By Cliff Rold

Colombian power-puncher Joel Julio picked up one of the toughest wins of his burgeoning career with a unanimous decision victory over Ishe Smith of Las Vegas, Nevada in their ten-round junior middleweight bout on Wednesday night. 

Considered by most pundits and all sanctioning bodies as a legitimate top-ten contender at 154 lb, the 23-year old Julio takes a step closer to a title shot in what was a must-win bout for both combatants at the River Rock Casino in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada.

It wasn’t easy for either man.

As could be expected, the aggressive Julio (33-1, 30KO) came out early winging blocked lefts and rights at the high guard of Smith (!9-3, 9KO), six years his senior. It took nearly a minute for Smith to get going, snapping his left jab forward and measuring his onrushing foe with the right. Down the stretch, each would have their moments with Julio snaring the round on some solid body work.

The pattern held in the second, with Julio adding the wrinkle of backwards steps and counterpunching.  Smith landed some solid right hands, one particular before the closing bell, but Julio appeared to be overwhelming with activity, even if much of it was being blocked or slipped.  Smith would make a better go of it in the third but, again, failed to let his hands go often enough.  Early in the round, a left-right combination to the body, and later another left hand to the body, would bring disapproving grimaces to the face of Julio, but the Colombian continued throwing and forcing the fight.

Smith would have a successful fourth, again landing well to the body, as well as scoring with his rights while maintaining his inherent defensive edge. Having found a rhythm, Smith dominated the first half of the fifth round, tagging Julio at will with the jab and following with more lefts to the body and some quality right hands. Julio remained relentless, raking Smith to the body down the stretch and moving his hands enough in the final minute to make a case for the judges.

Using his jab and steady lateral movement to his left, Julio forced Smith to chase him, countering Smith’s best round of the fight in the fifth with a methodical and relatively easy sixth for the more natural stalker. 

The chase continued in the seventh, Julio staying in counter-puncher mode for the first two minutes, waiting for Smith to throw the right so he could toss his own over the top. Forced to play the aggressor, Smith was eating Julio’s right cleaner than he had all night, but then the roles reversed again.  Acquiescing to his instincts, Smith landed a booming right hand with about 0:45 left in the round as Julio came walking in, He landed another darting right, but immediately went back into his shell as Julio wailed away at the body.

The former “Contender” star got back into the game in the eighth. Moving and jabbing, Smith kept Julio largely on the outside while landing counter rights and sneaking left hooks. His eighth-round effort was followed by a more decisive ninth, taking Julio to school for most of the frame. The counter punching clinic saw Smith land thudding body shots, straight right hands and the occasional left hook while Julio seemed to miss almost every significant punch he threw above the shoulders.

Each man made their statements in the tenth and final frame. Fighting with an eye towards securing the sway of the judges, Julio came out with both guns blazing and found Smith more willing to engage. There was good reason, as the frenetic pace played into the hands of the counter puncher.  While Julio landed some hard rights and continued his effective body work, Smith landed the flashier and cleaner shots. As the final bell rang, the bout appeared a certain nightmare for the judges.

Two of the scores would reflect that difficulty at 96-94, or six rounds to four, with the third card coming in at 97-93 for the Colombian. Maxboxing/Boxingscene scored the bout even at 95-95.

In the televised opener, 27-year old Canadian middleweight prospect Albert Onolunese (15-0, 5 KO) extended his undefeated record with an unimpressive learn-as-you-earn win over Eduardo Sanchez (16-6-2, 9 KO) of New Orleans. 

Onolunese jumped out to a fast start, dropping Sanchez with a right hand and rocking him again with rights in the second. The much taller Sanchez began to use his long jab to better effect in the third, smothering the offense of Onolunese while finding more opportunities to land short left hooks and straight rights. 

Possibly even winning the fifth, that form would hold for Sanchez until the sixth when an exchange of right hands saw Sanchez hit second and harder, his knees buckling as he stumbled backwards towards the ropes.  Onolunese attempted to follow-up but Sanchez made it to the bell.

Each man would do their best to find advantage by way of light flurries in the seventh, but there was little of the hard stuff. Showing guts and fire, Sanchez planted his feet and exchanged with Onolunese throughout the eighth and final round, landing a left hook in the closing seconds that stunned the favorite and drove him into the ropes. 

It wasn’t enough to win the fight, but allowed the journeyman to close with pride.  Final scores were 78-73 (2x) and 77-74, all in favor of the Canadian.

Also televised, journeymen cruiserweights brought the crowd to their feet in a violent six round encounter. Vancouver resident Kevin Reynolds (8-1, 5 KO) outpunched a tough Victor Barragan (8-4, 2 KOs) over six rounds by scores of 58-56 across the board.

The card was televised live on ESPN2’s Wednesday Night Fights.

Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at