By Jake Donovan

Artur Beterbiev fights for the first time since signing an exclusive contract with Top Rank, headlining Saturday’s ESPN telecast live from Stockton Arena in Stockton, Calif. The unbeaten two-time Olympian for Russia—who now lives and trains in Canada—puts his light heavyweight title and perfect record on the line as he faces Radivoje “Hot Rod” Kalajdzic.

Their bouts tops an ESPN tripeheader which also includes super flyweight titlist Jerwin Ancajas versus Japan’s Ryuichi Funai, as well as unbeaten popular local attraction Gabriel Flores Jr. in a super featherweight showcase bout.


Marco Antonio Arroyo and Jose Godinez provided the ultimate primer in the final preliminary bout of the night, even if it didn’t end to the crowd’s liking.

A second round knockdown was the difference on the scorecards as Jose Godinez pulled off a mild upset in a split decision win over Stockton’s own Marco Antonio Arroyo. Scores were 38-37 across the board, just one card going to Arroyo and the other two in favor of Godinez, who never wilted in hostile territory. 

Godinez (3-3) had lost his past two starts, but prevailed in an entertaining four-round affair where every punch was crucial—none more than the left hook which floored Arroyo in round two. The local favorite quickly recovered and stormed back towards round end, seemingly turning the tide and finishing the fight strong as Godinez was rocked on several occasions.

It wasn’t enough to sway more than one judge, as the 22-year old flyweight suffers his first defeat in falling to 2-1 (1KO).

Perhaps one day, Joey Montoya will look back at his actions on Saturday and realize just how badly he threw away a chance at upsetting an unbeaten prospect. Instead, it was Sacramento’s Blake McKernan who escaped a major scare with his perfect record still intact after scoring an eight-round unanimous decision in their bizarre cruiserweight contest.

Scores were 79-72 (twice) and 78-73 in favor of McKernan (12-0, 8KOs), a U.S. military veteran who spent most of the second half of the bout constantly shaking his head and fending off a scrappy foe. It was an opportunity wasted, however, by Montoya who spent far too often complaining to the referee about fouls that just weren’t happening—save for his own actions.

A spirited round five saw Montoya threaten to surge ahead until McKernan turned the tide late with an uppercut to spark a five-punch rally before the bell. The referee had to separate the two and instruct them to go to their respective corners, only for Montoya to shove the third man for no reason (good or otherwise), drawing a stern warning.

The Colorado-bred journeyman would take it too far one round later, throwing two punches well after the bell to end round six. The infraction resulted in a point deduction—the second straight fight in which he was gigged for an intentional foul. It went a long way in delivering his fifth straight loss, even if the final scorecards were far too wide.

Fresno's Quilisto "Quilo the Kid" Madera wanted nothing more than to deliver a knockout ending for his fans in the Central Valley. He instead had to settle for a landslide decision, scoring a six-round win over Tulsa's Osbaldo Camacho Gonzalez in an entertaining middleweight scrap/

Scores were 60-54 across the board for Madera, who was the clear winner in each and every round, but at no point allowed to coast to win. Gonzalez came to fight, perhaps realizing he was severely outclassed but still digging deep and throwing power shots throughout the entertaining affair. Madera gladly obliged, picking apart his crude opponent, but unable to close the show.

Brief confusion set in at the end of round five, with both boxers seemingly of the belief that the fight was done. Ringside announcer Crystina Poncher—with the assistance of house emcee Lupe Contreras—helped restore order, getting the middleweights to their respective corners in time to rest and reload for the final three minutes.

Madera suffered a shocking knockout loss in this town just 10 months ago, but is now back on track as he advances to 11-2 (8KOs).

Vislan Dalkhaev (11-1, 3KOs) picked up his second consecutive win after scoring a six-round decision over Michigan’s Vincent Jennings. Scores were 59-55 (twice) and 60-54 in favor of Dalkhaev, who like his training stablemate Beterbiev is originally from Russia but now fights out of Canada.

The bout was competitive in the opening round, with Jennings taking the frame on two of the three scorecards. It was all Dalkhaev the rest of the way, forcing a deliberate but aggressive pace and never allowing Jennings (6-7-2) to get back into the fight.

Las Vegas-based welterweight Brian Mendoza maintained his perfect record with a 2nd round knockout of Mexico’s Carlos Rodriguez.

The final result came out of nowhere as Rodriguez (12-8-1, 5KOs) was as game as they come, making things uncomfortable for Mendoza for most of the brief affair. The fight came to a sudden ending when Mendoza (17-0, 12KOs) uncorked a left hook which put Rodriguez down and functionally out, as the bout was waved off without a count at 1:45 of round two.

Dominican Republic’s Felix Valera claimed his third straight win in the evening’s curtain raiser, stopping Mario Aguilar in the 4th round of their light heavyweight contest.

Valera dominated the brief affair, offering a mix of boxing from the outside and solid body work whenever the bout was fought in the trenches. Aguilar (20-7, 17KOs) simply had no response for any of the incoming, never more evident than when Valera unloaded in round four before the contest was stopped with Aguilar still on his feet but not fighting back.

The official time was 2:24 of round four. Valera has now scored three straight victories since dropping a lopsided decision to veteran contender Sullivan Barrera in Nov. ’17. Valera also suffered a landslide loss to unbeaten Dmitry Bivol in their May ’16 interim title fight.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox