Cesar Juarez put an end to the Cinderella story enjoyed by Dennis Contreras.
The summer season finale of Boxeo Telemundo saw Mexico City’s Juarez turn around his career in a big way, overpowering his countryman en route to a ten-round, unanimous decision victory. Scores were 97-93, 96-94 and 96-94 in favor of Juarez in their entertaining featherweight slugfest Friday evening at White Sands Events Center in Plant City, Florida.
Juarez did not travel all this way just to serve as a recognizable name on the resume of the resurgent Contreras. The former title challenger came to fight, beating Guadalajara’s Contreras to the punch in an action-packed opening round. Both fighters engaged at close range, with Juarez sharp with his right hands down the middle.
Contreras suffered a major scare in round two, much of which was spent in survival mode. Juarez went on the attack, splitting his opponent’s guard with clean one-twos, with enough right hands leaving Contreras staggering abound the ring. Juarez continued to press, repeatedly landing right hands along the ropes though unable to close the show.
Action slowed in round three, with Contreras smothering the punches of Juarez but unable to do much even when in position to take the lead. The trend spilled over into round four, largely spent at close quarters but with little in the way of steady offense.
Juarez had Contreras hurt once again in round five, connecting with a sweeping left hook to briefly stun his countryman. Contreras was able to rally and begin to establish his right hand, though not before finding his back against the ropes and with Juarez landing the more telling blows.
Contreras enjoyed perhaps his best round of the fight in the sixth, with his straight right hand finding the mark. Juarez still had his say, connecting with uppercuts and left hooks at close range. Contreras took the shots well, stepped back and gained just enough leverage to land straight rights with purpose.
Both boxers sought to pick up the pace in round seven, though two-way fatigue resulted in multiple clinches. Juarez ran a 30-second drill, flurrying down the stretch once his arms were freed as Contreras was limited to playing defense.
Contreras came alive in round eight, tightening up his offense as Juarez was sloppy in his attack. Time was called midway through the frame after Juarez stumbled into the ropes, avoiding a knockdown call but clearly worse for wear after the sequence. Contreras worked a purposeful jab, which he followed with a straight right. Juarez was able to take the shots, though was far off the mark with wide counter left hooks and overhand rights.
A dramatic shift in momentum came in round nine, with Juarez reclaiming the lead. Contreras left himself open for a right hand and left hook, briefly stunned as Juarez drove him into the ropes. Contreras was fortunate to avoid a knockdown call, though he took advantage of the moment and managed to rally back with a minute to go in the frame. Juarez once again forced Contreras to fight in reverse, pinning Contreras to the ropes where he landed in combination.
A clash of heads interrupted action at the start of the tenth and final round, with Contreras getting the worst of it as time was called to examine a bruise high atop the right side of his forehead. Juarez spent most of the rest of the round on the attack, winging overhand rights and left hooks. Contreras was rocked by a right hand and left uppercut with one minute to go in the fight but wisely clinched his way out of trouble. Juarez closed the show in style, landing right hands and left hooks during two separate sequences in the final ten seconds.
Juarez picks up his most significant win in years, improving to 27-10 (20KOs) in earning his second consecutive victory. The run comes after having lost three straight and four of his previous six, including knockout losses to Angelo Leo and Carlos Castro.
Contreras’ two-year run comes to a close with the defeat, as his record falls to 24-11-1 (22KOs). A four-fight win streak is snapped, three of which have come on Telemundo dating back to his upset knockout win of Belmar Preciado one year ago in Kissimmee, Florida. Contreras showed heart in outlasting Hairon Socarras in a tenth-round stoppage in this very venue earlier this year but is now forced to go back to the drawing board.
Juarez came up short in his lone career title bid, a twelve-round decision defeat to Nonito Donaire in their December 2015 scorcher of a WBO junior featherweight title fight. He punched his way back into contention with three straight wins before falling to Isaac Dogboe in an interim title fight in 2018.
In the evening’s chief support, Bryan ‘The Hunter’ Polaco went his deepest as a pro but still closed the show in style. The former amateur standout scored a fifth-round knockout of Justin Gunter in their scheduled six-round junior middleweight contest.
Polaco turned pro last summer while waiting out the rescheduled 2020 Tokyo Olympics where he was due to represent Puerto Rico. That dream was denied after the Pan Am Olympic Qualifying Tournament was canceled earlier this spring, leaving slot allotments to a ranking system as presented by the Boxing Task Force. Polaco didn’t rate high enough among North American middleweights, leaving him to resume his pro career.
That led to his ring return after a ten-month absence. Polaco—a 6’2” southpaw from Fajardo, Puerto Rico fought on the first and last card of the 2020 summer and fall seasons of Boxeo Telemundo but was limited to the summer finale for the 2021 season. He was able to outbox Gunter through four rounds before exploding in round five.
Polaco (5-0, 4KOs) briefly switched to orthodox stance, unloading with a left hook to put Gunter down in a corner. Gunter (2-2, 1KO) made it to his feet but clearly unable able to continue as the fight was halted on the spot.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox