By David Robinett at ringside
Photos: Tom Casino / Showtime
Unbeaten bantamweight Randy Caballero, (16-0, 8 KOs), successfully defended his NABO title Friday night with a unanimous decision over Manuel Roman, (15-2-3, 6 KOs), in the main event on ShoBox: The Next Generation before a partisan crowd at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California. Scores were 97-92, 96-93, and 96-93 in a mostly tactical affair that served as a solid test for the 21-year old prospect from nearby Coachella, California. Caballero, fighting for the 10th time at Fantasy Springs Casino Resort in his 16 pro fights, acknowledged the step up in competition before the fight, but did not seem overly concerned. “Roman’s a tough fighter, I’m not taking anything away from him,” explained Caballero. “But he’s never been 10 rounds. I’ll probably just break him down and hopefully finish him off in the early rounds.”
Although Caballero did not score the early knockout he predicted, he did put Roman on the canvas in the early going. Both fighters started cautiously, trading jabs and jab, straight right combinations. However in round two Caballero landed a right hook followed by a left hook that dropped Roman back onto the seat of his pants. Roman was unhurt and rose quickly, but the knockdown reflected the fact that Caballero was in control from the get go.
The middle rounds continued to be fought at a measured pace, with little offensive diversity by either fighter beyond the jab and one-two, sapping some of the energy from the crowd which had started the fight enthusiastically cheering on Caballero.
Round six started to see some sustained two-way action by the fighters as Roman cornered Caballero and landed a left hook to the body, right hook to the head combination that forced Caballero to fight his way out of danger, resulting in an exchange of blows as Caballero fought his way back towards the center of the ring. The action heated up further in round eight as Roman began to consistently land lead left hooks to the head and body of Caballero, forcing Cabellero out of the cruise control he had been on since the early knockdown.
With the pressure mounting, Caballero was equal to the task, effectively putting an end to Roman’s attempted rally shortly after the start of round nine with an impressive double jab, straight right combination that stopped Roman in his tracks, punctuated shortly after by a left uppercut. That seemed to signal the end of any drama from the fight, as Roman was unable to generate any further momentum as the fighters mixed grappling and clinching with brief spurts of activity over the remaining round and a half.
Perez Survives Maldonado
In the evening’s best fight, once-beaten lightweights Michael Perez and Fidel Maldonado put on a show in the televised co-main event, with Perez surviving at the bell for an unpopular, but deserved, split decision victory over ten rounds. Maldonado dropped Perez hard moments before the final bell, but never got the chance to finish him, as Perez beat the count despite unsteady legs to preserve the victory by scores of 97-92 and 95-94, with the third judge scoring the bout 95-94 for Maldonado.
Perez, (17-1-1, 10 KOs), who suffered his only loss in this same ring in January, established himself as the better boxer early on, circling around the ring and firing off sharp jabs and straight right hands as Maldonado dutifully followed. Maldonado, (13-2, 11 KOs), landed several left hands, particularly to the body, but Perez controlled the action with his ring generalship and slightly higher workrate.
The fight turned chippy in round three when, during a clinch, Maldonado landed several consecutive left hands to Perez’s body while holding Perez with his right, then going upstairs for a left hook to the head for good measure. After the referee broke the clinch, Perez returned the favor, grabbing Maldonado and then unloading three to four rabbit punches to the back of Maldonado’s head as the fighters wrestled. The referee again jumped in to restore order, but not before the fighters exchanged borderline low blows as the crowd simultaneously cheered and booed at the villainy.
Both fighters came out with something to prove in round four, engaging almost immediately, but Perez started to show his class, rocking Maldonado with big right hands to the head and getting the better of the exchanges. Maldonado returned to his corner at the end of the round looking worse for the wear and prompting a visit by the ringside physician.
Over the next four rounds, it was a battle of skill versus determination, as Maldonado would consistently come forward and land a few hard punches, but whenever it seemed he was on the verge of wearing down Perez, Perez would stick his jab and land solid right hands and hooks to stop Maldonado in his tracks and regain control. However, by round nine the pressure seemed to be wearing on Perez, and the stage was set for a final rally.
In the final round, Maldonado continued coming forward, but it looked as if Perez would be able to withstand the pressure for one more round with his movement and superior boxing. However, with just seconds remaining, Maldonado landed a left hook to the body that badly hurt Perez, causing him to bend forward while backing to the ropes. Maldonado landed a big left hook to Perez’s temple a moment later that dropped Perez to the canvas. Perez beat the count looking shaky and unsteady, but before Maldonado could finish the job, the bell sounded to end the fight.
Although the crowd lustily booed the verdict, Perez had clearly won most of the early and middle rounds of the fight and deserved the decision victory despite Maldonado’s late rally. Had this been a twelve-round contest, Maldonado may have forced a stoppage, but instead, Maldonado suffers his second consecutive defeat.
Osuna Obliterates Abreu
In the final undercard bout before Friday’s ShoBox telecast, local middleweight Angel Osuna, (10-3-1, 6 KOs), scored a highlight-reel, one-punch knockout of Yosmani Abreu, (3-4-1, 0 KOs) at 2:12 of round three in a scheduled six-round contest.
Osuna, who was making a quick return to ring after scoring a first round knockout just three weeks ago, didn’t provide any fireworks in round one this time, preferring to feel Abreu out as the two fighters punched sparingly and grappled their way through the round. Osuna stepped up the pace in round two, hurting Abreu with a straight right hand as Abreu lunged in and then dropping the stunned Abreu a split second later with a right hook. Abreu rose on unsteady legs, but Osuna squandered his opportunity to follow up by waiting on Abreu to move forward to time him again coming in. The bell ending the round sounded without Osuna landing anything else of significance.
Osuna ended matters in round three however, timing Abreu coming in perfectly with a left uppercut that sent Abreu straight back to the canvas in an exaggerated fashion as the referee and cornermen stepped in to give him immediate attention. After a couple of minutes, Abreu was able to leave the ring on his own power, with Osuna notching his second impressive knockout in a row.
In Other Action
Undefeated lightweight Santiago Guevara, (4-0, 2 KOs), earned a referee’s stoppage at 2:00 of round two over Wilbert Mitchell, (1-6, 0 KOs), in a scheduled four-round bout. Mitchell started strongly but two right uppercuts by Guevara sent Mitchell staggering to the ropes, where Guevara followed with several unanswered blows, prompting referee Ray Corona to step in.
Ryan Caballero, (1-0, 0 KOs), gritted out a win in his pro debut, earning a tougher than expected victory over Manuel Machorro, (0-7-1), in a four-round junior featherweight bout. Scores were 40-36, 40-36, and 39-37. Caballero is the 18-year old younger brother of the televised headliner, Randy Caballero.
In the evening’s opening bouts, heavyweight Gerald Washington, (2-0, 2 KOs), made quick work of Gary Cobia, (0-2), winning by first round knockout. Super middleweight prospect and amateur standout Chris Pearson, (8-0, 5 KOs), remained undefeated with a stoppage of Christian Nava, (2-2-1, 0 KOs).
In addition to the seven bouts presented by Golden Boy Promotions, future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins was in attendance and hosted a meet and greet with fans prior to the televised portion of the card. Of note also was the third member of the ShoBox announcing team, former lightweight champion Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz. Diaz served as the guest analyst in the absence of Antonio Tarver, who was suspended following his positive test for a banned substance after his most recent fight.