By Cliff Rold
After being out of the ring over two years between 2008 and 2010, 26-year old Super Middleweight Jesus Gonzalez won his third in a row since last November. It was a long night in front of hometown fans on Friday night at the U.S. Airway Centre in Phoenix, Arizona, as Gonzalez (27-1, 14 KO) and 23-year old Francisco Sierra (24-4-1, 22 KO) of Tepic, Mexico, traded knockdowns and cuts in a grueling affair, ultimately decided unanimously for Gonzalez over twelve rounds.
Gonzalez entered the bout rated #15 by the IBF at Super Middleweight. He weighed in for the bout with Sierra one pound under the division limit at 167 lbs. Sierra, who was a late replacement, could get no closer to the contract weight than 175 lbs. The referee was Robert Ferrara.
Gonzalez came right out to test the legs of Sierra, stepping in with a hard southpaw straight left to the body. It was not the last home run swing Gonzalez would produce. The quicker man, Gonzalez went to the head with measured, precise lefts, stunning Sierra just inside the halfway mark. Another left, at about a minute to go in the first, caught a charging Sierra whose clumsy attempts at a counter combination struck air. Sierra nailed Gonzalez with a right and left to the face in the closing seconds, Gonzalez’s eyes declaring he’d felt the blows. Gonzalez answered right back with a left and blocked attack to the belly as Sierra leaned on the ropes.
A right hook/uppercut landed on the chin of a charging Gonzalez seconds into round two, Gonzalez’s knees buckling. Sierra wasn’t able to follow up, Gonzalez clinching and then keeping his distance as he gathered his senses. By round’s end, Gonzalez was back to timed lefts landing. Both men would have their moments in a crowd pleasing third, Sierra drawing blood from the nose of Gonzalez.
Fighting tall, Sierra was looking to jab and keep Gonzalez at range in the fourth when matters took a stark turn. Exploding to the body of Sierra with a booming straight left, Gonzalez watched as his man crumpled to a knee and the referee began to count. Sierra, wincing, took a deep breath and beat the count. After warding off a Gonzalez rush, Sierra worked his way back into the action, landing a particularly nasty left to the face of Gonzalez in the final thirty seconds.
Sierra was not done. After another round filled with singular haymakers from both men, it was Sierra’s turn to demand a frame. Inside thirty seconds to go in round five, Gonzalez blocked a lead right from Sierra only to have Sierra come right back with the same punch as Gonzalez relaxed his guard. The echoing blow left Gonzalez on his back, sitting up and rising to a knee as the referee tolled four. At eight, he was up and Sierra landed three more punches as Gonzalez scooted away.
The scooting continued at the bell to begin round six, Gonzalez not firing big until almost a minute passed but making it count when he did. A fairly even seventh led to an eighth and ninth where the advantage fell more firmly to Gonzalez than it had all night. Landing more, and harder, as Sierra’s attack ebbed, the eighth would end with both warriors being examined simultaneously for cuts around the left eye.
With blood streaming down the side of his face, Gonzalez continued to press in the ninth as Sierra fell farther behind. A break in the action to check Gonzalez’s cut would come in round ten and a Sierra right hand late added to the drama. Gonzalez bounced back with a left to the belly and landed another to the face when Sierra went to the corner.
Rounds eleven and twelve were all about the question of a finish. Would Gonzalez score the stoppage? Could Sierra land the saving bomb he needed? The answer to both queries was no, the best of the action behind them as both weary battlers loaded up where they could and worked their way to the closing bell. Gonzalez, dominant through most of the second half, was rewarded with scores of 117-109, 116-110, and 115-111.
In the televised opener, promising 22-year old Jr. Lightweight prospect Yaundale Evans (15-0, 11 KO), 127 ½, of Cleveland, Ohio, kept his unblemished mark with a sixth-round technical knockout of one time title challenger Emanuel Lucero (26-7-1, 15 KO), 129, of Mexico and fighting out of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Evans scored single knockdowns in the first and second rounds and added two more in the sixth, drawing a halt to the bout from referee Wes Martin at 2:06 of round six.
Jr. Middleweight: Janks Trotter (5-0-1, 5 KO) TKO2 Arturo Crespin (6-2-1, 2 KO)
The card was televised in the U.S. on ESPN2 as part of its “Friday Night Fights” series.
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]