Argi Cortes came dangerously close to pulling off a major upset against the world junior bantamweight champion in his previous outing.
The former title challenger nearly landed on the opposite end this time around.
Cortes was required to survive two knockdowns and sweat out the judges’ scorecards in taking a ten-round, split decision win over Erick Omar Lopez. Cortes won by scores of 95-92 and 95-92, overruling a dissenting card of 96-91 for Lopez to claim a narrow win in their DAZN co-feature Saturday evening from Arena Astros in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Cortes entered the bout riding plenty of momentum following his strong showing in a narrow loss to lineal 115-pound king Juan Francisco Estrada on September 3 in Hermosillo, Mexico. The Nacho Beristain-guided contender from Mexico City was clearly the more polished and disciplined of the co-feature participants and former sparring partners on Saturday but was forced to deal with an early deficit. An exchange near the center of the ring saw Cortes land on the inside and then dodge a right hand, only to fall back and onto the canvas.
The sequence appeared to be more of a push than the product of an actual landed punch, but the sequence was ruled a knockdown and Cortes issued a mandatory eight count. An effort to regain ground within the round saw Cortes drive Lopez to the ropes and fire off a combination. He left his chin in the air just long enough to get hit with a right hand that forced him to take a backward step.
Cortes resumed control of the action in a productive round three. Lopez was stubborn, refusing to fade away and managed to land an occasional left hook and looping right hand. Cortes pushed through those moments and drove Lopez to the ropes, where he landed a right hand to the temple.
A steady jab was employed by Cortes in round four, which kept the fleshy Lopez at bay. The taller and slimmer Cortes was able to follow with straight right hands, most of which were defended by Lopez but effective enough to prevent a counterattack from the 28-year-old local spoiler.
More adversity was dealt in round six, as Cortes saw a significant momentum shift squandered by a second knockdown call. Lopez was able to get away with leaning on top of Cortes’ upper back, driving home a left hook to the body as Cortes was on his way to the canvas. A count was issued, leaving Cortes no better than even on the scorecards through six rounds with the two knockdown calls.
The threat of an upset was somewhat dulled in round seven. Lopez was dealt a point deduction due to excessive rabbit punching, the infraction occurring early in the round. Cortes capitalized, returning to basics and forcing Lopez back on the defensive.
Lopez hit the canvas in round eight. However, he avoided a knockdown call as the sequence was not accompanied by a clean punch and accurately ruled a slip. Cortes was still able to win the round with clean boxing, doing more of the same in a slowed but steady round nine for the former title challenger. Lopez fought in spurts, while spending the rest of the time behind an earmuff defense in his best effort to defend against Cortes’ jab.
A last-ditch effort was offered by Lopez in the tenth and final round. Cortes found himself back on the canvas, though this time correctly ruled a slip. Lopez continued to come forward, landing a left hook in the final minute of the round. Cortes came back with a right hand to snap back the head of Lopez inside the final 30 seconds. Lopez landed a right hand just before the bell but Cortes gathered himself in time to avoid a follow-up attack as he made it to the bell.
Cortes returned to the win column as his record improved to 24-3-2, (10KOs), though losing some of the luster that accompanied his strong showing against Estrada earlier this year. Lopez is now 16-7-2 (10KOs), winless in his last three starts but likely to gain opportunities following his valiant effort.
Headlining the show, Tijuana’s Jaime Munguia (40-0, 32KOs)— unbeaten former WBO junior middleweight titlist—faces Argentina’s Gonzalo Gaston Coria (21-5, 8KOs) in a scheduled ten-round middleweight bout.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox