By Francisco Salazar
Photos: Big Joe Miranda
Former Olympian and unbeaten featherweight Gary Russell is slowly convincing the boxing world that he could be a force to be reckoned with in the future. Based on his performance against a former world champion, that future might be sooner rather than later. Russell scored a first round stoppage over faded world champion Mauricio Pastrana in the first round of a scheduled six round bout 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. Russell, who fought for the United States in 2008 in Beijing, was coming off a second round knockout over Rodrigo Aranda last month at the same venue. However, Russell was facing Pastrana, who would pose on paper as a significant step up in class. Although Pastrana is not the fighter he once was, he is still a dangerous puncher. That was evident three and a half years ago against Antonio Escalante, whom he knocked out despite being down on the scorecards. Prior to the his fight against Russell, Pastrana had lost seven of his previous eight bouts.
From the opening bell, Russell utilized his speed, easily landing to Pastrana’s body and head. Pastrana attempted to time Russell coming in, hoping to land counter right hands to the head.
A right uppercut to the head hurt Pastrana, backing him up to a corner. Russell let his hands, landing blistering punches to the head of Pastrana, who began to slump down against the corner. Referee Dr. Lou Moret began to administer a standing-eight count as he felt that the ropes and/or corner were holding Pastrana up. After the count of eight, Moret decided to call the fight at 1:46 as he decided that Pastrana was too hurt to continue.
“I felt really good and strong in the ring,” said Russell, who has now won his last six bouts in a row by knockout or stoppage. “I was expecting tougher competition. I knew that he came with his “A” game. However, I knew I hurt him with the right hook. God has my back and since that is the case, the sky is the limit.”
Russell, from Capitol Heights, MD, improves to 11-0, 8 KO’s. Pastrana, from Miami, FL, falls to 35-15-2, 24 KO’s.
In the co-feature bout of the evening, Bantamweight contender Nestor Rocha returned from a knockout loss in his last bout to knock out Benji Garcia in the second round of a scheduled six round bout.
Rocha was coming off a first round knockout loss to Hozumi Hasegawa last year. After a year layoff, Rocha returned back to the ring with his sights set on another title opportunity. Although Garcia lost his last four bouts in a row entering the Rocha bout, he always makes for goods fights and pulls off the occasional upset.
Garcia charged out of his corner from the opening bell, taking the bout to Rocha. Undaunted, Rocha eventually took control of the round, dictating the pace and landing right hands to the head of Garcia.
Not known for his power, Rocha hurt Garcia in the second round with a left hook to the head. Rocha followed it up with another left hook, this time to the body, dropping Garcia to the canvas. Referee Jack Reiss counted Garcia out at 45 seconds.
“I caught him with a left hook to the head and the final shot was to the body,” said Rocha, who scored his first knockout in almost two years. “I understand that this is a business. I want to fight (former world title challenger) Jose Navarro, Abner Mares, and then, get a shot at a world title.”
Rocha, from Montebello, CA, improves to 22-2, 8 KO’s. Garcia, from San Diego, CA by way of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, drops to 14-16-3, 1 KO.
Andrade wins war against Valadez
In what could be described as one of the best four round bouts, Junior Welterweight Oscar Andrade won a hard-fought four round unanimous decision over Ramon Valadez.
Both fighters were on the attack in the opening round, exchanging hard punches to the head and body. Valadez pressed the action in the first half of the second round, but the southpaw Andrade hurt Valadez with a left cross to the head.
Andrade dominated the action in the first half of the third round. Just when it looked as though he had the round, Andrade walked into a counter right hand by Valadez. Andrade was on wobbly legs, but was fighting back when he should have held on. Although Valadez was desperate to land that one big punch, Andrade was able to survive.
Andrade dominated the fourth and final round, at times battering Valadez around the ring. Valadez looked tired as he tried to fight back, but would leave himself wide open to be hit. Valadez would back up, but would let his hands go. However, Andrade landed an abundant amount of left hands to the head in the fourth round to get the victory.
All three judges scored the bout 39-37 in favor of Andrade. Fightnews.com scored the bout even at 38-38.
Andrade, from Los Angeles, CA, goes to 2-0, 1 KO. Valadez, from East Los Angeles, CA, falls to 1-1.
Estrada bests Tovar in close one
In the walkout bout of the evening, Angel Estrada won a close four round unanimous decision over Raul Tovar.
Estrada threw more combinations as the bout progressed, as Tovar was more resourceful with his punches. As Estrada kept throwing more, he was able to land more. When both fighters fought exchanges on the inside, Estrada looked as though he was landing the more effective punches.
After the slow start in the first half of the fight, Tovar began to increase his punch output. Tovar had a strong fourth round, landing repeated right crosses to the head of Estrada. Although Estrada fought back, he left himself open to be hit, allowing Tovar to continue to land more right hands. Unfortunately, before the fight took place, the bout was changed to four rounds after it was originally scheduled for six, thus not allowing Tovar to build more momentum after he clearly won the fourth round.
All three judges, including Fightnews.com, scored the bout 39-37 in favor of Estrada.
Estrada, from San Diego, CA, goes to 5-0-1, 2 KO’s. Tovar, from Mission, TX, drops to 7-4-1, 3 KO’s.
Morales dominates Willoughby
Junior Welterweight David Morales scored a first round knockdown, but settled for a four round unanimous decision over John Willoughby.
Morales dropped Willoughby with a left hook to the head. Willoughby got up and fought back bravely, although Morales repeatedly landed to the head.
Throughout the rest of the fight, Morales controlled the action, whether it was exchanges on the inside or fighting in and out of Willoughby’s reach. Undaunted, Willoughby hung in there, landing an occasional lead counter right hand or left hook. Still, Morales did enough to comfortably win each of the four rounds.
All three judges, including Fightnews.com, scored the bout 40-35 in favor of Morales.
Morales, from Long Beach, CA, goes to 1-0-1. Willoughby, from Selma, AL, falls to 2-4, 1 KO.
– Oscar De La Hoya, interim titleholder Marcos Maidana, Interim Super Middleweights titleholder and Alfredo Angulo and contender Sergio Mora, Featherweight contender Daniel Ponce De Leon, Junior Welterweight contender Victor Ortiz, Super Featherweight Vicente Escobedo, prospect Ronnie Rios, and unbeaten Welterweight Frankie Gomez took in the action from ringside.
– Next “Fight Night Club” will take place on Thursday, August 26th at Club Nokia at L.A. Live. Stay tuned as to who will be fighting on that card.
– Ring announcer was Joe Martinez.