by Cliff Rold
In an entertaining if sometimes awkward clash, 24-year old Jr. Lightweight Juan Carlos Burgos (29-1, 19 KO) of Tijuana, Mexico traded knockdowns with 34-year old citymate and former IBF Featherweight titlist Cristobal Cruz (39-13-2, 23 KO) en route to a unanimous ten-round decision win at the Dover Downs Casino in Dover, Delaware, on Friday night.
The referee was Gary Rosato. Burgos came in one pound below the Jr. Lightweight limit at 129 lbs. Cruz weighed in at 128 ¾. The win was Burgos’s fourth in a row since losing a decision for the then-vacant WBC Featherweight belt against Hozumi Hasegawa in 2010. Cruz is now winless in four straight, with two draws in the spread.
Cruz attempted the first big shot, a looping lead left, attempting to test the distance problem presented by the taller Burgos. Burgos came forward with a combination, Cruz covering up. A lot of feeling out was broken up by a brief exchange in the last minute, both men landing right hands.
The action slowly began to heat up in rounds two and three, both men hitting the floor in the latter. Neither trip to the canvas was ruled a knockdown, both solid calls. In the first, Burgos landed a body shot while both men’s feet got tangled. In the latter, a bull rush from Cruz caught Burgos off balance and ended with a tumble.
Timing Cruz coming in, Burgos asserted control early in the fourth with a strong jab and short hooks and crosses. As the seconds ticked off the clock, the pressure of Cruz got him closer, Burgos made uncomfortable in playing the part of matador. His ability to offset Cruz increased in the fifth, Burgos controlling space well and landing some snapping rights.
Burgos would finally land the shot he was looking for against a blindly pursuing Cruz in the sixth. With his back to the ropes, Burgos cracked Cruz with a snapping left hook to the jaw. A delayed reaction saw Cruz on both knees. Up at the count of five, Cruz was unsteady but resilient, crowding and holding to muzzle Burgos’s attempt to finish. Bleeding from the right eye, Cruz landing a thudding right hand late in the frame to signal he’d regained his senses.
Cruz rebounded in the seventh, swinging hard if occasionally wildly and eating away at the advantage Burgos gained in the previous round. His pressuring and abandon continued to work in the eighth and, in the ninth, Cruz evened up the knockdown count with a perfect jab that caught Burgos off balance and sent him briefly to the deck.
With the fight potentially up for grabs in the tenth, both men were looking for a chance to land something big. Burgos did, but not the way he’d like. A hard low blow caught Cruz who needed a break to recover. Back from the breather, Cruz jumped right on Burgos, forcing him towards the corner and landing a nice left and right. Burgos responded back at center ring, his longer right snapping the head of Cruz back. Cruz closed stronger with some landing haymakers in the final thirty seconds. Both men raised their hands at the bell.
It turned out in the end that Burgos had done more than enough to win with two scores of 96-92 and a 98-90. The last of the scores was surprisingly wide until one realizes the judge levying the score was Pierre Benoist. Benoist turned in one the most reviled scores in recent memory, favoring Paul Williams at 119-110 over Sergio Martinez in their first epic clash.
The televised opener featured a mild upset.
27-year old Jr. Welterweight Manuel Perez (17-7-1, 4 KO), 138 ½, of Denver, Colorado, scored a unanimous decision in ten over 33-year old veteran Edgar Santana (26-4, 17 KO), 139 ½, of New York City, New York.
Santana, out of the ring from 2008 until 2011, had won two in a row on the comeback trail coming in, including an impressive stoppage of Omri Lowther last August. On Friday, he battled hard but was steadily outworked by the younger man. Perez had his hand raised with three matching scores of 96-94, or six rounds to four.
Perez bounces back from a decision loss to rising contender Mercito Gesta. Santana takes his first loss after five wins dating back to 2007. The referee was Benjy Esteves Jr.
The card was televised in the U.S. on ESPN as part of its “Friday Night Fights” series, promoted by Banner Promotions and Thompson Promotions.
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]