By Jake Donovan
A new and improved version of Alex "El Pollo" de Jesús was promised prior to his headlining act against durable fringe contender Adrian Navarrete. The Puerto Rican delivered big time, boxing smartly early before turning up the heat in the second half and scoring a 12th round stoppage in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico.
The main event was aired live on Telefutura Solo Boxeo.
There wasn't much separating any of the early rounds. De Jesús kept it strictly boxing, while Navarrete charged forward searching for any opportunity to make it a fight. The moments never came, as de Jesús was far too slick for Navarrete to close the gap.
The fifth was the first round in the bout that managed to separate itself from the pack. As was the case in the televised co-feature, low blows became part of the story. A de Jesús body shot strayed low, drawing a warning from referee Luis Pabon. The brief break in the action seemed like the perfect opportunity for de Jesús to jump on his bike, but Navarrete was able to cut off the ring and work his way inside, though with minimal returns.
It was back to the slick, mobile de Jesús in the sixth, which drew boos from his hometown crowd – never a good thing. The action was limited to stick and move, which scored points on the scorecards for the Puerto Rican, but not offering anything in the form of entertainment.
Navarrete began the second half of the fight with his mouth hanging wide open. de Jesús picked up on his opponent's fatigue, offering less movement in the seventh and putting more behind his punches. Right hooks from the southpaw stance landed with regularity, with his sudden offensive surge converting boos to spirited chants amongst the crowd.
de Jesús enjoyed his best round of the fight in the eighth, landing punishing blows throughout while Navarrete was pushing his punches. The Puerto Rican landed right hooks on the inside, then immediately get out of harms way well before Navarrete would even think about countering. A flurry had the Mexican on rubber legs midway through the round, only to effectively clinch his way out of trouble. He'd last long enough to hear the bell, but not before absorbing more punishment in the final minute of the round.
Action slowed in the ninth and came to a crawl in between rounds, with upwards of an extra minute's rest offered to both fighters as de Jesús had glove issues prior to the start of the tenth. The Puerto Rican went into boxer-puncher mode in the 10th and 11th rounds, sticking his jab in Navarrete's face and coming back with crisp right hooks.
The fight appeared to be destined for the scorecards, only for de Jesús to turn up the heat and eventually run Navarrete out of the kitchen in the final round. No knockdowns came about, but Navarrete was under siege and in retreat as de Jesús went on the attack. One too many shots upstairs forced referee Luis Pabon (not to be confused by the teenaged Boxingscene.com correspondent of the same name) to intervene midway through the 12th and final round.
The official time was 1:23 of round twelve.
de Jesús remains perfect, improving to 18-0 (12KO). The win was his second of 2008, both coming via 12th round stoppage. The win sends a message that the 2004 Puerto Rican Olympian is rededicated to his career, and to his goal of making noise in an already crowded junior welterweight division.
Talks prior to the bout centered around the possibility of challenging for his first world title in 2009. de Jesús called out Ricardo Torres and Kendall Holt prior to this bout, and may very well get his wish. With rumors circulating of Holt and Torres possibly meeting for a third time, negotiations are already in place for de Jesús to face the winner sometime next year.
Wherever de Jesús lands, he will be in a much better place than Adrian Navarrete. The journeyman falls to 17-6-1 (13KO) with the loss, having now dropped three of his last four.
Puerto Rican super flyweight contender Jose "Carita" Lopez kept alive his hopes for one last title shot with a seventh-round stoppage over Mexican journeyman Oscar Andrade in the televised co-feature.
The fight had its moments of competitive action, included a spirited two-way exchange in the third round. Both fighters enjoyed success downstairs, though Lopez would experience the best and worst moments of the fight with his body attack.
Lopez scored what appeared to be the bout's first knockdown in the 5th round, only for it to be waved off and ruled a low blow. The shot appeared to be on the beltline, but Andrade was able to sell the referee on a phantom foul.
Andrade would have no such luck at the start of the 6th round, holding his groin area after crumbling to the canvas from a body shot, only to instead receive an eight count. He appeared to give up at the start of the 7th, collapsing in the corner after absorbing a shot on the thigh and another on the beltline, this time resulting in a point deduction for Lopez.
It was the last break the Mexican would catch in the fight, falling to the canvas twice more in the round, both from clean body shots that he tried to insist strayed low. The bout's final knockdown saw Andrade tumble backwards, soon thereafter rising in disbelief that the referee was counting instead of issuing a time out.
The seventh round came to a close, only for Andrade's corner to recognize their fighter didn't want anymore, signaling to the referee to call it a night.
Their wish was granted, bringing the bout to a close at 3:00 of round seven.
Lopez improves to 37-7-2 (31KO) with the win, and is now unbeaten in his last 14 fights (13-0-1 in a stretch that spans seven years). His last loss was a failed title bid in 2001 against Fernando Montiel. Lopez has fallen short four times at the world title level, but has survived the test of time and remains in the hunt even in a loaded junior bantamweight division.
For Andrade, the momentum heads in the opposite direction. The Mexican is now winless in his last six fights as he creeps closer to .500, falling to 36-34-2 (18KO) overall.
The show was presented by Top Rank Inc. and Puerto Rico Best Boxing Promotions.
Jake Donovan is a voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at [email protected].