By: Sergio L. Martinez (Ringside)
The Alamo Dome was electric as Top Rank continued the return of budding Mexican boxing star Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. as he took on veteran super middleweight, Bryan Vera for the second time in six months. Chavez’s mission was clear: reclaim his reputation and erase the doubt of his highly controversial win over Vera back in September 2013. The night also was meant as a showcase for former two-time Ukrainian Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomanchenko looking to enshrine his name in the record books by winning a major world title in only his second professional fight. Lomachenko faced tough Mexican warhorse, Orlando “Siri” Salido. The card was rounded out by five non-televised fights. The night was full of action.
The televised portion of the promotion opened with featherweight Vasyl Lomachenko (1-0 with 1 KO) of Ukraine vying for his first world title in only his second fight as he locked horns with Mexican tough man Orlando “Siri” Salido (40-12-2 with 28 KOs), a two-time featherweight champion. Salido lost his title on the scales the day before as he came two pounds over the featherweight limit.
The tilt was set for 12 rounds. A southpaw, Lomachenko came out carefully studying Salido, looking for way to penetrate the Mexican’s high guard and staying low to the ground. Neither fighter was able to impose in the round. Salido was more active in the second and was able to land a couple of looping right hands. He also roughed up the Ukrainian on a few occasions, including a few shots below the beltline. Lomachenko seemed confused in the third round, not able to reliably find a distance that was comfortable to him. Salido exploited this and continued to wade in, leading with his head and manhandling the former Olympic champion. Lomachenko seemed flustered as the third came to a close. Both fighters engaged in the fourth with Salido’s body shots (along with his head) doing a lot of the damage. Lomachenko managed to land shots but the Mexican appeared to be seizing control of the bout, punctuating the round with a big overhand right. Salido began to take over the fight in the sixth as he punished Lomachenko to the body, ripping hooks and crosses. The Ukrainian tried to mount his own offense but was continually harassed by veteran tactics.
The seventh was a good round for the former Ukrainian Olympic champion as he strafed Salido with a few hard lefts and good body work. Salido came out in the eighth with a busy work rate, landing hard shots primarily to the body. Lomachenko found some rhythm with laser quick lefts but the Mexican appeared to have carried the round. In the ninth and tenth rounds, Salido continued to school Lomachenko, landing concussive right hands to the head and hard shots to the gut. As the tenth came to a close, Lomachenko looked like a beaten boxer, unsure of what to do next. Salido continued to unveil the veteran’s guide on how to beat an experienced guy in the eleventh as he hammered the Ukrainian and pushed him around the ring. “Siri” came out looking to close the show with an aggressive twelfth round. Lomachenko was game in the final minute and began to seriously come on, landing booming shots to the Mexican’s body and head. Salido looked ready to go but managed to hang on to hear the final bell. The cards awarded a split decision victory to the Mexican by scores of 115-113 and 116-112. Lomachenko managed to win on one card by scores of 115-113. Because of Salido’s transgression regarding the weight, the W.B.O. belt is now vacant.
The main event of the evening lit up the Alamo Dome as Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (47-1-1 with 32 KOs) met Bryan Vera (23-7 with 14 KOs) for the vacant W.B.C. Continental Americas Super Middleweight title. Both pugilists opted for contact in the first round as Vera stalked, shooting a stiff jab while J.C. Jr. circled the ring, landing hooks in return. Vera kept dropping his right hand as he jabbed and Chavez made him pay a couple of times with counter left hooks to the jaw. Vera began to land early in round two as he unleased consecutive left jab, right hand combinations that found their mark. Chavez returned fire with his trademark left hook, which blasted the Texan’s face. The Mexican also uncorked a straight right hand that jarred Vera’s head. Not to be outdone, Vera responded with a right of his own that snapped J.C. Jr.’s head back. Both men were able to do some good work in the third and rocked each other but it was Vera that appeared to have levied more punishment. The fourth, fifth and sixth rounds saw plenty of back and forth with both warriors landing at will. Vera had the work rate over Chavez but the Mexican was landing the harder shots. The seventh was another scoring conundrum as Vera was clearly the busier fighter and landed several good shots but J.C. Jr. came on like a freight train in the final minute of the round, rocking the Austin brawler on several occasions.
A ferocious struggle broke out in the eighth as J.C. Jr. trapped Vera on the ropes and smashed him with bruising punches. Vera fired back with, landing some heavy artillery himself. The Austin native had a point deducted for holding. The Mexican really turned the relentless pressure on in the ninth and tenth rounds as Vera was not given a second to rest or regroup. J.C. Jr. battered Vera with thudding blows. Bryan was game but could not keep the advancing Mexican off of him. Vera closed the tenth with a fury of shots and both men showed the signs of a brutal affair. Vera’s activity level was carrying the eleventh round but J.C. Jr. seriously hurt his foe in the last minute of the round. Chavez bullied Vera into the ropes and assaulted him as the round closed. Vera’s heart was on display in the final round as he fired leather with little regard for his own safety. The Texan was overwhelming the younger Mexican and obtained a victory of sorts as J.C. Jr. spent most of the last round gesturing and in full retreat.
The thousands in attendance booed against Chavez because of this, as the fight came to an end and J.C. Jr. pulled out a unanimous decision by totals of 117-110 (twice) and 114-113.
The opening battle saw Houston native Jerren Cochran (10-0 with 4 KOs) taking on fellow Texan Aduato Gonzalez (11-9 with 4 KOs). The bout was scheduled for six rounds in the featherweight division. Gonzalez came out of the gate aggressively, firing leaping left hooks and winging right hands that often found their mark. Cochran tried to play the role of the matador as he attempted to impose himself as the superior boxer. The fight quickly fell into a predictable rhythm as Gonzalez attacked and Cochran tried to pick the Mexican-American off and in-between his wide flurries. Just as Gonzalez seemed to be in control in the third round, Cochran landed a hard right hand that sent Gonzalez to the canvas. Gonzalez beat the count and survived to hear the bell. Gonzalez was game through the middle rounds of the fight but Cochran’s more polished style and better boxing skills began to tell as he slowly asserted himself. Gonzalez had his moments and landed but was often countered well by the Houstonian. The final round was exciting as Gonzalez sold-out; firing shots recklessly. Cochran continued to stay in his envelope and landed solid counter combinations. The Houston resident won a well-deserved unanimous decision by scores of 59-54 (twice) and 60-53.
The second fight of the night featured Top Rank welterweight prospect Alex Saucedo (12-0 with 9 KOs) taking on Illinois boxing journeyman Gilberto Venegas (12-12 with 4 KOs) over six rounds. Saucedo started off by utilizing his jab and followed with three and four punch combinations. Venegas could not find range or a consistent rhythm to offer a response. As the rounds passed by, Venegas would do little-to-nothing to stunt the offensive advances of Saucedo. Venegas was able to getting a little bit of business done in the third but was still clearly outworked by the undefeated prospect with ease. Rounds four and five followed the same pattern: Saucedo controlling the action with jabs and out landing Venegas with little to worry about in return. In the sixth stanza, Venegas was finally about to break through as he landed some solid left hooks to both the head and body but it was too little, too late as Saucedo improved to 13-0 via a stress-free, unanimous decision. The scorecard totals read 60-54 (twice) and 59-55.
Following the Saucedo fight, California resident and undefeated welterweight Jose Zepeda (18-0 with 16 KOs) was matched against Johnnie Edwards (15-6-1 with 8 KOs). The fight was slated for eight rounds. Edwards, not looking in top shape, came out switching from orthodox to southpaw with no real consistency, trying to confuse the young Zepeda. This tactic proved ineffective as Zepeda was able to land flush combinations at will, focusing primarily on Edward’s ample midsection. Zepeda poured it on in the second, landing vicious combinations with nothing in return and busting up Edward’s face in the process. The referee stepped in, officially stopping the fight at 2 minutes and 10 seconds of the second round.
The fourth contest of the night had a fighting son of the host city as undefeated lightweight Ivan Najera (12-0 with 8 KOs) from San Antonio, fighting McAllen, Texas brawler Angel Hernandez (8-1 with 4 KOs) in a match scheduled for eight rounds. The hometown boy came out firing heavy leather and landing at will as Hernandez tried to counter. The talent gap was obvious and paid off quick as Najera landed a left hook that deposited the McAllen boxer to the canvas. Hernandez was game, rose from the canvas and able to withstand Najera’s assault. Hernandez came out in the second looking a more composed and was able to land shots early. Najera, looking overconfident, began to leave himself open and was cleanly caught by a right hand which led to a flash knockdown. He rose and both fighters continued to exchange as the round came to an end. The third turned into a slugfest as both Texans launched concussive punches and landed at will. Hernandez pressed forward behind a lazy but effective jabs and shots to the body as often as possible. With less than 15 seconds left in the round, Najera landed a booming uppercut, seriously hurting Hernandez. An ensuing clinch led to both fighters hitting the deck. Both got up and did not seem injured. The free for all continued through the middle rounds with both fighters having their moments. The fight was difficult to score as Najera landed to the head while Hernandez focused on the body. Hernandez was mostly the aggressor as he came forward and launched looping punches that somehow found their mark. There was a definite drop in action in the seventh as both pugs seemed exhausted. The combatants renewed their vigor in the eighth, fighting the majority of the round in the proverbial “phone booth”. The fans came to their feet and cheered in admiration as the final bell tolled. The local warrior won a unanimous decision by tallies of 77-73 (twice) and 78-72. The fight appeared closer than what the official scorecards offered as both fighters fought at almost equal terms. Still, Najera walked away with the victory to remain undefeated.
As the night continued, two-time Mexican Olympian and undefeated professional featherweight prospect Oscar Valdez (8-0 with 7 KOs) took on Dallas, Texas brawler, Samuel Sanchez (5-5-1 with 1 KO) over six rounds. The opening volley had Valdez landing solid jabs, with the occasional hard hook to the body, and using the ring as he moved in and out of range. Sanchez attempted to land counters but was not consistent as the former Mexican Olympian covered up well. The second saw Valdez start to warm-up and land sizzling left hooks to the jaw of the Texan, causing Sanchez’s legs to buckle on several occasions. Sanchez was able to finish the round on his feet but things were not looking good. Even though Sanchez was the smaller dog in the fight, there was no quit in him as he withstood hellacious punches but kept trying. After being rocked several more times in the third, the referee decided he had seen enough and stopped the fight at 2 minutes and 20 seconds of the round, awarding Oscar Valdez a technical knockout victory.
The final non-televised portion of the event hosted former lightweight champion Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz (38-4 with 19 KOs) facing Mexican trouper Gerardo Robles (18-12-with 9 KOs). The fight was scheduled for 10 rounds in the lightweight division. Diaz and Robles dispensed with formalities and quickly went to work on each other, punching frequently with much success. Robles showed progress midway through the round as he steadily landed to the body. Diaz began to measure himself, prompting Robles to pound his chess and demand for Diaz to exchange, causing gasps from the living crowed on hand. Diaz opened the second by upping his aggression and began to land power shots with regularity. Diaz returned to measuring himself in the final minute of the round as Robles did little. The Baby Bull’s left hook-right hand combination told the story in the third as he found a home for both punches with no resistance. Robles’s bravado at the end of the first was completely absent as the third closed. The fight’s trend through the middle rounds was Diaz stalking a retreating Robles, managing to land in spurts. Diaz overwhelmed Robles to close the fifth and was in control of the fight. The bout slowed dramatically as Robles appeared to be in survival mode: constantly moving and not willing to engage. Diaz opened the seventh with a barrage of punches as he trapped the Mexican on the ropes but Robles was able to withstand the onslaught. Robles began to get going in the final thirty seconds and landed some heavy shots which resulted with the Baby Bull touching down on the mat. He would quickly rise and both fighters ended the round exchanging shots. Diaz blitzed Robles in the opening half of the eighth and reasserted himself as the Mexican went back into his shell and the Baby Bull simply outworked his foe in the ninth by firing and landing more punches. Robles was a little more hostile in the tenth, but was smashed by several left hooks in the closing seconds of the round. The judges awarded Diaz a unanimous decision by scores of 99-91 (twice) and 100-90.
All in all, the fans were treated to another exhilarating night of boxing. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Bryan Vera delivered an instant classic while Orlando Salido showed that nothing makes up for professional experience.