This post originally appeared in Steve Wellings’ Boxing Substack
Before making the second defence of his IBF 126-pound strap, Mexican road warrior Luis Alberto Lopez may have felt a little pressure on his shoulders. For so long accustomed to being the man in the away corner, expected to see his long run of wins come to an end, this time he was the favoured fighter.
Would this change his mindset going into the bout, making the 30-year-old tight or tense at the newfound level of expectation? Not at all. In fact, Lopez was revelling in his role, claiming that he would be the first man to halt opponent Joet Gonzalez.
Shakur Stevenson dominated Gonzalez behind his southpaw stick and Emanuel Navarrete also had to travel the full distance against the Californian. Lopez was unable to go one better than those two, settling for a unanimous decision victory that was competitively contested.
A good stand-up boxer with a strong overhand right, Gonzalez tried to pin down the slippery champion with a lengthy left jab and tasty body shots. Lopez set the early tempo as Joet’s activity levels eased off until the championship portion when he began to control longer stretches of rounds.
Lopez has shown different looks in his recent wins. From the crunching power displays over Michael Conlan and Isaac Lowe to the roughhouse in-fighting with Josh Warrington and this more patient, tactical affair in Texas. If he doesn’t bang you out, he possesses the stamina and tank to go the 12-round distance which is a plus point.
Talk now turns to a possible unification opportunity against promotional stablemate Robeisy Ramirez who holds the WBO version of the world titles at featherweight. The Cuban is set to defend his title in early November although an opponent has yet to be officially named.
Joet Gonzalez, meanwhile, was unable to fulfill his world title dream at the third attempt. Once a fresh faced challenger, Gonzalez is now struggling at the weight and struggling to remain at the top level. Joet can perhaps take solace from the fact that ESPN analyst Mark Kriegel at least had him winning the fight, even if the three judges did not agree.
Turning pro with Top Rank at the tender age of 17, Xander Zayas has matured into a real prospect to watch. Even his jab is explosive. That very weapon left opponent Roberto Valenzuela Jr with a badly cut nose early on. To his credit, Valenzuela kept on pitching, working as hard to convince the doctor and referee that he could continue in the fight as he was at keeping Zayas at bay.
You can’t beat a good old fashioned Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry. On Mexican Independence weekend it was the prospect from the island who sent his fans home happy at the expense of the actual Mexican.
Emiliano Vargas looks like a chip off the old block. Aggressive to head and body, not afraid to take risks and stand inside to see who’s tougher, the 19-year-old is reminiscent of his father, Fernando. Now cutting a rather portly figure in the corner, Fernando turned pro young and was born to fight.
Part of a group of boxing siblings, Emiliano seems to be getting a push from ESPN. Spanish victim Alejandro Guardado was being rag dolled around the ring when referee Lee Rogers intervened in round three.
MEXICAN MAULING DISHED OUT BY WILLIAM ZEPEDA
The 135-pound beast that is William Zepeda claimed another victim with his own brand of relentless volume punching, eventually overwhelming Mercito Gesta. It’s a miracle that the Filipino lasted as long as he did, such was the relentless energy of Zepeda’s onslaughts.
In the end, Gesta’s valiant efforts were deemed insufficient in round six, much to the delight of the Mexican contingent who enjoyed a trio of anthems at the start of the bout.
Zepeda’s strengths are clear for all to see. Setting a ferocious pace from first bell to last, throwing hundreds of punches to head and body, a world title opportunity is on the horizon for this Golden Boy-promoted fighter.
While the elite of the lightweight class would be able to box, move and find the gaps in and around Zepeda’s offensive output, nobody will have an easy night with him. It will be interesting to see who he ends up with as Devin Haney’s quartet of belts start to fragment.
In his last Golden Boy outing Victor Morales blasted out Diego De La Hoya in what was supposed to be an even-money affair. Eager to please the fans, Morales’ corner cautioned their man to step off and use his jab against dangerous puncher Edwin Palomares.
Following a fizzing start, Morales was cut in round six from an uppercut as Palomares’ body shots started to take their toll. Morales toughed it out for the final rounds to take home a unanimous decision after 10 bruising rounds of work. One judge gave Morales every single round in a ridiculously one-sided verdict.
THE ONLY PERSON WHO CAN BEAT GERVONTA DAVIS
Fresh from his recent spell in the slammer, Gervonta Davis has been humbly outlining the only boxer he believes can beat him. In an odd twist, Davis reckons it’s himself! Given his previous exploits, that suggestion doesn’t seem so far-fetched. The Baltimore man is often his own worst enemy and if he can stay on the straight and narrow the potential to become one of the established faces of the sport remains.
Of course, Davis’ projection that nobody could beat him is not entirely accurate. There’s every chance that Shakur Stevenson could beat him, or Devin Haney, Lomachenko or one of the other lightweight luminaries.
Unbeatable? Gervonta describes unusual barrier
But his ability to implode at any second makes Gervonta’s story both captivating and constantly concerning. Battling his demonic urges outside of the ring is as important as battling opponents on the inside.
ShoBox returned on Friday, September 15 from San Antonio, Texas. The main event saw an intriguing matchup between Ramon Cardenas and unbeaten fight favourite Rafael Pedroza that local man Cardenas won via shock second-round KO.
In the chief supporting contest, Argentine banger Mirco Cuello, a former Olympian now blasting away foes as a pro, had to work hard to remove the threat of plucky Rudy Garcia. A cut left eye hampered the progress of Garcia who skirted the ring and tried to steal rounds despite lacking the punch power to make a dent in Cuello who is a hard man to deter.
Houston’s Freudis Rojas looks like one to watch. Opponent Saul Bustos had Freddie Roach in the corner but even the ultimate hired hand could not inspire the 29-year-old to victory. A lanky southpaw with tidy hands, Rojas could be going places. The fight heated up as the rounds flew by as Bustos turned up the volume, but Rojas was a worthy points winner across the board after eight rounds.
Meanwhile, on the DAZN undercard, marketable middleweight Eric Priest improved to 11-0 with a majority decision victory over Simon Madsen. This was a good step-up for Priest who loves fighting on the inside and Madsen obliged for the duration of the eight rounds. One judge gave Priest every session while another scored it a draw.
About Steve: Experienced boxing writer, author of 8 books and podcaster of over 400 eps. 20 years in the sport. Covered hundreds of shows for newspapers and Boxing News magazine. Chief video script writer for Motivedia channel and BN+. For enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org.