By Francisco Salazar at ringside
Photos: Big Joe Miranda
Antonio Diaz stated before his fight against Ernesto Zepeda on Friday night that the 10 round bout would be his last one of his career. He sure picked a fight to show his true tenacity of rallying from behind against a durable opponent. Diaz was able to earn the stoppage victory when Zepeda was able to continue after the eighth round before a sold-out crowd of about 2,000 at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, CA.
The bout headlined a six-bout card, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions.
Diaz had not fought since December of 2009, when he was stopped at the beginning of the seventh round by Victor Ortiz. The loss snapped a seven-bout winning streak and any legitimate chance at a world title shot. Since the loss to Ortiz, Diaz has spent time training his two sons, local children in the Coachella Valley, or helping his brother Joel as a second during fights.
Zepeda had lost his previous three bouts in a row, all by knockout. He was knocked out a day shy of the year by Jesus Pabon at the beginning of the eighth round, even though Zepeda had him down four times in the fight.
It was Zepeda who controlled the first two rounds, beating Diaz to the punch with repeated right hands to the head followed by hooks to the body.
“I know that he was getting to me, but I just felt tight at the beginning of the fight,” said Diaz, who was fighting for the first time at the Fantasy Springs Casino in almost 10 years. “I just had some (nervous) tension going into the fight.”
Diaz began to let his hands go more in the third round, aggressively putting his punch together as Zepeda attempted to counter. A cut opened over the left eye of Zepeda in the round, but it did not stop Zepeda from being able to land short right hands to the head of Diaz in the fourth round.
Both had their moments in the fifth round as Diaz began to land with more frequency, especially with right hands to the head. Zepeda began to slow down, fighting in spurts as he began to back up in the sixth and seventh rounds. During this time, Diaz would attempt to go to the body as well when he had Zepeda against the ropes.
In a wild eighth round, Zepeda landed vicious shots to the head of Diaz, all while Diaz had his hands down.
“When I dropped my hands and was getting hit, it sort of reminded me of when (Edison) Miranda dropped his hands and was getting hit by the Cuban,” said Diaz, referring to when Yordanis Despaigne landed repeated punches to the head of Miranda a few weeks ago in Las Vegas. “He actually didn’t hurt me when he was hitting me.”
Just when it looked as though Diaz would get in trouble, Zepeda tired, allowing for Diaz to mount a rally. After the bell sounded to end the round, Zepeda’s corner told referee Jose Cobian to stop the fight as their fighter was able to continue.
After the fight, Diaz confirmed that this would be his last fight of his career, which spanned about 20 years as an amateur and a pro.
“I came into this fight too confident, maybe because of his last fights. He was a tough guy who came to fight and he didn’t back down. I know I was hurting him to the body and he was wearing down. My body was not responding like 10 years ago. I’m not the same guy in the ring. I just feel that my victory was the perfect ending to my career. I appreciate and thank my fans who have supported me all these years.”
Diaz, from nearby Coachella and now residing in Indio, improves to 46-6-1, 28 KO’s. Zepeda, from Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, falls to 39-15-4, 32 KO’s.
In the semi-main event, lightweight Andrew Cancio stopped Lowell Brownfield in the fourth round of a scheduled six round bout. Cancio was fighting for the first time in over two years, while Brownfield was hoping to snap a four bout winless streak.
From the opening bell, Cancio pressed forward as the southpaw Brownfield moved in and out, countering to the head and body. He was able to score to the head as Cancio at times dropped his hands. Cancio scored a knockdown in the second round with a barrage of punches followed by a left hand to the head. Brownfield stood up and fought back aggressively for the rest of the round, landing to the head and body. Cancio was able to drop Brownfield again in the third with a left hook to the body. Luckily for Brownfield, the bell was able to save him from a Cancio follow-up.
Brownfield started the fourth round well, as he was able to land to the head and body of Cancio. However, Cancio pressed forward and was able to pin Brownfield against the ropes, landing hard shots to the body. Brownfield tried to use lateral movement, but looked hurt as he was attempting to dodge punches. As Cancio continued to land hard shots, referee Tony Crebs saw enough and stopped the bout at 1:49. Although Cancio was not at his best defensively, his hard punches were able to break a tired Brownfield down.
Cancio, from Blythe, CA, goes to 11-1-2, 11 KO’s. Brownfield, from San Fernando, CA, drops to 11-8-1, 4 KO’s.
Osuna punishes Rodriguez
Junior middleweight Angel Osuna impressively stopped Raul Rodriguez in the fourth round of a scheduled six round bout. It was all Osuna from the opening bell as he landed repeated right hands to the head. Osuna also did damage with vicious left hooks to the body that slowed down Rodriguez. During the second round, Osuna landed hard right hands to the head, opening a cut below the left eye of Rodriguez.
Rodriguez tried hard to fight back, landing a few right hands to the head of Osuna as he fought off the ropes. However, Rodriguez was not able to match Osuna’s punch output or strength. After the beginning of the fourth round, Osuna landed a counter right hand that wobbled Rodriguez. Referee Tony Crebs stepped in at 25 seconds to stop the fight, saving Rodriguez from further punishment. Osuna, from nearby Coachella, improves to 5-3-1, KO’s. Rodriguez, from Bakersfield, CA, falls to 3-7-1, 2 KO’s.
Vargas not impressive in “victory”
In the walkout bout of the evening, Jose Antonio Vargas won an unconvincing six round unanimous decision over Manuel Sarabia. Sarabia dropped Vargas in the first round, as Vargas walked into a left jab. He was not hurt by the punch and continued to fight on.
During an exchange in the third round, Sarabia landed a borderline low blow. Vargas was affected by the punch, backing away and taking a knee. During the stop in the action, referee Jose Cobian deducted a point from Sarabia, even though Cobian gave no verbal warning to Sarabia in previous rounds. The second half of the fight was very competitive, as both landed solid shots to the head and body. Sarabia was able to counter effectively with straight right hands to the head as Vargas attempted to work the body. There were one or two rounds that could have gone either way in the second half of the fight.
All three judges scored the bout 58-54 in favor of Vargas. Fightnews.com scored the bout even 56-56. Vargas, from Coachella, goes to 6-1-2. Sarabia, from Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, drops to 16-32-10, 10 KO’s.
Zatarain survives Espinoza rally
In a battle of unbeaten featherweights, Humberto Zatarain won a four round unanimous decision over Rocco Espinoza. Zatarain dropped Espinoza three times in the first round and once more in the second round. Although Espinoza was knocked down four times in less than two rounds, he got up and fought back aggressively. Espinoza pressed the action through most of the fight, moving forward aggressively and throwing hooks and crosses.
Espinoza dominated the last two rounds as Zatarain slowed down considerably. Espinoza at times hurt Espinoza, but was unable to drop him. Zatarain threw fewer punches in the last two rounds, but threw enough in the final round to keep Espinoza off of him until the final bell.
All three judges, including Fightnews.com, scored the bout 38-34 in favor of Zatarain. Zatarain, from Whittier, CA, goes to 3-0. Espinoza, from Las Vegas, NV, falls to 1-1.
Williams stops Rojas
In a battle of fighters making their professional debuts, Kenny Williams stopped Marcos Rojas in the second round of a scheduled four round bout.
Both fighters had their moments in a competitive first round. During an exchange, Williams, from nearby Palm Springs, was able to drop Rojas with a counter left hook to the head. Rojas, from Anaheim, CA by way of Mexico City, DF, Mexico, was able to last the round.
In the second, Williams was able to drop Rojas with a counter over hand right to the head. Rojas beat the count, but referee Jose Cobian stopped the bout at 40 seconds.
– Former world champion Thomas Hearns, lightweight contenders Antonio DeMarco and Vicente Escobedo, and unbeaten Randy Caballero caught the action from ringside.
– Bernardo Osuna and former world champion Israel Vazquez called the action from ringside for Telefutura’s Solo Boxeo.
– Nothing like a summer in the Coachella Valley. Temperature was in the high 90’s outside when the action kicked off about 7:40PM local time.
– Ring announcer was Joe Martinez.