By Ryan Maquiñana at ringside
WOODLAND, CALIF. – A sellout crowd at the Woodland Senior Center witnessed a triumphant return for hometown hero Vicente Escobedo, who pounded out a surprising first-round stoppage of Lonnie Smith Saturday night.
Escobedo (25-3, 15 KOs) floored the Las Vegas-based Smith (14-3, 10 KOs) two times before a final flurry had his foe held up by the corner pad, prompting referee Ed Collantes to halt the bout.
Official time was 2:20.
“I thought it was going to go a couple rounds,” Escobedo said. “I noticed that once I hit him, I knew I was going to hurt him. I told myself to take my time, don’t get overwhelmed because he gets wild, counterpunched him, and knocked him out.”
Team Escobedo had worked on the right hand all camp long, and according to trainer Joel Diaz, it was executed to perfection.
“I knew Lonnie was coming in aggressive trying to bully Vicente,” Diaz said, “Lonnie was on him, trying to break him, but the main plan was to catch him on the way in. For this camp, we worked on locking the elbow and letting the right hand go, and you saw the results.”
Now Escobedo, who won a minor title in the process, has re-invented himself after a career at lightweight. According to sources within Golden Boy, “Chente” might be looking at a shot at 130-pound world titlist Adrien Broner next.
“Right now I’m going to do what I do best, and that’s train hard. I’m going to let my manager Rolando Arellano, my team, my brother, and Golden Boy handle things on the business end,” Escobedo said.
“[Vicente] looked like he could go in there and do the same to Adrien Broner,” said Rolando Arellano, his manager. “Adrien’s a great fighter, and we respect him. I like him. He’s a friend of Team [Victor] Ortiz, but you know what?
“Inside the ring, business is business, and I have to protect the interests of my client, which is Vicente Escobedo. That’s what I plan to do, and I would be willing to open up discussions with anyone regarding that…but we’re coming after that WBO belt. I want that s—t!”
The victor wanted to thank the Woodland fans for packing the venue to capacity.
“I blocked everything out and stayed focused on winning,” Escobedo said. “But being at home felt good, and maybe we can do it again in a bigger arena. For everyone here, thanks for coming out and supporting me, and you’ll be seeing Vicente again.”
The headliner highlighted an outstanding night of fights in Northern California and was promoted by Golden Boy in association with Don Chargin, Paco Presents, and Jorge Marron.
VICENTE ESCOBEDO TKO1 LONNIE SMITH
NABO Junior Lightweight Title
True to form, Smith, 130, opened his offense with a hellacious body attack and a handful of jabs that seemed to establish his presence to let Escobedo, 129, know he would be in for a long night.
But Escobedo would answer in a major way, launching two shots that hit Smith in the elbows, then digging to the body. He would follow that up with a right hand and left hook that would suddenly put Smith on the canvas. Smith would beat the count, but would soon find the floor a second time after a right cross from Escobedo hit paydirt.
After Smith recovered on shaky ground, Escobedo would then close the show with a furious flurry with Smith in the corner. The Las Vegas native valiantly tried to continue, but as he laid on the ropes in the midst of the thrashing, he was unable to retaliate on the way down, causing referee Ed Collantes to stop the fight.
MANUEL AVILA UD6 DAVID REYES
In a rematch of Avila’s narrow split decision win last October on the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson undercard, Reyes, 120, had no answer for “Tino” this time around. Avila, 118, from nearby Fairfield, Calif., didn’t look pretty en route to the win, but a collected, poised performance would be the theme for this win.
Reyes, from Los Angeles, possessed and awkward style that was evident from the opening bell, as he came out with herky-jerky head movement and a triple left hook, none of which landed but was a precursor of the cat-and-mouse game that would ensue. Avila would make Reyes pay for his recknessness landing several counters including a hard left hook inside. For his part, Reyes stepped in and swung for the fences, most of which did not connect. The Angeleno had some success bullying Avila on the ropes and throwing wide shots to the body, but Avila remained calm and closed the first round by sitting on a combination upstairs.
The shorter Reyes searched for a way inside to open the second frame, and he succeeded with a short right hand, followed by a wild flurry of shots to the midsection when Avila was stationary. But Avila shook it off and began to stalk Reyes, seemingly looking for one big shot. A cut began to surface in the area of Reyes’ right eye, and after the bell, his cutman furiously worked on it in the corner.
In the third, Avila hoped to assert himself by cutting off the ring and connecting with something substantial. But the slippery Reyes shifted left and right around the ring, not giving the house fighter something to hit. Finally, Avila found the target with a short left hook to the temple and a subsequent one-two, but for the most part Reyes was elusive, if not inactive. Reyes attempted to steal the round with two or three short left hands inside.
“Tino” entered the fourth with a sense of urgency and finally pressed the issue, leading to a spirited exchange where both men landed shots. Avila opened Reyes up with a quick left hook in the center of the ring that caused Reyes to clinch. Avila then strafed his foe with a straight right. Reyes tagged Avila with a right hand, but Avila would follow that with a right of his own that had more impact to end the frame.
With two rounds to go, it was clear that while Avila was the classier fighter, that Reyes was in great shape, and as a moving target, was making himself hard to find. Avila threw the jab and then hesitated before landing a counter right. Reyes then took a two-punch combination to the body as he backed up. The blood from Reyes’ eye now trickled down Avila’s white trunks.
The final three minutes commenced with a clinch. Reyes feinted and feinted, looking for an opening. Reyes threw two left hands that hit Avila’s gloves. The two traded left hooks, both landing but with minimal impact. Avila swung and missed with a wild left hook trying to catch the shuffling Reyes. Avila then went southpaw, using his jab as more of a range-finder and turning over the right hook, but none landed. After a slip by Reyes, another tie-up occurred, with Reyes hitting Avila with two short lefts. With three seconds left, both men unleashed their loads, with Avila seemingly getting the better of the exchange.
Marshall Walker saw it 59-55, while Marty Sammon and Mike Tate saw a 60-54 shutout.
“I was hoping it would be easier with the smaller ring,” Avila said about the rematch. “But the smaller the ring, the more moves he had, but I’m happy with the unanimous decision. (In retrospect) I’d probably listen to my corner more and go to the body.”
The 19-year-old Avila (7-0, 2 KOs) will reportedly fight on the Robert Guerrero-Selcuk Aydin undercard in San Jose on July 28. Reyes, a Los Angeles native, fell to 2-2, with both defeats being to Avila.
PAUL MENDEZ MAJORITY DRAW 6 DMITRY CHUDINOV
Mendez, from Delano, Calif., tipped the scales at 166, three over the contracted weight of 163 pounds. As a result, he forfeited 20 percent of his purse. Chudinov, 159.5, a native of Bratsk, Russia, was determined to make his foe pay for his transgression, and started the bout jabbing and throwing a lance of a right hand to the body. Chudinov’s diligence paid off as he ripped Mendez with a left hook downstairs that moved Mendez in a round that was clearly the Russian’s.
Chudinov continued to set the pace in round two, feinting with his high guard before exploding into his foe with a left hook to the body. Mendez now attempted to use his length to keep Chudinov at bay. But when Chudinov pushed the issue once more, Mendez dropped his hands and shook his head in defiance. One wondered if it would signal a wake-up call for Mendez, and while he would land the one-two and a couple uppercuts on the inside, Chudinov’s activity was the most resonant aspect of the stanza.
Mendez finally started strong in the third, sticking the left jab in Chudinov’s grill. He followed it up with a long left hook that found its target. Mendez also exhibited some new footwork, pivoting out of harm’s way when necessary. After the Bay Area fighter scored with a looping right, Chudinov seemed to stagger Mendez with a right uppercut. Almost on impact, Mendez’ legs began to show an ounce of wobble, but he bought some time by tying Chudinov up, recovering in time for the bell.
Chudinov wasted no time in the fourth, reaching forward and clipping Mendez with a left jab and reaching right over the top. Mendez hoped his jab would curtail the Chudinov’s attacks, but the Russian was undeterred. With his corner pleading to cut off the distance, Chudinov marched into Mendez, throwing a hard right that scored right through the guard. But Mendez had an answer, with two consecutive three-punch combos to the head and a quick left uppercut inside doing damage. Chudinov retaliated with a three-punch salvo upstairs. Mendez beat his chest once more, daring Chudinov to resume his assault.
The two traded to open the fifth, with Chudinov landing a crushing right with Mendez on the ropes. Mendez backed up, putting his gloves up while Chudinov teed off. Ultimately, Mendez showed he was not hurt and soon got the action back to the center of the ring. Mendez seemed to control the pace the rest of the round, blocking Chudinov’s punches and landing the cleaner blows.
With the fight up for the grabs in the final round, the question became who would connect with the sharper shots. That man would be Mendez in the early going, with left hooks and right hands clubbing the Russian. But Chudinov’s will kept him coming forward, and he landed a few shots to Mendez’ midsection, although they seemed to have lost their steam and this point in the clash. Mendez’ rise in activity combined with Chudinov tiring late might have been the difference in the bout.
Marty Sammon and Marshall Walker scored it 57-57, while Mike Tate had it 58-56 for Chudinov,
“He caught me a couple times, but his power really didn’t hurt me,” Mendez said. “I felt I outboxed him as the fight wore on. I also moved my head more in the later rounds, but I didn’t think he beat me.”
“I’m sad, because I think maybe only one round was close,” Chudinov retorted. “He’s a tall guy, but he stayed in one place, so I thought I landed more and won the rounds.”
Mendez went to 7-2-1 with two stoppages, while Chudinov took the first blemish on his record, going to 6-0-1 with three knockouts.
JONATHAN CHICAS MD4 EPHRAIM MARTINEZ
For weeks, the San Francisco-based Chicas, 140, searched for an opponent until Martinez, 137, took the call and the trip north from Buttonwillow, Calif.
Although Chicas would eventually continue his unbeaten run, however, Martinez would endear himself to the crowd with a game effort in a very close majority decision win in favor of the Bay Area boxer-puncher.
Immediately, Chicas tested the body, throwing a looping right to the midsection. For his part, Martinez got on the backfoot and hoped to circle to his left against his similarly orthodox foe, pumping his left jab.
But Chicas had other ideas, working his one-two, lead rights, and even the occasional left uppercut inside when he got Martinez on the ropes.
Surprisingly, the smaller Martinez turned into the aggressor midway through the round, throwing a lead right that caught an off-balance Chicas on the button to highlight the first.
The next round would begin with Martinez catching Chicas darting in with a left hook. Chicas returned fire with a left hook to the ribcage and a left uppercut on the inside. The fight then went to a phone booth, with both men leaning on each other, taking turns to muster some offense. Perhaps frustrated with Martinez’ refusal to go away, Chicas used his right arm to hurl Martinez into the blue corner—for which he received a warning from referee Dan Stell.
A motivated Chicas began the third round with the resolve take Martinez out, and a left hook followed by an overhand right scored to the crowd’s approval. But Martinez was not interested in taking a knee, and came forward with lead rights of his own to elicit return applause. Chicas then showed some boxing skills, slipping and connecting with a left hook. Martinez then pressed forward, landing a right to the body. The two continued to trade clean blows throughout in what became a close round to score.
In the fourth and final round, Chicas got on his toes and aimed to throw the left hook off a double jab. Martinez stuck a left jab between the guard in the process. The taller Chicas put Martinez in his crosshairs, and finally, a right hand snapped Martinez’ head back, pushing him into the ropes. But Martinez showed no signs of being hurt, and continued to come forward.
Martinez would soon follow Chicas around the ring, pawing his jab out there almost as if to blind his foe. But Chicas would respond with a three-punch combination on the ropes, followed by a one-two. Chicas reverted to his body attack, and his shots would be heard throughout the venue. As the fight came to a close, an appreciative crowd let the combatants know how they felt.
Marshall Walker had it 38-38, but was overruled by Marty Sammon and Mike Tate, 39-37.
“We didn’t know much about him, and he took my shots,” Chicas said. “In any case, I wanted to finish with a big bang, but I couldn’t take him out, so I turned to my jab to get the victory.”
Chicas, a former sparring partner for Andre Berto, rose to 5-0 with three knockouts. Martinez, who had recently campaigned at junior featherweight in his last bout two years ago, dropped to 4-2, 1 KO.
HARRY GOPAUL TKO2 PAYTON BOYEA
The night began In a battle of former sparring partners from nearby Sacramento, Gopaul, 174.5, earned his first win as a pro over Boyea, 172, who was making his debut.
Mere moments after the opening bell, Gopaul made no mystery of his strategy, rushing in and whiffing with an overhand right. However, Boyea would counter off the ropes and immediately floor Gopaul with a counter right and left hook behind it. Gopaul rose to his feet, but took a few steps back to get his bearings.
Gopaul came forward once more, this time feinting and going to the body. However, he did it with his head down, and Boyea would catch him again with a series of shots, namely a short, chopping right hand and the occasional left hook.
Round two unsuspectingly started with more of the same, as Gopaul looked to establish the one-two. After landing one such combination, he succeeded in getting Boyea on the ropes. The tide began to turn seconds after a big left hook, at whih point Gopaul went to work, wailing away with Boyea on the ropes.
Now in trouble, Boyea was faced with the prospect of withstanding a big flurry from Gopaul, but would be unable to weather the storm. Left uppercuts, body shots, and one more straight right to the jaw sent Boyea sailing through the ropes. He would tumble right next to this writer sitting ringside, landing flat on the table. Seconds later, he would get to his feet and re-enter the ring, but by then, the end was academic. Two body shots and one more shot upstairs decked Boyea once more. Boyea got up but stumbled toward referee Ed Collantes, who determined the debutant could no longer continue.
Official time was 2:02.
“My coach told me to use the left hook and come with the overhand right, and that’s what we were working on,” Gopaul said. “He caught me with a shot because I got sloppy. When he went through the ring, he was hurt, so I just started really hitting him with shots.”
Boyea moved to 0-1, while Gopaul (1-2, 1 KO) entered the win column.
The main event and co-features aired on TeleFutura’s “Solo Boxeo Tecate” series.
Ryan Maquiñana writes a weekly column for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (CSNBayArea.com). He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and Ring Magazine’s Ratings Panel. E-mail him at [email protected] , check out his blog at norcalboxing.net or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.