By Jake Donovan
Hugo Cazares continues to shine in what should be the twilight of his career. The 34-year old remains in contention after a unanimous decision win over Nicaragua’s Daniel Diaz in their 12-round main event Saturday evening in Los Mochis, Mexico.
A regional super bantamweight title was at stake, though both fighters came in at 117 lb, which is actually one pound below the bantamweight limit.
Cazares went to work early on, controlling the pace with his jab and following up with straight right hands. Diaz was a standing target for as long as he chose to plod forward and allow Cazares to land without fear of incoming.
A brief shift in tide came in round three, when Diaz refused to be bullied and elected to fight back. Cazares was sent straight back into the ropes, but wisely played defense in order to avoid getting caught with anything big, even if it meant giving up the round.
The strategy proved wise. Cazares resumed command in the fourth and really never looked back. Diaz enjoyed moments of success, but came dangerously close to getting put on his rump in the fifth after Cazares brilliantly split his opponent’s guard with a right hand that was determined to find its target.
Ensuing rounds saw Cazares flip back and forth between southpaw and conventional stance. With each passing round, it became evident that the early threat of a possible knockout quickly evaporated. Cazares detected this and continued to experiment, boxing in spots and turning up the heat on other occasions.
Those other occasions came in the later rounds. Perhaps the former lineal 108 lb. king grew bored with the pace of the fight. Whatever the case, the intensity picked up by a considerable margin, which was bad news for Diaz. The outcome of the fight was a foregone conclusion, but Cazares’ aggression played favorably with the crowd.
It also played with the veteran’s conditioning. The championship rounds were sloppy at times, if not a bit slow. Cazares fought in spurts while Diaz walked forward but without any real purpose. The Nicaraguan pawed with his jab, feet wide apart and allowing for no power to come with his right hand on the rare occasions in which it was thrown.
Every punch with Cazares was thrown with mean intentions. The low punch rate in the closing rounds, however, didn’t allow for very many mean-spirited moments.
Cazares danced his way through the final round, throwing one punch at a time while attempting to bait Diaz into coming forward. The visiting challenger didn’t fall for the trap, but was stationary enough for the crowd favorite to offer one last body attack before the final bell.
Scoring was academic, with Cazares granted the win by final tallies of 118-110, 119-110 and 118-111. The Mexican bantamweight hopeful improves to 37-7-2 (26KO). Diaz – who was stopped in the 11th round of a bantamweight title challenge against Koki Kameda last May – is now 1-2-1 in his last four fights as he falls to 19-4-1 (13KO).
Cazares has now won two straight since his title reign in a second weight class came to a close with a narrow points loss to Tomonobu Shimizu last year. One more title run is in store before he calls it career, though when and where that title fight takes place remains up in the air.
While delivering a solid performance on Saturday, Cazares was visibly fleshy at 117 lb, the third heaviest weight of his career. The former two-division champ began at 115 lb before shrinking down to the junior flyweight limit during his prime. The move allowed him to jack up his knockout rate, serving as the division’s biggest puncher.
A lineal junior flyweight title reign came to an end when his mighty fists weren’t enough to keep down the determination and supreme skill-set of diminutive Puerto Rican star Ivan Calderon. Coming up short in the rematch a year later convinced Cazares that it was no longer worth the effort to boil down two divisions below his natural fighting weight.
A return to the super flyweight division followed, picking up an alphabet belt in his second try against Nohubiro Nashiro two years ago in Japan. Cazares defended four times before his return to the Land of the Rising Sun failed to provide the same happy ending as his title winning efforts.
DANIEL ESTRADA RALLIES, SHINES IN CO-FEATURE
Perhaps cognizant of what was at stake, Daniel Estrada walked through hell in rallying to score a late stoppage of Adrian Verdugo in their televised co-feature.
Estrada was favored to win the bout, but found himself in an early hole as Verdugo came upset-minded. A scary moment in the fifth round left Estrada bloodied above the bridge of his nose, requiring a visit to the ringside physician.
Action continued, but it was all Verdugo as Estrada reacted like a fighter intimidated by the sight of his own blood.
Another cut came later in the bout, this time around the right eyelid and at a point when Estrada assumed control. The lightweight contender wasn't about to let the prospects of a title fight slip away, fighting through the cuts and bruises and eventually forcing Verdugo to wilt.
Both fighters gained an unexpected – though welcomed - time out in round 10 when the referee was forced to do some in-ring housekeeping. A slick canvas required instant maintenance, at which point the third man ran a dry mop to soak up the excess water.
Things quickly tanked for Verdugo from that point onward. A late knockdown left the underdog dejected, with the ensuing flurry enough to bring a halt to the contest.
Estrada wins his sixth straight as he improves to 29-2-1 (22KO). He is now next in line for the winner of next month's lightweight title fights between defending titlist Antonio DeMarco and John Molina
Verdugo falls to 22-6-1 (19KO), ending a four-fight win streak.
Both bouts aired live on Fox Deportes in the U.S. and Televisa in Mexico.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: