by Cliff Rold
27-year old Dominican Super Middleweight Edwin Rodriguez (22-0, 15 KO) of Worcester, Massachusetts, took another step towards contention in a thick weight class, laying a devastating beating on previously undefeated 27-year old Jason Escalera (13-1-1, 12 KO) of Union City, New Jersey, and scoring an eighth round stoppage on Saturday night at the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut.
Rodriguez came into the bout three pounds under the division limit at 165 lbs., Escalera a pound more at 166. The referee was Steve Smoger.
It didn’t take long for the more professionally experienced Rodriguez to get to work on Escalera. Rocking right hands freed the mouthpiece of Escalera repeatedly and had Smoger calling for Escalera to fight back. Escalera tried, and continued to eat power shots for his trouble. His legs moving in ways the rest of his body didn’t seem in sync with, Escalera managed to keep his feet for all three minutes but it was a fine example of when a standing 10-8 score could be in order.
Rodriguez started the second at a measured pace, opting to dig in with big shots to the body while waiting for Escalera to open up. It never really happened and Rodriguez was fine outboxing his man for three minutes. Escalera’s regrouping continued in the third and fourth, still losing but not being battered as was the case in the first. A right in the fourth did cost Escalera his mouthpiece and Smoger warned a point deduction would come the next time he lost the bit. A low blow halted the action a moment in Escalera’s favor, but it was a lone positive on the night to then.
Rodriguez laced Escalera with a right and left early in the sixth and Escalera responded with a big right. Rocked into the ropes with a combination, Escalera again fired back near the minute mark. Remarkably, a right hand that appeared to eviscerate Escalera’s legs wasn’t enough for Rodriguez to drop him and Escalera kept it honest with some shots just before the bell.
With guns blazing, Rodriguez came out looking to follow up on the end of the fifth right away. Escalera ate bombs and then landed a left the body to get himself off the ropes. The action slowed until the final seconds, Rodriguez closing with some flush shots in the corner.
The mouthpiece dilemma for Escalera continued in the seventh, and Smoger again warned of a point deduction but didn’t pull the trigger. The dilemma of getting pounded with shots continued unabated. The beating ceased in round nine, Escalera trying to fight back under assault. A final left hook may have burst the eardrum of Escalera, blood exploding from the right ear and Smoger leaping in immediately to stop the fight at :12 seconds of the eighth round.
Interviewed in the ring after the fight, Rodriguez was all smiles. Asked if he felt he’s prepared to step up in class at 168 lbs., Rodriguez said, “I feel like I’m ready. Today I wanted to send a message. I believe I did.” Rodriguez unofficially gained twenty pounds between the weigh-in and the fight and said he’d be willing to fight in the future at Light Heavyweight as well as at Super Middleweight.
Escalera wasn’t the only fighter on the night to lose his “0.”
Rebounding from consecutive decision losses to two of the best Bantamweights in the world, Anselmo Moreno and Shinsuke Yamanaka, 36-year old Armenian former Flyweight titlist and lineal World Jr. Bantamweight champion Vic Darchinyan (38-5-1, 27 KO), 121, of Glendale, California, won a lopsided if entertaining ten-round unanimous decision at Jr. Featherweight over previously undefeated Luis Orlando Del Valle (16-1, 11 KO), 122, of Bayamon, Puerto Rico. The referee was Eddie Cotton.
Darchinyan, with busy feet and hands, boxed well in the first and kept Del Valle a step head of where the younger man seemed comfortable. Action stayed hotly contested in the second round, the temperature escalating in the final minute. Del Valle caught Darchinyan’s attention with a left hook and both men let loose in the waning seconds with bombs. Some accidental clashing of heads had De Valle wincing in the round and he was still blinking as the third began.
The battle of haymakers that marked the late going of the second continued at the start of the third. The fast pace ebbed just slightly and Darchinyan got the better of it, using well-timed blows and utilizing his head and arms to defend. A clash if heads in the fourth appeared to open a cut on Del Valle’s nose and Darchinyan followed with a nasty combination to the body. As the round wore on, Darchinyan began to land cleaner power shots.
Del Valle was lacking for answers.
Del Valle tried to find them in the fifth, opening up in spots. He paid for it as the round wore one, Darchinyan lacing him with power punches as they sped towards the bell. As the sixth unrolled, Del Valle began to take what looked like a beating, Darchinyan walking through him and busting him up. Del Valle went to the corner with a split beneath his chin.
A rally of sorts broke for De Valle in the final minute of the seventh. A right hand stopped Darchinyan in his tracks and Del Valle followed up well until a body shot from Darchinyan swung the pendulum again. Darchinyan ended the round with a bloody mouth but still a solid lead in the contest. Del Valle caught Darchinyan’s attention with a left in the eighth but the veteran quickly moved away, regrouped, and resumed control of the action.
Between rounds, Del Valle’s corner asked him if they should stop the fight but the Puerto Rican showed no give. He showed more than that in the ninth round. For the third round in a row, a single Del Valle shot changed the flow of the fight and this time Darchinyan appeared genuinely hurt. He kept afoot, but his legs softened and he was forced to hold on. With three minutes to go and what appeared an insurmountable lead, the fight entered an area of tremendous drama.
It turned out we’d seen the best Del Valle had left. The tenth was action packed but Darchinyan stayed with his foot on the gas and kept victory well in sight. The scores were well earned for Darchinyan at 99-91 and 96-94, though one could wonder what Clark Sammartino was watching to score four rounds for Del Valle.
The televised opener saw 30-year old Welterweight Alex Perez of Newark, New Jersey, kick off a night of men meeting their first defeat. Slowly breaking Perez (16-1, 9 KO), 146, down all night with chopping shots, 29-year old Antonin Decarie (27-1, 8 KO), 147, of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, dropped Perez hard and finished him with lacing power shots in the corner at 2:54 of the sixth round.
The card was televised in the U.S on HBO as part of its “Boxing After Dark” series, promoted by DiBella Entertainment and Gary Shaw Productions.
Cliff Rold is a Managing Editor at BoxingScene, and a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]