By Ryan Maquiñana
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – The scorecards might not tell the whole story, but middleweight prospect Paul Mendez (13-2-1, 5 KOs) had a tougher time than expected in a unanimous nod over veteran Dashon Johnson (14-12-3, 5 KOs) Friday night at the Fox Theatre.
Mendez, from Salinas, Calif., outworked Johnson over 10 action-packed rounds, but the upstart who traveled north from Escondido, Calif., would not fold, landing several power shots of his own during a bout that evolved into a slugfest as it progressed.
Scores were 98-92 twice and 99-91.
“He was a tough fighter,” said Mendez, who fights out of Delano, Calif. “I should have listened to my corner more and picked my spots better, but I came out with the win, and that’s what matters most.”
Mendez, whose one-bout stint at super middleweight yielded a dominant but unsatisfying decision victory in June over Alfredo Contreras, descended back to the 160-pound limit but was facing a foe who had never been knocked down.
Johnson would not only keep that streak intact, but he would often find a home for his overhand right, especially as the taller Mendez would back up with his hands down out of clinches. However, those spurts were outnumbered by Mendez’s plentiful left jab and overall volume, which allowed the house fighter to accumulate rounds in the bank.
Mendez seemed to assert himself early in the fourth round with a string of three-punch combinations upstairs, but the game Johnson would keep the fight competitive. In the sixth round, the two fighters traded sweeping right hands; Johnson’s slipped through and caught Mendez, who held on until the bell.
Catching his bearings in the corner, Mendez recovered and would edge the seventh and eighth rounds on the strength of some effective pressure, highlighted by some solid body work and a steady diet of right hands and left hooks up top.
Likely knowing he trailed on the cards and needed a knockout to pull off the upset, a furious rally from Johnson kept the 10th and final round interesting. However, though he definitely had his moments in putting a scare into the pro-Mendez crowd, his assaults would not yield the desired result.
Mendez, determined to the close the show definitively, stood his ground in close quarters and unleashed his own arsenal as the two exchanged blows until the final bell to wild applause from the fight faithful.
According to promoter Don Chargin, who put on the show in association with Paco Presents and Jorge Marron, Mendez will return on September 28 at Cache Creek Casino in Brooks, Calif.
BRUNO ESCALANTE TKO1 MANUEL GALAVIZ
In the co-feature, up-and-coming junior bantamweight Bruno Escalante (9-1-1, 5 KOs) from nearby San Carlos needed only one round to stop Manuel Galaviz (7-11, 4 KOs). Escalante floored Galaviz with a straight left hand in the early going.
Though the native of Sonora, Mex., rose to his feet and survived to hear the bell, he twisted his right ankle on the way down and limped to the corner unable to continue. Official time was 3:00.
“Usually I would take my time and work the body first because my opponents are always taller than me,” the 5-foot-2 little stick of dynamite said of the knockdown. “But I saw an opening and caught him.”
Escalante also returns on the September 28 card at Cache Creek Casino.
RICARDO PINELL KO3 STANLEY HARVEY
The “middleweight” meeting between San Francisco’s Ricardo Pinell (5-0-1, 4 KOs) and Stanley Harvey of Norfolk, Va., was more of a battle of the bulge, as both fighters came in way over the contracted 157-pound limit.
Following two rounds where Pinell slightly outboxed the much heavier Harvey (1-6, 1 KO), the Bay Area boxer went to work in the third, landing a pair of thudding left hands to the midsection. Harvey immediately felt the effects of the shots and retreated into the ropes.
The end was near, and Harvey covered up to no avail, as Pinell teed off with several volleys to the head before referee Michael Margado stopped the bout at 1:26.
ANDY VENCES TKO4 NOE LUCAS
The San Jose duo of Andy Vences (3-0, 2 KOs) and Noe Lucas (0-3) had the fans on their feet in a four-round war that concluded in the former stopping the latter. After an entertaining first three rounds, the stage was set for a dramatic finish.
Lucas bullied Vences into the ropes and attempted to unload everything he had left in the tank. However, Vences was playing possum, and a couple of short uppercuts initiated the damage on Lucas, who began to back up. Vences then pounced on Lucas, as a vicious right hand was followed by a series of uncontested punches upstairs before referee Ray Balewicz called a halt to the contest at 1:53.
JUAN HERNANDEZ TKO1 PAYTON BOYEA
With his hometown fans cheering him on, Juan Hernandez (3-1, 3 KOs) returned to the ring after a year away from the sport and dispatched Sacramento’s Payton Boyea (0-4) in one round.
After a measured first half of the frame, Hernandez’s power emerged, as a right hand and left hook had Boyea tumbling. As the ropes were the only thing keeping him upright, Margado administered the count. Boyea rose to his feet, but moments later, the same straight right-left hook combination from Hernandez sent him falling into the ropes one final time. Dr. Smith Ketchum subsequently intervened at 2:51 and Margado stopped the fight.
DARWIN PRICE TKO4 LUIS SANCHEZ
Former college track star Darwin Price of St. Louis put his fleet feet to work in his pro debut, but made sure to punish Luis Sanchez with his fists en route to a fourth-round stoppage.
Price (1-0, 1 KO), a former distance runner at Grambling State who now trains out of Salinas, Calif., utilized an accurate counter left hook and a few peppering left jabs mixed with some constant movement to fluster the hard-charging Sanchez (1-8, 1 KOs) during the first half of the fight.
In the third frame, Price’s confidence grew to the point where he began to unveil his right cross. Though the valiant Sanchez, of Fairfield, Calif., refused to fold, he continued to endure an avalanche of shots, and at 1:06 of the fourth round, Margado had seen enough, halting the bout.
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a weekly column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at [email protected], check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.