By Jake Donovan
Fringe super featherweight contender Vicente Escobedo rode an early knockdown to eke out a close decision over Rocky Juarez in a bout of fading former U.S. Olympic boxers Friday evening at the Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino in Indio, California.
Scores were 98-91, 97-92 and 96-93 in their 10-round affair, which aired live on Telefutura.
The bout served as a do-or-die scenario for both fighters, neither of whom has managed to live up to the promise that followed them coming out of their respective Olympic runs.
There was far more pressure on Juarez – a Silver medalist in the 2000 Summer Olympics – to take a win if he didn’t want to be permanently written off. The Houston native entered the fight winless in his last five contests, including a surprisingly convincing points loss to Alejandro Sanabria in his last bout earlier this year.
Escobedo has played win one, lose one over his last four contests and was in search of a winning streak for the first time in more than two years. His greater activity helped produce that on Friday evening, though it required fending off a late scare.
The early rounds saw the same thing that has plagued much of Juarez’ career – not letting his hands go and waiting too long for an opening that wouldn’t surface on its own. Escobedo took advantage on sheer activity alone, working almost exclusively behind the jab.
That very weapon reaped major rewards in the third round, flooring Juarez for the bout’s lone knockdown when a shot caught him on top of the forehead while coming in. It was short and precise, enough to force the third knockdown for Juarez in as many fights.
Juarez shook it off quickly, insisting that it looked far worse than it felt.
“I thought it was just a flash knockdown. He didn’t hurt me at all.”
Regardless, Escobedo – who enjoyed a massive height (five inches) and reach advantage (four inches) - was building up a huge lead on the scorecards while Juarez continued to wait, fas his patience would come at a point when it was far too late to make an impact on the scorecards.
Still, the late surge by Juarez managed to turn a one-sided route into an entertaining televised main event, which can never be bad for business.
The drama began towards the end of the sixth round, when the best two shots he would land all night managed to stun Escobedo for the first (and only) time in the fight. Juarez had the ring intelligence to further test the waters and jump on a perceived-to-be-wounded Escobedo at the start of the seventh pin what would easily serve as his best round of the fight to that point.
Juarez came on strong when it mattered most in the fight. The momentum carried over into the eighth round but Escobedo managed to regain control in the ninth, securing victory in the process. Juarez continued to come forward, but Escobedo employed lateral movement and peppered the veteran with left-right combinations.
A strong close to the fight was enough to allow Juarez to leave the ring knowing he didn’t leave anything behind, but the announced scored were a reminder of his failure to bring the pain early in the fight.
Escobedo advances to 24-3 (14KO) with the win, his second straight. The victory is arguably his strongest showing since rallying to stop then-unbeaten Dominic Salcido three years ago nearly to the day and – in terms of name value – the biggest of his six-plus year career.
Even in dropping his fifth straight, Juarez showed enough signs of life to suggest that perhaps there is still something left in his 31-year old body. Still, at some point he’ll need to win one, something that hasn’t occurred since topping Jorge Barrios in his lone victory over the past four years. The loss on Friday night drops his record to 28-9-1 (20KO).
What the future holds in store for both fighters remains to be seen, although one challenge literally presented itself to Escobedo at fight’s end. Now campaigning at 130 after a failed bid to advance beyond mid-range contender at lightweight, the Californian was met at the end of the fight by rising unbeaten prospect Eloy Perez, himself a Telefutura regular.
It’s doubtful that such a fight happens next – at least not on Telefutura. Escobedo has been featured on HBO and its pay-per-view arm in recent years, while Perez’ name was floated as a possible opponent for Adrien Broner later this year.
However, the fact that Escobedo’s name is being mentioned at the contender level and not just as a B-side is a positive step in the right direction considering the free-falling state his career was threatening to face.
“A win over Rocky opens up huge opportunities,” Escobedo believes. “I’m comfortable at (super featherweight). The next thing is to go for a world title, but whatever happens next I hope it’s big.”
The biggest thing in Escobedo’s career to date was his surprising news following last year’s loss to Robert Guerrero. Shortly after the end of the fight, Escobedo proposed to his longtime girlfriend for all to see.
The two announced their vows earlier this summer, though the honeymoon is now over – literally and figuratively – as Escobedo focuses on what could possibly serve as one last serious attempt towards living up to early career promise.
“We got married on July 1 and are still newlyweds enjoying every minute of our life together. But I also have a very understanding wife who knows what I have to do.”
Topping Juarez was the first step towards moving back towards that goal. Now comes the part that has eluded his boxing career so far and also something that Juarez never managed to do when it mattered the most - making the momentum stick.
In the televised opener, Adam Carrera ended a three year hiatus and a two-fight losing streak with a well-earned six round decision over Adolfo Landeros. Scores were 58-53 (2x) and 57-54.
The scores, while accurate, didn’t reflect the back-and-forth nature of the fight. Carrera was forced to earn the win every step of the way in his first fight back since suffering a third round knockout against featherweight contender Bernabe Concepcion.
Carrera scored knockdowns in the second and third round, both produced by well-placed compact uppercuts thrown while the two fought on the inside. Landeros hit the deck hard both times, but dusted himself off and offered heavy fire in return. The two traded in nearly every round, with Carrera remaining a step ahead but still absorbing plenty in return.
With the win, Carrera advances his record to 20-4 (8KO). Landeros dips below .500 for the first time in his hard luck career as he falls to 21-22-2 (10KO).
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected] .