By David Robinett and Miguel Maravilla at ringside
Looking for his first win in eighteen months since his surprising upset over then-highly regarded Victor Ortiz, welterweight Josesito Lopez, (31-6, 18 KOs), struggled to an eight round technical decision over Mike Arnaoutis, (24-10-1, 11 KOs), on Friday night at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California, in a scheduled ten-round bout. Since his victory over Ortiz last summer, Lopez was fed to the wolves, so to speak, taking considerable punishment in stoppage losses to Canelo Alvarez and Marcos Maidana. Friday’s bout against the shopworn Arnaoutis was designed to get Lopez back into the win column, and perhaps regain his confidence before another big fight opportunity.
“There are big things coming in 2014,” said Lopez before the fight. “But first things first and that’s December 13. I’m expecting a tough fight and that’s what I’m focused on. I don’t take anyone lightly and train like I’m the underdog.”
Notwithstanding Lopez’s assertions, most ringside observers expected Arnaoutis to pose little resistance to Lopez, who gave as good as he got against Maidana in his last fight before succumbing to the rugged Argentine. However from the start Lopez never looked comfortable against the southpaw Arnaoutis, who boxed early from a safe distance and frustrated Lopez’s attempts to come inside. The result was essentially a jabbing contest for the first two rounds in which neither fighter looked impressive.
But things changed dramatically late in round three when Arnaoutis dropped Lopez with a right jab moments before the bell. Although Lopez was not seriously hurt, it was not a flash knockdown either and it put both fighters on notice that the fight was up for grabs. Arnaoutis continued to box smartly in round four, tactically using his jab but most importantly continuing to stay out of Lopez’s punching range.
Whether due to Arnaoutis’ growing confidence or Lopez figuring out how to close the distance between them, there was considerably more action in the second half of the fight as Arnaoutis began to throw combinations off his jab, which offered Lopez more opportunities to counter inside. Both men fought well during the exchanges but Lopez appeared to land the heavier punches and was looking more comfortable than during the earlier tactical rounds.
In round eight an accidental headbutt opened a bad cut over Arnaoutis’ left eye, and Lopez effectively targeted the eye with several right hands that caused blood to spray across the ring throughout the remainder of the round. Between rounds the ringside doctor checked on Arnaoutis, who said said he couldn’t see. That sent the fight to the scorecards where Lopez was awarded a fair but slightly wide unanimous decision victory. One judge scored the bout a reasonable 76-75, but the other two judges might have given Lopez a little too much deference in the closer rounds, each scoring the fight 77-74 for Lopez.
Ultimately, the fight served its purpose for Lopez, getting him back into the win column and setting him up for bigger fights down the road, but his recent losses and the difficulty Lopez had in getting past Arnaoutis raises the possibility that Lopez’s win over Ortiz may have been the best he has to offer.
Vargas Easily Decisions Belmontes
Undefeated junior lightweight Francisco Vargas, (18-0-1, 14 KOs) had little trouble with Jerry Belmontes, (18-3, 5 KOs), over ten mediocre rounds to take a 100-89 decision on all cards. Referee Pat Russell deducted a point from Belmontes for a low blow in round three, which was the most drama either fighter offered all night.
Vargas, who represented Mexico in the 2008 Summer Olympics, simply outworked Belmontes in nearly every round, but despite his high knockout ratio, Vargas never had Belmontes hurt nor did Vargas seem particularly interested in closing the show. This was mostly in part due to Belmontes, who rarely stood his ground to throw punches but instead spent considerable time moving across the ring, changing, directions, and trying to slip and duck punches while leaning back against the ropes. The fight was so one-sided because Belmontes was not very good at slipping and ducking punches while leaning back against the ropes, and ate several right hands per round from Vargas for his troubles.
With the win Vargas holds the NABF and WBO Intercontinental junior lightweight titles.
Charlo Starches De Los Santos
Middleweight Jermall Charlo, (17-0, 13 KOs), was the most impressive fighter of the evening, scoring a fifth round KO over Joseph De Los Santos, (16-13-3, 9 KOs), in a scheduled eight round contest. Charlo, one half of the fighting Charlo brothers (the other is identical twin Jermell), took immediate control of the fight with his picture-perfect jab, firing it with laser accuracy at his opponent and preventing De Los Santos from setting up his offense.
Charlo was patient in round one, relying almost exclusively on his jab. In round two Charlo started to open up his attack a little more, using the right hand after the jab a couple of times. By round three Charlo began to throw lead right hands as well. De Los Santos suffered a flash knockdown in round three, but that seemed more a result of De Los Santos losing his balance after a tangle of arms than anything that actually landed.
However in round four Charlo dropped De Los Santos legitimately with an overhand right. De Los Santos was able to continue but rather than try to rush in and smother his punches, Charlo continued to pump the jab at De Los Santos, snapping his opponent’s head back each time with such force the crowd reacted as if they were power punches. De Los Santos was in serious trouble by the end of the round but was able to latch onto Charlo and hold on until the final bell, which was all for naught as Charlo crushed De Los Santos moments into round five with a right hook that sent De Los Santos down into a heap. Referee Raul Caiz, Jr. did not even administer a count before waving the fight over.
Although not as highly regarded as his brother Jermell, Jermall Charlo’s performance reflected a young fighter on the rise, and although De Los Santos is only a journeyman, he recently went the distance against hot prospects Glen Tapia and J’Leon Love. The future seems bright for both Charlo brothers going forward.
Diaz Breaks Down Rodriguez
Prior to Friday night’s fight, 2012 Olympian Joseph Diaz, Jr., (9-1, 6 KOs), acknowledged that he was at the stage of his young career where it was time to step up the level of his competition.
“I know that Carlos Rodriguez is going to come and be aggressive to try to overwhelm me,” said Diaz. “He may be my toughest opponent to date, but I’m ready for him. I know that it will be a difficult fight because he’s an experienced fighter, but I’m ready to give the fans a great show.” Although Rodriguez is a journeyman at best, he has fought high-caliber opponents including Hernan Marquez and unified flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada.
Diaz did have to work for it, but eventually broke down the game Rodriguez, (21-12-3, 9 KOs), en route to a seventh round stoppage in a scheduled eight round junior featherweight bout. The fight was waved off at 1:13 of round seven by referee Raul Caiz Jr. as Rodriguez was no longer defending himself along the ropes.
Diaz started strong, causing Rodriguez to wobble after a right hook in round one, and continued to rock Rodriguez in rounds two and three. However, as the fight progressed Rodriguez appeared to find his confidence and by the fourth round he was executing a sustained body attack on Diaz, digging in with both left and right hooks.
By round five Diaz and Rodriguez were both trading leather in close quarters and landing effectively on their opponent, but the difference was that for everything Rodriguez landed on Diaz, Diaz landed back on Rodriguez heavier and faster. Eventually, Diaz’s speed and power simply wore Rodriguez down, and by the seventh round Rodriguez was unable to muster any further resistance. The end came with a left hook to the body by Diaz that doubled Rodriguez over, followed by a sustained flurry along the ropes until the referee stepped in to save Rodriguez from further punishment.
In Other Action
In the first televised bout of Friday’s card, 2012 Olympian Errol Spence, Jr., (10-0, 8 KOs), continued to roll along as a professional, knocking out late sub Gerardo Cuevas, (16-11, 14 KOs), after Cuevas indicated he did not wish to continue after round one.
Cuevas, also known as Pipino Cuevas, Jr., was once 11-0 but unlike his more famous father he has not distinguished himself as a pro, beating only two fighters with winning records since 2007. Against Spence he fought like it, offering only token resistance while Spence got in his cardio for the day.
In other glorified sparring action, junior featherweight Diego De La Hoya, cousin of Oscar De La Hoya, notched his second stoppage in two pro bouts by pummeling overmatched Abraham Rubio, (3-3-1, 1 KO), for two minutes and 33 seconds before referee Pat Russell pulled the plug on De La Hoya’s workout.
Fortunately there was some bona fide competitive action on the undercard, and young fighters Angel Osuna and Hugo Centeno, Jr., fought valiantly and gave the fans their money’s worth. It was a battle of will vs. skill, and in this fight skill scored a stunning final round stoppage as Centeno, (20-0, 11 KOs), rallied to overcome the relentless pressure of Osuna, (11-4-1, 7 KOs) by referee’s stoppage 52 seconds into round ten. Centeno was clearly the sharper, more technically sound boxer but Osuna just kept coming and throwing, knocking Centeno down in round seven and battering him in round eight before Centeno dropped Osuna with a three-punch combination in round ten. Osuna struggled to his feet but was in no shape to continue, prompting the stoppage. Osuna’s condition deteriorated after the stoppage and he was carried from the ring on a stretcher for immediate medical attention.
The Palm Springs Desert Sun reported that Osuna was alert upon arrival at a local hospital and kept overnight for observation due to a blood clot.
In welterweight action, Kevin Watts, (3-0, 2 KOs), scored a second round knockout over Alejandro Arteaga, (3-8, 1 KO), in a scheduled four round bout. Watts boxed well behind the jab using his distance in round one. A crunching left hook to the body sent Arteaga to the canvas as the referee reached a ten count at 1:26 of the second round.
In his pro debut, heavyweight Stephan Shaw of St. Louis made quick work of Jose Hermosillo with a first round knockout. A right hand by Shaw sent Hermosillo to the canvas, but even though Hermosillo beat the referee’s count, Shaw jumped all over him and connected again with a huge right hand that knocked Hermosillo out 47 seconds into the round. With the loss Hermosillo drops to 0-2. Shaw was an amateur standout and trains with Kevin Cunningham, noted for guiding Cory Spinks and Devon Alexander to world titles. Shaw also recently signed with Al Haymon, establishing his stellar connections and ensuring that he will be given every opportunity to grow into a bona fide heavyweight prospect.
The nine-bout card was presented by Golden Boy Promotions in association with Goossen Tutor Promotions, with five of the bouts televised by FOX Sports 1 and FOX Deportes. Fans in attendance were also able to see heavyweight contender Chris Arreola, seated ringside to support fellow Riverside fighter Josesito Lopez, and local star Julio Diaz.