Junior welterweight prospect Pablo Cesar Cano managed to keep his undefeated record intact, but endured a tougher time than expected in squeaking out a split decision over faded former title challenger Oscar Leon, Friday evening at Auditorio Plaza Condesa in Mexico City.
Scores were 96-94 (twice) Cano and 96-94 Leon in the ten-round bout that served as televised main event for the most recent edition of Telefutura Solo Boxeo Tecate.
At just 20 years young, the learning curve still applies in the career of Cano, who turned pro as a teenager four years ago. On paper, this served as the toughest test of his young career, which explained his reluctance to open up in the early rounds, fighting nothing like the knockout artist his record suggested.
Leon didn’t exactly try to intimidate the local prospect some 16 years his junior. The Colombian spent the first two rounds circling backwards, searching for openings that never presented themselves. Meanwhile, Cano was scoring points by boxing smartly, working behind a jab and right hand, though often wild with his left hook on the occasions he elected to throw it.
Action picked up in the third round, when Leon sensed a hesitant fighter in front of him and decided to fight like a 14-year veteran with nothing to lose. The southpaw worked his way inside and scored with straight lefts and right hooks, putting Cano on the defensive while riding out the storm.
Cano escaped unscathed and went to work in the fourth round, only for action to slow after Leon was clipped with a shot well south of the border. The bout resumed, but fans looking for a fight instead watched a boxing match break out. Cano remained in his envelope while Leon struggled to convince the Mexican to stand and trade.
As the rounds wore on, the question would be whether Cano would step on the gas and try to make a statement, or simply settle for ‘win today, look good the next time.’ Sadly, the latter applied.
Far more posing than trading took place in the second half of the ten-round fight. Leon was way down on the cards but seemed content to last the distance rather than go all out in search of an upset.
Cano occasionally tried to close the gap and land a lead right or anything beyond a basic combination, but his inexperience showed as he failed to properly cut off the ring, allowing Leon to slip the punches and with little in the way of a follow-up effort.
After nine rounds of sleepwalking, both fighters opened up in the 10th and final round, much to the delight of the action-thirsty crowd on hand. Chants of “Me-Xi-Co” developed in hopes of igniting Cano, who spent much of the round flat-footed while firing lead rights and left hooks from the center of the ring. Some landed, though Leon stopped moving and remained close enough to return fire.
At the very least, it was a satisfactory ending to an otherwise disinteresting affair. The bout ultimately served its purpose, though not without some surprising drama on the cards, as the hometown kid was forced to settle for a split nod. Leon’s aggression was rewarded on one scorecard, though the other two ringside officials got it right and delivered Cano the 20th win of his young career (20-0-1, 15KO).
Leon heads home to Colombia having dropped his fourth straight and ninth of his last ten as he falls to 28-13 (18KO).
While Cano remains unbeaten, what he failed to earn in the process was respect and the demand for repeated viewings, especially for East Coast viewers who hung around for the midnight start time. Perhaps the next time will tell a different tale, as he turns 21 in October. As he advances from boy to man in terms of age, one can only hope that the same eventually applies in the ring as well.
PERIDAN BLUDGEONS NAUGLER
The televised co-feature saw another local fighter win, only this one made a statement as Marco Antonio Periban boxed and slugged his way to a fifth round stoppage win over veteran Jason Naugler in their eight-round super middleweight contest.
Peridan fought balls-to-the-wall early on, throwing everything and the kitchen sink in his greatest efforts to become just the second fighter to stop the sturdy chinned Naugler. The two fought at close quarters in the early rounds, allowing Peridan to launch a series of straight rights and lefts upstairs while Naugler covered up and did his best to absorb the blows.
The American paid the price for showing his fighting heart; Naugler’s face began to swell as early as the third round, while Peridan offered a healthy mix of power punches to the head and body. Things only went from bad to worse for Naugler, who was twice examined by ringside officials as the cuts and swelling around his left eye grew more grotesque.
There was certainly no quit in Naugler, who insisted every time someone examined him, “I’m fine, I can continue.” Ultimately it was the third man who decided that enough was enough, determining that the American had reached a point where he was taking unnecessary punishment.
The official time was 1:37 of the fifth round.
Peridan improves to 8-0 (5KO); Naugler drops his sixth straight in falling to 18-13-1 (11KO).
The show was presented by Golden Boy Promotions and Promociones Deportivas.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at [email protected]