By Jake Donovan
Unbeaten prospect Omar Figueroa scored a second-round stoppage of Ramon Ayala in their Shobox-televised main event Friday evening at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.
The good, bad and ugly were all on display in the headlining act, with the drama unfolding as early as yesterday’s weigh-in. Figueroa was reportedly 155 lb. prior to beginning training camp for this fight and couldn’t manage to get any lower than 136 ¼ lb. for their intended lightweight fight.
As a result, the fringe title offered for the main event was only at stake for Ayala, who came in right at the 135 lb. limit.
The title remains vacant, as Ayala never really stood a chance on paper and even less so in reality. Figueroa was dominant from the opening bell, though received a tongue lashing midway through the opening round for shoving his opponent to the canvas. The instance was indicative of the first round, which ended with Ayala clocking Figueroa clearly after the bell.
Figueroa shook off the foul and came on strong in round two. Body punching was key as the Texas native flat out overwhelmed his overmatched foe, who twice hit the canvas in the round.
Ayala’s second trip to the floor was a bit puzzling. Figueroa connected with a power shot, but nothing that suggested a knockout blow. It proved to be just that, however, as Ayala attempted to rise but failed to convince the referee that he was in any condition to continue.
The official time was 2:53 of the second round.
Figueroa advances to 15-0-1 (12KO) with the win as he continues to enjoy a breakout campaign in 2012. The year began with a mild upset, as Figueroa not only predicted a knockout of Michael Perez, but accurately described in advance how it would occur.
In a sense, his fortuneteller skills held true for the second straight fight. In the days leading up to the weigh-in, he knew that he’d miss weight and didn’t seem particularly bothered by it. Getting the win was more essential, though it stands to reason that a more cautious approach to making weight will be taken if he wants to remain in good graces with his promoter Golden Boy Promotions, with whom he signed three years ago.
Ayala heads back to Mexico with his five-fight win streak coming to an end. His record falls to 23-3-2 (11KO), with all three losses coming by way of stoppage.
The televised co-feature was more in line with March Madness. On a night when several significant upsets occurred in the college basketball tournament, Randy Caballero managed to avoid a disastrous stretch midway through his bout with Jose Luis Azaira to take a well-earned unanimous decision.
The action was one-sided early on but never to the point of monotonous. Caballero boxed smart in the first few rounds, taking any opening the defensive-minded Araiza was willing to offer while measuring up the veteran from Mexico.
By the fourth round, Caballero figured out the range he preferred the fight to be kept at in maximizing his effectiveness. The 21-year old local favorite was pumping his jab with regularity, but also scoring with right hands and uppercuts – when he remembered to throw them.
Still, something was missing as his father and trainer Marcos Caballero demanded that he throw more combinations and not settle for one-punch success. Araiza’s safety-first style made it difficult to put that game plan to fruition, as the 33-year old seemed more intent in not suffering a 5th career knockout loss and instead going the distance.
Or perhaps it was just a trap being laid.
Araiza came alive midway through the bout, letting his hands go at the end of the 5th round and enjoying his best round of the fight in the sixth. The efforts offered by the battle-tested veteran actually – including effective body work - drew raucous applause from an otherwise partisan crowd.
Caballero attempted to mix it up a bit, switching back and forth between conventional and southpaw in order to disrupt Araiza’s rhythm. It didn’t quite produce the desired results, as Azaire was fighting with a newfound confidence that provided nervous moments for his opponent’s corner and the crowd on hand.
Heading into the final round, Caballero caught an earful from his father and trainer, demanding that his son dramatically pick up the pace and turn the tide if he wanted to remain unbeaten. Caballero finally woke up and exploded in the 10th round, scoring with two left hooks and a right hand that rocked Araiza.
Not to be denied, Araiza bit down and refused to back down after making a fight of it throughout the past several rounds. But Caballero was not to be denied, scoring with right hands and uppercuts down the stretch to regain momentum in time to preserve victory as well as his unbeaten record.
Scores were 98-92 (twice) and 97-93 for Caballero, who advances to 14-0 (7KO), gaining a world of experience in the process.
It was noted by veteran Shobox color commentator Steve Farhood that the Californian had yet to be tested in his young career. That moment can now be scratched from his bucket list, as he proves to be as much substance as style.
Araiza continues to decline in terms of wins and losses, but deserves credit for making it a fight. Still, the veteran heads back to Mexico now winless in his last six bouts as he falls to 29-6-1 (20KO).
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox@gmail.com