By Jake Donovan
Randy Caballero failed to win the battle at the scales for the second straight time, but managed to remain unbeaten in the ring. His first fight in 16 months came Friday evening, scoring a 7th round corner stoppage of Ruben Garcia in front of a sold-out, hometown crowd at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.
The former bantamweight champion scored three knockdowns on the night, flooring Garcia in round six and twice in round seven. The one-sided affair ended with Garcia on a stool, declared unfit to continue prior to the start of round eight of their main event, which aired live on Estrella TV and also simulcast on RingTVLive.com.
It was the first fight back for Caballero (now 23-0, 14KOs) following a forgettable bantamweight title reign marred by injuries and weight struggles. His 12-round win over Stuart Hall in Oct. '14 on the road in Monaco - his second consecutive fight outside of the United States - marked his lone title fight, suffering an injury prior to a planned homecoming title defense last February.
With the healing process came the ordered showdown with interim titlist Lee Haskins, which was due to take place last November. The bout was granted a premium spot, scheduled to air as part of a “free-view” telecast just prior to the start of an HBO Pay-Per-View telecast that was topped by Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’ 12-round World middleweight championship winning effort over Miguel Cotto.
Unfortunately for Caballero, his role was downgraded from participant to spectator after showing up more than full division over the bantamweight limit. The commission deemed it a health hazard in any attempt to shed more than five pounds, resulting in his losing his title at the scales.
Friday’s show was supposed to represent redemption for Caballero and Frankie Gomez, an unbeaten boxer from East LA who suffered a similarly train wreck-like 2015 campaign. Whereas Gomez was given the benefit of making a catchweight well above the super lightweight division where he intends to once again campaign, Caballero had to modify his contracted weight from the 122 lb. super bantamweight limit to 124 lbs. on the day of the weigh-in.
It turned out to be the worst part of the week, as he proceeded to dish out a one-sided beating versus Garcia, whom he admittedly knew little about heading into to the night. He got to know his foe once the bell sounded, having little difficulty in controlling the tempo.
Garcia (15-2-1, 6KOs) was fighting outside of his native Mexico for the third straight fight, all coming in a span of just over three months. His stateside debut resulted in his first career loss, dropping a competitive eight round decision to Rafael Rivera last October in California.
There was no such luck this time around, as the gap in class was as apparent from the outset. Caballero shook off a few competitive moments to take the fight to Garcia, landing in combination and also scoring with damaging body shots. Garcia hit the deck in round six, managing to beat the count only to suffer two more knockdowns in a disastrous round seven that beat the fight out of him.
“It feels so great to be back,” Caballero (23-0, 14KOs) said of his first fight back in well over a year. “I felt strong and in control the whole time and glad I was able to shake off some of the ring rust. I am glad I was able to share this victory with my hometown and have them witness my return to the ring.
“I know I delivered a great fight, and I am ready for the next challenge. I want to become a world champion again, and I know the opportunity is coming soon.”
For now, the next challenge remains his proving he can make weight as he pursues a title in a second weight division in campaigning as a super bantamweight.
In the evening’s co-feature, Gomez scored a 10-round decision over Silverio Ortiz. Scores were 100-90 across the board for Gomez. There were no knockdowns in the bout, although Ortiz (34-17, 16KOs) was forced to take a knee in round nine after a stray punch caught him in the left thigh.
Gomez’ biggest victory was building the foundation towards regaining the trust of Golden Boy Promotions as well as Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach.
His 2015 campaign was spent ignoring contracted weights with reckless abandon. The troubled prospect blew a big opportunity to fight on HBO in chief support to Alvarez’ 3rd round knockout of James Kirkland – the most viewed cable TV fight of 2015 and the most-watched HBO fight since 2006 – when he was massively over the limit for a planned crossroads bout with Humberto Soto last May.
The fight was rightfully canceled and he was fortunate to have not suffered the same fate in showing up heavy for an eventual 10-round shutout over Jorge Silva last October, which aired live from this very venue and also as part of the Boxeo Estelar series.
Leading into his fight with Ortiz, Gomez (20-0, 13KOs) was required to regularly weigh in at Golden Boy’s office in Los Angeles, no longer operating on the merit system. It ensured his making weight on Thursday, though still a bit too beefy in barely making the 145 lb. catchweight limit. The intention is to rededicate himself and shrink back down to the super lightweight division.
“I felt very strong in the ring and felt in complete control throughout the fight,” Gomez said after the fight. “I am happy with the decision (win); it's another victory on my record.
“Ortiz was a tough guy, he was taking a lot of hits. He definitely earned my respect, but I am here to win and become a world champion.”
Appearing on the undercard, Shane Mosley Jr. – son of former three-division world champion Shane Sr., who was ringside – managed his third straight win with a unanimous decision over late replacement Daniel Henry. The four-round affair marked the first decision win for Mosley (5-1, 4KOs), whose only other distance fight was the lone loss of his career, which came in Sept. ’14.
Hector Tanajera Jr. (5-0, 3KOs) scored a six-round decision over Clay Burns (3-1-1, 3KOs) in their televised swing bout. Scores were 60-53 across the board for San Antonio’s Tanajera Jr., who dropped Burns in round five.
Rocco Santomuro (13-0, 1 KO) earned a six-round nod over Tijuana’s Jose Estrella (14-10-1, 10 KOs). Scores were 59-55 (twice) and 58-56 in an entertaining bantamweight scrap.
Local prospect Neeco "Rooster" Macias (11-0, 6 KOs) remains perfect after battering Paul Mpendo (8-14-4, 4 KOs) into submission after the 5th round of their scheduled six-round super welterweight bout.
Alberto Fundora (7-0, 3 KOs) delivered the quickest win of the night, knocking out Mexico’s Cesar Ruiz (2-3, 1 KOs) in the 2nd round of their super middleweight affair. Fundora – who hails from Caballero’s hometown of Coachella, Calif. – put Ruiz down and out for the full ten count, with the end coming at 1:56 of round two.
Opening the show was local debutant Jesus Sanchez (1-0, 1KOs), who stopped Gibran Gutierrez in two rounds. Sanchez – trained by Joel Diaz – was in control for the entirety of the brief affair before forcing the stoppage at 2:48 of round two.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox