By Ryan Maquiñana
VACAVILLE, Calif. – Manuel “Tino” Avila remained unbeaten, stopping fellow prospect Ricky Lopez in the eighth round Saturday night at the Georgie Duke Center in a main event that aired on TeleFutura.
The 20-year-old Avila (11-0, 4 KOs), 121.5, who was fighting in the same venue that houses his training headquarters, was mired in a close contest with Lopez, 123.5 heading into the last frame. However, the hometown hero concluded the contest with a furious bombardment of left hooks that caused two knockdowns from which Lopez would not recover. Referee Dan Stell called it at 1:09.
“I needed this round bad, and I dropped him,” said Avila, a native of nearby Fairfield. “He was getting tired and dropping his hands, so I got him with that left hook. It was amazing having this crowd in Vacaville. They really gave me a big boost tonight.”
Lopez (9-2, 4 KOs), from Denver, Colo., and Avila were both nationally ranked amateurs, and their meeting in the pros put their pugilistic pedigrees on display. Measuring their respective distance and setting up well-placed combinations, the fight was shaping up to be a well-contested scrap of promising up-and-comers.
After a relatively even first round where Avila was slightly the more accurate fighter, the action picked up in the second. Avila pumped his left jab, took a step back, and then followed up with a right hand successfully. Lopez then tried to pressure Avila behind a left jab. However, a clash of heads caused a sizable cut over half his left eyebrow. To his credit, Avila’s cutman Nasser Niavaroni would get his fighter to the finish line without issue.
With the threat of the fight being called off in the third, Lopez opened up the scoring with a wide left hook up top. Not to be outdone, Avila ripped Lopez with a left hook of his own off a clinch. Lopez worked the body with two left hooks to the ribcage, and Avila responded by sticking his left jab to get out of trouble. Avila then pounced on his foe, decking him with a barrage of shots that had Lopez backpedaling. Ultimately, a left hook and short right uppercut put Lopez down for the count. Lopez would beat the standing-eight before the bell.
In the opening seconds of the fourth, a one-two from Avila found the target. Lopez pivoted to his left and clocked Avila with a right hand, then cracked a left hook to the body. Moments later, Lopez would hammer Avila with a straight right that stunned the hometown fighter. While Avila would return fire, the round was clearly the kid from Colorado’s to win.
Rejuvenated by his performance in the previous stanza, Lopez landed a right hand over Avila’s left jab. Lopez reached with a right hand and Avila ducked out of the way. But Lopez’s resolve sufficed in the fifth, as he bullied his foe into the ropes and hit him downstairs with some effective body work.
With Lopez mounting a comeback, Avila tried to stem the tied in the sixth, becoming the early aggressor, but Lopez persisted in landing on the inside. Suddenly, Avila thrusted a one-two through Lopez’s guard that ignited an offensive assault that went relatively uncontested through the bell.
The seventh was fought at a lulled pace. Lopez pivoted to his right and landed a looping right hand around Avila’s high guard, followed by another overhand right that shook the sweat off his head. As Avila threw two shots to the body, Lopez tagged him with three straight to the head. The hometown fighter then threw a series of punches upstairs with Lopez on the ropes, but it was not enough to steal the round.
In the eighth and final round, Lopez had designs on an upset, but Avila ended those hopes with a left hook that put him down. While Lopez would beat the count once more, another right hand and left hook would send him back to the canvas. Stell had seen enough and called a halt to the scrap.
“It was a good experience,” Avila said. “I hope to fight in more eight-rounders next year and maybe a title fight for a belt.”
ALAN SANCHEZ TKO2 MIGUEL ANGEL MUNGUIA
In the televised co-feature, welterweight Alan Sanchez (12-2-1, 6 KOs) dismantled Miguel Angel Munguia (26-26-1, 22 KOs) of Mexico City by second-round stoppage. Sanchez, 149, who resides in Fairfield, Calif., had no problem with Munguia, 150, a natural junior welterweight who showed it in the midsection.
Right away, Sanchez found openings for his lead left hook followed by a hard right hand over the top. Sanchez’s defense was another story, as Munguia was able to clock him with a counter left hook before the bell.
The taller and stronger Sanchez imposed his will in the second frame, as another left hook and right cross hand Munguia reeling into the ropes. The Fairfield fighter then stalked his foe, flooring him with a chopping right hand.
Munguia would rise to his feet, but the end came moments later. Sanchez subsequently swarmed Munguia with a flurry, highlighted by two left hooks that decked him. Referee Dan Stell waved it off at 1:43.
“Right away, I felt his punches and felt like I could take his power,” Sanchez said. “From there I was able to knock him out. I want to fight for any type of title next year.”
BRUNO ESCALANTE UD5 PABLO CUPUL
In the swing bout, Bruno Escalante (6-1-1, 3 KOs), a Filipino now hailing from San Carlos, Calif., got back in the win column with a five-round unanimous decision over San Diego’s Pablo Cupul (6-10, 4 KOs).
Escalante, 120.5, who was coming off a unanimous decision loss to Matt Villanueva at 115 pounds on TeleFutura in June, returned to the network as a junior featherweight.
Varying his attack and darting in and out of trouble, the southpaw Escalante found a home for his left cross in the first round. The second round was contested mainly on the inside. The game Cupul, 123, pressed forward with mild stretches of success, but a four-punch combination from Escalante closed the second round with authority for the 5’1’’ Filipino.
In the third, Cupul struck paydirt with a right hand as Escalante dropped straight back and seemed to make a case to take the round, but the Filipino finished the final 30 seconds with a magnificent flurry to steal it.
Cupul continued to follow Escalante around in the fourth stanza, and threw some solid shots to the body when his foe was on the ropes. In the center of the ring, however, Escalante reigned, and scored with the cleaner shots once more.
The fifth and final round saw both men leaving nothing to chance. Cupul bounced on the balls of his toes and loaded up on right hands. One got through Escalante’s defense and rocked him, getting the spectators to their collective feet. But the diminutive Filipino had an answer, launching some accurate left hands inside including one at the bell.
Marty Sammon and Kermit Bayless had it 49-46 for Escalante , while Marshall Walker scored it 48-47.
“it was just good to be back in there,” Escalante said. “I wanted to work on making him miss and making him pay. My corner of Brian Schwartz and Mike Bazzel wanted me to show more head movement and good defense, and I was able to do that.”
JAMES TAYLOR MD4 MANUEL ALEJANDRO REYES
In an entertaining scrap, San Diego’s James Taylor (2-0) Manuel Alejandro Reyes (0-1) of Los Angeles, who was making his pro debut. Both the southpaw Reyes, 146.5 and the orthodox Taylor, 146, were far from gunshy, trading shots all night hoping one would land a damaging blow first.
After a relatively even fight over the first two frames, they exchanged again in the third and Reyes scored with a one-two flush on the chin. Taylor would respond by attempting to walk him down, attacking the body and throwing some wide shots upstairs.
The final round was fought on the inside as Taylor dug his head into Reyes’s chest. Reyes looked to counter, but might have given away the fight in the fourth.
Both Marshall Walker and Marty Sammon had it for Taylor with respective 39-37 and 40-36 scores. Kermit Bayless saw it an even 38-38.
“I definitely felt I took the fight in the last round,” Taylor said. “I was looking to go to the body and I took the fight to him when it counted.”
PRESTON FREEMAN KO1 EDUARDO HERNANDEZ
Preston Freeman (2-0, 1 KO), a St. Louis native who now plies his trade in Salinas, Calif., built on a successful pro debut in October and notched his second victory, an explosive first-round knockout of Eduardo Hernandez (0-5-1).
Freeman, 143.5, overwhelmed Hernandez, 144.5, with this speed and power. Almost immediately, Freeman went on the attack; a garden variety of left hooks and right crosses had Hernandez backing into the ropes. Ultimately, Freeman would end Hernandez’s night with series of shots punctuated by a left hook that sent him to the canvas for good. Official time was 1:25.
“I didn’t think he could keep up with my pace,” Freeman said. “I threw the hook, and it landed, and after that, I didn’t even have to see where it was going when I threw it again, and that was it.”
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 [email protected], check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.