By Jake Donovan
Phoenix, AZ -- Saturday's showing was supposed to be about Andy Ruiz making the transition from prospect to contender in a gimme fight versus faded former titlist Siarhai Liakhovich.
Instead, the night went from a potential rout to an awkward, lumbering affair as Ruiz was forced to settle for a unanimous decision in their headliner at Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona.
Scores were 99-91, 98-92 and 96-94 in a fight that proved way more competitive than should have ever been the case.
The narrative on Ruiz was that while he will never be mistaken for a bodybuilder, he always shows up in "fighting shape." Entering the ring at a beefy 267
lb., Ruiz felt the effects of not being in proper physical condition. The unbeaten heavyweight from Mexico went all in during the first two rounds, nearly knocking out Liakhovich at the end of round one, then pouncing on the former titlist in the opening seconds of of round two.
From there, the fight devolved into a clumsy brawl between two heavyweights who quite frankly could stand to lose a few pounds. Liakhovich was hardly a model for conditioning himself, showing up for the UniMas-headlining bout at a fleshy 2311/2
lb. Still, the 38-year old Belarusian - who has called nearby Scottsdale (Ariz.) home for the past several years - was able to make a night of it, the closest he would come to scoring an upset.
With each passing round, sustained action was harder to come by as frequent clinching ruined what could have been a fun heavyweight slugfest. The slower pace served of benefit to Liakhovich, who was violently stopped in each of his last three losses prior to 2014.
Ruiz gave away rounds but never to the point of throwing away the fight or his undefeated record. The 25-year old recognized that the knockout just wasn't going to come on this particular night, settling for what was given to him, which - fortunately - was enough to prevail as he advances to 24-0 (17KOs).
It was revealed after the fight that Ruiz fractured his hand in round two, which will undoubtedly stall his progress heading into 2015.
Liakhovich has now dropped four of his past five starts, falling to 26-7 (16KOs). The aged veteran is a long way from his brief title reign, which began with a thrilling 12-round win over Lamon Brewster in April '06.
The bout was an unforgettable war that seemingly ruined both fighters. Liakhovich lost the belt in his first defense later that year - also in Phoenix. Up on the cards through 11, the defending titlist suffered a literal last second knockout loss against Shannon Briggs in what was - to that point - quite possibly the most boring heavyweight title fight in history.
The setback kicked off a stretch of six losses in nine fights spray painted over the last eight years.
Ruiz closes 2014 with three wins on the year, but with his conditioning once again heading in the wrong direction. After turning pro at a massive 297
lb. nearly six years ago, the unbeaten prospect took his weight - and career in the right direction. As recent as this past May, Ruiz was 250 lb. - not ideal for his 6'2" frame, but still managing to move it well - in a 2nd round stoppage of Manuel Quezada in the first of three UniMas-televised appearances on the year.
The past two bouts have seen the Mexican at a weight and physique suggesting the discipline is missing in training camp. Hopefully he's able to right the ship in 2015, a year in which he should successfully make the transition to rising contender - with the right motivation and absence of yes-men in his camp.
The bout aired live on UniMas in the United States.
In the UniMas-televised opening bout, Daniel Echeverria scored a six-round virtual shutout over Noe Lopez Jr.
The 22-year old Echeverria was fighting outside of Mexico for the first time in his young career, but appeared right at home from the opening bell. Lopez is a hard night's work for any given fighter when at his best, and proved durable if not entirely competitive over the course of the night.
Echeverria sensed that the knockout wasn't going to come, and instead settled for a well-earned landslide win. Scores of 60-54 (twice) and 59-55 came in for the lightweight prospect, who improves to 15-0 (13KOs).
Oscar Valdez was forced to go to the scorecards for the first time in his career in his previous visit to Celebrity Theatre. The 23-year old made sure to return to his knockout ways this time out, forcing Jean Javier Sotelo to quit on his stool after four rounds.
The night actually carried the suggestion of yet another boxing lesson from Valdez, who was sharp in landing in combination on an all-too inviting Sotelo. Action was steadily one way from the opening bell, with Valdez picking up steam with each passing round.
The writing was on the wall for Sotelo, who was absorbing major punishment and not showing any signs of turning things around. The veteran boxer from Colombia decided to call it a night when his corner disallowed him to come out for the start of round five.
The official time of the stoppage is 0:02 of round five.
Valdez - who turns 24 on Tuesday - improves to 14-0 (12KOs), picking up his sixth win of the year. Highlights of the bout were shown on UniMas, while the fight
in its entirety via one-hour tape delay on TV Azteca.
Joet Gonzalez isn't known for his knockout power, but the 21-year old Los Angeleno has now stopped each of his last two opponents. The latest early exit comes courtesy of a 3rd round knockout of Jaime Gutierrez.
The bout appeared destined for the scorecards as Gonzalez boxed his way through the opening two rounds, before exploding in round three. A pair of knockdowns had Gutierrez )(4-10, 0KOs) in serious trouble, but came up swinging each time he rose to his feet. His effort was valiant, but ultimately futile as the Mexican southpaw was mercifully rescued from further punishment.
Gonzalez improves to 8-0 (3KOs), fighting in Phoenix for the first time after having spent his young career exclusively in Las Vegas and his home state of California.
David Benavidez had to wait until he turned 18 years old before fighting in the United States. That moment was also met with his first fight going to the scorecards, as the middleweight prospect scored a six-round shutout over A
Scores were 60-53 across the board. Benavidez (7-0, 6KOs) - whose older brother is recently crowned 140 lb. titlist Jose Benavidez - floored Umarzoda in the opening round, but was forced to go the distance, although dominating every step of the way.
Benavidez turned pro last August at age 16, fighting exclusively in Mexico for the past 16 months. Each of his first six bouts resulted in a 1st round knockout before going to the cards versus the more experienced Umarzoda
Alex Zuzueta (4-0, 3KOs) was forced to go the distance for the first time in his career, but was unfazed in decisioning debutant Juan Carlos Diaz over four rounds. The local flyweight prospect has fought exclusively at this venue for each of his first four bouts in the pro ranks.
Trevor McCumby continues to develop as a crowd favorite at Celebrity Theatre. The 22-year old rising prospect from nearby Glendale picked up his third straight win at the venue, stopping Milton Nuñez in the 6th and final round of the evening's curtain raiser. McCumby (18-0, 14KOs) scored body shot knockdowns in rounds three and four before forcing Nuñez
into submission in round six.
Andy Ruiz Jr (23-0, 17KOs) vs. Siarhei Liakhovich (26-6, 16KOs) - 10 rounds, heavyweight
Oscar Valdez (14-0, 13KOs) TKO5 Jean Javier Sotelo (19-14-2, 10KOs)
Trevor McCumby (18-0, 14KOs) KO6 Milton Nunez (28-12-1, 25KOs)
Joet Gonzalez (8-0, 3KOs) KO3 Jamie Gutierrez (4-10, 0KOs)
Erick De Leon (8-0, 4KOs) vs.
ose Morales (8-6, 2KOs) - 6 rounds, lightweight
Francisco De Vaca (8-0, 4KOs) vs. Sergio Najera (8-16-2, 2KOs) - 6 rounds, featherweight
David Benavidez (7-0, 6KOs) UD6 Azamat Umarzoda (1-7-2, 0KOs)
Alexis Zuzueta (4-0, 3KOs) UD4
Juan Carlos Diaz (0-1)
Daniel Echeverria (15-0, 13KOs) UD6 Noe Lopez Jr (19-11-4, 10KOs)
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as the official records keeper for Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a voting member of Boxing Writers Association of America.