By Jake Donovan
It was three months longer than he would’ve preferred, but featherweight contender Antonio Escalante was able to give his hometown faithful yet another thrill, returning to the ring to blast out Edel Ruiz in three rounds on Friday night at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas.
Escalante weighed in at a near-career heavy (though in-shape) 127 lb, one pound heavier than Ruiz, who tipped the scales at the featherweight limit of 126 lb. for their Telefutura-televised main event bout.
The fight was a long time coming for Escalante, or so it seemed. The El Paso native was forced to endure a five-plus month layoff after injuries thwarted a planned May return to the ring following his Fight Of the Year candidate with longtime rival Miguel Roman in this very same arena.
In Ruiz, Escalante was never threatened to be taken to hell and back, instead presented with the type of opponent against whom he could win and look damn good doing so.
Mission accomplished all around, though Escalante wasn’t without a brief scare or two. Ruiz never carried it like a fighter intent on playing dead. Quite the contrary, as the veteran journeyman came in having won four straight, his longest win streak in well over a decade.
It was hardly a secret that it would come to an end against Escalante, just a matter of how soon or late. Escalante opted for the former, going to work right away, targeting the body early and often, and fighting as well in reverse as he did when initiating the action in the opening round.
Escalante remained in control in the second round, scoring repeatedly upstairs and easily getting past Ruiz’ half-hearted jab. Ruiz remained brave, staying in the pocket for as long as he could bear it, firing back with body shots but unable to phase the house fighter.
After laying the foundation in the first couple of rounds, Escalante went to work in the third. Left hooks and looping right hands kept Ruiz at bay for the aborted round, before a left hook to the body would cause the Mexican to crumble to the canvas in a corner.
The referee administered the mandatory count and gave Ruiz every chance to prove he was fit to continue before deciding that the journeyman had taken enough punishment, waving off the bout without Escalante throwing another punch.
The official time was 1:52 of the third round.
Escalante improves to 24-2 (15KO), scoring his tenth straight win in the process. The bout was his fourth in a row at the Don Haskins Center, where he has become a bona fide draw, fighting in front of capacity crowds every time out.
Ruiz falls to 34-23-4 (25KO) with the loss, his first in more than 18 months. Having long ago slipped into journeyman status, the Mexican featherweight won four straight prior to Friday, including an upset win earlier this year over faded former titlist Clarence “Bones” Adams.
While Ruiz’ best days are well behind him, Escalante continues to enjoy a rebirth in his career. A title shot remains the ultimate goal, though it’s entirely possible that yet another Fight-Of-The-Year level performance comes first, as whispers has the Texan standing in line for the winner of next month’s featherweight showdown between Roman and former super bantamweight titlist Daniel Ponce de Leon.
In other televised action, local super bantamweight Alex Becerra (20-8, 9KO) won a six-round decision over Francisco Dominguez (7-6-2, 1KO). Scores were 60-54 across the board.
There were no knockdowns in a bout that was ugly throughout and required frequent intervention from referee Sam Garza for excessive holding.
In the end, it was enough for Becerra to land in the win column for the first time in nearly four years after having been matched extremely tough amidst a four-fight losing streak.
The evening’s final televised swing bout saw junior welterweight novice Cesar Valenzuela (4-0, 0) remain unbeaten with a four-round majority decision over Roni Alvarado (3-3, 1KO). Scores were 40-36 and 39-37 for Valenzuela, and 38-38.
The show was presented by Golden Boy Promotions.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at JakeNDaBox@gmail.com