TUCSON, Arizona – For Team Mexico, a Thai was like kissing tu hermanita, or little sister. The bruising quartet swept their worthy counterparts from Thailand, as the Fraternal Brotherhood of Pugilistics assembled for one of the finest nights of boxing this locale has produced in many a desert moon. Golden Boy Promotions took a gamble at desert Diamond Casino with the “World Cup” and came up big.

If the intense competition came across on the HBO Latino broadcast, Oscar De La Hoya’s concept of international duke out duels should quickly gain momentum. The next installment is targeted for April, with Puerto Rico as the tentative opposition. If so, it will not be difficult to promote.

There must be a good word for “juevos,” or brave balls if you will, in Thailand. Every performer in either corner came through with a solid effort, from the four televised bouts to a pair of crowd-pleasing appetizers. The assembled swarm of 2,444 chanted “Mexico, Mexico” while honorary team captain Marco Antonio Barrera clapped along. Thailand had a few dozen faithful representing the warriors from the East.

In the first of the four WBO title tilts, Hugo Cazares, 108, stopped Kaichon Sor Vorapin, 107½, in a southpaw battle.

Cazares scored with short left counters as Sor Vorapin came in behind herky-jerky jabs. Cazares dumped him in the first with a left and kept control. The second was a better round for Sor Vorapin until an overhand left conked him down again, this time on the seat of his pants at the bell.

Cazares zeroed in with short blasts up and down. They traded big shots but it was the Thai’s face that lumped up. Sor Vorapin flailed away without desperation and managed to get in a few combinations. It was sloppy as they grappled, but it remained a tough fight.

By the fourth, Sor Vorapin decided his only chance was to maul inside. It worked for a little while as he pursued Cazares through much of the fifth. In the sixth, a huge right dropped a shocked Cazares. He was more chagrined than hurt, and responded with rocking rights. A short, sonic left traveled about a foot … then crumbled Sor Vorapin. He crawled his way up and almost beat the count, but fell back into a neutral corner as ref Bobby Ferrara counted ten. The official time was 2:14 of the sixth session.

“It’s great to win for the Mexican fans,” said Cazares, now 22-3-1 (16). “I see great opportunities ahead. My only mistake was when I got caught by that right.”

“What went wrong is he came out stronger than I expected,” said Sor Vorapin, 17-8 (6), “I tried my best. He is very powerful.”

Daniel Ponce de Leon got the benefit of the doubt against Sod Looknongyangtoy. De Leon had trouble adjusting to his opponent’s speed, and got plopped on his butt by a chopping right in the second. It took de Leon a few rounds to block that exact same shot but eventually kept his left up enough to start his offense by the third.

Slowly but surely, de Leon gained ground behind stiff lefts that took their accumulative toll and knocked the spit out of Sod. It wasn’t artistic, but it was a give-and-take punch-out. De Leon surged down the stretch and landed good combinations by the end of the fight, but it was a still a razor thin margin of victory. The crowd was split in their preference. Scoring: Chris Wilson and Raul Caiz, Jr saw it 115-112, and Howard Richey 118-109, all for De Leon.

“This feels great, like nothing else,” said de Leon. “My strategy was to build up points round by round. This is the ultimate redemption day. I felt my best ever. I won for my whole country.”

“I can not accept this decision,” said Looknongyangtoy, “I realize I lost some of the rounds, but I know I won the fight.”

Jhonny Gonzales stole the show with a career best showing against amazing veteran Ratanachi Sor Vorapin, who absorbed brutal punishment. Sor Vorapin put pressure on from the start, but it was a case of growing old in the ring.

Gonzales was a patient picture of effectiveness employing counter uppercuts. Gonzales used his considerable height advantage perfectly and creamed Sor Vorapin to the canvas twice in the third and again in the fourth. Vorapin was in big trouble for over ten minutes as a cut on his right eye bled profusely. By the end he looked like an early drive-in Halloween victim. Gonzalez put serious hurt on him and somebody should have stopped it earlier. Vorapin did make a last stand in the fifth as he willed his body forward even as his head snapped back.

Gonzalez had a bloody nose and showed a few marks from rumbling. A huge left dropped Vorapin at the bell ending round five, but he pulled himself up once again and continued to raise his arms in defiance. Vorapin actually looked anxious for more as ref Robert Byrd studied him deeply during the sixth round. Gonzalez immediately winged in a dozen shots and Byrd waved it off at 22 seconds of round number seven.

“This is a great weight off of my shoulders,” reflected Gonzalez. “I can’t believe it. He hurt me some of the time but I was able to withstand the pain. I knew he’d keep getting up because he’s a great champion. It was all out of heart. I just lost my uncle, so this win means a lot. I think he’s happy. I want to unify another title.”

Vorapin was unavailable for comment as he was headed for the hospital, hopefully undamaged.

Fernando Montiel’s hard-earned defense over Pramuansak Phosawan was a bit anti-climactic. The 115 pound contest was the most tentative fight of the night, probably due to the challenger’s awkward but effective style of feint and fire. Montiel, 32-1-1 (24) showed great reflexes, but it took him a while to mount any effective offense.

Phosawan, now 29-1-1, did a good job. Going into the second half of the fight, he was in danger of an upset, even with a blood blister blossoming beneath his right eye. Phosawan made mocking moves, but the piper was coming for punchtime pay.

Montiel came back strong to close the show, and it was Phosawan’s eye that became a problem. A serious problem. A holy Moses look at that face kind of problem as swelling grew in size from a golf ball to a tennis ball to a soccer ball.

Referee was Raul Caiz, who called an incorrect but relatively harmless knockdown against each fighter. Scoring: Chris Wilson and Rocky Burke agreed at 114-112, Howard Richey saw it 115 –112 for Montiel, who’s looked better.

“I’m very proud. I just came out to fight and I did it,” said Montiel. “I hope nobody runs from me. I’d like to stay at this weight and fight Martin Castillo.”

“He was tough in every round,” explained the unbowed Phosawan.

In the warm-up acts, Germain Cruz came from way back to stop Perch Windysports at 2:44 of the fourth and final frame, and Tersak Jandaeng notched the only Thai victory with a split decision verdict over Carlos Contreras.

Our informal exit poll gave the card high marks in fan approval.

“Most other big sports have team championships like this whether it’s baseball, golf or the Super Bowl. I really think this is going to catch on. We’re taking things all over the country. It’s about laying down the foundation,” said De La Hoya.

There was even tongue-in-cheek speculation about De La Hoya anchoring a USA World Cup squad himself. Kidding aside, if he enlisted business partners Bernard Hopkins and Shane Mosley, such a team could be a promoter’s dream.