Wilfredo ‘Bimbito’ Mendez remains Puerto Rico’s lone male titlist, hanging on to that status by the skin of his teeth—and of his challenger.
The defending strawweight title claimant lodged his first successful defense in a technical split decision win over Axel Aragon this past Saturday at Cancha Ruben Zayas Montanez in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico.
Aragon prevailed by 67-66 on the dissenting card that was trumped by scores of 67-66 and 68-65 in favor of Mendez in their cut-shortened rematch.
Mendez had every advantage heading into the night—height, reach, home region and a landside win over his opponent, a late replacement for Colombia’s Gabriel Mendoza who was unable to travel due to visa issues.
In came Aragon, a squat Mexican slugger who took the fight on less than a week’s notice. He put his three fight win streak on the line, all of which has followed his 10-round loss to Mendez in this very venue last September. Their previous affair was far more lopsided, with Mendez claiming a wide points victory en route to eventually going on to the title stage.
Things were far more competitive this time around, although Mendez enjoyed early success offering lateral movement and connect with left hands from the outside. Aragon, who at 5’0” is often at a height disadvantage no matter whom he faces, struggled to work his way inside the defending champion, although that dynamic changed dramatically late in round four.
A right hand across the chin briefly froze Mendez, setting him up for a left hook and looping right hand to send him crashing to the canvas for the bout’s lone knockdown. Mendez recovered in time to make it to the bell, before taking over in round five.
The local favorite continued his attack in round six, but not before a clash of heads provided what would be the beginning of the end. Mendez sought to land left hands to the body, but his forehead clashed with Aragon’s face, leaving his challenger with a deep gash over his left eye.
Time was called to review the wound before action was permitted to continue. Aragon bravely soldiered on, though by round seven was no longer in a position to continue. The referee called time at the start of the round to once again have the cut examined. This time around, it was decided that he was done for the night.
Because the bell sounded to start the round, the partial frame was scored. With the fight having been extended past four rounds, a No-Contest was avoided and Mendez’s title reign kept intact.
The win advances the southpaw to 14-1 (6KOs), having now won four straight including a 12-round decision over Vic Saludar this past August in San Juan.
Aragon snaps a three-fight win streak, falling to 13-3-1 (8KOs).
With the win, Mendez is now just one of two Boricuas to officially hold a major title—with seven-division titlist Amanda Serrano being the other.
Saturday’s show streamed live on the Puerto Rico Best Boxing Promotions' legal website.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox