By Fiona Manning
A sell out crowd of 11,000 at Staples Center in Los Angeles watched one of the most spectacular cards seen on Cali shores for some time on Saturday night; witnessing some impressive firsts: a brutal 3rd round KO victory for Erik “El Terrible” Morales in his first foray into the super featherweight division.
There was also a huge victory for IBF bantamweight champ Rafael Marquez in his first title defense and another first for reigning and defending IBF 130 pound champion Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez whose nickname should now be Lionheart.
It was also a first in two other ways: no national anthem and the first time a fighter (Steve Forbes) appeared in the ring wearing long black stockings.
The WBC Super Featherweight Eliminator
In the fight billed as the main event but taking place before Hernandez-Forbes for the IBF 130 pound championship, Erik “El Terrible” Morales knocked out Guty Espadas in three short, sharp, shocking rounds - setting himself up in line for the WBC champion, Jesus “El Matador” Chavez.
First up, Morales wants Carlos Hernandez, a fight said to be just about a done deal.
“El Terrible”who looked amazing against Espadas, vacated his WBC featherweight title to sample the lucrative waters in the 130 division in a match labeled “Revenge.”
Who better for this revenge than former world champion Guty Espadas, the man who lost his title to Morales in a very controversial decision two years ago?
There was no controversy Saturday night, just sheer brilliance as Morales, one of the sport’s great champions pound-for-pound of any division, displayed the serious magic in his mitts.
After overcoming a rocky first round, he flogged Espadas four ways from Sunday before dropping him with a devastating right to the head at 2.58 of the third.
Morales, beloved by the crowd, showed his mutual appreciation for them and a tearful Espadas, checking on his woebegone two-time foe in the corner. What a class act.
“El Terrible” improves to 45-1, 34 KOs. Espadas slips to 37-6, 23 KOs.
The IBF Super Featherweight Championship
Half the media unfortunately for them - disappeared into the Chick Hearns press room for Morales’ press conference as Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez successfully defended his championship in a unanimous decision against former titlist, Steve Forbes in of the closest-fought fights of the night.
Due to an accidental head-butt the fight was stopped at the end end of the 10th. Famoso had blood streaming down his chest when ref Pat Russell stopped the action. When the score cards were tallied, Hernandez had a solid victory: 97-93, 97-94 and 98-92.
What a fight! The action was fought only on the inside, so much so, it was hard to tell who was landing what unless you studied each and every shot.
Hernandez and Forbes were toe to toe from the first bell. Forbes, who’s always been labeled a boxer, stood and traded with Hernandez with not always great results. In the first two rounds, Hernandez dominated, the crowd flipping out with each shot landed.
Forbes picked up steam taking the third and giving the champ some major grief in the fourth with a furious flurry against the ropes. Hernandez came back at the end of the round but Forbes had made his point.
Famoso opened the fifth with a couple of big hands but it was grueling going all the way. He was landing more shots but Forbes was keeping the heat at full-blast in the kitchen.
The sixth saw Hernandez’s left eye opening up to a cut. A brief visit with the ringside physician and the action continued with Hernandez once again seeming to land more punches.
In the seventh, the action was so close it was hard to pick a winner, though Forbes has a terrific jab when he remembers to use it. That jab gave him the round.
The eighth saw Forbes pressed against the ropes until the excellent Pat Russell (California’s gift to the boxing world) separated the two warriors. Forbes started holding more, leaning in heavily but Famoso is in love with somebody else. Famoso ahead 5-3.
In the ninth, Famoso was pushing Forbes back more, trying to keep him from clutching and holding. It didn’t always work. Forbes, looking exhausted held on as much as possible. Famoso would land and Forbes would step in for the clinch. Mrs. Famoso should be very jealous.
The 10th saw Famoso’s corner handling that left eye very well and Famoso himself with a new burst of energy, able to work off his jab more, despite the fact that Forbes apparently still wanted to dance. Famoso, bleeding from both eyes, was busier, landing more, Forbes would endure 2-3-4- shot combos and come in for a hug. Maybe his wife should be jealous too.
At the end of the 10th, ref Pat Russell didn’t like the look of the champ and called a halt good call, Pat.
Hernandez improves to 40-3-1, 24 KOs. Forbes slides to 23-2, 6 KOs.
The IBF Bantamweight Championship
Continuing a strong tradition in a night of firsts, IBF champion Rafael Marquez, one of the most talented bantamweights in the world, successfully defended his championship for the first time against durable and talented former three-time world champion and current IBA champ Mauricio Pastrana.
In another first, Marquez was extended to 12 rounds in a fairly lopsided victory: 118-110 (twice) and 117-111. Marquez, who won his title in February via a devastating 8th round KO over long-standing IBF champ Tim Austin in his 10th title defense, proved that it was no fluke.
Wearing down the tough and tenacious Pastrana, he never lost his composure over the grueling distance.
He and his brother, the equally talented Juan Manuel Marquez are simply dyno-mite. They are the fourth pair of Mexican brothers to win world titles, joining such distinguished company as Renee and Ricardo Arredondo, Erik and Diego Morales and Gabriel and Rafael Marquez.
The first round was sort of a dance with both fighters circling, but not throwing much; the round was Marquez’s though for being busier and more aggressive. There was more of the same in the second with Marquez landing only nine punches and Pastrana six, but Pastrana looked very wobbly after a couple of stiff shots from Marquez.
Increasingly restless, the crowd booed the lack of action which picked up in the third. Most of it came from Marquez who stepped up the pace by landing beautiful combinations which Pastrana was seemingly unable to avoid and also unable to return.
Pastrana had a better round in the fourth, actually throwing and landing a few more punches, taking the round despite the low double digits. What were these guys waiting for?
The fifth saw Marquez giddying-up again, landing many more punches than Pastrana who landed only four shots, one of them a decent right, on the bell.
In the sixth, Marquez got busier, but Pastrana, still taking those lefts and rights, was moving at the waist more, trying to avoid punches to his now swelling eyes. Pastrana landed a couple of good, clean shots but was still waiting too long to throw them.
Marquez continued to wear down Pastrana in the seventh and the eighth, the matador smelled blood and went for the finish with hard, slamming shots to the head and body but Pastrana, who took some head-snapping blows, came back with some power in his paws, but not enough to win the round.
At the top of the ninth, Marquez’s corner received a reprimand from ref Jon Schorle for taking too long to leave the ring but the next three rounds were busy ones for Team Marquez, who, still not landing multitudes of punches, took a few significant ones from Pastrana his second round for the night.
Pastrana had flashes of his old magic but Marquez still dominated despite the fact he was fading down the stretch. Never having gone 12 rounds before, he had a tough time in the 12th but pulled out his victory and both men seem to have a genuine dislike for each other there wasn’t a hug or handshake in sight.
Marquez climbs to 30-3, 27 KOs. Pastrana falls to 30-4-1, 20 KOs
The IBF World Mini Flyweight Championship
Colombian super-slugger Daniel Reyes ripped the IBF mini flyweight championship from Edgar “Tun Tun” Cardenas in a spectacular sixth round stoppage in the first of the TV fights.
It was a stunning victory for Reyes and a terrible loss for Cardenas in his first title defense. He should never have been allowed to get past the fifth round by ref Jack Reiss.
Reyes (a former national strawweight champion who represented his country in the 1996 Olympics), showed true grace by returning Cardenas’ belt to him after the fight saying, “This belongs to you.”
“He hurt me in the first round,” Reyes admitted immediately after the fight. “I was hurt by two punches but I came back and won. I wanted him to have the belt because he fought so well.”
The crowd appreciated Reyes entering the ring, wrapped in his national flag, but were simply dazzled by “Tun Tun” (whose ring nick name means bam-bam in Spanish), entering in his yellow and blue shorts, eager to cement his place in history.
Cardenas, who won his title via a splashy KO of then-defending champion Miguel Barrera (still on a slow climb back from devastating brain clot surgery as a result of the bout) in May. Interestingly, Cardenas had been trailing on all scorecards before his zowee KO of Barrera in the 10th.
He started out impressively in this bout, taking the first two rounds from a timid Reyes who opened up in the third and then continued to pound Cardenas mercilessly through the fifth, knocking him to the canvas.
Cardenas has heart however and came back for more pain and brutal glory in the sixth. Finally, at 2.40 of the round, Reiss stepped between the two fighters and called a halt to the carnage.
The crowd unfairly booed the Colombian’s victory but that’s not as mysterious as ref Jack Reiss’s decision to allow this fight continue as long as he did.
Reyes, whose country is probably having a national holiday this very second, jumps to 33-1-1, 28 KOs. Cardenas who’ll have a hell of a hangover tomorrow, falls to 30-11-2, 16 KOs.
Last of the off-TV fights and Bizarro Fight of the Night award goes to Cameron Dunkin’s new hottie, super welterweight Jesus “El Martillo” Gonzalez who starched Josh Peters with a combination in 26 seconds. A big left sent Peters spiraling across the ring. The crowd didn’t buy it; slow-mo repeats of the moment showed that Peters simply couldn’t get up and get back in the game.
Gonzalez has won numerous amateur titles and for a guy with one pro outing to his credit, looked extremely relaxed and confident. He improves to 2-0, 2 KOs. Peters slips to 1-1, 0 KOs.
Mexico’s ‘other’ Golden Boy, fast-rising lightweight southpaw Christian Bejarano stepped in for a grueling six rounder with Colorado slugger Richard Conchas
Bejarano spent the first round feeling Conchas out and then turned up the heat in the second and positively scorching Conchas in the third with non stop punches.
Conchas takes a licking and keeps on ticking. He came out for the fourth with fire in his pants and shocked the appreciative crowd by making Bejarano look quite clumsy for the next two rounds. Conchas was trying to protect his swelling right eye in the sixth and final round by trying to avoid Bejarano’s now dead-on shots.
With Conchas bending at the waist, coming in like a pile driver and grabbing Bejarano around the middle, he succeeded in getting a warning from the ref and a few jeers from the crowd.
In the end, the judges saw it unanimously for Bejarano, 60-54 on all cards. Bejarano raises his ledger to 10-0, 5 K0s. Conchas slips to 4-2, 3 KOs.
First fight up saw a crushing first round KO loss for previously undefeated Cali lightweight Zahami Gracia who was knocked down in the opening seconds by presumed tomato can Carlos Cisneros. Gracia, bloody, but brave rose to his feet but couldn’t stay up long. Ref Marty Denkin waved it all over at 2.28 of the round.
Gracia’s dismayed corner which consisted of veteran cutman Chuck Bodak and former world champion John David Jackson could only look on numbly as an ecstatic Cisneros screamed jubilantly at the crowd; his stock has just risen, folks.
Cisneros improves to 3-4-1, 1 KO and Gracia dips to 6-1, 6 KOs.