By Jake Donovan
Raul Hirales Jr. legitimized his undefeated record with his biggest win to date Friday evening, scoring a well-earned split decision over once-promising prospect Charles Huerta at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel in San Diego, California.
Hirales weighed 124 lb, while Huerta checked in at 123 ½ lb for their eight-round main event, which aired live on Telefutura’s Solo Boxeo Tecate boxing series.
Action was a bit deliberate in the opening round, which favored Huerta. The Pride of Paramount – as his ring attire suggested – came with the intention of boxing, picking his spots while hoping to disrupt the rhythm of the more aggressive Hirales. The strategy worked, as the Mexican initially struggled.
Hirales picked up the pace in the second, and never really looked back. Huerta had a difficult time adjusting to the pressure, fighting in reactionary mode while Hliares was landing the majority of meaningful punches.
While action went back and forth, momentum seemed to be in Hirales’ s favor until midway through the fourth. Huerta caught a break when the undefeated Mexican was warned for low blows, after a pair of left hooks appeared to land on the beltline.
The sequence didn’t seem to slow down Hilares, who continued to target the body, although Huerta bit down and began fighting with more aggression.
Low blows once again played a part in the fifth round, as Hilares flirted with disaster before once again straying below the belt, resulting in veteran referee Pat Russell deducting a point. The crowd didn’t seem to agree, voicing its displeasure as time was called while Hilares received an earful.
In search of a foul-free round, Hilares abandoned his body attack in the sixth. The strategy surprisingly proved effective, as he scored with several right hands upstairs, for which Huerta’s only response was to hold once on the inside.
Despite the fight seemingly slipping away, Huerta showed little sense of urgency in the seventh. The Paramount product began the round boxing and moving, but eventually went into a defensive shell while Hilares rattled off combinations on the inside. Huerta woke up late in the round, scoring with an overhand right that drew a rise from the crowd.
The round-ending sequence appeared to wake up Huerta, who came out invigorated for the eighth and final round. Hilares was still by far the busier fighter, but for the first time in several rounds had to worry about the incoming. Huerta let his hands go, focusing less on playing defense and more on closing the show strong.
Both fighters let it all hang out in the final minute, trading at center ring to the delight of the capacity crowd on hand. Hilares spent most of the round with his mouth agape, but found his second win and was able to score with left hooks upstairs. Huerta took the shots well and continued to throw back in return, with the two fighters trading power shots as the bell sounded to end the round and fight.
The judges were surprisingly split in the end. Huerta was tabbed as a winner by score of 77-74 on one card, but was overruled by scores of 78-73 and 77-74 in favor of Hirales, who remains unbeaten as he improves to 12-0-1 (7KO).
Huerta falls to 16-2 (9KO) with the loss, snapping a five-fight win streak. Both of his career losses have come against opposition that was undefeated at the time of the fight, though there’s more to the story than that.
On both occasions, his opponents had the wherewithal to take the fight to him, offering the perception that Huerta is every bit the pretty boy as his good looks suggest, and not particularly effective when it comes to handling pressure.
His first loss was far more disastrous, suffering a humiliating first-round knockout at the hands of Derrick Wilson in July 2009. It’s been a slow road back ever since, winning five bouts against largely pedestrian opposition, though Friday’s performance once again leaves him stranded at the crossroads.
Leading off the show was undefeated featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr, who was forced to settle for a technical decision win over Feider Viloria in their scheduled eight round co-feature battle.
Scores were 70-62 (twice) and 69-63.
The bout was a considerable step up in class for Russell, a member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Boxing squad who was making his debut on Telefutura. His pro career to date has shown plenty of potential, but little against which to properly showcase as most of his opposition to date has been of the Punch and Judy variety.
Viloria will never be confused for a world beater, but represented the type of opponent a fighter of Russell’s skill level and amateur pedigree should be facing at this point of his career.
Russell responded with perhaps the most complete performance of his young career, dominating the action and even scoring a fifth round knockdown. The D.C. native was cruising along until an accidental headbutt left Viloria with a sliced up right eye that was deemed too severe to continue.
The virtual shutout win advances Russell to 14-0 (9KO), scoring his first win of 2010 after sitting out for exactly three months, a period that serves as his second longest inactive streak to date.
Viloria drops his second straight as he falls to 23-8-1 (16KO).
The show was presented by Golden Boy Promotions and Jorge Marron Productions.
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 .