By Jake Donovan
Emanuel Navarrete attempts the second defense of super bantamweight title as he faces unbeaten Phoenix (Az.)-based contender Francisco de Vaca (20-0, 6KOs). The bout headlines the first-ever boxing card at Banc of California Stadium on USC campus in Los Angeles, Calif. (Saturday, ESPN, 10:00pm ET/7:00pm PT and local time).
The bout comes just three months after Navarrete (27-1, 23KOs) picked up his second consecutive win over Isaac Dogboe, scoring a one-sided 12th round stoppage this past May. Navarrete dethroned the previously unbeaten Dogobe to win the title last December. Both bouts aired on ESPN-televised undercard, with Saturday's contest marking his first-ever U.S. televised headlining act.
Also on the show is a crossroads featherweight bout between former 122-pound titlist Jessie Magdaleno (26-1, 18KOs) and featherweight title challenger Rafael Rivera (27-3-2, 18KOs). Magadeleno rebounded from a title-losing knockout to Dogboe last April with a 10-round win over Rico Ramos this past March. Rivera came up short as a late replacement title challenger to Leo Santa Cruz in February, having since picked up a confidence-building win heading into Saturday's bout.
Arnold Barboza continues to his journey from hot prospect to rising contender, delivering a dominant performance in stopping Ricky Sismundo after rounds.
The one-sided super lightweight affair saw Barboza score a knockdown in round three and batter Sismundo throughout in picking up his second straight stoppage win.
Prior to the bout, Barboza (22-0, 9KOs) has been vocal in desiring a shot at unified 140-pound titlist Jose Ramirez. The 27-year old local favorite can stand to develop more before advancing to that stage, but has increased brand recognition with his last two wins.
Just four months after pummeling a faded Mike Alvarado into retirement, Barboza proved way too much for journeyman Sismundo (35-15-3, 17KOs), an entertaining Filipino boxer who lives in Japan. Barboza scored the bout’s lone knockdown, flooring Sismundo with a compact left hand late in round three.
A dominant round four left Sismundo dizzy by round’s end, avoiding a knockdown but having to grab the ropes and squat in pain as he never even made it back to his corner at round’s end. Referee Ray Corona didn’t waste any time in waving off the contest, the official time 3:00 of round four.
With time to kill on the broadcast, Edwin Rodriguez (3-0-1, 3KOs) was given time to shine and truly seized the moment. The Freddie Roach-trained super lightweight scored two knockdowns en route to a 1st round knockout of Jesus Gonzalez (6-3. 2KOs). Rodriguez floored Gonzalez seconds into the contest, and the Dominican southpaw never slowed down from there. Another knockdown midway through the contest paved the way for the inevitable, with Gonzalez beating the count but catching hands as he was stopped on his feet at 2:14 of round one.
Janibek Alimkhanuly (7-0, 3 KOs) delivered perhaps his most complete performance to date, picking apart Stuart McLellan (27-4-3, 11 KOs) of British Columbia, Canada in a five round wipeout in their middleweight preliminary bout.
Knockdowns in rounds two and five paved the way for the stoppage win, which came at 2:51 of round five.
Alimkhanuly struck early, flooring McLellan in round two with a perfectly placed left uppercut. The Kazakhstani southpaw—who represented his home country in the 2016 Rio Olympics—kept his head, smartly boxing and creating openings while McLellan couldn’t quite his offense untracked.
After picking his spots in rounds three and four, Alimkhanuly erupted in round five. A left hand shot sent McLellan crashing to the canvas, though somehow beating the count. He'd have been better off remaining on the deck, as Alimkhanuly unmercifully went on the attack until forcing referee Rudy Barragan to stop the contest.
The win is the third of 2019 for Alimkhanuly, whose all-star team includes manager Egis Klimas, trainer and Hall of Fame former two-division champ Buddy McGirt and renowned cutman Russ Anber.
Chris van Heerden once again suffered cuts from a headbutt in a Southern California-based fight. This time around, he was permitted to go the distance which resulted in a landslide decision win over Aslanbek Kosaev.
Scores were 79-73 twice and 78-74 in a bloodbath that saw both fighters suffer multiple cuts, while trading punches to the delight of the rabid crowd on hand.
Van Heerden (28-2-1, 12KOs) was cut over the left eye in the opening round, the gusher caused by a headbutt and drawing unwelcomed memories of his shortened bout in his last ring appearance this past March in Costa Mesa, Calif. The South African transplant stuck around long enough to hear the final bell, not before suffering a cut over his right eye caused by a headbutt in round five by Kosaev, who constantly charged in with his head.
Kosaev (33-3-1, 8KOs) suffered cuts over his left eye and the bridge of his nose, both caused by punches with van Heerden—now based in Santa Monica, Calif.—landing the cleaner blows throughout the entertaining affair in picking up his fifth straight win.
Locally-bred Javier Molina picked up his third straight win, scoring an eight-round unanimous decision over Manuel Mendez (16-6-3, 11KOs). Scores were 79-73 twice and a surprisingly close 78-74 in favor or Molina (20-2-1, 8KOs), who served on the 2008 Mexico Olympic team but has struggled to make strides in the pro ranks.
Action was all one way, though Mendez showed toughness in absorbing a tremendous amount of punishment without ever hitting the deck. Molina pressed with his attack throughout, offering a disciplined performance in picking up his third straight win.
Opening the ESPN+ live stream, Dmitry Yun overcame two early knockdowns in a six-round fight to still claim a decision win over Javier Martinez. Scores were 57-54 twice and 56-54 for Yun (2-0, 1KO), who was dropped in rounds one and three, the latter frame also seeing Martinez lose a point in rounds three and five for excessively losing his mouthpiece.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox