By Ryan Maquiñana
SALINAS, Calif. – Middleweight prospect Paul Mendez ran his winning streak to six with a fifth-round stoppage over rugged veteran Lester Gonzalez at the Storm House in a main event that aired on TeleFutura’s Solo Boxeo Tecate series.
On the strength of an crippling body attack, Mendez (11-2-1, 5 KOs) overwhelmed Gonzalez (12-8-4, 6 KOs), a Cuban who now plies his trade in San Diego.
“My dad always told me to hit them with the body shot,” said Mendez, who was referring to his grandfather. “I thought I was going to knock him out in three, but I got him in five.”
Mendez, a 23-year-old from Delano, Calif., who has since relocated to Salinas, had two causes to fight for on Saturday. His amateur trainer, Michael Dallas Sr., passed away last month due to leukemia.
In addition, Mendez had also been raising money for 10-year-old Sy Sherman’s liver cancer treatment. Sherman was present at the fight, lying in a bed on a balcony overlooking the ring. Before the fight, Sherman had predicted that Mendez would win by knockout. Boy, was he right.
“It feels great to win it for them both. I see you up there, Sy,” Mendez said, pointing to the balcony at a jubilant Sherman. “He said I would win by knockout and I had to follow through.”
After an even first round that was fought at a measured pace, Mendez, 159.5, began to fire right hands down the middle that landed flush on the southpaw Gonzalez, 160. Mendez then tried to follow up with a right uppercut but whiffed, allowing Gonzalez to pump his left cross over the guard.
Gonzalez had some early success in the third, circling. But a body shot from Mendez had Gonzalez crouching over. Sensing his foe in trouble, Mendez poured on a series of shots with Gonzalez on the ropes, until a looping right to the body and a left hook to the liver put the Cuban down. Though Gonzalez would beat the count, the end was seemingly near.
In the fourth, however, the wily Gonzalez became the aggressor in the opening moments, and the wily veteran edged the round by confusing Mendez with his lateral movement and offense in spurts. Following the frame, referee Ed Collantes informed ringside physicians Dr. Smith Ketchum and Dr. Patrick Golden that Gonzalez had a minor abrasion on the inside of his nose.
The fifth frame saw Mendez returning to what worked in the third. A thunderous left hook to the body had paralyzed Gonzalez’s legs and momentarily had him gasping for air. Mendez immediately jumped on him and searched for angle to land the knockout blow.
Gonzalez wouldn’t go down easy, and even hit Mendez with a lead left and a short right uppercut. But a four-punch combination to the head had Gonzalez backing into the neutral corner, and as Mendez teed off on the standing but defenseless Cuban, Collantes had seen enough and waved it off at 2:35.
JONATHAN GARCIA KO1 RODOLFO ARMENTA
In the six-round televised co-feature, undefeated junior welterweight Jonathan Garcia (10-0, 8 KOs) from nearby Watsonville blasted Rodolfo Armenta (12-9-1, 9 KOs) in a spectacular first-round knockout.
Garcia, 142, has begun to make a name for himself around Northern California boxing circles for his offensive prowess, and this outing was no exception. Seconds in, Garcia landed a beautiful double left hook where he started down low and finished to the head. He then hammered Armenta, 142, with two lead right hands to the ribcage that could be heard throughout the Storm House.
Moments later, Garcia crushed Armenta with a vicious left hook that sent him sprawling to the canvas. The brave Mexican from Los Mochis would get up, but to his detriment, he would be on the receiving end of more punishment. Garcia closed the show with another unanswered flurry capped by another left hook to the temple that had him bouncing off the ropes before his ultimate tumble. Marcos Rosales immediately called a halt to the bout at 2:03.
“We’ve been training for this fight for four months,” Garcia said. “We’ve been working on throwing the hook off the jab. The hook came and I hurt him.”
In August, Garcia weathered two knockdowns from Pedro Arcos to score three of his own and win via first-round stoppage. This time, Garcia vowed to avoid a similar hiccup against Armenta.
“I learned to always have my hands up and keep jabbing from that fight,” Garcia added. “I want to fight maybe two more fights before I move up to eight [rounds].”
OSCAR GODOY TKO3 JAVIER GOMEZ
Oscar Godoy (8-2, 3 KOs) of nearby Watsonville continued his winning ways against relatively untested Javier Gomez (13-9, 9 KOs) of Tijuana, Mex., via third-round stoppage.
While Godoy, 148, displayed superior handspeed and combinations from the opening bell, Gomez 146.5, had limited success with a few right hands down the pipe in round one. The second stanza saw Gomez throw some wild right hooks but land a lot of them. For his part, Godoy would control the action in the center of the ring.
With the fight very much in doubt in the third round, Godoy opened up his offense, with a variety of straight right hands and left hooks to the temple wearing Gomez down and making him take a knee. Although Gomez would rise to his feet, referee Marcos Morales correctly deemed him unable to continue. Official time was 0:48.
“My corner told me to be cautious but when I saw an opening, to take it,” Godoy said. “He was hitting me with some right hands, but when I saw him hurt with the right hand, I finished the job.”
LOREN MYERS UD4 JOSE CELAYA
The undercard also featured the return of former welterweight contender Jose Celaya (31-7, 16 KOs), who was coming off a three-year hiatus but could not get back in the win column against Loren Myers (9-17-1, 2 KOs), who floored him twice en route to a unanimous decision.
Myers, 174.5, arrived from nearby Fresno hoping to test Celaya’s legs early. However, Celaya, 173.5, came out in a southpaw stance and took the first round, finding a home for his left cross and a wide but heavy right hook. The orthodox Myers would turn the tables in the second with some effective pressure punctuated by an overhand right.
Myers asserted himself in the third, as a right hand had Celaya wobbling backwards. The ropes then acted like a slingshot and catapulted him right into Myers’s right hand, causing a knockdown. Referee Ed Collantes administered a standing-eight, and while Celaya recovered well enough to make it to the fourth, his legs were on shaky ground.
Arguably down two points heading into the final frame, Celaya needed a big round to get back in the fight, and with Myers looking to finish him off, it made for an entertaining three minutes. Myers cracked Celaya with a left hook, but Celaya retuned the favor with a one-two followed by a right hook. Celaya got caught ducking straight back with his hands down and ate a right hand from Myers.
With the crowd noise picking up, Myers then scored a knockdown after landing a grazing right hand combined with an off-balance Celaya. To his credit, Celaya got up and kept swinging, and although off-balance for most of it, persisted with his assault until the final bell.
Scores were 39-35 and 38-36 twice for Myers.
“I was hitting him with combinations, but the right hand was the key, and he walked right into it,” Myers said. “I’m going back to the gym in San Diego, get down to 160 [pounds], and see what I can really do there.”
PRESTON FREEMAN UD4 VICENTE GUZMAN
Welterweight Preston Freeman (3-0, 1 KO), a St. Louis product who also trains at Garcia Boxing in Salinas, defeated pro debutant Vicente Guzman (0-1) of nearby Tulare by unanimous decision. After a first round where the fighters sized each other up, Freeman caught Guzman, 142, sleeping with a left hook and put him on the seat of his pants in the second frame.
Freeman, 140.5, turned it on the third, showing veteran poise to delve in and out of the pocket, landing several bombs that buckled a tough Guzman. However, Guzman would valiantly returned fire and stayed on his toes long enough to get his legs back before the conclusion of the round. The final round was marked by Guzman attacking his foe’s body, bullying him into the ropes on occasion and hurling a wide one-two upstairs. But Freeman showed he could fight off the backfoot, scoring with uppercuts and left hooks to win a hard-earned points victory.
Scores were 40-35 for Freeman across the board.
“If this were the gym we’d be bombing all day, but man, he was tough,” Freeman said. “I had to fight smart because he wasn’t going away.”
MORIS RODRIGUEZ TKO3 JONATHAN CHICAS
To end the night, a swing bout between Northern California-based junior welterweights Jonathan Chicas (8-1, 4 KOs) and Moris Rodriguez (4-1, 3 KOs) was well worth the wait, as Rodriguez would emerge with a second-round technical knockout.
In a close first round, Chicas, 143.5, found the target with the one-two, while Rodriguez, 141, scored with a looping right. The second stanza saw Rodriguez, a resident of Chico, Calif., taking an early lead by ripping Chicas with a counter left hook. But Chicas, a San Francisco native, would capture the frame with a hard right hand and left hook.
The fight abruptly came to an end in the third, as both men traded left hooks; Rodriguez’s arrived first and decked Chicas. Though the San Francisco fighter recovered, his legs wouldn’t last the full three minutes. Rodriguez swarmed Chicas, who fell once more as Collantes ended it at 1:00.
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.