by Cliff Rold
In February, 32-year old three-division titlist Fernando Montiel (45-3-2, 35 KO) of Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico, walked into the ring with a pair of Bantamweight belts and, two rounds later, left with a dent in his head from a picturesque Nonito Donaire left hook. It was the sort of devastating knockout veteran fighters struggle to come back from.
Saturday night at Banorte Stadium, in the hometown of Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez, Montiel leapt into his fourth weight class and looked well on his way to recovery while logging two more rounds for the year. Just as the bout seemed to be getting started, 31-year old former title challenger Nehomar Cermeno (20-4, 12 KO), a Venezuelan fighting out of Panama City, Panama, quit before the start of the third round, an odd ending to be sure.
Both men weighed in just above the Jr. Featherweight limit of 122 lbs., a matching quarter pound over at 122 ¼.
Cermeno began the bout circling to his left and stepping in with the jab while Montiel jabbed back in spots to the chest and belly. Both men missed right hands through the first half of the round, Cermeno finally breaking through near the minute mark. A right and two left hooks from Montiel missed the mark in the final thirty seconds as Montiel worked to find his range, succeeding with only seconds on a left that caught the tip of Cermeno’s nose.
Round two was as measured as the first, neither man really able to find an edge in the early going. As had been the case in the opening frame, Montiel did his best work in the waning seconds.
A four-punch combination from Montiel ended with a sharp overhand right, followed with a lead left hook that pushed Cermeno back. Backing to the ropes, Montiel landed a left hook on the belt line and then another towards the temple of Cermeno. Cermeno leaned forward and took a low blow from the left, grimacing and attempting to tie Montiel up. Montiel got his left hand tied in the ropes as he tried to shake Cermeno off and land another blow before the bell. When he freed his hands, he raised both mitts above his head and Cermeno slunk to the floor.
The bell rang and Cermeno rose, walking to his corner, bending over at the waist quickly before taking a seat on the stool. No one would have thought the fight had concluded.
At the bell for round three, Cermeno rose from his stool and was talking to his corner while referee Olegario Madueno tolled a ten count. Cermeno did not protest and immediately left his corner, walked to a neutral corner, and slunk to his knees. Montiel looked on quizzically and then thrust his hands into the air and smiled, victory is short fashion.
The official verdict goes into the books as a stoppage for Montiel, a corner retirement from Cermeno in three. It is the fourth loss in Cermeno last five starts, his first by stoppage. While all of the defeats have come to excellent opponents, the former Venezuelan Olympian finds himself teetering on the brink of irrelevance.
Montiel, conversely, finds himself likely in quick title contention in his fourth weight class. Jr. Featherweight is wide open for the time being and the natural match for Montiel could be WBO titlist and fellow Mexican Jorge Arce. Arce won the belt in May with a rousing stoppage of Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. The promotion could easily make issue of something that has been elusive for Mexican fighters, a fourth title in a fourth weight class.
Arce (57-6-2, 44 KO) has some claim to the honor, having previously been the lineal World Champion and WBC titlist at 108 lbs. along with a WBO belt at 115 lbs. However, Arce’s belt at 112 was a WBC interim strap and Arce never beat the reigning champion, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam, to truly earn the crown. Montiel on the other hand has won WBO straps at 112, 115, and 118, also adding a WBC belt in the last of those classes.
All those belts might not mean what they should, but it’s certainly a promotable story between Mexican veterans. After Saturday, Montiel can breathe a sigh of relief that he has more stories to tell.
The broadcast opened with an entertaining ten round affair at Lightweight.
In a year that has seen at least a half dozen undefeated fighters take their first defeat, and matched with the best opponent of his burgeoning career, 21-year old Mahonri Montes (22-0-1, 17 KO), 133, of Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico, avoided the jinx. It wasn’t easy. 36-year old Hector Velzaquez (51-16-2, 35 KO), 132, of Tijuana, Mexico, came to fight and gave Montes some valuable experience going forward. Velazquez did some of his best work off the ropes, drawing the taller and younger man in and countering well even as he suffered his fourth straight loss, and fifth in sixth contests. Montes ultimately prevailed by unanimous verdict with scores of 96-93, 96-94, and 97-93.
The card was televised in the U.S. on Azteca America as part of its “Box Azteca” series, promoted by Zanfer and Corpox.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]