By Jake Donovan
Local favorite Raul Casarez overcame a brief mid-rounds scare and repeated theatrics from Juan Carlos Candelo to take a well-deserved decision in their 8-round main event Saturday evening at the Convention Center in Pharr, Texas.
Scores were 76-75 (twice) and 77-74 in their Telefutura-televised headliner.
Casarez was a heavy favorite to conquer the 38-year old former title challenger, but was forced to work much harder than expected in a bout that kept the crowd on its feet throughout. The Edinburg (TX) prospect was sharp early on with his body attack, though Candelo dug into his bag of veteran tricks in selling the referee on the notion that the punches were straying low.
As the fight wore on, it became clear that Casarez came to thrill the crowd while Candelo looked like a faded veteran looking for a way out of the fight without actually quitting. The transplanted Colombian – now based in Baytown, TX – flopped to the canvas early in the fifth round, spitting out his mouthpiece and grabbing his groin as if he were in agony after getting clipped with a beltline shot.
To his credit, Candelo fought like gangbusters once summoned to continue. Casarez acted as if he expected his opponent to remain passive, but was instead greeted with a flurry that left him trapped along the ropes. It was by far the best moment of the fight for Candelo, who surged forward for the rest of the fight after realizing that the easy way out was not going to be an option.
The end result was a more competitive fight than expected. Casarez adjusted well and finished strong, though with the fight offering enough two-way action to draw a rousing cheer in the end.
Casarez advances to 19-2 (9KO) with the win, now unbeaten in an 11-fight stretch dating back to 2005.
Candelo falls to 32-11-4 (21KO), snapping a five-fight win streak as a result
Carlos Molina overcame a massive height and reach advantage in laboring to a 10-round decision win over Angino Perez in their chief support bout.
Scores were 98-92 (twice) and 97-93 in favor of Molina, who served in his first televised headliner.
Giving away some four inches in height and even more in reach, Molina's best shot at victory was to work his way inside and force a brawl. Perez made that easy for his opponent, working behind a pawing jab and rarely following up with a right hand.
Molina enjoyed major success with his overhand right, the most effective punch of the evening as his upward jab was limited to a table setter for power shots. Perez had no clue how to put his considerable reach advantage to use, allowing Molina to walk inside at will.
Perez enjoyed minor success in the later rounds, throwing his right hand with more conviction and also remembering to pull back his left to block the incoming. Molina slowed down in his attack as a result, perhaps content with building up an early lead and not wanting to take any chances.
It turned out the squat Californian was just saving up for a big finish, jumping out on the attack early in the tenth. Perez took the chin music well and landed a one-two of his own, but Molina was patient enough in return to not get caught with anything foolish. The tactic forced Perez to open up more, creating counter opportunities for Molina, particularly with his overhand right.
Molina cruises to 16-0-1 (7KO) with the win, though a knockout was probably not only the desired result, but expected against an opponent whose chin was there for the snatching.
Perez heads home to Miami with a mark of 11-4 (9KO), snapping a four-fight win streak.