By Eric Lunger
Tonight on FOX, Premier Boxing Champions presented a triple-header from the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, TX. In a classic crossroads matchup, veteran Josesito “Riverside Rocky” Lopez took on undefeated prospect Miguel Cruz of Puerto Rico in a ten-round welterweight clash. Coming off a productive training camp with Robert Garcia, Lopez (35-7, 19 KOs) was looking to jump start a career that had begun to slip sideways, while undefeated prospect Miguel Cruz (17-0, 11 KOs), fighting in his fourth ten-rounder, was looking to make a statement in the glamorous and deep 147-pound division.
The first round was a professional, exploratory round, with both fighters doing some reconnaissance by jab. Lopez began to push the action in the second, but Cruz countered accurately. Cruz fights with a classic high guard, and he used his jab effectively, but Lopez landed some good, short left hooks.
Photo Credit: Premier Boxing Champions Twitter Account
In the third, Lopez continued to be the aggressor, and though he did not have much success getting through Cruz’s defense, it was the kind of aggressive round that can sway a judge. Lopez found a new gear in the fourth, landing better shots and starting to take control of the fight. As the middle rounds ticked by, Lopez found his rhythm, getting inside Cruz’s jab, while Lopez was unable to disrupt the Riverside fighter’s attack. Cruz also lost a point on a low blow, after two warnings.
The sixth round opened with another point deduction for a low blow, as Cruz was trying to answer back by going to the body. Lopez went on to dominate the round, while Cruz seemed unable to adjust his game plan at all. The Puerto Rican fighter began to raise his activity level in the seventh, but Lopez continued to apply pressure and to land effect shots from a variety of angles. The eighth and ninth rounds were more of the same, as Lopez continued to push, and Cruz could not mount an effective counter to Lopez’s continual pressure.
In the final frame, Cruz showed some desperation, but Lopez dug deep, and confidently continued to attack. Overall, it was an impressive performance by Lopez, who earned the unanimous decision: 99-89, 99-89, and 98-90.
In the co-feature, former middleweight champion Anthony Dirrell (31-1-1, 24 KOs) looked to continue his climb back into contention in the 168-pound weight class. His opponent, El Paso native Abraham Han (26-3-1, 16 KOs) came into the bout riding a three-fight win streak, but Dirrell marked a significant step up in class.
In the first round, Dirrell used his jab to find the range, catching Han with a couple of solid rights. Han fought off his back foot, looking to counter, but he seemed to let Dirrell find the range too easily, at least in my view. Dirrell ended the round with a clubbing right hand on the side of Han’s head, dropping the hometown fighter at the bell.
Han looked sloppy to start the second, while Dirrell calmly and patiently probed for an opening. In the third, Dirrell continued to stand in the middle of the ring, controlling the fight with his jab. Han did little to initiate, with Dirrell at one point taunting his opponent to do something. Dirrell presented a study in efficiency: he lands clean shots and takes almost no risks. Han flurried at the end of the round, but it was all show.
In the fourth, after some trash-talking and taunting, the fighters tangled up and, as Han started to pull him to the canvass, Dirrell tackled Han. It certainly woke the crowd up, who booed Dirrell with great gusto. Dirrell continued to dominate the middle rounds, clinically taking Han apart.
In the eighth, both fighters were chattering, egging each other on. Han was tough, that’s clear, but the heavier and cleaner shots were landed, as they had been all night, by the man from Flint. The final two rounds were more of the same, as Dirrell used his considerable defensive skills to evade Han’s reckless offense while landing effective shots of his own. At the final bell, Dirrell did a back flip, a demonstration of fitness and lack of fatigue that the crowd failed to appreciate. The judges returned cards of 100-89, 99-83, 99-83, all for Dirrell.
The first televised bout of the evening featured undefeated Jorge Lara (29-0, 21 KOs) of Mexico against Claudio Marrero (22-2, 16 KOs) of the Dominican Republic. The bout was brief and brutal. Both fighters came out throwing huge punches, but it was Marrero who landed a short but explosive left directly on Lara’s chin that dropped the Mexican to the canvass. Dazed and glassy-eyed, Lara was unable to get his feet under him. Marrero takes the KO win at thirty-three seconds of the first round.