By Tyson Bruce
Indio, California- The latest installment of the Fox Sport’s Golden Boy Fight Night series saw a slew of Golden Boy prospects continue to progress in their professional careers and veteran contender Joesito Lopez return to the win column with a much tougher than expected 8th Round technical decision over journeyman Mike Arnaoutis.
Things got started in style when heavily hyped welterweight prospect and former United States Olympian Errol Spence, 10-0-0-(8), annihilated the hopelessly overmatched Pipino Cuevas Jr. Cuevas is the son of the legendary welterweight champion Pipino Cuevas Sr., but the similarity, unfortunately, ends with the surname. Spence, already gaining a reputation for being a tremendous body puncher, jumped on Cuevas from the opening bell and mercilessly assaulted him to the head and body. Cuevas was knocked down at the very end of the round on a left hand to the body and, luckily, his corner had the good sense to stop the fight in-between rounds. Hard to say what exactly, if anything, Spence could learn from such a gross mismatch, but he again showed to the boxing public that he is a guy to keep an eye on.
Spence’s old Olympic teammate Joseph “Jo-Jo” Diaz, 8-0-0-(6) was next to enter the ring, against Mexican Carlos Rodriguez. Diaz was a very accomplished amateur and scored an amateur victory over Oscar Valdez, the guy some people consider the best prospect in boxing. Diaz lived up to his sterling reputation by beating the living hell out of a game but overmatched Rodriguez. Diaz flashed his noted hand speed and showed a diverse blend of skills and poise, as he gradually broke down Rodriguez, finally forcing the referee to intervene in the seventh round. Diaz may not be a devastating puncher (even for a Jr. Featherweight) but his speed and skill set will make him a fighter to contend with in the future.
Bout number three featured the less known but perhaps more talented of the fighting Charlo brothers, Jermall Charlo. Like his brother Jermell, he known for having a great a jab, but Jermell can also punch, as he showed by methodically breaking down and knocking out veteran punching bag Joseph De Los Santos. Charlo was utterly dominant as he used his patented quick jab with surgical accuracy through the first three rounds of the bout and really broke down any hope or willpower De Los Santos had coming in. In the forth-round Charlo began to ratchet up the offense by accompanying his jab with a booming right cross causing a knockdown and a great deal of pain for his opponent. Charlo finished things off in round five when he landed a highlight real overhand right, causing an immediate halt to the bout by the referee. Who ever fights Charlo in the future better come with a good strategy for dealing with that jab or they too will be on the losing end of it.
In the co-main event twenty eight year old prospect and former Olympian Francisco Vargas, 18-0-0-(13), put in a workman like performance against the defensively minded Jerry Belmontes. There is nothing flashy about what Vargas does in the ring, he simply comes forward and applies ridiculous amounts of pressure every round. This fight was no exception, but Belmontes proved to be an elusive target, as he rolled his shoulders with great effect and Vargas had trouble landing cleanly. Unfortunately for Belmontes, his sound defense was not accompanied by an effective offense and he was simply outworked in basically every round, in what became a very predictable bout.
The main event turned out to be the biggest surprise of the night. Going into the bout many saw this as a rare soft touch for the man known as the “Riverside Rocky” Joesito Lopez against the shopworn former fringe contender Mike Arnaoutis. Lopez had come off a grueling schedule that had seen him take on Victor Ortiz, Saul Alvarez, and Marcos Maidana in succession. Perhaps that resulted in the flat performance tonight, as Lopez struggled to cut of the ring and land effectively against the crafty veteran.
Despite being given little chance to pull off the upset, it was obvious that Arnaoutis had come in fully prepared to give it his all. He made Lopez look very ordinary throughout the bout, as he used his surprisingly capable footwork and cunning counter punches to cause Lopez fits. Lopez was winning rounds simply by being aggressive and did not at any point really manage to put together an effective attack. Arnaoutis managed to score a bizarre knockdown in the third round when with, of all things, a quick jab on the button put Lopez on the seat of his pants.
Lopez finally showed some urgency and ramped up the aggression in the seventh and eighth rounds, as he was able to rough up “Mighty Mike” along the ropes. An accidental head butt caused a nasty gash over Arnaoutis’s eye and his face became a crimson mask in the eighth round. Sensing that the bout was starting to really turn against him and knowing that he had the knockdown working in his favor Arnaoutis decided to call it quits, stating that he couldn’t see out of his left eye. It was obvious he could and although the bout was close he decided to make a strategic gamble.
The bout went to the cards where Lopez was awarded a close but fair unanimous decision by scores of 77-74, 77-74, 76-75. With the victory Lopez is back in the win column, but whether this was simply the case of him fighting down to the level of his opposition or whether all of the wars he has been in have finally taken there toll remains to be seen.