By: Robert Aaron Contreras
On Friday, May 10, ShoBox has a tripleheader on tap from the Omega Products International in Corona, California where a trio of the state’s most promising upstarts headline the show as they each face some of their stiffest competition to date.
At the top of the bill, Ruben Villa returns to the ring to face Luis Albert Lopez, a world-rated contender by the WBO. Michael Dutchover and Saul Sanchez, two adopted sons of Los Angeles, will be fighting in support on the Showtime broadcast, beginning at 10:30 p.m. ET.
Barry Tompkins and Steve Farhood will be on the call for the network with Raul Marquez providing color commentary.
The early prelims, including former title challenger Petr Petrov, can be viewed at ThompsonBoxing.com.
Here’s a look at the three matchups bolstering the card.
Ruben Villa (15-0, 5 KO) vs. Luis Albert Lopez (17-1, 8 KO)
Somehow opening as an underdog (+110), Villa could be boxing’s biggest secret—at least one that’s been hiding in plain sight. The oddsmakers ignored the southpaw’s undefeated ledger and two National Golden Gloves.
Lopez, from Mexico, opened at favorable odds but has since plummeted to a four-to-one underdog (making Villa the -400 favorite heading into the weekend). Lopez, 21, is riding a five-fight win streak since the lone loss of his career to Abraham Montoya in 2018. Last time out, Lopez upended the previously-unbeaten Ray Ximenez on UFC Fight Pass. The action was tight, but after a cut stopped the bout in the eighth period, the judges agreed Lopez’s accurate potshotting was enough to defeat the Texas-born standout.
Fighting out of Northern California, Thompson Boxing Promotions recognized Villa’s aptitude early on. The promotional outfit has brought Villa along the professional ranks since he turned professional in 2016. Now they have set up Villa, 22, for his first Showtime main event and second start on national television. He’s prepared for the 10-round contest at Robert Garcia’s gym under the tutelage of father-son training duo Max and Sam Garcia.
Friday marks the second bout of the year for Villa. In January, he boxed the ears off Ruben Cervera, orchestrating the first loss of the Columbian puncher’s career, winning over an easy eight rounds. The California-bred stylist also went the distance with Miguel Carrizoza, winning by unanimous decision. Carrizoza, interestingly, was sparked out by another prospect in Ryan Garcia. Villa lacks the cracking punch of his hotshot counterparts but that’s no secret. He doesn’t rely on barnstorming ways, but a fluid, agile attack.
Before Villa’s ShoBox debut four months, he decisioned Jose Santos Gonzalez, who in his next fight bloodied Manny Robles III en route to a split-decision loss. And then in March, Gonzalez extended Manuel Avila to a draw. Villa, on the other hand, showed no trouble with the Mexican banger.
If Villa’s impressive pro record leaves anything to be desired, his time as an amateur doesn’t. Making up 166 ammy wins, he triumphed over Shakur Stevenson and Devin Haney in headgear.
Another impressive outing over Lopez would help Villa continue to stand out from the cohort of talented Californians making their names around the 126- and 130-pound divisions.
Michael Dutchover (12-0, 9 KO) vs. Ramon Mascarena (10-0, 5 KO)
Dutchover is set to face the first undefeated opponent of his career since crushing a 1-0 novice in his pro debut. Mascarena, 25, travels from Chile to meet the California transplant.
Dutchover is a hard-hitting lightweight training out of Southern California with Danny Zamora. He’s originally from Midland, Texas where he earned the nickname “West Texas Warrior.” And in his last outing, Dutchover was all over Ruben Tamayo from the word go, in three rounds stopping Tamayo, which has become a rite of passage for Mexican-American boxers following the veteran’s tussles over the years with Joseph Diaz, Oscar Valdez and Miguel Flores.
The 21-year-old puncher planted his feet and pitched right hands to Tamayo’s body, relentlessly. The powerful blows eventually forced not only the hardened man to hit the deck twice but the referee to call a halt to the action just two minutes into the third stanza. It was Dutchover’s fourth consecutive knockout.
Never tasted defeat, Dutchover stands an inch taller than his man this weekend. But Mascarena is still a career junior welterweight and so prove more difficult to crack open like he’s done to so many others.
Saul Sanchez (11-0, 6 KO) vs. Brandon Benitez (14-1, 6 KO)
Sanchez was pushed to his limit last time out but hopes to outdo himself in his first fight of 2019 against Benitez. Nicknamed the “Beast,” Sanchez is the odds-on favorite (-300) to get the job done Friday night.
Last October, the 21-year-old bantamweight fought the unheralded Luis Saavedra. The two battled for a complete eight rounds. Sanchez settled for a majority-decision. His past opponents haven’t been so lucky. Before that surprisingly competitive tilt, Sanchez punched out Mexico’s Ernest Guerrero in four rounds—quicker than champions like Francisco “Chihuas” Rodriguez took to ditch Guerrero.
Benitez represents another Mexican combatant to deal with. One younger, fresher and sharper. Equal in age, “Leoncito” Benitez makes his way from Queretaro, Mexico having rattled off five straight victories. More importantly, included in his winning streak is a three-fight stint in Venezuela. There Benitez defeated three middling homegrown fighters in enemy territory.
Of course he’s never faced anyone highly-touted as Sanchez. But Benitez won’t be the least bit shy on the road.