By Francisco Salazar
ONTARIO - Isaac Zarate was able out a unanimous decision victory Friday night, but his performance left much to be desired.
In a crossroads bout between southpaws, Zarate outpointed Ramiro Robles of Mexico, but heard the boos from the crowd when he was announced as the winner inside the Doubletree Hotel in this Los Angeles suburb.
Zarate, a junior featherweight who resides in the Los Angeles suburb of San Pedro, was unbeaten in his previous three bouts and wanted to look good against Robles, who had lost to the likes of Joseph 'JoJo' Diaz, Diego De La Hoya, Oscar Negrete, and Mark Magsayo.
Zarate was the more polished and technical fighter of the two, but Robles' awkward and aggressive style gave the 26-year-old Zarate fits all night. Zarate did little to use lateral movement and ring generalship, instead choosing to trade with Robles in the center of the ring.
Robles (15-8-1, 8 knockouts), who had split his previous six bouts, landed several lead or counter left hands to Zarate's head. With each passing round, the area around Zarate's right eye showed the wear-and-tear of the punches Robles landed.
When he did box and create distance, Zarate did well, even mixing his attack to the body. Both fighters had their moments during the final two rounds, but Zarate did enough to receive the nod from the judges.
Scores were 77-75, 77-75, and 78-74 for Zarate (15-3-3, 2 KOs), who trains alongside WBA junior featherweight titleholder Daniel Roman.
Lightweight Manuel Mendez won a questionable eight round unanimous decision over Gilberto Espinoza of Tijuana, Mexico.
Espinoza utilized ring generalship effectively, using angles to connect from a distance and avoid being hit. Mendez did his best work when he pinned Espinoza against the ropes, throwing numerous combinations to the head and body. Mendez threw more punches, but several did miss or landed on Espinoza's arms.
Sensing he was down in the fight, Mendez (16-2-3, 11 KOs) aggressively walked Espinoza down during the final two rounds. Mendez did land several punches to the body in the hopes of breaking Espinoza down.
If the aggression won Mendez the last two rounds, it saved him from leaving the bout with a split decision draw. Scores were 77-75, 78-74, and an inexplicable score of 79-73 for Mendez, who is trained by Joel Diaz.
Espinoza falls to 9-1, 5 KOs.
Bantamweight prospect Saul Sanchez (9-0, 5 KOs) stopped Leonardo Torres in the third round. Sanchez dropped Torres (4-12, 1 KO) near the end of the second round by a combination to the head. Sanchez would drop Torres with a left hook to the body midway through the third round. Torres fought back, but was pinned against the ropes where he was battered by Sanchez before referee Rudy Barragan stepped in and stopped the bout at 2:24.
Junior featherweight Brandon Valdes (11-0, 6 KOs), a 19-year-old who was fighting for the first time outside of Colombia, won a one-sided four round decision over Jose Naranjo (3-9-2, 1 KO). The taller and more aggressive Valdes was the busier and more effective fighter throughout the bout. All three judges scored the bout 40-36 in favor of Valdes.
Lightweight George Acosta won a four round unanimous decision over Juan Alberto Castillo (1-1, 1 KO). Acosta dropped Castillo by a combination to the head in the opening minute of the first round. The shorter Castillo took the fight to Acosta, connecting with an occasional hook or right hand, but Acosta landed the more telling blows throughout the fight. Scores were 40-35, 40-35, and 39-36 for Acosta, who goes to 6-0, 1 KO.
In the opening bout of the Thompson Boxing Promotions card, featherweight Anthony Chavez dropped Josafath Vazquez before referee Rudy Barragan stepped in and stopped the bout at 1:45.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing