By Jake Donovan
Top Rank presented its first Solo Boxeo card since the series as we once knew it went off the air in Dec. '08, the last card headlined by then-unbeaten Mike Alvarado.
Saturday's main event wasn't a slam dunk return to the series' glory days, but did allow Jose Felix Jr. to remain unbeaten. The Mexican prospect scored a unanimous decision over veteran spoiler Gerardo Robles after 10 rounds Saturday evening at the Convention Center in McAllen, Texas.
Scores were 98-91, 97-92 and 96-93.
Felix Jr. was in control for most of the fight, though Robles did his best to get inside the 20-year old's head. The strategy worked to a degree, as the fight grew ugly in the second half. Felix Jr. built up an early lead large enough to allow him to coast down the stretch.
It wasn't exactly smooth sailing. Both fighters hit the deck and went through the ropes, all as the result of getting tangled up due to Robles clumsily charging in. Felix Jr. was wise enough to stick to boxing and not worry about attempting to maintain his near 80% KO-to-win ratio, though it didn't make for a memorable showing.
What it did make for, was another win. Felix Jr. advances to 23-0-1 (18KO), this win coming five months after his upset over then-unbeaten and highly touted prospect Luis Cruz.
Robles, who just turned 31 two weeks ago, snaps a two-fight win streak as he falls to 16-11 (7KO).
The bout aired live on UniMas (formerly Telefutura), as part of the revamped 'Solo Boxeo' series.
Rafael Reyes' stateside debut proved to be disastrous. The Mexican slugger wound up biting off more than he can chew in suffering a second round stoppage at the hands of Florida's Hardy Paredes.
The fight was entertaining in the brief amount of time the two shared ring space. Reyes appeared timid from the opening bell, something his own corner sensed as they urged on their charge.
It didn't take; Paredes was hell-bent on pulling off the upset. He managed just that, rallying towards the end of the round to hurt Reyes before freezing him with a straight right hand while pinned against the ropes. Reyes began to crumple, with a body shot added for good measure.
Reyes remained on the deck as he was counted out at 3:00 of round two.
Paredes picks up the best win of his career as he improves to 16-11 (9KO). Reyes has now lost two straight as he dips to 6-3 (5KO).
Andre Dirrell enjoyed a successful ring return following a 13-month absence, pitching a 10-round shutout against Michael Gbenga (14-6, 14KO) in the evening's co-feature attraction.
Scores were 100-88 and 100-87 (twice) in a bout that was every bit as lopsided as the cards indicate.
Dirrell was in control the entire fight, easily avoiding Gbenga's wide, looping punches. The resurgent contender scored a knockdown late in the fight, scoring with an uppercut in round nine. The sequence added insult to injury, as Gbenga (14-7, 14KO) was deducted a point for repeated low blows.
The performance was vintage Dirrell, even if against made-to-order opposition. His record improves to 21-1 (14KO) after winning big in his first fight following an extended absence after splitting with longtime adviser Al Haymon around this time last year.
Dirrell has since signed with hip hop artist/rookie promoter 50 Cent, who accompanied the fighter into the ring.
Ivan Najera barely preserved his unbeaten record, surviving a war with the Cuban to drop and stop him in the sixth and final round of their super featherweight contest. Both fighters scored big early on, but Najera (9-0, 8KO) was able to gain control late, stopping Yanez (3-4-2, 0KO) at 0:13 of round six.
Local super featherweight David Rios (2-0, 0KO) overcame some anxious moments to score a unanimous decision over Noe Santamaria (1-4, 0KO). Scores were 39-37 (twice) and a 40-36 tally suggesting the judge went on auto pilot and missed Santamaria's third round rally to briefly stun Rios.
Heavyweight newcomer Juan Guajardo (2-0, 1KO) scored a four-round decision over debutante Joe Duron. Scores were 39-37 across the board.