SAN DIEGO – Souleymane Cissokho fended off a determined knockout artist to box his way to victory.
The 2016 Olympic Bronze medalist and current junior middleweight prospect from France traded knockdowns with Agua Prieta, Mexico’s Valenzuela en route to a ten-round, unanimous decision win. Judge Zachary Young (100-90) had Cissokho winning every round, while judged Raul Caiz Sr. (99-91) and Dr. Lou Moret (99-91) found just one round each to give to Valenzuela in their DAZN opener Saturday evening at Pechanga Arena in San Diego, California.
Cissokho entered the fight confident of it serving as a springboard to a title shot he feels is well within reach. Valenzuela came fully intended to ruin those plans, not showing any regard for the unbeaten Cissokho’s lofty credentials or his career trajectory.
Action was intense in the early rounds, with Valenzuela—who entered having only gone the distance just once through 21 pro fights—applying constant pressure and enjoying success with his right hand. Cissokho—who trains under renowned cornerman Virgil Hunter—did his best to turn the fight into a boxing match, offering constant lateral movement in hopes of keeping Valenzuela at bay.
It wouldn’t take.
The threat of an upset surfaced in round four, when Cissokho was pinned along the ropes courtesy of a right hand by Valenzuela. An ensuing left hook to the body and right hand upstairs sent Cissokho to the canvas and nearly out of the ring in suffering the second knockdown of his career. The 30-year-old Senegalese-Frenchman recovered but immediately circled the ring in an effort to regain his legs.
Valenzuela went on the hunt, only to become the prey. A counter right hand by Cissokho put Valenzuela flat on his back, briefly quieting the rabid pro-Mexican crowd on hand. Valenzuela rose to his feet inside of the eight count and appeared to be clearheaded by the end of the round.
The fight returned to the scouting report of boxer versus puncher in round five. Valenzuela continued to come forward, while Cissokho used every inch of the ring to avoid running out of space and getting caught in an inside fight.
Valenzuela had Cissokho on wobbly legs late in round seven after spending most of the second half to that point stalking the fleet-footed unbeaten prospect. A brief exchange early in round eight saw Cissokho enjoy brief success, only for Valenzuela to twice drop his hands and dare his foe to engage. Cissokho used Valenzuela’s confidence to his advantage, touching him with counter left hooks while constantly circling to his opponent’s left.
Cissokho was able to box down the stretch, while Valenzuela seemed to lack a backup plan once his opponent refused to remain stationary. The tactic allowed Cissokho to advance to 15-0 (9KOs), while Valenzuela falls to 19-3 (19KOs) and is now 0-2 in fights that go to the scorecards.
Cissokho-Valenzuela opened a four-fight DAZN telecast. In the evening’s main event, former four-division champion Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez (50-3, 41KOs) faces WBC flyweight titlist Julio Cesar ‘El Rey’ Martinez (18-1, 14KOs; 2ND) whose title is not at stake.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox