) scored the biggest victory of his career, earning a ten-round unanimous decision over former two-division champion Jose Pedraza (26-3, 13 KOs) on Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Scores for the super lightweight bout were 97-93 across the board, which also earned Zepeda the WBC’s USNBC title belt. Zepeda, whose only losses are to Jose Ramirez and an injury stoppage against Terry Flanagan, both in title challenges, was able to consistently time Pedraza coming in, landing effectively with both hands before Pedraza could get off, particularly over the first half of the fight. Zepeda’s strategy led to frequent spells of inaction, but when they did engage, Zepeda usually landed first and harder as the normally accurate “Sniper” Pedraza had an off night.
Former super flyweight titlist Carlos Cuadras (39-3-1, 27 KOs) narrowly edged out fellow Mexican Jose Maria Cardenas (17-5, 14 KOs) over ten rounds, earning a surprising close majority decision victory by scores of 95-95, 96-94, and 96-94. Despite disadvantages in height (by six and a half inches) and reach (by three inches), the smaller Cuadras chose to largely fight Cardenas in the center of the ring, circling the taller fighter while moving in swiftly to attack before slipping out of harm’s way. While Cuadras peppered Cardenas with quick punches to the head and body, Cardenas was often left swinging and missing his elusive opponent. Cuadras, who resembles a tiny Canelo Alvarez, wasn’t looking for the knockout, content to both float like a butterfly and sting like one too, but it was an effective strategy considering the physical disparity between the two fighters. Cardenas finally started to catch up to Cuadras in round six and going forward, landing more punches as Cuadras began to slow down, but never consistently enough to change the momentum of the fight, even if enough to keep the scorecards close.
England’s Isaac Lowe (19-0-3, 6 KOs) overcame a strong early challenge from Ruben Garcia Hernandez (25-5-2, 11 KOs) to grind out a narrow unanimous decision by scores of 77-75, 77-75, and 78-74 in an eight-round super featherweight bout. Hernandez got the best of Lowe early, landing several hard punches in the opening stanza, including a right uppercut that snapped Lowe’s head back. Lowe struggled early to find his range, falling short with his punches and getting countered effectively by Hernandez. By round four however, Lowe seemed to find his stride, darting in and out to land light but effective flurries without getting countered as often as he was early on. A right hook to the chin by Lowe hurt Hernandez late in round five, but Hernandez seemed to get a second wind in round six, landing several hard punches on the tiring Lowe. Both fighters struggled with fatigue in the final two rounds, with a lot of missed punches and holding, which helped Lowe maintain his narrow lead to the final bell.
19-year old Gabriel Flores, Jr. (15-0, 6 KOs) banked some solid learning rounds while earning a unanimous decision over journeyman Miguel Angel Aispuro (12-9-2, 8 KOs). All three judges scored the six-round lightweight contest 60-54. Aispuro, not quite good enough to beat good fighters but good enough to make them work, played his part, giving Flores some unorthodox movement and occasional aggression to overcome, but the youngster from California’s Central Valley handled it well, fighting a little cautiously but using long jabs and straight right hands to control the action.
Kicking off the undercard of Fury v. Wallin at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, super bantamweight Iskander Kharsan (7-0, 6 KOs) wore down fellow unbeaten prospect Isidro Ochoa (7-1, 3 KOs) over five rounds, earning a TKO when Ochoa did not come out to start the sixth round in a scheduled eight round contest. Kharsan, the latest youngster to come off the talent-rich Kazakhstan pipeline, started slowly, trading jabs with Ochoa in a measured first couple of rounds. As the bout progressed though, Kharsan started to open up with his right hand, particularly to Ochoa’s body. Kharsan dropped Ochoa in a one-sided fifth round that Ochoa struggled to make it out of, and Ochoa’s corner decided not to send their charge out for more of the same in the sixth, sending Kharsan running across the ring in celebration.