By Jake Donovan
Jhonny Gonzalez picked up his 12th straight win after easily turning back the challenge of Elio Rojas in their featherweight title fight Saturday evening at the Grand Oasis Resort in Cancun, Mexico.
Scores were 116-111, 116-112 and 117-111 for Gonzalez, who was making the fourth defense of the featherweight belt he acquired just over a year ago.
The threat of a knockout was never evident, a change of pace for Gonzalez who had stopped his previous 11 opponents. Rojas proved to be crafty early on, competitive in each round but almost always coming up short. The gap was bridged in the third and fourth rounds, perhaps the best of the fight for Rojas.
Gonzalez picked up steam in the fifth round and never looked back. Perhaps it was hearing the closeness of the scores, as open scoring is used for WBC title fights outside the United States. Gonzalez was up 39-37 on two cards and even at 38-38 on the third through four rounds.
A mid-rounds rally helped put plenty of distance between the two. Gonzalez boxed smartly when he needed to and violently fought back any time Rojas worked his way inside. The strategy worked as Gonzalez was up on all three cards after eight rounds by scores of 78-75 and 77-75 (twice).
The only setbacks came when he misjudged the range. Action was stopped for a headbutt as well as an errant low blow from Gonzalez, as Rojas sought to buy extra time from each infraction.
As the fight progressed, time and rounds were exactly what Rojas would run out of as he reached the point of no return. The fight was officially off the table after the ninth round, but Rojas still attempted a late surge in hopes of landing something dramatic. His aggression provided disastrous results. Gonzalez turned up the heat and scored the bout’s lone knockdown, a crisp hook to the body late in the 10th round to officially put the fight out of reach.
Rojas offered a brave account of himself down the stretch, but never to where he could narrow the gap or even make the fight closer than what the action otherwise dictated.
Instead, it was Gonzalez who displayed a true championship effort. Even in letting the knockout streak come to a close, the defending featherweight titlist never stopped trying to entertain.
The end proved as much, with the wide scores bringing in a raucous cheer from his countrymen in attendance. Gonzalez improves to 52-7 (45KO), marching on in a featherweight reign that began with a come-from-behind knockout of Hozumi Hasegawa on the road in Japan.
The belt currently in Gonzalez’ possession once belonged to Rojas, who was forced to vacate the crown after injuries slowed his career to a halt. Saturday’s loss to Gonzalez ends a four fight win streak as Rojas falls to 23-2 (14KO).
Juan Carlos Salgado made the second defense of his super featherweight belt with a majority decision of Martin Honorio in the evening’s televised co-feature.
Scores were 113-113 even and 114-112 (twice) in favor of Salgado, who scored knockdowns in rounds two and three after getting off to a slow start.
It appeared as if the defending titlist would cruise to victory, but Honorio never wilted. A combination of right hands and headbutts opened a nasty gash over Salgado’s left eye (as well as a cut atop Honorio’s forehead) to dramatically alter the course of the bout.
Honorio enjoyed a strong surge down the stretch as Salgado has developed a bad habit of fading late. The two-time titlist nearly blew an early lead against Argenis Mendez in his title winning effort last September, falling apart in the championship rounds and suffering a late round knockdown only to escape with a split decision.
History nearly repeated itself, as the strength of his early knockdowns helped preserve victory even as Honorio dramatically closed the gap. Much of the early polish was removed from Salgado’s punches. No longer was he punching in combination, but instead wildly winging shots if only in effort to keep Honorio at bay.
It turned out to be just enough to escape with title still in tow. Salgado advances to 25-1 (16KO), though he has yet to establish a clear cut win in his current title reign. The split decision over Mendez was disputed, while his prior defense ended inside of two rounds when a clash of heads left opponent Miguel Beltran Jr. with a cut deemed too severe to continue.
Honorio falls to 32-7-1 (16KO). The loss marked his second failed bid on the title stage, having previously suffered a 1st round knockout against then-featherweight titlist Robert Guerrero in Nov. ’07. The 32-year old earned this latest title challenge with a majority decision over Fahsai Sakkreerin in their title eliminator last December.
In the televised opener, Luis Ceja easily turned back the challenge of Sammy Reyes, scoring three knockdowns en route to a fifth round stoppage. Reyes (7-9, 5KO) was floored twice in the third round then again in the fifth. The last knockdown resulted in the fight waved off without a count, as Ceja controlled every minute of the bout prior to that point.
The official time was 2:14 of round five.
Ceja improves to 22-1-3 (18KO). The 22-year old flyweight is now unbeaten in 18 straight fights.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter:
@JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox@gmail.com