By Francisco Salazar at ringside
Lightweight David Rodela admits to being stubborn and does not take well to instruction. With Freddie Roach in his corner for the first time in his career, Rodela was smart enough to put his stubbornness aside to listen to the future Hall of Fame trainer assist him towards a hard-fought victory. Rodela won an eight round split-decision victory over Eric Cruz last Thursday night before a crowd of 1,769 at Club Nokia at L.A. Live in Los Angeles, CA.
The bout headlined a five-bout “Fight Night Club” card, presented by Golden Boy Promotions.
Rodela needed to turn his career around after two straight defeats this year. He lost a 10 round unanimous decision to Eloy Perez in January and was stopped in the third round in his last bout March at the hands of Dante Jordan. Another defeat would have been a major setback for Rodela in his attempt to move up in the Lightweight division.
Cruz was unbeaten in his last three bouts before his bout against Rodela. He fought to a first round technical draw in his last bout in February against Gamaliel Rodriguez.
Rodela started strong from the opening bell, landing the cleaner punches of the two. Cruz attempted to counter with right hands to the head, only able to land an occasional punch to the head. However, Rodela was the busier fighter, boxing from the outside. Rodela scored with right hands to the head, following one or two jabs to the head.
Halfway through the fight, Cruz began to let his hands go. He was able to connect more and was able to get inside of Rodela’s long arms to score to the body. Cruz was able to find a home for hard right hands to the head in the sixth round. With each passing minute, Cruz was more confident to throw combinations, a far cry from the opening rounds.
As Cruz pressed the action, he was able to throw and land right uppercuts to the head. Rodela would take the punches well, even to counter back at Cruz.
However, in the final two rounds, Rodela kept his distance from Cruz by fighting from the outside. Rodela countered with left hands as Cruz pressed the action, throwing a jab or sticking his left arm out to measure Cruz.
“Freddie (Roach) reminded me that I was a good boxer in the amateurs,” said Rodela, who developed a blister in his right toe during the fight. “He told me that I was a good fighter and to just box like I did in amateurs.
Both fighters had their moments in the final round. Cruz attacked Rodela, but Rodela attempted to not get sucked in to trade and boxed from the outside, attempting to counter as Cruz would leave himself open at times.
One judge scored the bout 78-74 in favor of Cruz, while the remaining two judges scored the bout 77-75 for Rodela. Fightnews.com scored the bout 76-76.
“He’s a good banger and a good puncher,” said Rodela, who sparred with Amir Khan before Khan’s bout against Paul Malignaggi earlier this month. “I just had to play it a little smarter. I began to throw the left hook to set up counter right hands. The guy was good and had experience.”
“I admit I got caught up in the moment and I got winded and I’m not used to boxing. I just had to go back to sticking and moving like in the amateurs. I admit I’m stubborn and I don’t like to listen. But having Freddie as an addition in my corner with my team was good because I need those reminders. It was an honor having him in my corner as it was for my trainer as well.”
Rodela, from Oxnard, CA, improves to 15-3-3, 6 KO’s. Cruz, from Manati, Puerto Rico, drops to 7-3-3, 7 KO’s.
Bantamweight Jose Navarro returned from a seven-month hiatus to impressively defeat Benjamin Garcia by a six round unanimous decision.
Navarro was one of the first fighters signed by Golden Boy Promotions in 2002. From 2005 until 2008, Navarro challenged for a world title three times, falling short in each title opportunity. Still, Navarro is a strong contender, who returned to the ring for the first time since an eighth round stoppage defeat at the hands of Michael Domingo in October. The victory over Garcia snapped a three-bout losing streak.
Despite his won-loss record, Garcia always comes to fight. His awkward style has given his opponents fits, whether they are unbeaten prospects or contenders. Although he had lost his last three bouts, he has been competitive in all those bouts.
Garcia pressed the action from the opening bell, landing a few lead left hands to the head. Having fought professionally since 2001 after a stellar amateur career, Navarro did not get sucked in to trade. Instead, Navarro stepped back and countered effectively to the head.
Navarro continued to create space and countering with left hands to the head. Garcia attempted to go inside of Navarro by pressing the action, hoping to make the fight a brawl.
During the middle rounds, Navarro was able to hit Garcia cleanly with hard left hands to the head. Stunned by Navarro’s punches, Garcia would smile or smack his gloves together and motioned for Navarro to come at him.
Navarro had a big round in the fifth, landing at will with more left hands to the head. Navarro would begin to land with right hooks to the head as well.
Despite being down in the fight and being easily outboxed, Garcia battled back with a gutsy performance in the last round. Despite swelling on his face, Garcia battled back in a losing effort.
All three judges, including Fightnews.com, scored the bout 60-54 in favor of Navarro.
“I still have a little rust in me, but this was the right fight for me,” said Garcia after the fight. “He forced me to throw a lot of punches, which was good for me. But, I learn from every fight. I know I could have dominated more. I’m just glad I got the win. I’ve missed getting a win, but I’m glad I got it.”
Navarro, from Los Angeles, CA, improves to 27-5, 12 KO’s. Garcia, from San Diego, CA by way of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, falls to 14-15-3, 1 KO.
Junior Welterweight Frankie Gomez remained unbeaten with a dominating stoppage over Akeem Akinbode in the first round of a scheduled six round bout.
The former amateur star Gomez dominated the action from the opening bell. A right hand by Gomez rattled Akinbode, forcing him backwards against a corner. Gomez went in for the kill, pinning Akinbode in a corner and throwing hard punches. Referee Jerry Cantu wisely stopped the bout at 46 seconds, saving Akinbode from further punishment.
“When he threw the first punch, I knew he had nothing,” said Gomez, who fought for the first time in his hometown after fighting twice in Los Angeles as a professional. My right hand caught him. It stunned him. I have good conditioning for this fight as I trained in Big Bear for two weeks.”
Gomez, from East Los Angeles, CA, goes to 3-0, 3 KO’s. Akinbode, from Los Angeles, CA by way of Lagos, Nigeria, drops to 1-3-1, 1 KO. Boxrec.com lists him as 0-3.
Lightweight Jesus Rodriguez won a four round unanimous decision over Jesus Juarez, who was making his professional debut.
The southpaw Rodriguez was the busier and more effective puncher during most of the action. However, Juarez had his moments, landing the occasional left hook. However, Rodriguez consistently landed the better puncher of the two.
All three judges scored the bout in favor of Rodriguez, by scores of 40-36, 40-36, and 39-37. Fightnews.com scored the bout 39-37 in favor of Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, from Van Nuys, CA, improves to 2-0.
Junior Welterweight Ramon Valadez won his professional debut, winning a four round unanimous decision over Javier Romero.
Romero looked tired from the opening round, throwing a punch and holding on. Valadez was busy enough, but at times tried to load up with one punch, at times missing wildly. Valadez landed the harder and more effective punches, but could have gone to the body more to take Romero out.
All three judges, including Fightnews.com, scored the bout 40-36.
Romero, from Compton, CA, drops to 0-4-1.
– Former world champion-turned promoter Oscar De La Hoya, Light Heavyweight Bernard Hopkins, Middleweight contender Sergio Mora, Featherweight contender Daniel Ponce De Leon, Bantamweight contender Abner Mares, Featherweight Charles Huerta, unbeaten Lightweight Luis Ramos, unbeaten Lightweight Carlos Molina, and radio personality Big Boy took in the action at ringside.
– Next “Fight Night Club” at Club Nokia at L.A. Live will take place on Thursday, June 24th. For ticket information, contact Ticketmaster (800) 745-3000 or the STAPLES Center box office.
– Three amateur bouts featuring local fighters took place before the professional portion of the card began.
– Ring announcer was Joe Martinez.
– Happy Birthday to Golden Boy Promotions Public Relations coordinator Monica Sears, who celebrated her 27th birthday on Thursday night.