By Ryan Maquiñana
Middleweight Paul Mendez extended his unbeaten streak to nine on Saturday night with a one-sided sixth-round stoppage of Rahman Yusubov at the Cache Creek Casino Resort in Brooks, Calif.
Mendez (14-2-1, 6 KOs), fighting out of Salinas, Calif., imposed his will over the resilient but outsized Yusubov (9-12, 7 KOs), who hailed from Dallas, Tex., via Azerbaijan. Though he withstood several brutal exchanges throughout the fight, Yusubov, a former welterweight, was ultimately rendered unable to continue on his stool.
“I didn’t care about [Yusubov’s] power, but I still didn’t want to get caught,” Mendez told BoxingScene.com/CSNBayArea.com. “I tried to stay on the outside and box, but I hit him with some big shots when we traded. You have to give him credit for taking them well, though.”
The size difference was evident from the opening bell, as an early right hand from Mendez stunned the smaller Yusubov, buckling his knees for a brief moment. Another solid one-two from Mendez capped a dominant frame.
Mendez picked up where he left off in the second round, rocking Yusubov’s head back with a stiff left jab and two more consecutive one-two combinations upstairs. Yusubov snuck a counter left hook to the head, and another to the midsection during a subsequent exchange, but it did not deter Mendez, who proceeded to set up his offense with the jab. As Yusubov walked back to his corner, a small cut appeared over his right eye.
After another Mendez round in the third, Yusubov and Mendez waged a war of attrition in the fourth, with both men slinging power shots in the center of the ring. Yusubov smashed Mendez with left hooks, taking pauses in between punches to put his glove up to his nostrils to exhale. However, Mendez would revert to his double jab and right cross, opening Yusubov up in the final moments of the frame and eventually causing the Azerbaijan native to take a knee.
Yusubov, clearly outgunned in the strength department, displayed some guts and continued to trade volleys with Mendez for the next two rounds. However, the Salinas fighter pawed with the left jab and crushed him with a cannon of a right hand that might have forced Yusubov to rethink answering the call for the seventh round. Official time was 3:00.
“The goal was to win, but I also didn’t want to get cut, especially because I have a TV date coming up,” said Mendez, who will now travel to Big Bear to spar middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin.
According to his promoter, Don Chargin, Mendez is slated to return on October 28 at the SportsHouse in Redwood City, Calif., on a Fox Sports 1-televised card. Unbeaten junior featherweight prospect Manuel “Tino” Avila (12-0, 4 KOs) will appear on the co-feature.
BRUNO ESCALANTE MD8 JOSEPH RIOS
In the co-feature, Filipino southpaw Bruno Escalante (10-1-1, 5 KOs) won his fifth straight bout in a competitive eight-round majority decision over a game Joseph Rios (13-9-2, 4 KOs), who fought out of San Antonio, Tex.
Following an uneventful first round whether neither fighter established himself, Escalante, a Filipino who now lives in San Carlos, Calif., possibly edged a close second frame with the cleaner shots, namely the straight left hand.
The third round was marked by Escalante unleashing his lead left hand and swift pivots to evade trouble. After throwing a jab, Escalante backed up against the ropes but his right leg found no real estate to step on; he almost fell off the apron before referee Dan Collins restored order.
For his part, Rios, who was switching between southpaw and orthodox stances, scored with a double left jab and applied some solid body work. Escalante clocked him twice with left hands as they clinched before the round came to an end.
In the fourth round, a left hand from Escalante caught Rios several times, both as he stood flat-footed, and as he tried to pivot to his left. Rios responded by attempting to bully Escalante into the corner, wailing away at the ribcage with a digging right hand before the bell.
The fifth began with Escalante trying to set up a counter left uppercut, but he telegraphed the shot and Rios clipped him on the jaw with a short right hand. Rios continued to work his way inside, cutting the ring off and hurling a looping right. Escalante wanted to return fire, and in the final moments of the frame, the Filipino connected with a left hand during an exchange. But Rios effectively smothered his opponent on the ropes and clearly captured the round.
Escalante adjusted to Rios’s pressure in the sixth. It appeared the Filipino was able to better anticipate Rios’s right hands, not only slipping them, but replying with counter lefts thrown on a different plane as the Texan leaned inside to throw.
The momentum shifted back to Rios in the seventh. He pressed forward once more and cracked Escalante with an overhand right, causing the Filipino to smile in acknowledgement as he backed into the ropes. Though Escalante’s legs remained sturdy, Rios continued his assault with several right hands, and the southpaw Escalante was punished for leaving his left hand low in the pocket.
With only three minutes remaining in the bout, Escalante aimed to close the show with a furious assault marked by straight left hands and right hooks. Rios refused to yield, letting his hands go and scoring numerous times with right hands to the body and head. As the crowd reached a crescendo during the final seconds, the two warriors slugged away until the final timbre of the bell, leaving the suspense to the judges’ decision.
A 76-76 draw was overruled by 78-74 and 78-75 verdicts for Escalante.
“I thought it was a close fight, probably a draw,” said Rios, who once took two-weight titlist Leo Santa Cruz the distance. “I was kicking ass in the last two rounds, but I thought it was a hometown decision.”
The winner tipped his hat to his defeated foe but credited his team for the triumph.
“Rios was tough. He came to fight, but I thought I won. He landed some shots, but my corner told me to believe in my conditioning, and in the last few rounds, I felt fresh and able to finish the fight on top,” said Escalante, who trains under Brian Schwartz and Mike Bazzel.
ERIC MENDEZ TKO2 RICARDO PINELL
Eric Mendez shocked unbeaten Ricardo Pinell of San Francisco, flooring him twice in the second round and eventually stopping him.
After a first round where the southpaw Pinell (5-1-1, 4 KOs) used his speed and footwork to outbox Mendez (3-1, 1 KO) the Hawaiian Gardens, Calif., native began to apply heavy pressure in the following frame.
Suddenly, a double left jab from Mendez was followed by a heavy right hand that jarred Pinell, who was immediately groggy but would not take a knee. As a result, Mendez unveiled a barrage of power shots that landed in succession until Pinell fell on his side.
Referee Michael Margado administered the count, and while Pinell rose to his feet, he stood on shaky ground. Mendez then resumed his offense with a relentless flurry, standing flat-footed and continuing to tag a defenseless Pinell with four more bombs before Margado called a halt to the bout at 1:53.
“He was the hometown fighter, so I had to jump on him and take him out,” Mendez said of the upset. “I recently lost my coach Armando Valenzuela, and I dedicate this win to him.”
ANDY VENCES UD4 MATTHEW FLORES
San Jose’s Andy Vences exhibited a different style than Northern California fight fans are accustomed to seeing, but the accomplished former amateur slugged his way to a four-round unanimous decision over Matthew Flores.
The orthodox Vences (4-0, 2 KOs) attempted to measure his foe by letting his left hand dangle, hoping to lure Flores in for counterpunching opportunities by Flores (0-3), a winless fighter from Twin Falls, Idaho. However, a fight broke out in the second round, as Flores took advantage of the defensive hole to land a left hook and right hand over the top. Flores then followed up with an attack to Vences’s body as he stood stationary on the ropes.
Having lost the second round, Vences finally took initiative and pushed the issue in the final two frames, winning most of the exchanges with a solid left hook to the body and a right hand to the jaw. The judges saw it 40-36 and 39-37 twice for Vences.
“I’m happy with the win, but I thought I was waiting in there a little too long at times, and that’s when he caught me,” said Vences, who recently started working with Schwartz in Bazzel. “It’s tough to get everything down with a new trainer in two weeks, but that’s something we can work on for next time.”
DARWIN PRICE UD4 JOHNNY FRAZIER
In the opening bout, Darwin Price of Salinas, Calif., via St. Louis, Mo., outboxed Las Vegas resident Johnny Frazier over four rounds en route to a unanimous decision.
Price (2-0, 1 KO) utilized solid footwork, a double left jab, and the occasional lead right hand to stay out of harm’s way for the majority of the fight. Frazier (2-20-4. 2 KOs) seemed to have scored a knockdown off a one-two in the closing seconds, but Margado ruled it a slip, stating later that the fighters’ legs had locked, which caused Price to fall off-balance.
However, the debate was moot, as Price was well ahead before the final bell. Scores were 40-36 across the board for the former distance runner from Grambling State University.
“He was tough, but I was patient in there. I did what I had to do to get the W,” Price said.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org , check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.