By Cliff Rold
Showing excellent speed and stamina, 24-year old Puerto Rican Featherweight Luis Orlando Del Valle (13-0, 10 KO) of Newburgh, New York, looked like a future factor in the division in his first ten round affair, scoring a unanimous decision over a game but outgunned 28-year old Vietnamese battle Dat Nguyen (17-2, 6 KO) of Vero Beach, Florida, on Saturday night at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City.
Both men weighed in two pounds below the Featherweight limit at 126 lbs. The referee was Steve Smoger.
Del Valle landed a big right hand seconds into the contest and then another, followed by a just blocked left hook. Showing eye-catching speed, Del Valle landed another right hand before matters slowed just a bit. Nguyen tried to establish his jab and Del Valle continued to paste him with right hands for his trouble.
A flurry of body blows instantly changed the tone of the contest for Nguyen at the start of the second, his aggression creating chances to land a left and right upstairs at well. It was a good opening minute. Then, Del Valle adjusted and the right hand was again finding a home on Nguyen’s face. Del Valle controlled the last two minutes, slipping Nguyen’s return fire and snapping his man’s head around with shots Nguyen couldn’t get away from.
Despite some valiant salvos, it remained the same story for Nguyen in rounds three and four, speed and right hands and lost rounds. Del Valle was boxing brilliantly and, into the fifth, no matter how effective Nguyen might be with a single combination or shot, Del Valle was there to answer in multiple, and accurately.
Del Valle almost had his man on the floor in the last minute of the sixth, Nguyen eating a huge left near the ropes and teetering towards the floor. He stayed afoot bravely battled back before the round was over but the punishment was adding up.
Del Valle could be seen mouthing that his foe wasn’t ‘coming out’ for the seventh but Nguyen proved that wrong and waved Del Valle in to start the round. Nguyen’s only chance for victory was to let his face catch blows and hope for the counter. It provided some quick flashes of offense for Nguyen but mostly meant a beating.
His left eye swelling badly, Nguyen was pinned to the ropes for most of the eighth and the beating got worse. Excoriated in his corner by trainer Buddy McGirt between rounds, Nguyen came out with a suggested double jab and a big right to catch Del Valle’s attention at the start of the ninth. The accumulation of blows taken all night saw Nguyen without the gas to stay away from the ropes where he was hopeless.
Nguyen stayed off the strands for most of the tenth, and landed some big shots, but any hope for a miracle evaporated with the passing of seconds and Del Valle closed by stunning Nguyen. The decision was academic at 99-91 across the board.
The chief televised support contest pitted so-far hollow numbers against substantial experience in Jr. Middleweight action and fans got a solid affair. At the end of ten rounds, 21-year old Jonathan Gonzalez (14-0, 13 KO) of Bayamon, Puerto Rico had been the route for the first time and gained valuable experience in a unanimous decision win over 32-year old Colombian Richard Gutierrez (26-7-1, 16 KO) of Miami, Florida. It was Gutierrez’s sixth defeat in his last nine starts.
Gutierrez, 154, and Gonzalez, 154, both began with hard jabs, and it took less than a minute for heavier blows to be unloaded. Gutierrez landed a harsh right to the body and, working with his free hand from a clinch, Gonzalez responded with a pair of hammering blows to the head. Gonzalez worked Gutierrez towards the ropes and loaded up with power, Gutierrez covering up and calmly taking the younger man back to mid-ring after enduring the bursts. Gutierrez blocked most of a closing flurry and landed a double jab and right hand just before the bell.
Gonzalez just missed with a right and ate one in return immediately into the second. Gonzalez was undeterred, even after taking a booming counter left from Gutierrez in a later exchange. Pushing, pressuring, Gonzalez kept Gutierrez on the ropes for most of the round two’s latter two minutes. Gutierrez blocked his share but was taking leather as well, finding his best response in the waning seconds but only after Gonzalez had firmly claimed the frame.
It was Gutierrez arriving first at mid-ring to start the third, pushing a jab as Gonzalez played off the back foot for the first time on the night. Boxing and moving to his left, Gonzalez slipped Gutierrez bombs and casually jabbed. The less thrilling posture held into the fourth, Gonzalez wisely not letting himself be drawn into a war and using his height and reflexes control the pace. Gutierrez made slight adjustment late in the latter round, attempting to time and counter the younger man off the ropes.
The Gutierrez adjustment worked in the fifth and got him seriously back into the fight for the first time since the first round. Bending over and then jolting up with big left hooks, Gutierrez got Gonzalez’s attention more than once. The round was a slow escalation, each man landing harder as the seconds ticked down, and while Gonzalez maintained an edge he was being forced to dig in.
He stayed there, battling in the trenches with Gutierrez in the sixth. A low blow briefly halted the action near the midway point, Gutierrez forced to take a knee. The veteran tried to jump right on Gonzalez after the break but Gonzalez was too accurate, throwing with too much volume, to let the round slip away.
By round eight, well behind, Gutierrez was in a position where he had to let more hang out. He did, letting his hands go more and being left frustrated by the effective guard of Gonzalez and the young Puerto Rican’s accuracy. Gutierrez couldn’t keep the pace up as the body and head contacts mounted, laying into the ropes and scoring only token offense in the final minute.
Entering the ninth round for the time in his career, Gonzalez had only two rounds to keep his perfect knockout mark together. Able to rock Gutierrez late in the ninth, Gonzalez would have to settle for merely a win as the more experienced man showed survival and moxie down the stretch. The decision was academic at 99-91 and 98-92 twice for Gonzalez.
The referee was Gary Rosato.
The card was televised on Showtime as part of a special edition of its “ShoBox” series, promoted by Gary Shaw Productions, in association with DiBella Entertainment and Team Puerto Rico.
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]