Miguel Angel Marrero rode a second half surge to produce a successful stateside debut.

A battle of rebounding lightweights saw Marrero overcome a slow start to push past Mexicali’s Victor Betancourt Jr. via unanimous decision. Scores were 97-93, 96-94 and 95-94 in favor of Marrero in Friday’s Boxeo Telemundo main event from Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee, Florida.

Both boxers made their series debut and took a similar approach in fighting behind the jab in the early going. Betancourt was able to control the action in the opening round, immediately cutting off the ring and forcing Marrero to fight at close range. Neither fighter was at a significant offensive advantage, though Betancourt enjoyed occasional success with left hook to the body off the jab.

Marrero picked up the pace in round two, finding his rhythm in his first fight in more than two years. The Manati, Puerto Rico native worked his right hand upstairs as Betancourt continued to work the body. Mild success was enjoyed by Marrero, though not so much with his left hook which often sailed over the top. Betancourt employed a tight defense, shooting a crisp jab but not following up with anything of substance.

Body work by Marrero provided a momentum shift in round three. Unsuccessful with his left hook upstairs, the Boricua prospect took the attack downstairs, forcing Betancourt to fight in reverse for the first time in their competitive affair.

Betancourt served as the aggressor in round four, landing with one-twos and forcing Marrero to cover up which nullified the Puerto Rican’s offensive output. A similar trend developed early in round five, only for time to be called due to a clash of heads. The sequence served as a wakeup call for Marrero, who was able to force the pace and keep Betancourt as his desired distance where he was able to get full leverage on his long jab.

Action swayed back and forth in the middle rounds. Neither boxer was able to mount a sustained attack, with both enjoying pockets of success before quickly conceding the lead. Betancourt gained the upper hand in round seven, constantly working his jab and following with right hands.

Marrero gained his second wind at the right time, taking over the fight in round eight. Betancourt struggled to keep pace with Marrero’s increased activity, employing a jab-and-grab approach in efforts to slow down his foe.

A controversial ruling in round nine cost Marrero a knockdown in a razor-thin affair to that point. An exchange at center ring saw Marrero buzz Betancourt with an overhand right. A follow-up left hook prompted Betancourt to clinch and eventually fall to a knee. The Mexican veteran was able to sell the referee on a headbutt that never took place, much to the dismay of Marrero who was confused over the absence of a mandatory eight-count.

Marrero didn’t let the sequence discourage him, closing strong in the tenth and final round. It was enough to seal a well-earned victory, as Marrero improved to 10-1-2, 4KOs. Betancourt falls to 27-4 (14KOs), his record now 3-2 outside of Mexico.

In undercard action, unbeaten light heavyweight contender Meng Fanlong won a ten-round decision over Israel Duffus. Scores were 97-93, 97-93 and 96-94 in favor of China’s Fanlong in their off-TV bout.

Fanlong (17-0, 10KOs) was fighting for the first time since October 2019, when he took a stay-busy fight in anticipation of a mandatory title fight versus defending lineal/WBC/IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev. The championship clash was delayed several times due to the pandemic, with Fanlong losing out on the opportunity altogether due to travel restrictions.

Beterbiev proceeded with his title defense in March, scoring a tenth-round knockout over Adam Deines whom Fanlong outpointed in June 2019 to become the mandatory challenger. Fanlong—who is advised by Tommy Lane and now fights under Garry Jonas’ ProBox Promotions—hopes to fall back in line for a shot at Beterbiev in 2022.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox