By Jake Donovan
Andres Gutierrez was the contender on the rise and one fight away from a long-awaited title shot. In the end, however, it was Cristian Mijares who turned back the clock in pulling off a major upset win – even in upsetting the fans in the process.
The former super flyweight champ earned his way back into the title picture with a hard-fought – even if unpopular – 12-round majority decision win Saturday evening in front of capacity crowd at Grand Oasis Resort in Cancun, Mexico.
An even score of 114-114 was overruled by scores of 116-112 and 114-113 in favor of Mijares, the 34-year old former champ who has now earned a mandatory title fight rematch with defending featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz.
The title eliminator status was only at stake for Mijares, as Gutierrez blew that opportunity at Friday’s weigh-in. The rising 22-year old from Guadalajara by way of Queretaro, Mexico initially came in six pounds over the 126-pound divisional limit, managing to shed two full pounds but still officially weighing in at the super featherweight mark (130) for a featherweight “Silver” title fight.
As such, all that Gutierrez could do was fight to defend his unbeaten record, though moving forward with the Televisa-televised headliner meant having to forfeit 20% of his purse. He thought he did just that after 12 full rounds, as did the crowd who lustily booed the final verdict.
Those who believe in boxing karma and who didn’t agree with the decision will suggest that the benefit of the doubt was granted to the boxer who made an honest effort to make weight. Those who objectively watch the sport will point to Mijares’ technical prowess getting him through the day, outworking his younger foe even if lacking the firepower to keep him at bay.
A bout that was even on the scorecards through four rounds appeared to be nip-and-tuck the entire way through. Sensing this could be his last-ever opportunity to legitimately move toward a high-profile fight, Mijares increased his workrate in his best efforts to neutralize the knockout intentions with which Gutierrez threw every punch.
The difference in power was evident on the face of Mijares, his right eye swollen shut by fight’s end, but with the final tallies properly reflecting that the judges scored the bout based on what took place in the ring and not just the “evidence” provided on the boxers’ respective faces.
It wasn’t the news that neither Gutierrez nor the crowd wanted to hear, as the sense was that the now once-beaten contender was the aggressor and landed the more telling blows. Perhaps it’s true, but it doesn’t always add up to deserving the victory given that bouts are scored round-by-round rather than as a whole.
As a result, Mijares moves to 54-8-2 (26KOs) and will now wait out the July 30 title fight starring the last man to hang a loss on his career, as Santa Cruz defends his featherweight title versus unbeaten former unified super bantamweight champ Carl Frampton.
The win is also the fifth straight for Mijares, who has overcome several rough periods in his 19-year ring career. He started out 11-3-1 before going on a 26-fight unbeaten run (25-0-1) that included a career-best win over Jorge Arce amidst his lengthy super flyweight title reign.
His dream tour came to a crashing halt, suffering a one-sided stoppage to Vic Darchinyan in Nov. ’08, the first of a three-fight losing streak that included back-to-back setbacks to Nehomar Cermeno that appeared to have officially written him off from the title stage. More of the same was believed in losing twice in a four-fight stretch, suffering a split decision loss to Victor Terrazzas, followed by a 12-round virtual shutout at the hands of Santa Cruz in March ’14.
Meanwhile, Gutierrez became a hot contender to watch out of Mexico. The rising young talent did his best to shrink down into a super bantamweight uniform, moving into position to become Santa Cruz’ mandatory challenger at the weight before eventually outgrowing the division. He announced his intentions to compete at featherweight, despite never officially making the weight.
The same was said on Friday, on a day where he actually needed to hit the mark. On Saturday, he suffered his first career defeat in falling to 34-1-1 (22KOs).
The 12-round bout aired live on Televisa in Mexico, with the card to air via delay on a future edition on CBS Sports Network in the U.S. as part of the network’s “Cancun Boxing” series.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Follow his shiny new Twitter account: @JakeNDaBox_v2