LAS VEGAS – It initially looked like Jose Valenzuela would knock out Chris Colbert in the first round Saturday night.
Nine-plus rounds later, the taller, stronger southpaw somehow found himself on the wrong end of a 10-round, unanimous-decision defeat on the David Benavidez-Caleb Plant undercard at MGM Grand Garden Arena. The pro-Valenzuela crowd booed loudly while Showtime’s Jim Gray interviewed Colbert after his controversial victory.
Valenzuela dropped Colbert with a crushing counter left less than 30 seconds into the opening round, hurt him badly again early in the sixth round and appeared to do more than enough to earn a win. Judges Glenn Feldman, Lisa Giampa and Don Trella nevertheless all scored their fight the same, 95-94 for Colbert.
Valenzuela, visibly upset by the scoring, questioned the decision during his interview with Gray. Colbert called Valenzuela “a sore loser” once they were separated after Jimmy Lennon Jr. announced the decision.
“I beat him,” Valenzuela told Gray. “I want to thank everyone who came out here to support me. I thought I won. I was hitting him with the harder shots. I dropped him. I dominated. But it’s what it is. It’s boxing.”
CompuBox counted only eight more punches overall for Valenzuela (132-of-610 to 124-of-544). Valenzuela landed 40 more power punches according to CompuBox (117-of-349 to 77-of-256), but Colbert connected with 32 more jabs (47-of-288 to 15-of-261).
The 23-year-old Valenzuela (12-2, 8 KOs), of Renton, Washington, suffered a second straight defeat. The Dominican Republic’s Edwin De Los Santos (15-1, 14 KOs) overcame a second-round knockdown to drop Valenzuela twice – once in the second round and again in the third round – before referee Ray Corona stopped his previous fight in the third round September 4 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.
Brooklyn’s Colbert (17-1, 6 KOs), who made his debut at the lightweight limit of 135 pounds, responded with a win 13 months after he suffered his first professional defeat.
“You’re a sore loser,” Colbert told Valenzuela while Gray interviewed him. “You lost. I’d like to thank my opponent. It was a hell of a fight. At the end of the day, I’m not the judge and I’m not a sore loser. I’m a man. I can take it on the chin like a man. He’s a sore loser. I out-boxed him and hit him with more jabs. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a man and he had his spurts. He hit me with some good shots, but then he stopped and I jabbed and I jabbed and I jabbed. He got the knockdown but it’s a 10-round fight.”
Hector Luis Garcia (16-1, 10 KOs, 3 NC) dropped and dominated Colbert in his prior appearance – a 12-round WBA 130-pound elimination match in February 2022 at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. The Dominican southpaw took that fight, in which Colbert was a 22-1 favorite, on only three weeks’ notice.
Though his win was wildly unpopular with fans inside the venue and media covering the fight, Colbert showed heart and skill after Valenzuela overwhelmed almost as soon as their bout began.
Valenzuela staggered Colbert again just a few seconds before the final bell rang, but he ran out of time in the 10th round to try to finish him. A right hand by Colbert made Valenzuela retreat 45 seconds into the 10th round.
Colbert was elusive during the ninth round. Valenzuela pursued him throughout those three minutes, but he didn’t connect with many impactful punches.
Valenzuela backed Colbert into his own corner and unloaded power punches to his head and body 30 seconds into the eighth round.
A right-left combination by Colbert backed up Valenzuela with just under 30 seconds remaining in the seventh round. Colbert connected with a counter right just after the midway mark of the seventh round.
Valenzuela countered Colbert with a left uppercut that stunned him a little less than 30 seconds into the sixth round. Valenzuela tried to build on that momentum and unloaded a barrage of power shots while Colbert was backed into the ropes.
Colbert remained in a defensive shell, but Valenzuela blasted him with a right hook with just under 1:20 to go in the sixth round.
A straight left by Colbert backed up Valenzuela with just over a minute to go in the fifth round. Colbert caught Valenzuela with a right hook that made Valenzuela reset his feet barely 45 seconds into the fifth round.
Colbert connected with a right hand that moved Valenzuela backward with just over 1:10 on the clock in the fourth round. Colbert caught Valenzuela with a left hook a few seconds later.
Valenzuela went after Colbert’s body and snuck in a right uppercut toward the end of the fourth round.
Valenzuela caught Colbert with a straight left with just over 1:10 to go in the third round. Valenzuela landed a left to Colbert’s body and a left uppercut barely 30 seconds into the third round.
A straight right by Colbert backed up Valenzuela with under 30 seconds to go in the second round. An accidental clash of heads left Valenzuela and Colbert to check if they were cut with a little less than 20 seconds on the clock in the second round.
Valenzuela landed a straight left 1:15 into the second round that made Colbert attempt to tie him up.
A counter left hand by Valenzuela in an exchange dropped Colbert less than 30 seconds into the first round. A stunned Colbert rolled over and beat Ruiz’s count, but Valenzuela went right after him once the action resumed.
Another left hand by Valenzuela wobbled Colbert with just under 1:20 to go in the opening round. Colbert held Valenzuela thereafter, but he clearly couldn’t handle his taller, stronger opponent’s power.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.