By: Eric Lunger
Saturday night on Fox, Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) presents a triple-header from the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, TX. In a classic crossroads matchup, veteran Josesito Lopez takes on undefeated prospect Miguel Cruz in a ten-round welterweight clash, while Anthony Dirrell and Abraham Han are set for ten rounds at super middleweight. The televised card opens with featherweights Jorge Lara and Claudio Marrero.
Photo Credit: Premier Boxing Champions Twitter Account
Lopez (35-7, 19 KOs) has been in the ring with quality opposition, including a losing world title effort against Canelo Alvarez in 2012. In that same year, however, Lopez stopped Victor Ortiz in nine rounds, his most notable win. Since then, the Riverside, CA, native has posted mixed results, with losses to Marcos Maidana and Andre Berto, but he comes into Saturday night’s looking to continue his two-win streak. Lopez is an aggressive and fan-friendly fighter who is willing to take risks. Confident and relaxed, Josesito just finished a solid camp with renowned trainer Roberto Garcia: “this is the kind of fight I can really display my skills,” Lopez said at the pre-fight press conference, “I am prepared for anything Saturday night.”
For Miguel Cruz (17-0, 11 KOs), Saturday night is a huge opportunity. With only three ten-rounders under his belt, Cruz is relatively untested. His last two outings were unanimous decision wins, over Alex Martin last June and David Grayton in November. At five-foot-eleven, Cruz will have a two-inch height advantage over Lopez and a five-inch reach surplus. “I have to be smart and execute my game plan round after round,” Cruz said, “my jab will be key, and if I can use that and wear him down to the body, I think I’ll have a great chance to stop him.”
In the co-feature, former middleweight Champion Anthony Dirrell (31-1-1, 24 KOs) looks to continue his climb back into contention after a gritty sixth-round stoppage of Denis Douglin in November of last year. Two years ago, Dirrell lost his belt by majority-decision to Badou Jack, and he later stopped future IBF champion Caleb Truax in round one of their 2016 bout, so Dirrell knows what he can do, and he knows he belongs in the mix at the top of the 168 weight class. “Everybody knows I am a championship caliber fighter, and I’ll prove it again on Saturday. After this fight I’m ready to take on any of the super middleweight champions,” Dirrell said.
Abraham Han (26-3-1, 16 KOs) is an El Paso native, and is excited to fight in front of his hometown fans. Han’s most notable win was over Marcos Reyes in November of 2014, a ten-round majority decision. Han comes into Saturday night’s bout riding a three-fight win streak, with two recent knockouts and one no-contest due to a head butt. “I hope the sport fans of El Paso come out and watch me put on a great performance,” said Han in the press conference this week. “I know the type of challenge I have in front of me, but I also know I have the skills to pull this off.”
The action will start with a televised undercard feature, pitting heavy-handed Mexican Jorge Lara (29-0, 21 KOs) against Claudio Marrero (22-2, 16 KOs) of the Dominican Republic. With a combined seventy-percent knockout rate, this bout is unlikely to go the full distance.
The action begins live on FOX and FOX streaming 8:30 ET/5:30 PT.
by B.A. Cass
A three-punch combination, ending with a left hook to the head, is what it took for Jesus M. Rojas to knock out Claudio Marrero. After Marrero hit the canvas, he sat up, shaking his head. He then put his arms over his knees. He seemed more shocked than wounded—as if the idea that a man could knock him out was something he had never considered. The referee started the count. Marrero got to his knees but after that did not attempt to stand. Yeah, you know, shit happens, he told his coach, German Caicedo, after the fight. This is boxing. Anyone can get knocked out. It was Marrero’s response to losing, rather than the loss itself, that first made Caicedo consider whether he wanted to continue training Marrero.
That night, Marrero texted Caicedo to see if they could talk. But Caicedo was at the airport, about to board a red-eye flight to Miami. He had to be back at his gym the next day to train Luis Ortiz for his now cancelled fight with Deontay Wilder. Caicedo and Marrero planned to speak when Marrero returned to Miami.
Marrero’s reaction to losing the fight was not the only reason Caicedo was frustrated. Although Marrero trained hard, he seemed to be letting his modicum of success go to his head; often, he could be heard talking about his “millions, ” and when people asked him about the fight he said it was “easy money.” Marrero also disregarded the entire fight plan. They had trained for a pressure fighter by “being first with your jab, counterpunch if he attacks, if he doesn’t attack, you’re first on your attack, and then you’re stepping around, stepping aside, holding your ground,” Caicedo explains. “Instead what he was doing was jumping around, running straight back into the ropes, surrendering and allowing Rojas to come in freely with no attack.” Marrero seemed more concerned with entertaining the crowd than winning. Multiple times, he dropped his hands and taunted Rojas.
Back in 2013, Marrero had lost in a similar fashion to Jesus Cuellar, who pressured him from start to finish. He handled that a little bit better, being a younger fighter, but he still lost by unanimous decision. After his loss to Cuellar, many people were saying that Marrero couldn’t handle pressure. But Caicedo stuck by his fighter, allowing him to maintain a residence in the Caicedo Sports facility. “He promised me he wouldn’t do that again,” Caicedo explains, “that he would better himself. He wouldn’t let his head get big. He would focus. But they were right all along. He couldn’t handle pressure. He can’t handle a little bit of success because his head gets big.”
After the fight with Rojas, Caciedo assumed Marrero would be back in Miami the next day, on Saturday afternoon. But Marrero didn’t return from Las Vegas until Tuesday. So you’re on vacation, Caicedo thought. Taking pictures in Las Vegas, partying with your friends. The loss didn’t affect you at all. Because of his training schedule with Ortiz, Caicedo wasn’t able to catch up Marrero until two days later. But he had already decided to let him go.
How did he break the news to Marrero? “Frankly,” Caicedo says. “I told him I don’t want to train you anymore and I don’t want you in the gym. I’ve got nothing personally against you other than this, but this is a big one. I can’t forgive this one.”
Caicedo realizes that anyone can lose. The loss isn’t what got to him. “He doesn’t have to be a world champion. I would have never kicked him out of the gym if he said to me, I’m so sorry, I screwed up, I fell apart, I was thinking about my son, I was thinking about losing, I didn’t want to lose. I completely screwed up. Then you say, shit happens, I get you. But that’s not what he answered when he answered me. What he answered was, you know, it’s no big deal, man. I just got knocked out, the same way I knock people out, they knock me out. It is what it is. We’ll try again.”
Not with Caicedo he won’t. Now Marrero will have to try again with someone else as his coach. He’s got to rebuild his reputation, which won’t be easy. He’ll be taken as an opponent and most likely won’t be treated as the A side.
Caicedo still thinks Marrero can become the undisputed. But he’s got to make that his goal and not lose focus when he gets a little bit of hype, a little bit of notoriety. “When he is completely ignored and not spoken about and is not the man, he’s the most humble, hardworking boxer—forget about in the gym, in boxing,” Caicedo says.
It’s important to remember Marrero is only twenty-eight. He has years ahead of him as a boxer—and potentially even good years if he takes Caicedo’s advice and goes back to being the humble, hard-working boxer that Caicedo first knew.
Follow B.A. Cass on Twitter @WiththePunch
By: William Holmes
The Marquee Ballroom at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada was the host site for tonight’s Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN Card.
The venue was a more intimate venue with good views for the fans in attendance.
Photo Credit: Tom Hogan-Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions
The opening bout of the televised card was between Damon Allen Jr. (12-0) and Jayro Duran (10-2) in the lightweight division.
Damon Allen is a Philadelphia native and considered by many to be on of the area’s best prospects.
Allen was in clear control the opening rounds and was able to land his left hook and jab with ease. He was able to control the distance and fight a measured but controlling pace on Duran.
Duran was able to land a thudding right hook in the fifth round that caught Allen by surprise momentarily, but Allen was able to outland Duran for the remainder and in this writer’s opinion still won the round.
Allen won a large majority of the remainder rounds and was sharp with his combinations and didn’t appear to tire even though Duran was able to continuously come forward. However Allen did not show that he had fight stopping power, but he did have good boxing skills.
All three judges scored the bout 79-72 for Damon Allen Jr.
The next bout of the night was in the Super Featherweight Division between Ryan Garcia (10-0) and Miguel Carrizoza (10-2) in the Super Bantamweight division. This bout was for the Junior NABF Super Featherweight Title.
Garcia came right out and landed a thudding right hook in the opening seconds that sent Carrizoza down to the mat. As soon as Carrizoza got to his feet Garcia landed another thudding hook that sent him down to the mat and the referee stopped the fight.
Two punches, two knockdowns, quick stoppage. Impressive fight for Garcia.
Ryan Garcia wins by TKO at 0:30 of the first round.
The next bout of the night was between Alexis Salazar (11-3) and Evan Torres (6-4) in the middleweight division. This bout was a TV swing bout.
Salazar was the taller fighter and he attempted to use his reach to keep Torres at bay. Torres, however, applied consistent pressure but he appeared to be more effective in the earlier rounds.
Both boxers took advantage of the opportunity to possibly be on television and had some heavy exchanges in the later rounds.
The final scorecards were read in Torres favor: 59-55, 58-56, and 60-54.
The televised main event was between Claudio Marrero (22-1) and Jesus Rojas (25-1-2) for the WBA Interim Featherweight Title.
Rojas is known for his hard charging come forward style and he had Marrero backing into a corner early. Marrero was mixing his combinations to the body and head and at one point pushed Rojas down into the corner. Marrero landed several good uppercuts in the opening round.
Marrero controlled the distance in the second round and showed he was clearly the fighter with the faster hands. Rojas was able to do a better job in the third round keeping the fight in close quarters, but Marrero was dominating when there was some separation between the two fighters.
Rojas dominated the fourth and fifth rounds and looked like he was wearing Marrero down. He kept his head in the chest of his opponents and was landing heavy shots, though Marrero was able to get in some good combinations of his own.
Marrero was able to retake control in the sixth round by landing good combinations and even backing Rojas up. Marrero could be seen jawing to his opponent throughout the sixth.
Marrero looked like he was catching his second round in the seventh round until Rojas landed a devastating combination with a fight ending left hook that sent Marrero down to the mat. Marrero was badly hurt and unable to get up before the count of ten.
Jesus Rojas wins by knockout at 2:59 of the seventh round.