While most of the boxing world was focused on Las Vegas and the ultimately underwhelming bout between Canelo Alvarez and Daniel Jacobs, a huge crowd gathered at of all places, the Stockton Arena in Stockton, California for a ESPN televised card that in many ways, was much more satisfying that we what we saw in Las Vegas
In the main event, IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev smashed Radivoje ‘Hot Rod’ Kalajdzic in five rounds to retain his title for the second time. Beterbiev, a former Russian Olympian now fighting out of Montreal did not make qualms about his intent early in the fight-he came out at the beginning of the first round and started winging left hooks. The Bosnian-American known as ‘Hot Rod’, best known for being robbed of a decision victory over undefeated US Olympian Marcus Browne two years ago, managed to stem the tide late in the first round and through the second, but did take some big right hands.
Kalajdzic (24-2, 17 KOs) then made the foolhardy decision to stand and trade with the dangerous Russian in the middle of the ring. Beterbiev landed a series of overhand rights and a few left hooks, but ultimately it was a short right hand that dropped Kalajdzic. Beterbiev hurt him with a combination as the bell rang, but Hot Rod survived the round. Knowing the score, Hot Rod came out in the fourth and winged some big right hands at the champion, but the Russian took them with no trouble and continued to pressure the challenger for the rest of the round, hurting him at the end of the round with a few big right hands.
Sensing the end was near, Beterbiev came right out and landed some big combinations on Hot Rod, driving him against the ropes. A big right hand followed by a little left hook was enough to convince referee Dan Stell to stop the fight thirteen seconds into the round. The bloodthirsty Stockton crowd wanted more action, but the twenty-seven year old challenger was unsteady legs and didn’t seem to have anything for the Russian champion.
Beterbiev (14-0, 14 KOs) is now sitting pretty, as he seems poised for a unification fight with Russian WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev, with whom he has had a rivalry that goes back ten years. Those two Russian dudes do not like each other and that would a big fight in Montreal, where Beterbiev lives and Kovalev has fought many times. There’s not much to hate about a fight when you have two big punchers that don’t like each other. Plus it’s an easy fight to make politically as Kovalev is also an ESPN fighter.
Despite being the main eventer, it was not Beterbiev who drew that huge crowd in Stockton. That was undefeated lightweight prospect Gabriel Flores Jr, who at nineteen years old and fighting for his late mother is a dream for his promoters at Top Rank. The local Stockton kid got a massive ovation coming out and rewarded his fans with a third round knockout victory over Brazilian veteran Eduardo Reis. Flores started out strong and steady in the first round, using his jab to set up a brilliant right hand and left hooks to the head and body.
Flores stepped up his body attack in the second round, hurting Reis with both hands. Reis (23-5, 19 KOs) did get off some nice right hands in the middle of the round, but Flores rallied with some nice left hooks at the crowd chanted “209” as the round ended. Then in a minute into the third round, Flores feinted with a left jab and instead came with a short lead left hook that landed right on the chin of Reis! Referee Marcos Rosales got up to four before he decided to give up the count at 1:14 of Round 3. Reis was not getting up.
The knockout was especially sweet for Flores (13-0, 6 KOs), not just because it was in front of his hometown crowd, but because it snapped a streak of six decisions in a row. At only nineteen years old, it seems Flores is starting to become a stronger and more powerful puncher. He certainly will be an exciting additions to the junior lightweight and lightweight division going forward.
In the main card opener, IBF junior bantamweight champion Jerwin Ancajas of the Philippines got back on track with a seventh round KO victory of Japan’s Ryuichi Funai. It was a nice bounce back win for Ancajas, who was coming off a draw in his last fight and seemed to be stunted in his progress as a fighter.
After two nondescript rounds, this fight really got going in the third round when Funai started to step up his pressure. The Japanese challenger landed with some nice right hands and left hooks, but as the round continued Ancajas started to catch Funai with right hooks and straight left hands. The Filipino champion came super strong in the fourth and hurt Funai with a series of hard right hooks, with some lefts to the body mixed in. As his customary for Japanese boxers, Funai took all of Ancajas flak and just kept coming, refusing to go down.
After taking the fifth round to recharge, Ancajas came out in the sixth round and continued his two-fisted attack. Funai did his best to respond but ate a whole lot of right hooks and left hands, and even some uppercuts that Ancajas sprinked in. Thankfully, the doctor stopped the fight before the seventh round could begin, as this is the kind of fight that really damages a fighter.
The fight matches the seventh successful title defense for Ancajas, and much-needed turnaround after struggling in his last few fights. Ancajas was labeled as the next Manny Pacquaio several years ago and that seemed to hurt him. Hopefully he will be a better fighter as he finds his own identity.
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