Fidel Maldonando Jr. survived the toughest test to date, taking a unanimous decision over Eric Cruz in their Telefutura-televised main event Friday evening at the Events Center in Pharr, Texas.
Scores were 77-74, 76-75 (2x) in their surprisingly close eight-round lightweight main event.
Sporting pink gloves in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Maldonando fought for a good cause while offering the perfect fight plan. The 20-year old prospect came racing out of the gate, scoring a knockdown 15 seconds into the contest. Cruz entered the bout with a reputation as a knockout artist, but Maldonando refused to allow a scouting report to scare him into fighting any less aggressive.
The rest of the bout wasn’t quite as one-sided, as Cruz chipped away at the lead with each passing round though ultimately coming up short.
Cruz, a hard-hitting Puerto Rican who has won all of his fights by knockout, braved a beating in the opening round and spent most of the second round adjusting before closing the gap in the third. The tide never turned, but kept the Albuquerque native honest enough to know a greater effort was required if he wanted to win in more convincing fashion.
Both fighters were warned for roughhouse tactics midway through the bout, the type of fight that would greater benefit Cruz. However, Maldonando did a good job of avoiding a dogfight, remaining disciplined and proving to be equally as effective when working behind his right jab or taking the initiative with lead left hands.
As the bout progressed, it became evident that the opening sequence of the fight was an aberration and that Cruz wasn’t going anywhere. Maldonando realized this early on, and was content with boxing his way down the stretch even while Cruz tried to force the youngster out of his element. It proved to be successful in narrowing the gap on the scorecards, but never quite pulling ahead.
Realizng that boxing alone wasn’t enough to get the job done, Maldonando came out strong in the final round, determined to make a statement. The result was a fast-paced final round that saw both fighters have their moments but never to where the other was in danger of not hearing the final bell.
Maldonando escapes with the closest fight of his career, as he improves to 12-0 (10KO).
Cruz came into the fight off of the best win of his career, but now suffers the second loss in his past three fights as he falls to 12-8-3 (12KO).
Meanwhile, Maldonando keeps moving forward, enduring a much-needed test after blitzing through the early portion of his career. The plan, according to acclaimed manager Cameron Dunkin, is to get him quality gym sessions with his other star fighters and build him up in more six-and-eight round fights on this current level.
In the televised opener, unbeaten Jorge Sanchez (5-0, 3KO) scored a six-round decision over Larry Smith (10-7, KO). Scores were 58-54 and 57-55 (twice) in their surprisingly competitive bout, in which Smith took a beating in middle rounds of the fight, but hung tough and made the 25-year old Sanchez work for the win.
A swing bout between pro debuters Jose Garcia and Javier Rodriguez ended in a majority draw. Rodriguez appeared to be the aggressor, but couldn’t fare any better than a two-point win on one scorecard, garnering a 39-37 tally on the dissenting card, which was overruled 38-38 scores from the other two judges.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]