By Cliff Rold
It was the sort of foul brawl Fritzie Zivic would have loved at the Palenque de Gallos in Chiapas, Mexico on Saturday night. Mexico’s 32-year old IBF Featherweight titlist Cristobal Cruz (39-11-1, 23 KO) made his second defense of his belt in front of a wild crowd, upsetting favored 29-year old countryman Jorge Solis (37-2-2, 27 KO) on a unanimous decision.
Saturday’s was the second contest between Solis and Cruz. They first met in December 2003 non-title affair with Solis capturing a lopsided ten-round decision. Both men came in below the Featherweight limit of 126 lbs. for the rematch, Cruz at 125 ¼ and Miranda at 125 ¾.
Cruz began the affair aggressively in front of what was for him a hometown crowd while Solis sought to establish a more controlled tempo with his jab. Referee Joseph Cooper soon found his hands full as awkward lunges from Cruz led to much early grappling and some slips and shoves to the floor. Solis complained of headbutts in the final minute when not slipping wild onslaughts from Cruz.
Solis initiated the second round with a quick left uppercut but was bulled to the ropes by Cruz’s brawling tactics for much of the following minute. Solis slipped shots in retreat after landing a pair of jabs and took a short right uppercut inside near the midway point. Solis landed the cleaner blows in the final minute but there was little power behind them and most were muffled by the lunges of Cruz who remained determined to produce an alley fight.
Cruz elicited a roar from his crowd with a series of hard rights moments into the third. Solis countered with a right and a short uppercut, took a right from Cruz, and then slipped in another right. Solis seemed to find a comfort zone for the lead right uppercut, firing as Cruz rushed in with head down but then it was Solis taking the uppercut in the final minute, stunned near the ropes first by leather and then perhaps bone. Complaining of a headbutt, which resulted in a point taken from Cruz, Solis rose from a push to the floor with blood streaming into his left eye. When action resumed, lunging and nastiness inside ended with Cruz wrapping Solis around the waist and executing a belly to belly suplex into the corner. Copper stepped in and immediately took another point from Cruz as fans pelted the ring with garbage, obviously confused about why intentional headbutts and suplexes were being punished.
In the fourth, Solis jabbed and tried his best to box in a style which resembled professional pugilism while Cruz continued to punch between foul attempts. Another headbutt in the final thirty seconds expanded the small cut above Solis’s eye into a sickening gash but no point was taken and action was allowed to continue. They resumed punching for a few moments before Cruz ended the frame with Solis locked in a hard headbutt.
The fifth opened under the shadow of a possible early end. Cruz and Solis both landed hard legal shots and then an inside exchange ended with Cruz stepping out to complain of a low blow which replays showed was not too low. Another low blow, landed off the ropes halfway through the round, was unquestionably flush and Cruz collapsed to the canvas before rolling around among other bodily contortions. During a break in the action for Cruz to recover, Cooper stepped in and deducted two points from Solis, an indication of an intentional foul. Cruz, seemingly refreshed following the deduction and almost winking at Cruz from across the ring, jumped right back into the action and controlled the remaining seconds for a needed round.
Cruz landed a left hook after some Solis jabs at the start of the sixth and then a right and left hook in exchange. Solis countered off the ropes with a left hook and stayed with the jab at mid-ring. An exchange of kidney punches led to a pair of body and head left hook combinations from Solis and, finding difficulty with punching, Cruz appeared to attempt a couple of headbutts which failed to connect with skull. In the final ten seconds, pressuring Solis to the ropes, Cruz connected with a left hook and right hand before headed back to their stools.
Round seven was headed to being the cleanest of the fight to then with jabs, hooks, crosses and a quick bit of lost footing on ring paint in the corner for Solis. A break in the action to fix loose tape on Cruz’s glove did nothing to break the suddenly more civilized tone of the bout but it couldn’t hold. Solis landed another wildly low blow in the final twenty seconds and Cooper ruled it again intentional, costing Solis two more points.
Cruz came close to landing another low blow early in the eighth before wisely straightening his posture and jabbing from distance. Cruz took a booming body shot and attempted a flop in the final minute but the referee signaled for him to continue as Solis ripped him with a left. Cruz again played for deduction when a harming body blow and left to the ear led to him signaling he’d been hit behind the head. Cooper appeared to be ready to warn Solis but did not and Solis stepped in with a pair of hooks to end a needed round on the cards.
Cruz wailed on Solis with a right at the bell for the ninth but Solis quickly found his footing and looked for counters. Cruz stalked with a right to the temple, a left and then another right and pressured throughout. A final winging left landed in the final ten seconds and Solis snapped back with rights and lefts to close a round otherwise for the titlist.
Both men landed nice short hooks to open round ten before Cruz rode the back of Solis’s neck in a clinch and shoved him to the floor for what had become a number of times tough to count. Wild attempts at power punches dominated the round for both men after some nasty infighting, a tenor which favored the aggressive Cruz.
Six minutes remained and one could wonder what tactics remained which had not yet been utilized. Outside of a glancing low blow in the final minute from Solis, punching ruled as Cruz opened and closed the eleventh strong while Solis countered effectively in between. It remained the same in a savage final round controlled bell to bell by Solis. The challenger hurt Cruz more than once and came close to dropping him in the final seconds behind educated right hands but Cruz stayed afoot and rose his arms at the closing bell of a grueling fight.
The scorecards came in at 113-110 twice and 113-111 for Cruz, Solis’s point deductions possibly the difference between victory and defeat. Cruz leaves with revenge while Solis goes back to the drawing board in his attempts to join his brother, former IBF 108 lb. titlist Ulises Solis, in the circle of champions. Solis’s only other loss came via knockout in 2007 at the hands of Manny Pacquiao.
29-year old Mexican Flyweight Julio Cesar Miranda (30-4-1, 23 KO), 112, went from the verge of contention to the verge of contention in a single round on the undercard. In his previous fight of 2009, Miranda lost a competitive decision to former World Flyweight champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in Thailand with a WBC mandatory title shot at stake. Saturday, he blitzed 32-year old countryman Eric Ortiz (31-9-3), 112, to lock up the #2 contender’s spot for the IBF.
The measured first round was going Ortiz’s way early on as short counter shots stymied the wide offensive attack of Miranda. In the final minute, Miranda made an adjustment, straightening out his jab and a sweeping left hook began the early end. A following right glanced off Ortiz’s head before a left uppercut ripped across his chin along the ropes, then a left hook and a final right uppercut sent him sitting and then sliding down the ropes towards the floor. Ortiz rose as referee Rudy Ortega told eight but looked less than willing to continue. He stepped forward warily and Miranda pounced with lefts and right to quickly send Ortiz back to the floor. The former WBC Jr. Flyweight titlist rose and turned towards his corner a finished man at 3:00 of round number one.
Miranda’s all but guarantees an IBF title shot before year’s end. Current titlist Nonito Donaire is poised for a move to the Jr. Bantamweight division which, if successful, will vacate the IBF belt. The #1 contender spot for the IBF is currently vacant.
The card was televised in the U.S. on ESPN Deportes and webcast via ESPN360 promoted by Banner Promotions.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]