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Every Joe Gans Lightweight Title Fight – Part 2: Frank Erne II

Matt McGrain

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The lightninglike character of the defeat struck consternation into the hearts of the thousand Erne men at the ringside. They were dumfounded. Their champion had met defeat before he had fairly begun to fight. – The Brooklyn Eagle, May 13, 1902.

At the end of Part 1, we left Joe Gans with a career it tatters. By quitting to Frank Erne in a world title fight and then colluding in an apparent fix against Terry McGovern, Gans had committed the two mortal sins of the ring. Months after the McGovern debacle The Waterbury Democrat ran a speculative piece under the headline “Is Gans Chicken Hearted?” More than a year after the first Gans-Erne fight, the St.Paul Globe reported on Joe’s attempts to break into the San Francisco fight scene: “Fortunately Gans’ evil reputation has preceded him and the ‘Frisco sports are consequently forewarned and forearmed against the threatened coming of that most undesirable negro pugilist.”

His name was mud.

Erne, for his part, was clear: he would take “no notice of challenges directed” by, or on behalf of, Joe Gans. Ahead at the time of the stoppage, Gans was twice disgraced, and a fighter Erne needed no part of. Gans, though, had been a professional for eight years before he tempted Erne into the ring and knew the two-part equation for forcing a champion’s hand: kick ass and take names.

This work started in earnest in the May of 1901, some months having elapsed since his miserable hippodrome against McGovern. His opponent that day was the wonderful Bobby Dobbs, the old-time “colored” lightweight champion, too vulnerable, perhaps, to be compared directly to Gans but a boxer of some brilliance. His career spanned five decades and during it he took to the ring more than two-hundred times. Suffice to say, he was no pushover, a veteran of the ring who had a decade and more of fighting before him. Gans “made a chopping block” of the wily Dobbs who did not land a meaningful blow according to the wire report. Gans was back in earnest.

That said, nothing more underlined his being drawn back into the chasing pack of lightweights than the fact that he was now once more battling for the “colored” lightweight championship. This title is viewed in modern times, rightly, as something of an ignominy but in fact various “colored” titles were fought for as late as the 1940s and often by men as good as or better than the reigning “world” (and by implication, white) champion. This title worked as a chokepoint for black contenders, a way of thinning out the ranks of African-American fighters who sought championship fights. Black fighters first had to prove themselves the best black fighter, and then they might be allowed to fight for the real title. Gans then, sought to prove himself once more.

He hit a bump in the road against the excellent Steve Crosby in August, boxing a twenty-round draw in a fight he dominated, his soon-to-be-legendary blocking bedrocking an inspired generalship that kept Gans in control throughout. But Crosby, too, was a fighter of no small talent and in the nineteenth, he rushed Gans and was not turned away. The pattern of the fight had seen Gans pin Crosby to the ropes at the end of exchanges, here, instead, Crobsy held his ground and a tired Gans was outhustled in both the nineteenth and twentieth rounds.

Joe clinching his way through the late stages looked bad; the referee, according to the wire report, “could only call the match a draw.”

Gans was no longer a young man and I think this was the last major lesson he learned in the ring. As Jack Blackburn would tell Joe Louis three decades later, “let your fist be your judges, Chappie.” Gans was the best technician of his generation, more, the best technician in history up until that point.  Like every technician he hIn January of 1901 he stopped Bobby Dobbs for a second time and what had been clear once before was clear again: Joe Gans was far and away the best of the African-American lightweights and deserved another chance at the champion.ad a question to answer, and that question was more urgent in the early 1900s, with fights often scored on the general impressions of the referee: when to cut loose. Gans wasn’t quite given the chance to answer in the immediate rematch, which was stopped by police interference while Gans battered Crosby about the ring, but it is no coincidence that Gans scored four quick knockouts in his next four fights. These included a one round stoppage of Joe Handler, a man who had never been stopped and was himself coming off a win over the excellent Spike Sullivan.  Gans, perhaps, had a redeveloped a mindset, one fixated on stoppage victories even over class opponents he had tended to seek to outgeneral.

Erne, for his own part, was not without problems. Not least among them was the same Terry McGovern with whom Gans had performed his disastrous charade; McGovern had put a much more legitimate hurting upon Erne at a catchweight. A sojourn to 147lbs in search of a second championship had also seen him hurt. There were those that saw the champion slipping just as they saw Gans beginning to surge.

Surge, and surge irresistibly, for around January a rematch was planned for February. A six-round no -decision whereby Gans would have to win by stoppage to take the title, it seemed little more than an exhibition and very much in keeping with the Philadelphia law of the time. It was also the first step on the road to a legitimate second fight for the world’s lightweight title.

The Buffalo Courier, which watched Buffalo resident Frank Erne’s every move, speculated as to the significant financial rewards which must have been on offer to induce Frank to face a man he had sworn off fighting before noting that Erne’s title was for the most part protected by the ruleset. Gans’ compliance in boxing six was all but implied and there seemed little chance, anyway, of Erne succumbing in six to a technician like Gans. Nevertheless, the paper reported on January 19th that the contest “will be worth going a distance to see. While they fought at long distance [in their first fight], Gans damaged the Buffalo boy considerably.”

Both things were true, and people did indeed go a distance to see the Philadelphia fight that February – only for Erne to no-show.

This was not a carefully considered withdrawal, either, but a panicked last-minute dereliction of duty leaving an angry crowd disappointed at the gate – not quite the equal to the sins perpetrated by Joe Gans, but only a single magnitude lower.

Erne spoke freely of a plan to “do him”, that Gans, clearly in superb condition, plotted to attempt to knock Erne out, an accusation denied vociferously by Gans. This sounds strange to modern ears – why would Erne be upset at the notion that Gans would try to knock him out? And why would Gans deny it? They were fighting, weren’t they? They were, but laws differed by state in America at the time and there were perceived differences in different types of fighting. Erne’s expectations of an exhibition rather than a prizefight were not unusual; there were even stories that Gans had posted a thousand-dollar bond against his winning by stoppage.

That this would not be considered a fix where the Gans-McGovern fight was very much in the shades of grey associated with the era. In fact, Erne only disgraced himself by the lateness of his withdrawal – the accusation of a double-cross was otherwise taken seriously.

Still, having won all but one of his previous eight contests by stoppage – including a Philadelphian six-rounder with Joe Youngs, who he beat into retirement in just four – Gans cast a shadow so menacing as to intimidate even Erne. Erne wanted time, time to improve his shape and perhaps to reclaim his confidence. Softer fights were made for the champion at lightweight while negotiations began in earnest to make the championship match Erne had probably now doomed himself to fight.   If Erne had given the impression of handling Gans over six, he could perhaps postpone meeting him in a title fight indefinitely; now it seemed only a question of where and when.

By late March, all was known. The fight had found its way north of the border and into Canada. It made no difference to Erne, nor Gans, natural-born road-warriors both, where the fight might be fought; the Athletic Club at Fort Erie on May 12th was as good a spot as any, three thousand dollars guaranteed ending the argument. Gans celebrated by dusting Jack Bennett in three; Erne, who had stopped Curley Supples (better known for wrestling) and then exercised himself over the six-round distance against Gus Gardner earlier in the month, eschewed further combat and settled into training.

Some of that training took place at his father’s Lewiston farm where his mother once more took control of training camp logistics. His final training base was planned for Niagara, but the improvised camp did not agree with Erne; he returned to Buffalo and the Rose Street gym he called home. He trained before pressmen who were suitably impressed.

“I feel a hundred percent, better than I ever did before,” Erne replied in questions to his condition.

Erne sparred three rounds with chief second Frank Zimpfer, then shadowboxed. “To say that Erne is faster on his feet than ever before,” reported The Courier, “is only giving him partial credit. Erne’s puzzling and wonderful footwork, if nothing else, is bound to give Gans trouble.”

“They tell me Joe is working like a Trojan,” offered Erne. “Well he can’t be in better shape than he was the night we clashed in New York…I think Gans will play a rushing game. I rather expect him to fight fast from the gong.”

Gans was indeed “working like a Trojan” down in Leiperville, Pennsylvania; Terry McGovern, clearly bearing no grudges over the considerable fallout from their contest, had done some sparring with Gans and then loudly picked him to defeat Erne. Gans always sought out serious sparring partners and much of his work had been done with the wonderful Young Peter Jackson and Herman Miller, who had himself boxed a pair of draws with Dobbs. Al Herford, Joe’s manager, expressed his satisfaction at the condition of his charge and that all their claims upon Erne and the title would evaporate with a loss. For Gans, it was to be now or not at all.

He arrived in Fort Erie forty-eight hours before bell, around the same time as professional gamblers began pouring into town. Odds were in his favour, barely, though they had been fluctuating since the fight was made and would continue to do so until first bell: Gans, evens, Erne, and back, though never was the difference vast.

“A bet on me will get the money,” Gans told The Courier. “I will lick Erne sure. He beat me once, but it was an unfortunate accident. He couldn’t do it again in twenty years.”

Erne disagreed. “I’ll still be lightweight champion of the world Tuesday morning,” he said. “I will knock out Gans in ten rounds or win the decision at the end of twenty.”

There was some concern in print over the moral certitude of the combatants. Between them they had a quit job, a fake and a no-show in just two short years; overwhelmingly though there was excitement, the type that only a true superfight can engender. The Courier was enthusiastic concerning their hometown fighter’s condition to the point of sycophancy:

“That Erne is in the best of physical condition is a foregone conclusion. He is in better shape at present than he ever was before. Erne of tomorrow night will not be the same Erne of two months ago. He is down to weight, fast as a colt, his skin is rugged, his eyes are bright, and flash like a panther’s. His wind is perfect, his hands are sounder than ever before, and, in general, he is the same Erne who won the championship from “Kid” Lavigne some three years ago. Erne is hitting harder and faster now than he ever did in his life.”

And even where past transgressions were to the fore, as they were in The Chicago Inter Ocean, Gans may have remained a “despicable human being” but was nevertheless an “ugly and dangerous ring partner…it behooves you to watch him closely.”

Gans was first to the ring, “as lean as a wolf hound” according to The Buffalo Review; Erne did not make him wait, arriving only minutes later appearing “trained to the hour.” The crowd stood in preference of Erne but Gans not without his backers. One by one, Kid Parker, Kid McPartland, Art Sims and George McFadden presented themselves and their challenges  – more fighters issued challenges to one another. The weights of the two principals were announced, Gans just under 134lbs, Erne just under 133lbs. At 9:49pm the two shook hands.  At 9:41pm Frank Erne writhed on the canvas in a futile attempt to beat the count.

“After knocking at the door for ten years,” wrote The Brooklyn Eagle, “Joe Gans, the Baltimore lightweight colored pugilist, at last is the lightweight champion of the world.”

“The knockout punch was so clever,” continued The Washington Post, “so sudden, so unexpected and so quick that even Gans and referee Charley White stood motionless for an instant, staring at the form of Erne as he lay on his stomach, apparently unconscious.”

The two had emerged cautiously, sparring, each man trying to induce the lead, as they had in the first fight, a competition Gans had won. Here Erne seemed more determined, shifting, while Gans danced at the very edge of reach. Erne finally reached Gans with a right-hand punch, but it was at the very end of his reach and did no harm. If there was a warning shot for Erne this was it, a punch not thrown by Gans but by himself: at the full extent of his reach, he was both powerless and vulnerable. He needed to either commit to attack or commit to remaining at safe distance, he could not do both.

The first seriously landed punch was a Gans left, but a jab, as if in portent though it drew blood from Erne’s nose. Both men were trying to feint each other out of position but Gans, just as he had been in the first fight, was the man controlling the distance. It was Erne that had to take action to close that distance, to change the pattern of the fight, and here he did so, stepping in with a punch.

“Erne feinted with his right,” saw The New York Evening World, “and as he did so Gans also feinted with the same hand. Erne, evidently thinking that Gans was going to swing for his jaw, ducked, and as he did so Gans sent in a short but terrific right jolt under Erne’s left guard. The blow landed with terrible force on Erne’s nose, mouth and chin.”

The punch was an uppercut, whipped straight through the Erne guard. He collapsed face-first to the canvas, some descriptions having him tangle with Gans as he fell.

The Washington Times takes up the story:

“The six thousand or more men in the arena were simply petrified with amazement. For the first three seconds not a single person moved or spoke. Then of a sudden a mighty cheer burst forth.  Men jumped to their feet and surged towards the ring.”

The Inter Ocean provided the tragic details of Erne’s desperate struggle:

“One, two, three, and Erne’s quivering body stretched out. Four, five, and he partly raised himself on one arm, only to roll over on his face at the count of six. Seven, and Erne, with a game effort, worked his hands under him. Eight, nine and out.”

Gans had won in a hundred seconds.

“Did he knock me out?” demanded Erne as he was carried to his corner by his seconds and then began to weep. Gans was hoisted into the air and carried from the ring.

There was some bad feeling associated with the result. Some talk of a “lucky punch” reached the ears of Al Herford who marched his charge out of town early the following day, resulting in Frank Erne, this time, being stood up, as he arrived in town for a meeting with Herford the following morning to discuss a potential rematch. Herford claimed Gans was keen to be reunited with his wife, “his fourth” sniffed a clearly pained writer for The Buffalo Evening News.

Those seeing a lucky punch included Terry McGovern who was ringside but a lightweight named Joe Leonard, the instructor at the Buffalo boxing gym, was also ringside, and gave a more thoughtful perspective:

“I was close to the ring,” said Leonard, “and I had a good view of the doings. I also noticed that Gans, in stepping in with his final punch, pivoted partly around on his knee – just as I have seen Kid McCoy do. That put additional force in the blow. I have seen a good many fights, but never before did I see anyone show such fine generalship as did Gans in feinting Frank into that angle where he had him dead to rights. Erne fell into the trap easily and Gans was there with one of the cleverest punches I ever saw delivered.”

Whether a lucky punch or a masterful trap, there was no doubting the result, nor the winner.  Erne would never fight for the world title again – though he did fight for something called the “white” world title.  Gans, the first man of colour to lift the lightweight championship was about to become the fightingist champion of any weight in the short history of boxing.

His first defence would see the end of a war fought in numerous chapters, stretching back to the summer of 1899.

This series was written with the support of boxing historian Sergei Yurchenko.  His work can be found here.

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Dan Parker Bashed the Bad Guys in Boxing and Earned a Ticket to the Hall of Fame

Arne K. Lang

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Twenty-five years ago this month, sportswriter Dan Parker was formally ushered into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the non-participant category. Parker wasn’t there to enjoy the moment. He had been dead going on 30 years.

Dan Parker, who began his career in journalism as a court reporter in his native Waterbury, Connecticut, hired on with the New York Daily Mirror in 1924, was named sports editor two years later, and remained with the paper until it folded during a prolonged newspaper strike in 1963, a total of 39 years.

Parker has been underappreciated by historians of the sports page because he worked for a paper that didn’t make the cut when advances in microphotography allowed copies of old newspapers to be stored on microfilm. During this reporter’s days as a college student — and here I date myself – the only out-of-town papers archived in the school library were the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post, and to cull something out of them for a term paper one had to commit to spending long hours manually scrolling through reels of microfilm on a clunky machine. The tabloids – and the Daily Mirror was a tabloid – were considered too lowbrow for serious research, and even today in the digital age, stuff by Dan Parker is hard to find if one doesn’t have the luxury of hunkering down for an extended stay in the periodicals section of the Library of Congress. His online omnibus consists entirely of scattered stories that were picked up by other newspapers and a few magazine pieces.

But among boxing writers, Dan Parker was a giant. He did more than anyone to cleanse the sport of the hoodlum element. The IBHOF electorate has come up with some curious choices in the non-participant category over the years, but in the case of Dan Parker they certainly got it right.

Parker was a big man, carrying about 240 pounds on his six-foot-four frame, but a man’s size is irrelevant when staring into the barrel of a gun and Parker was fearless when facing off with the goons that infested the fight racket. His best year, one might say, was 1955 when a story he authored for Bluebook magazine flowered into an award-winning, six-part series in the Mirror titled “They’re Murdering Boxing.” The series spawned an investigation that ultimately resulted in the imprisonment of Frankie Carbo, boxing’s so-called underworld czar, a man with a long rap sheet, and several of Carbo’s collaborators, most notably Philadelphia numbers baron Frank “Blinky” Palermo.

Parker’s friends urged him to lay off the hoodlums before something bad happened to him, but he ignored their counsel. “Everybody in boxing lived in fear of this enforcer (Frankie Carbo) but not Dan Parker. Nobody ever put enough heat on Parker to slow down his typewriter,” reminisced Hartford Courant sports editor Bill Lee.

Parker’s reputation as a reformer was well-established before he zeroed in on the machinations of Carbo and others of his ilk. In 1944, when a vacancy came up on the New York State Athletic Commission, Governor Thomas Dewey, who had made his reputation as a racket-busting District Attorney, offered the post to Parker.

It was easy money, but he declined. “What would I use for a punching bag if I were on the boxing commission myself?,” he said.

During a portion of Parker’s tenure with the paper, there were eight other New York dailies competing for readers. The Mirror was the paper of choice for well-informed boxing fans thanks in large part to Murray Lewin who came to be recognized as the city’s best fight prognosticator within the ranks of the newspaper writers. Lewin, the boxing beat writer, did the grunt work, attending all the little shows and writing up the summaries. Parker, as he freely admitted, was more interested in writing about sporting characters than about the games they played. And like his good buddy Damon Runyon, who wrote for the New York American (later the Journal-American), Parker was inevitably drawn to boxing and horseracing because that was where the most colorful characters were found.

Parker found time to write one book, a primer for novice horseplayers published in 1947 when horseracing was on the cusp of the boom that would lead it to becoming America’s top spectator sport (a distinction, needless to say, that wouldn’t last).

The book had a chapter on touts, one of Parker’s favorite subjects for his newspaper column. They were all charlatans, he wrote, an opinion that did not endear him to the bean-counters as they were forever cluttering up his sports section with ads from racetrack tipsters. Parker wasn’t afraid to make enemies on his own paper.

Believe it or not, but there were still folks back then who believed that professional wrestling was on the up-and-up. Parker educated them when he wrote a column that gave out all the winners on a show that hadn’t yet started.

The programs for the wrestling shows, which included the bout sheet, were published well in advance and then hidden away until they were needed. Parker procured a copy and from it was able to glean which wrestlers had won their preceding match.

“Dan was a shy, gentle, and kindly man with a quick sense of humor,” wrote New York Times sports editor Arthur Daley. But within his profession, he wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The legendary Herald Tribune sports editor Stanley Woodward once likened him to Fearless Fosdick, a character in the L’il Abner comic strip who was a parody of Dick Tracy. Parker had a long-running feud with New York Daily News sportswriter Jimmy Powers which may have had something to do with Powers becoming a well-known radio commentator. In the eyes of the old guard, a true journalist didn’t do “electronic media.”

When Damon Runyon died from cancer of the larynx in 1946, several of his close friends, notably Parker and the famous gossip columnist Walter Winchell, a Daily Mirror colleague, got together and resolved to create a charity in Runyon’s memory. What resulted was a foundation that has raised millions for cancer research. Parker worked tirelessly on its behalf.

Daniel Francis “Dan” Parker died on May 20, 1967, at age 73. He was quite a guy.

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What Next for Gabriel Rosado?

Ted Sares

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What Next for Gabriel Rosado?

Bektemir Melikuziev, Freddie Roach, Edgar Berlanga, and Jaime Munguia are names that, one way or another, figured into Gabe Rosado’s stunning KO last Saturday night in El Paso. It overshadowed the impressive showing by Noaya “Monster” Inoue later that night in Las Vegas.

Rosado (26-13-1) is a well-documented bleeder and just might start spurting during the walk-in, but he is never, ever in a dull fight. The tougher-than-tough Philadelphian won Top Gore honors for his blood and guts TKO loss to Canadian middleweight star David Lemieux in 2014. The year before, he bled aplenty in his game but losing effort against Gennady Golovkin.

This time against Melikuziev, the unbeaten Uzbek, the fight ended in round three when the 35-year-old underdog beat the Eastern Euro fighter to the punch during an exchange of rights with Gabe’s landing first and sending the former amateur star into dreamland. The force of the blow was amplified by the younger and faster man coming forward with caution to the wind. And this time, there was no bloodletting.

The knockout should be a contender for KO of the Year. In fact, it was reminiscent of Juan Manuel Marquez’s explosive knockout of Manny Pacquiao in their final match.

Once again, Rosado (who is now trained by Freddie Roach) has revived his career and can count on at least one last decent payday. While many think Jaime Munguia would be a solid next fight, the thinking here is that Rosado could get carved up by the undefeated Tijuana veteran who has won 30 of his 37 fights by KO. Munguia is just too good.

The Catch 22

Rosado is an all-action fighter but scar tissue and his propensity to bleed is his worst enemy. It has cost him in the past. For such an offensive-minded fighter as Gabe, he is trapped in a terrible catch-22. If he can get the lead early and the bleeding is stemmed within reasonable limits, he can be a force, but not against the likes of Munguia.

If not Munguia, then who?  Here is one suggestion: How about “The Chosen One,” Edgar Berlanga (17-0) whose first round KO streak recently came to an end. Brooklyn vs. Philadelphia would be a nice added touch –not to mention the Puerto Rican factor. Could Rosado expose Berlanga as someone without enough experience, aka rounds? Would Gabe show that Berlanga is more Tyson Brunson that Edwin Valero?

Let’s make it happen!

Ted Sares enjoys researching and writing about boxing. He also competes as a powerlifter in the Master-class. He can be reached at  tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Fast Results from Las Vegas: Inoue Demolishes Dasmarinas; Mayer UD Farias

Arne K. Lang

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Fast Results from Las Vegas: Inoue Demolishes Dasmarinas; Mayer UD  Farias

LAS VEGAS — Top Rank was at the Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas on Saturday, June 19, for the second of their three June shows. In the headliner, WBA/IBF world bantamweight champion Naoya “Monster” Inoue lived up to his nickname with a vicious third round stoppage of Filipino import Michael Dasmarinas.

Inoue (21-0, 18 KOs) had his opponent fighting off his back foot from the opening bell. He knocked down Dasmarinas in the second with a left hook to the liver and twice more in the third round before referee Russell Mora waived it off. The official time was 2:45.

Dasmarinas brought a 30-2-1 record and hadn’t lost since 2014. But he was no match for the “Monster” who looks younger than his 28 years. Those body shots landed with a thud that could be heard in the far reaches of the arena. This kid is really good.

Mikaela Mayer continues to improve as she showed tonight in the first defense of her WBO world super featherweight title. Mayer 15-0 (5) turned away Argentina’s Erica Farias (26-5) with a 10-round unanimous decision in a fight that was frankly rather monotonous.

Mayer won by scores of 97-93 and 98-92 twice. Farias, who landed the best punch of the fight, didn’t have the taller Mayer’s physical equipment but yet landed the best punch of the fight. Her only setbacks have come on the road against elite opponents—Cecilia Braekhus, Delfine Person, Jessica McCaskill (twice) and now Mikaela Mayer.

The opener on the ESPN portion of the show was a lusty 10-round welterweight affair between Ghana native Isaac Dogboe and Glendale, California’s Adam Lopez. Dogboe, whose only losses came at the hands of Emanuel Navarette in world title fights, improved to 22-2 by dint of a majority decision that could have easily gone the other way. Dave Moretti had it a draw but was overruled (97-93 and 96-94).

Lopez, one of two fighting sons of the late Hector Lopez, an Olympic silver medalist, did his best work late, particularly in the eighth round. With the loss, his record declines to 15-3.

Other Bouts

Monterrey, Mexico super lightweight Lindolfo Delgado, a 2016 Olympian, was extended the distance for the first time in his career but won a wide 8-round decision over Guadalajara’s Salvador Briceno

Delgado won by scores of 80-72 and 79-73 twice while advancing his record to 12-0. Delgado’s best round was the eighth, but Briceno (17-7) weathered the storm. Briceno is 5-6 in his last 11, but has been matched tough. The six fighters to beat him, including Delgado, were a combined 78-3 at the time that he fought them.

Vista, California lightweight Eric Puente has yet to score a KO but he is undefeated in six starts after winning a unanimous decision over Mexico’s Antonio Meza (7-6). Puente, who is trained by Robert Garcia, knocked Meza down early into the fight with a sweeping left and was the aggressor throughout. The judges had it 57-56 and 58-55 twice.

Puerto Rican super lightweight Omar Rosario improved to 4-0 (2) with a fourth-round stoppage of Reno, Nevada’s Wilfred “JJ” Moreno (3-1) The official time was 0:47.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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