E-Rod wasn't matched tough on BAD, though Escalera does possess oodles of heart. Talent, not as much. Most seem to be keen on a Rodriguez-Kelly Pavlik scrap.
On paper, this HBO Boxing After Dark tripleheader from Foxwoods Resorts in Mashantucket, CT, was ESPN2 fare. Indeed, the B.A.D. card coming in two weeks featuring Donaire-Nishioka and Rios-Alvarado—is exponentially more compelling. Saturday night’s three televised fights exceeded expectations.
This may be partly due to the venue itself; not a bad seat in the house at Foxwoods. Lest you think there’s no such thing as a bad seat in from press row, think again. But this press row is nestled close to the ring, and I found myself ducking under some wild swings that missed.
The main event was a scheduled 10-rounder between super middlweights Edwin “La Bamba” Rodriquez and Jason “Monstruo” Escalera. While the chance of being featured HBO is hard to pass up, I’m not sure why Escalera’s promoter (Star Boxing) thought it wise to throw him in with the vastly more experienced and polished Rodriquez? Nothing in Escalera’s resume and quality of opposition suggests that he was ready for this undertaking. But his ring entrance to the theme music of “Halloween,” complete with the Michael Myers mask, was a good touch.
As expected, Rodriguez moved his record to 22-0 (15), while Escalera took his first loss and now goes 13-1-1 (12).
Referee Steve Smoger stopped it at 12 seconds into the 8th round. It was a good stoppage. Escalera had taken a great deal of punishment but also deserved the right to fight on, as he kept swinging and was game…until that moment when he wasn’t, and the ref immediately spotted this.
Most referees wouldn’t have let Escalera out of the first, as he took a merciless beating and was teetering around the ring. That Smoger let it go (with his instincts proved correct, as the fighter had plenty left) is one of the reasons why so many wish he was the third man in every fight.
It was a bad omen for Escalera when he lost his mouthpiece three seconds into the first, lost it again later in the round, and offered no more resistance than a heavy bag—and like any heavy bag, he had no idea how to hold.
But the thickly muscled Escalera has a sturdy constitution and heart. He had a better second and third. Which isn’t to say he won either round. He was surviving. He was lucky that Rodriguez had thrown over 100 punches in the first, most of them loaded up, and scaled back his pace.
Going into the fourth, Rodriguez’s trainer Ronnie Shields instructed, “I want you at distance, where you can hit him and he can’t hit nothin’.” His charge followed his counsel. Previously, against Donovan George and Will Rosinsky, he allowed himself to get drawn into brawls when he should have boxed. This was all Escalera could hope for, his only chance, but Edwin wouldn’t oblige him. He boxed nicely at a controlled pace he could easily sustain. He continually jabbed, slipped shots, dipping under them, touching the body, took effective turns, dropped lead rights, and moved out of the way. Rinse and repeat. Escalera had no answer. To add insult and injury, Escalera spat out his mouthpiece again.
With a little over a minute left in the fourth, Escalera landed his best shot of the night, a digging right to the stomach that was wrongly ruled a low blow. It was on the beltline but Jason’s belt was fairly high—not as high as Steve Smoger wears his pants, of course. The shot really hurt him. He folded and took over 40 seconds to recover. Smart fighter, Rodriguez went right back at him, throwing to the head to raise his arms and open up body. It worked. And the body was punished.
Escalera somehow hung on. But he took a lot of damage in the fifth, at one point badly wobbled by an overhand right, causing Smoger to take a close look. Rodriguez tried to finish him in the first half of the sixth but went back to boxing when Escalera refused to fold.
More punishment ensued in the seventh. Escalera’s legs looked bad but he kept trying. Once again, he lost his mouthpiece when he took a flush uppercut. Early in the eighth, Edwin finally banged him out.
Rodriguez deserves credit for not fighting down to his opponent. The question now is can he fight up to the next level? His promoter Lou DiBella will be looking to step him up soon. An obvious choice of opponent is Kelly Pavlik, who’s now campaigning at that weight but not yet looking like the Ghost of old. If Pavlik has, in fact, lost some zip on his fastball, he’d represent an ideal step-up for Rodriguez.
Luis Orlando Del Valle, 26, is a solid if unspectacular super bantam (122) prospect with a 16-0 (11) mark going into the biggest fight of his career against Vic “The Raging Bull” Darchinyan. Del Valle’s promoter Lou DiBella obviously figured Vic was shopworn and too undersized to be the bully he always attempts to be.
But at 36, with a record of 37-5 (27), Vic won his first world title at 112 in December 2004. He rampaged through that division and continued his dominance at 115, save the night he ran into Nonito Donaire’s picture-perfect left hook. When he moved up to 118, the law of diminishing returns began to tell. But when he lost, it was to the elite, guys like Joseph Agbeko, Abner Mares, and Anselmo Moreno. You can be sure none of them considered Vic easy work.
Last April he lost a UD 12 to unheralded Shinsuke Yamanaka in Japan. Between that loss, his age, and his going up yet another weight class, the Armenian looked like a big name scalp from the multiple NY Golden Glove champ on the rise.
Wrong. Vic’s awkward southpaw stance, his fierceness, roughness and vast experience was way too much for the he younger man. The older fighter won a UD10: 99-91 twice and 96-64.
Del Valle came out cold with perceptible jitters. As is his custom, Vic threw everything with murderous intent. In the third he began head-butting, using his elbows, pushing down on De Valle’s neck when they were tied up. When it comes to how well he employs such tactics, Fritzie Zivic is nodding approvingly from the grave.
In the middle rounds, Del Valle chose to stand in front of Darchinyan rather than use his legs and box. This really played into the vets hands, as he’s a superior brawler. Del Valle landed a good shot now and there but he couldn’t follow up with much else and capitalize on the moment. He seemed to have no game-plan. He was taken to school.
In the later rounds, Vic was noticeably fatigued. His legs were going and he was breathing through his mouth. Yet he showed his specialness, almost ignoring his body’s messages. He never stopped winging and landing. He pot-shotted and moved when necessary.
Vic was buzzed late in the 9th with a left hook. He was so spent he looked unable to lift his arms. But Del Valle was unable to follow up with clean shots, while the (potential) future Hall of Famer showed his underrated guile, remaining shifty enough to frustrate Luis’ attacks. Still spent, if no longer hurt, Darchinyan used his veteran savvy to make it through the 10th.
Time will tell if this fight will make or break Del Valle. It’s unlikely that Darchinyan will win another title at this weight class, but he’s gatekeeper material. Like Jorge Arce, another veteran of similar class and grit, you can never count them out.
While Canadian welterweight, Antonin Decarie put on a dominant performance against previously unbeaten prospect Alex Perez, of Newark, NJ, this one was unworthy of landing on an HBO card. The bout served as a replacement to the previously scheduled fight between highly ranked light heavy contenders Isaac Chilemba and Zsolt Erdei.
Decarie had no problem finding the rangy southpaw with his power shots. Perez, who has served as lead sparring partner for Sergio Martinez and Miguel Cotto, failed to use his height advantage and as many of his home-town fans (including one especially vocal one on press row) were imploring him to make better use of his jab. And despite wearing camouflage trunks, perhaps in homage to the late great Diego Corrales whom he physically resembles, he don’t crack like Chico.
Decarie was the busier fighter through the first five rounds and only 1 round was close. He employed some effective body work to set up his right hands and hooks. A cross-hook combination mid-way through the sixth round hurt Perez and Decarie followed it up with a right hand which floored Perez. The end came soon after as the Canadian pressed him against the ropes and landed a number of big rights. Referee Danny Schiavone called a stop to the fight at the 2:54 mark. It was a good stoppage as Perez was on shaky legs and offered no response.
Decarie goes to 27-1 (8) and Perez is now 16-1 (9).
Only seven of the Canadian's 26 previous victories came by way of stoppage so it was a bit of surprise how Decarie was able to viciously dispatch him. Decarie was elated and voiced his desire to back on HBO against top competition. Light heavy Jean Pascal, who’s in the same camp as Decarie, seemed to be the second most excited man in Mashantucket and paraded around like a proud father.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV