By Cliff Rold
It took three tries but 35-year old Jr. Welterweight Cosme Rivera (33-14-3, 24 KO) of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, came up with a win over 41-year old Colombian Antonio Pitalua (52-6-1, 42 KO) of Mexico City on Friday night at the Jose Cuervo Salon in Polanco, Mexico.
Both men weighed in at the division limit of 140 lbs.
Rivera, the taller of the two by a couple of inches at 5’9, started on the back foot, looking for room to counter the pressuring Pitalua. A touching left hook near the two-minute mark paid dividends for Rivera, as did a left hook and right hand moments later. Pitalua had a left hook blocked and missed with a right before the bell.
Pitalua got a little closer at the start of the second and Rivera tied him up. Pitalua slipped to the floor on the ring paint as a left hook landed. The referee called a quick break and ruled correctly that no knockdown had occurred. The Colombian would land his right with about a minute to go but was unable to land a following blow. Rivera continued to tie up in close.
Using educated lateral movement, Rivera went side to side and kept Pitalua off balance in round three. His left found the mark more often and a hook to the ribs brought a noticeable pause to the pursuit strategy of Pitalua.
By round four, a swelling beneath the left eye of Pitalua was growing. Pitalua came out with more aggression, as if sensing urgency from the wound but could land anything substantial. In the fifth, Rivera, moving, switching back and forth from orthodox to southpaw, dictated the distance Pitalua had to cross to get to him. Remiss to let his hands go for most of the frame, Rivera let loose late, picking his shots and tagging Pitalua in the final thirty seconds of the round.
Rivera had success with lead left uppercuts and hooks in round six and again in the seventh, mastering Pitalua with hands and feet. His left eye getting worse, blood streaming from both nostrils, Pitalua showed no give.
He also showed no signs of being able to win a round on this night. Rivera, clearly in what for him was an almost flawless rhythm, gave little quarter. A Sneaky right hand crashed home for Pitalua in the ninth but Rivera showed no effects.
The bout took an exciting turn to start the tenth. Pitalua’s desperation paid off with some landed rights, Rivera forced into the ropes. Firing back, he sent sweat flying from the head of Pitalua and stemmed the assault. A split second before the bell, both men landed right hands simultaneously and both were rocked, fans almost treated to the rare double knockdown.
It would be the final thrill of the night as both fighters returned to the more settled form of the contest in the last two rounds. Pitalua couldn’t get anything going and Rivera wasn’t interested in standing still to let him. In the final minute, it was Rivera landing almost at will with a variety of rights and lefts to punctuate the night.
The scores went the way they looked like they should, Rivera winning 119-109 on two cards and 117-111 on the other. Rivera can hope the victory pushes him back in the Jr. Welterweight rankings of one of the sanctioning bodies. The win over Pitalua gave him a minor WBC belt and so his chances are likely best there.
The contest was the third between the two former title challengers. Pitalua won the first on a unanimous decision in 1999 and they battled to a draw in September of this year.
The card was televised in the U.S. on Telemundo.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]