By Jake Donovan
Roberto Garcia rode a mid-rounds surge and an untimely point deduction to score a narrow split decision win over Norberto Gonzalez in their 10-round headliner Friday evening in Chicago, Illinois.
Gonzalez won 96-93 on one card, but was overruled by matching cards of 95-94 for Garcia in their ESPN2 Friday Night Fights main event.
The early rounds held a similar pattern; Gonzalez was by far the busier fighter, but Garcia effective during the rare moment he chose to let his hands go. A single looping left hook briefly stunned Gonzalez just before the bell to end round one, but came after Garcia was thoroughly outboxed for the first 2:59 of the opening frame.
Garcia picked up the pace in round three, bullying his way inside and prompting Gonzalez to use every inch of the ring in his best effort to box from the outside. The strategy was a momentum changer, in addition to forcing Gonzalez to unnecessarily expend energy.
Action tailed off in the middle rounds but picked up steam once Gonzalez was forced to stand and trade. The 32-year old Mexican arrived in phenomenal shape, which served him well once it came time to dig deep for his second wind.
Garcia threatened to pull away late in the fight, only for a familiar face in the Friday Night Fights series to become a factor in the bout.
Overbearing and vocal referee Celestino Ruiz, with a history of making himself part of the story, interrupted a rally by the Texan to dock him a point for using his shoulder to bump Gonzalez into effective punching range. It is illegal though a common gym move, and rarely a determining factor in a prize fight.
Ruiz, who a year ago infamously gained noteriety for his profanity-riddled dictating of the first fight between Artur Szpilka and Mike Mollo, decided the tactic was enough to give Garcia an unfair advantage, momentarily stopping the fight to deduct a point at a time when Garcia was well in control of the contest.
The instance breathed new life into Gonzalez' game, with a fight that appeared to slip away suddenly swing back in his favor. Both fighters had their say in the closing minutes of the fight, with plenty of two-way action to give the modest yet vocal crowd their money's worth.
Still, it was the cleaner punching from Garcia that ultimatley won over two of the three judges.
The point deduction created nervous moments for the veteran gatekeeper, but the narrow win extends his current win streak to six in a row as he improves to 34-3 (22KO). Garcia's last loss came in May '10, a night that served as the last official win in the career of Antonio Margarito, who was coming off of a year-long suspension at the time.
Gonzalez snaps a two-fight win streak with the defeat, falling to 20-3 (13KO).
The televised co-feature saw unbeaten Kamil Laszczyk ride a first round knockdown all the way to the finish line, scoring a unanimous decision over Daniel Diaz.
Scores were 79-72 (twice) and 78-73 in the eight round affair, which seemed to lose steam as the fight went on, save for a few brief exchanges.
A relatively even opening round quickly turned into a sizeable lead for Laszczyk, when a right hand put Diaz on the canvas for the bout's lone knockdown.
In the televised opener, Erickson Lubin was extended the full length of the first round for the first time in his young career. However, the 18-year old wasn't required to fight any longer than three minutes, as Roberto Acevedo decided to quit prior to the start of round two.
No knockdowns were scored in the brief affair, though a marathon compared to Lubin's previous two contests to date, which lasted a combined 96 seconds. The southpaw was forced to contend with Acevedo's constant holding and clinching, with the Puerto Rican clubfighter losing a point midway through the opening round for excessive holding.
Lubin heard the bell to end the opening round for the first time in his career, but would next hear a chorus of boos when it was learned that his opponent was done for the night. Citing an injured hand in his inability (or perhaps refusal) to continue, Acevedo informed the referee and ringside physician that he was done for the evening.
The official time was 0:01 of round two.
Acevedo is now at .500, falling to 13-13-3 (1KO).
Lubin, meanwhile, cruises to 3-0 (3KO) since his pro debut last November. The Floridian signed with Iron Mike Productions - its name borne from the face of the company, former heavyweight king Mike Tyson - last October, on his 18th birthday, rather than sticking in the amateurs for another two years until the 2016 Summer Olympics.
His last appearance came one month ago, in the 2014 season premiere of Friday Night Fights. The plan is to keep him active throughout the frigid winter, with fights tentatively scheduled for February 22 in Bethlehem, Penn. and March 7 in Washington D.C.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox