By Francisco Salazar
Fighting as an underdog and a long way from his hometown, Ricardo Espinoza did not want to leave the result in the hands of the judges.
Espinoza overcame a sluggish start to stop bantamweight contender Daniel Lozano Friday night at the Bryan Glazer Family JCC Auditorium in Tampa, Florida.
It was an upset victory on the part of Espinoza as Lozano entered the fight ranked number four by the WBO. Lozano was also the favorite having faced the better opposition between the two. Friday night also marked the first time Espinoza, who resides in Tijuana, Mexico, had been scheduled to fight in a 10 round bout.
The battle between the two punchers favored Lozano in the opening stanza, as he walked Espinoza down and connected with the sharper punches.
Both fighters threw and connected with several combinations that simultaneously stunned each other midway through the second round. Moments later, a barrage of punches against the ropes dropped Lozano to the canvas, where he stood up and bravely fought back.
Moments later, a left hook followed by a right cross dropped Lozano a second time to the canvas. Lozano was able to beat the count, but his corner stood on the canvas, waving for referee Frank Gentile to stop the fight and save Lozano from receiving further punishment at 2:30.
Espinoza has won his last 11 fights since losing an eight round split decision to Christian Nieto Ayala in May of last year.
"I studied him from films of his previous fights and during the opening round," said Espinoza after the fight. "He would look to knock out his opponents, but I used that against him. I did feel his hooks when he connected, but I had to hold my ground and connect as well. I was prepared to go the 10 rounds or go for the knockout."
Lozano (15-5, 11 KOs), who hails from nearby Bowling Green, has now lost four of his last six bouts.
Fringe featherweight contender Hairon Socarras of Miami won a one-sided decision over former bantamweight contender Jose Nieves (22-5-3, 11 KOs) of Puerto Rico.
Scores were 100-90, 100-90, and 99-91 in favor of Socarras, who goes to 19-0-3, 12 KOs,
Bantamweight Edwin Rodriguez outboxed Santiago Arroyo (6-1-1, 3 KOs) over six rounds to win a unanimous decision.
Rodriguez was the more sharper and consistent puncher throughout the night, landing lead or counter right hands to the head of Arroyo.
Scores were 58-56, 58-56, and 59-55 for Rodriguez, who improves to 10-5, 5 KOs.
Featherweight Juan Carlos Rivera stopped Luis Hinojosa (31-15, 18 KOs) of the Dominican Republic to run his record to 15-0, 10 KOs. Rivera is of Puerto Rican descent and resides in nearby Orlando.
Lightweight Nestor Bravo (14-0, 10 KOs) won by knockout after the first round after Isaias Cardona (24-14, 16 KOs) did not answer the bell for the second round, citing an injured hand.
Junior lightweight Felix Santana (3-0, 3 KOs) knocked out Tommy Logan (4-3, 3 KOs) in the opening round.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing