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Las Vegas Analysis: Neno Rodriguez, Vargas, Rios, and Canelo

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Looking back at the long weekend of Las Vegas fights several prizefighters emerged to take the next step in their careers.

This is what we saw:

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez defeated Miguel Cotto in a fight much closer than the scores indicated, Ronny Rios has a lot more left in his tank, Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura had the Fight of the Year, and Saul “Neno” Rodriguez is ready for prime time.

Neno

Neno, as his family and friends call him, trains in Riverside under Robert Garcia or more precisely the entire Garcia family. It’s a dynamic that includes brothers Mikey, Robert, Robert Jr. and father Eduardo Garcia. Together they’ve honed a lightweight contender capable of ending a fight at any moment.

For example, last Friday at the Cosmopolitan the slender lightweight was matched with San Antonio’s Ivan “Bam, Bam” Najera a good fighter who had gone the distance against Puerto Rico’s banging Felix Verdejo.

Rodriguez had sparred with the real “Bam, Bam” Brandon Rios and also with Mikey Garcia to prepare for the fight. You can’t get better preparation than that.

During the weigh-in, Najera was 2.6 pounds overweight and did not try to lose the weight. Rodriguez took the fight any way. He wasn’t going to miss out on a television opportunity with the nation watching. Basically, Najera had the advantage of weight and did not starve himself like Rodriguez to make weight. He went in at full-power.

Ever since Rodriguez turned professional, the Garcias have been molding him to be a more defensive-minded fighter. As an amateur the Riverside lightweight would come in with guns blazing and it was kill or be killed. Mostly he collected scalps but did not make the elite amateur squads. But fans loved to watch him in amateur tournaments. When the bell rang Rodriguez would blast out of his corner and obliterate most opposition.

Fans love knockouts.

If you’ve followed Rodriguez you know that knockouts are still a central part of his plans. But professional boxing has its latitudes and each time a fighter climbs another rung it gets tougher to achieve knockouts. That’s where the Garcias have added another layer to his arsenal; one that includes strategy and defense.

Against Najera the entire arsenal was on display as Rodriguez analyzed, dissected and obliterated the Texans in less than a round. The Riverside prizefighter has graduated to another level and just might be the next emerging star.

Ironically, or maybe not, junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford watched intently as Rodriguez dispatched Najera with left hooks and check right hands. Puerto Rican contender Verdejo was there too.

“I took a photo with Felix Verdejo,” said Rodriguez after the fight. “He’s a nice guy.”

Rodriguez and Verdejo could be the next Mexican-Puerto Rican war down the line. And whoever is successful could be matched with the very talented Crawford in two or three years. But for right now, Rodriguez will probably be graduating to HBO level fights very soon.

A contingent of HBO executives were in attendance and were impressed with Rodriguez’s firepower. Everybody loves knockouts.

Fight of the Year

Even before the fight took place one had to know that matching WBC junior lightweight titlist Takashi Miura of Japan against Mexico’s Francisco “El Bandido” Vargas was putting gasoline with fire.

Two years ago I witnessed Miura fight Sergio “Yeyo” Thompson in a similar match up. It was a filthy hot and humid bull ring in Cancun, Mexico during the summer of 2013. That night each fighter hit the deck and clobbered each other for 12 rounds. Miura emerged the victor but collapsed in his dressing room and was carted away to a local hospital. The temperature inside the enclosed bull ring was well above 100 degrees that night. Miura proved to be ok. He just did not have any more fluids in his body. I voted it Fight of the Year for 2013 but many did not see the fight on the Golden Boy card.

Miura showed me then he was one heck of a warrior.

Vargas started kind of late as a professional at age 25. Now 30, he’s been on the fast-track and in five years has fought and defeated talented opposition such as Jerry Belmontes, Abner Cotto, and Will Tomlinson. He’s not afraid to trade blows with anyone. He showed that against Juanma Lopez back in 2014 when he got into a firefight with the hard-hitting Boricua and ended the fight in three rounds. Of course, many said Lopez was past his prime and that may or not be true, but Vargas did take some shots. He survived.

Facing Miura, the first round had barely begun when Vargas tagged the Japanese warrior early with a left hook and had him wobbling around the ring. Unlike many others, I had seen Miura before and knew he would survive. He did. Slowly but surely Miura began mounting an attack and began battering the Mexican fighter around the ring. The momentum shifted and the champion was in full control and floored Vargas with a perfect right jab, left cross combination. Down went Vargas. He got up and battled like I knew he would. Four rounds later, Miura seemed to have the Mexican fighter in bad trouble in the corner, but time ran out.

In the ninth round Vargas stormed out of his corner and caught Miura with an overhand right and down went the champion. The entire arena was in shock. They expected the Japanese to end the fight and instead saw Vargas whack out Miura with a barrage of blows that forced referee Tony Weeks to stop the fight.

Could Miura have continued?

That could spell a rematch between the two warriors. It’s definitely the Fight of the Year.

Rios Reloads

Santa Ana’s Ronny Rios had one victory since being blasted out by Robinson Castellanos a year ago at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio. It was a one-sided beating that could have taken the heart out of any fighter. Rios was taken by ambulance to a local hospital after that fight in October 2014.

Rios has never been a big puncher. The featherweight instead relies on good boxing fundamentals and constant pressure. He’s proof that if you know your craft you can succeed even in a knockout driven sport.

The featherweight contender returned to the boxing ring last March and seemed tentative in his return. But as the rounds mounted you could see the confidence build. After 10 rounds he looked back to normal. But that was against a good fighter, but not a contender.

Puerto Rico’s Jayson Velez fought on a Golden Boy fight card in downtown L.A. this past June and had prepared at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood. He showed sharpness, power and most of all he was very strong.

When Golden Boy announced the match between Velez and Rios it was clear it was a do or die moment for Rios.

Rios, 25, is a fighter of Mexican-American descent managed by Frank Espinoza. Most of his fighters have serious firepower. But there’s something about the Orange County fighter that makes you like him. He loves to fight. He’s smart and people simply are drawn to him.

But you can’t take fans into the ring with you. Though a large contingent of fans were in attendance at the Mandalay Bay for Rios, he was facing Puerto Rico’s Velez who also had a large contingent of Puerto Rican fans shouting for him. It was Mexico versus Puerto Rico all over again.

From the first round it was obvious that Rios planned to target the body and was doing a great job. But referee Jay Nady once again declared the blows were low. Nady has done this many times in the past including his horrible work officiating John Molina’s fight with Humberto Soto. In that fight he took points away from Molina that led to a defeat for the Covina fighter. Here he was again taking a point away from Rios for a blow that landed on the belt.

Nady is simply too tall to referee fighters below welterweight. He takes away use of body shots that can change the outcome of a fight. The Nevada State Athletic Commission needs to evaluate his performances more closely. Body shots are legal and he’s penalizing fighters who attack the body. It’s costing boxers their livelihood.

Rios was battling Velez and the referee throughout the fight but somehow managed to control the fight. Velez tried mightily but it just wasn’t his night. The Puerto Rican fighter is very talented and his style wasn’t suited for Rios constant attack.

Fans waited for the verdict and when it was announced Rios had won they burst into near tears. Not only was Rios back but he looked stronger than ever.

“He looked very good,” said Espinoza after the fights. “I was very impressed by Ronny.”

Fans watching on television were also impressed.

Canelo

After 12 rounds between Mexico’s Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto it was obvious that the redhead belongs in the upper tier. Cotto had consecutive knockouts against former world champions but could not put a dent on Canelo.

The fight appeared to be a lot closer than the judges scored it. Many on press row had the fight a draw. It was one of those fights that saw one guy (Canelo) landing much harder blows and the other scoring with jabs and combinations.

Alvarez was declared the winner so what’s next?

The Mexican redhead has three options: 1) a rematch with Cotto. 2) defend the title against David Lemieux. 3) meet Gennady Golovkin in a unification bout.

Of course the world would love to see the third option. So would I. In my opinion Alvarez showed he’s very strong and could go toe-to-toe with Golovkin. Not many fighters can, but I think the Mexican from Guadalajara showed he has a chin and strength to withstand Golovkin’s assaults at least in the early going.

It’s all up to Golden Boy and Canelo.

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Saul Sanchez Wins in Ontario, CA

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ONTARIO, CA- Saul Sanchez remained undefeated after a tumultuous battle against Mexico’s Fernando Saavedra to win by majority decision to the dismay of a small crowd on Friday.

In a battle of bantamweights at the Doubletree Hotel, it was Pacoima’s Sanchez (11-0, 6 KOs) who started quicker but San Luis Potosi’s Saavedra (7-6, 3 KOs) closed the gap in the latter half of the fight in front of a boisterous crowd of maybe 400 fans.

Sanchez nearly floored Saavedra in the first 20 seconds of the fight when a three-punch combination had the Mexican fighter wobbled. It spurred Sanchez to go on the attack, ultimately leading to a toe-to-toe battle.

The quicker hands and feet of Sanchez proved troubling for Saavedra, who needed the Southern Californian to stand still. That seldom happened in the first four rounds.

But though neither boxer seemed to tire, Sanchez began getting trapped against the ropes and allowing Saavedra to connect with powerful blows. The last three rounds were especially close and Sanchez was able to slip more blows than Saavedra. But each never ready to quit.

After eight bantamweight rounds, two judges scored it 77-75 for Sanchez and one had it 76-76 a draw. Sanchez was deemed the winner by majority decision.

Many fans were angry by the decision.

Other bouts

Corona’s Louie Lopez (5-0, 3 KOs) remained undefeated with a solid performance over Bakersfield’s Ray Cervera (0-2), a resilient super welterweight. Lopez was able to use his quick left hooks to score in every round but Cervera had a good chin and was able to counter with rights. No knockdowns were scored in the four round fight and all three judges scored the fight 40-36.

Oscar Torrez (3-0, 1 KO) knocked down Richard Soto (0-1) in the last round to assure a victory by unanimous decision in an entertaining heavyweight fight. Torrez fights out of Rialto, CA and is trained by Henry Ramirez who also trains Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola. The two heavyweights seemed evenly matched for the first two rounds, with Soto having his best round in the second when he continually landed one-two combinations with good effect. But Torrez resumed control of the fight in the third by using the jab, then mixing up his attack. In the fourth round, Torrez unleashed a 10-punch barrage that dropped Soto in the corner. The fighter from Northern California got up and survived the round but was unable to turn things around. Two judges scored it 39-36 and another had it 40-35, all for Torrez.

Anthony Franco (3-1-1) took time to warm up before scoring a knockdown and defeating Kansas fighter Antonio L. Hernandez (1-4) by decision after four rounds in a super welterweight contest. In the third round, Franco slipped under a left by Hernandez who tripped and when he turned was met by a perfect left that knocked down the Kansas boxer. Though he wasn’t hurt, it changed the complexion of a close fight in favor of Franco who lives in Redlands, CA. All three judges scored it for Franco 38-35, 39-36, 38-37.

Tijuana’s Rafael Rivera (26-2-2, 17 KOs) ripped into Guanajuato’s Jose Ramos (11-15-1, 8 KOs) with a savage attack to win by knockout in the first round. A barrage of blows sent Ramos backward dangling over the ropes. Referee Ray Corona ruled it a knockdown and let the fight continue. Rivera resumed the attack and blistered the taller Ramos with blinding punches forcing the fight to be stopped at 1:51 of the first round. It was Rivera’s first fight since losing to Joet Gonzalez by split decision last July in Los Angeles.

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Pacquiao-Broner: A Perfect Fight for Pacquiao and the Good Guy Wins

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Various sites are reporting that eight division titlist Manny Pacquiao 60-7-2 (39) will meet four division title winner Adrien Broner 33-3-1 (24) in December or January with Manny’s WBA regular welterweight title on the line. The fight hasn’t been confirmed yet but here’s how you know it’ll happen, and that is the fight makes dollars and sense for the super-star involved and that’s Manny Pacquiao.

Pacquiao signed with adviser/promoter Al Haymon – with the hope of getting a rematch with Floyd Mayweather in 2019. Haymon is tied to Mayweather and Broner and most of the top welterweights in the sport – including world champions Errol Spence, Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter. Manny lost a unanimous decision to Mayweather in May of 2015 and has longed for a rematch ever since. And ironically, neither Mayweather nor Pacquiao want any parts of taking on a young gun boxer in his prime. Both Terence Crawford, the WBO title holder, and Errol Spence, the IBF titlist, would take apart and embarrass both of them and there’s a sound case to make that both would’ve been okay tangling with Floyd and Manny even during their prime.

However, Mayweather and Pacquiao are businessman first and fighters second at this time and that’s been the case for quite a while. Manny only has interest in facing Mayweather again because he seeks revenge and Floyd will be 42 and coming off a long period of being inactive by the time they face off. As for Mayweather, he’d rather partake in big money fiascos where he can continue to gouge the public in WWE gimmicks against elite MMA fighters like Conor McGregor, his last opponent, or McGregor’s recent conqueror Khabid Nurmagomedov.

The only real boxer Floyd would entertain fighting is Pacquiao, who at this stage is only a moderate threat to Floyd because Mayweather hasn’t been in the gym much and has been preoccupied with spending his money. That and Pacquiao has a style that Floyd knows he can handle and Manny holds a version of the welterweight title. Granted, Floyd would probably make more money facing Nurmagomedov and Pacquiao is more or less his plan B if Manny gets by Broner. The problem with Mayweather facing Nurmagomedov is that Nurmagodev’s MMA fights don’t attract big interest and just maybe after the McGregor farce, both boxing and MMA fans are fed up with Mayweather’s faux fights and rip-offs – and with him then rubbing it in their faces by bragging how much money he made. So perhaps fans have wised up and will only consider paying to see Floyd fight another boxer – therefore Pacquiao becomes relevant to him.

With it no longer a secret that Mayweather and Pacquiao are only interested in robbing the public, enter Adrien Broner. If there’s another fighter who has been rewarded with big fights after posting underwhelming performances every time he has faced an upper-tier fighter, I don’t know of him. Broner is 3-2-1 in his last six bouts, having faced two championship caliber opponents in Shawn Porter and Mikey Garcia. He lost on the judges’ cards by a collective 16 points versus Porter and 14 against Garcia….in other words he didn’t compete and after the first third of those fights you could’ve turned to something else and you wouldn’t have missed a thing…other than Broner scoring a knockdown over a coasting and careless Porter in the 12th round.

Broner, 29, is a highly skilled boxer, and when he fights he shows flashes of what he could’ve been but never was. Adrien’s problem is he has a low boxing IQ and never cared to expand it. He’s let his weight balloon up and he’s lazy. Actually, Broner doesn’t like to fight and does it because he’s pretty good at it and he likes the notoriety it brings him. Other than that, he’s a contented loser and that makes him perfect for an aging Pacquiao.

When they get in the ring Manny can count on Broner fighting no more than 30 seconds per round and posing and loafing for the remaining 2:30. Adrien will talk up a great fight, saying he knows time is running out and he needs a sensational showing, but once again his words won’t translate into deeds…they never do. Pacquiao, knowing that a potential Mayweather rematch hinges on how he looks, will show up prepared and ready for battle. Manny has been around the block a few times and knows nothing will escalate the interest in another fight with Mayweather like a good showing and perhaps him being the first to stop Broner inside the distance.

Hopefully boxing fans won’t be asked to shell out PPV dollars to watch Pacquiao vs. Broner. But it’s boxing, so nothing should come as a surprise. The only given here is that Broner doesn’t hold any advantage over Pacquiao in size or skill, which isn’t normally the case with Manny. Moreover, he’s facing a fighter who will fold and break the first-time things get tough, and if we know one thing about Pacquiao it’s that he doesn’t make it easy for anybody. And I expect him to feed off of Broner’s weak constitution as the fight progresses. In addition to that this is the perfect good guy versus bad guy match up.

The one thing that might add intrigue to Pacquiao-Broner is that Broner is an easy guy to root against and a ton of fans would love to see nice guy Manny Pacquiao beat him up and humiliate him. And if the fight comes to fruition, count on that being how it unfolds. Yes, Pacquiao fights the perfect guy in order to set up a rematch with Mayweather and Broner will exit the ring a loser once again, only with a little more money to flush down the toilet.

Frank Lotierzo can be reached at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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Irish Jason Quigley Keeps NABF Title at Fantasy Springs

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INDIO, Calif.- Jason Quigley returned to fight in Southern California after nearly two years away and found it tough going in defeating Mexico’s veteran Freddie Hernandez by unanimous decision to retain the NABF middleweight title on Thursday.

Nearly every round was contentious.

Quigley (15-0, 11 KOs) had decided to train in England after spending several years in Southern California. Though he beat Hernandez (34-10, 22 KOs) he must have forgot how to fight inside as that’s where the troubles began at Fantasy Springs Casino. The fight was televised on ESPN.

After spending the first several rounds picking apart 39-year-old Hernandez from the outside, when the Mexican fighter crowded Quigley, the Irish fighter found it difficult to maintain his punch advantage.

Hernandez used his crafty inside work to both score and muffle the punches incoming from Quigley. In the sixth and seventh round the Mexican fighter began mounting considerable damage on his foes’ face. Whether it was weariness or some other factor, Hernandez was scoring big with well-placed left hooks and lead rights.

The crowd began shouting “Fred-die, Fred-die” as the veteran landed flush blows. A look of concern crossed Quigley’s face.

Both fighters looked tired by the ninth round, but the older fighter Hernandez somehow seemed fresher especially while fighting on the inside. Then Quigley began separating himself and scoring with pot shots. That seemed to stop the rushes of Hernandez.

In the final round Quigley’s fans began shouting his name and the Irish fighter though weary managed to fire some combinations while on the move. Both fighters were exhausted when the final bell rang.

One judge scored it 99-91, the other two had it 98-92 all for Quigley.

“I feel great, I knew coming in this was a big test for me,” said Quigley.

Yes it was.

Gomez

New York’s Eddie Gomez (22-3, 12 KOs) was supposed to be joined with his dad for the fight against Japan’s Shoki Sakai (22-9-2, 12 KOs) in Indio, but unexpectedly his father passed away this past weekend. The fight still went on.

Gomez won every round against the game Sakai who was trained by Mexico’s famed Nacho Beristain. The welterweight Gomez from the Bronx used his speed and movement to keep away from Sakai’s big blows. After eight rounds all three judges saw it 80-72 for Gomez.

“It was very hard. He (father) was supposed to come out Saturday night. He took a week off of work. He was supposed to fly out and Saturday was the day he had died,” said Gomez after the fight. “I got to bite down. He was in camp with me. He had his input. He would have been proud today. I love you pops.”

Other bouts

Coachella’s Rommell Caballero (4-0, 3 KOs) floored Hugo Padron twice to win by knockout at 1:25 of the first round in a super featherweight match. Caballero, the 19-year-old brother of former super bantamweight champion Randy Caballero, connected with a counter left hook during an initial exchange that sent Pardo to the floor. He got up tentatively and was met with a crisp right through the gloves for a second knockdown. Referee Tom Taylor took a look at Pardo and waved the fight over.

“My first fight on ESPN I just want to thank everybody. All I’m doing is training. I’m getting ready and staying sharp,” said Caballero who was a former sparring partner for Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez. “Training with him (Gonzalez) is one of the greatest experiences I ever had.”

After losing most every round Ray Perez (24-10, 8 KOs) made a stand and connected with an overhand left that staggered Chimpa Gonzalez (19-3, 15 KOs) and then the Filipino fired another overhand left through the guard and down went Gonzalez. Though he beat the count, Gonzalez seemed light headed and when the fight resumed Perez connected with more blows and the fight was called at 2:15 of the seventh round. Perez was deemed the winner by knockout.

It was a rematch of a fight that took place last February at the same venue. In that contest Perez won by unanimous decision.

Gonzalez trained with Joel and Antonio Diaz in Indio for this match. And though the lanky lightweight was far ahead on the score cards, he seldom moved his head and paid for it. Before that, he was ahead by attacking the body of Perez who protected his body for the last three rounds. But once Gonzalez slowed Perez revved up his attack and finished Gonzalez.

In a featherweight clash Edgar Ortega survived a first round knockdown against Recky Dulay (11-4, 8 KOs) and rallied to win by unanimous decision after six rounds by scores 57-56, and 58-55 twice.

Southpaw lightweight Angel Ruiz (11-0, 8 KOs) knocked out Dominican Republic’s Jonathan Fortuna (8-3) at 1:40 of the fourth round. Ruiz, 21, fights out of Tijuana, Mexico.

Super featherweight Elnur Abduraimov (2-0) knocked out Giovannie Gonzalez (5-3) at 2:38 of the second round. Abduraimov, 24, is originally from Uzbekistan.

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