by Cliff Rold
24-year old unified WBA/WBO Flyweight titlist Juan Francisco Estrada (26-2, 19 KO) of Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, Mexico, sent the local fans home happy on Saturday at the Centro Convenciones in Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico, forcing a corner retirement of willing but finally broken 26-year old challenger Richie Mepranum (27-4-1, 6 KO) of Maasim, Sarangani, Philippines, prior to the tenth round.
It was Estrada’s second defense of the titles he won from Brian Viloria in April 2013. It was Mepranum’s second shot at a major title, losing by stoppage to Julio Cesar Miranda for the WBO strap in 2010.
Both men weighed in at the division limit of 112 lbs. The referee was Celestino Ruiz.
After an energetic feeling out in the first round from both men, Estrada used his body attack to begin taking a toll on his southpaw challenger in the second. A right to the cheek drove Mepranum to the ropes and the challenger appeared in trouble only to fight back and take the fight to ring center.
Mepranum found a home in spots for lead lefts, Estrada sticking out his chin and taunting him at one point in the third. He added an Ali shuffle at the bell after a vicious body attack started a sound offensive salvo in the last thirty seconds.
A loose shoe brought an odd break in round four, Mepranum’s corner forced to tape near the toe of his left shoe. It didn’t bother him much as he closed the round with his best work of the night to then, landing to the head and body against an Estrada with his back to the ropes. Mepranum took more than a minute before the start of the fifth to change shoes. Estrada came out with the step livelier, all over the challenger with both fists blazing for much of the round. Mepranum was firing back at the bell and raised his hands with a huge smile.
Estrada used the right to drive Mepranum to the ropes again in the sixth but the Filipino showed no quit. The frenetic action slowed just a tad in the seventh but both men still fired and landed well. In the eighth, Mepranum landed a pair of lefts that brought a violent response from the titlist. Standing shoulder to shoulder, Mepranum took the worse of it, Estrada landing echoing body shots as the challengers shorts slipped a tad.
A right to the chest of Mepranum nearly sent him to the floor in the first minute of the ninth when his feet skidded across the paint at ring center. Near the end of the round, Mepranum fought off a sustained attack with a hard, desperate left but it was an exacting three minutes and the challenger was weary as he went to the corner.
It turned out he was wearier than he looked. After a game effort, the challenger was surrendered in the corner prior to the tenth round. Mepranum walked across the ring to embrace Estrada, all smiles as both men received applause from the crowd. It was unclear what forced the end. Perhaps Mepranum had just taken one body shot too many.
Mepranum entered the bout having won two straight since a points loss in his second bout against Tyson Marquez in 2012 (Mepranum won their first to earn his shot at Miranda).
Estrada now has the deck cleared for his WBO mandatory and what looks like a possible Fight of the Year candidate in the making against former lineal and WBA/WBO unified Jr. Flyweight titlist Giovani Segura. Segura has won three straight, all by knockout, since a competitive points loss to Edgar Sosa last year.
One of those three wins came against the man featured in the evening’s semi-final.
As has been his habit between big fights in his normal weight class, 25-year old former WBA Flyweight titlist Hernan “Tyson” Marquez (36-4, 26 KO), 117 ½, of Empalme, Sonora, Mexico, moved up for the night and earned a competitive but clear unanimous decision in ten rounds over 24-year old John Mark Apolinario (17-4-3, 4 KO), 117 ½, of Sarangani, Philippines. There were no knockdowns in the contest.
The referee was Octaviano Lopez.
As the first round got underway, the southpaw Marquez struggled to get his jab in against the longer limbed Apolinario. A lead right hook worked better, catching Apolinario coming in and Marquez started to solve the distance. Jabbing to the body and feinting high, Marquez was landing but Apolinario returned fire with the right.
Over the next four rounds, the fight unfolded in a bit of a pattern, Apolinario doing his best work off the jab and with space, Marquez doing his on the inside with short, flurrying assaults. The Filipino showed solid defensive chops, slipping and blocking well to keep the damage down.
Both men gave the judges reasons to favor them through round eight. For Marquez, consistency was his ally. He kept coming forward and left little room for lulls. Apolinario would respond with sometimes more eye catching fare; clean, long right hands and digging body shots forced Marquez to work hard to get inside. Marquez’s short right uppercut started to play a role in the bout and made room for left uppercuts behind it.
In round nine, it was Apolinario repeatedly landing clean and while Marquez fired away and found his shots muzzled by the tight defense of his foe. Both men continued to work hard in the final round, digging deep in the closing seconds for a final hammering exchange. Apolinario ended the night with a cut around the left eye and increased esteem.
The scores came in correctly, if perhaps a tad wide on the final announced card, at 98-92, 97-93, and 100-90, all for Marquez.
Marquez was making his first start since suffering a twelfth round knockout at the hands of Giovani Segura in one of the best fights of 2013. Marquez came into the bout rated #8 at Flyweight by the WBA and #10 by the WBO.
The televised opener featured a pair of undefeated Jr. Lightweights in a spirited engagement. Ultimately, 19-year old Juan Carlos Diaz (14-0, 7 KO) of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, used two knockdowns to not only last the distance with his foe for the first time but hand 25-year old Braulio Rodriguez (15-1, 15 KO) of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, his first professional loss via unanimous eight round decision.
The referee was Octaviano Lopez
Diaz set the pace from early on, jabbing and pressing while Rodriguez sought to counter from range. Rodriguez was doing some of his best work of the fight in round four, countering well, but a left hand from Diaz decked him late and another had him reeling before the bell. A similar series of misfortunes befell Rodriguez in the seventh. Having a solid round, and playing to the crowd in spots, Rodriguez was letting loose with a furious flurry when Diaz landed a rattling counter left hook. Rodriguez fell again, rose again, and held on for dear life to survive the round. Diaz couldn’t put him away but raised his hands a round later, eight rounds in the books and looking like they’d fallen in his favor.
They did at a shutout 80-70, 79-71, and 78-72, all for Diaz.
The card was broadcast in the US on Azteca America and on BeIn Sports Espanol, promoted by Zanfer Promotions.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org