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Franco, Ortiz shine on Canelo-Smith undercard

Joshua Franco (L) connects with a hook en route to stopping Brian Bazan in the fourth round on the Canelo Alvarez-Liam Smith undercard on Sept. 17, 2016. Photo Stacey Verbeek / Golden Boy Promotions
Fighters Network

ARLINGTON, Texas – Virgil Ortiz, the one local fighter on the Canelo Alvarez-Liam Smith undercard, and Joshua Franco turned in exciting performances for the early arriving crowd at AT&T Stadium on Saturday.

Ortiz (2-0, 2 knockouts), a rangy junior welterweight prospect from the Grand Prairie/Dallas area, made short work of Ernesto Hernandez (1-4, 1 KO), of El Paso, stopping the journeyman early in the opening round of their scheduled four rounder. The 18-year-old former junior amateur standout has a reputation of being a vicious puncher and he lived up to it by dropping Hernandez cold with the first combination he landed.

Franco (7-0, 4 KOs), a former amateur star from San Antonio, was not known for his punching prowess coming into his scheduled six-round bout against capable Brian Bazan (9-3, 6 KOs), of Mexico City, but the bantamweight prospect caused fans inside the arena and those watching a stream of the fight to take notice of his power.

Franco, a 20-year-old technician trained by Robert Garcia in Southern California, overcame a wobbly moment in the opening round and took the fight to his taller, rangier opponent in Round 2, before scoring two knockdowns in Round 3 and a brutal finisher 19 seconds into Round 4. Each knockdown was produced by a left uppercut delivered with perfect timing, textbook technique and maximum leverage.

Between knockdowns, Franco put on a pressure-fighting clinic, quickly closing distance behind a stiff jab and varied three-and-four-punch combinations that landed to Bazan’s body and head.

Also on the undercard, former welterweight contender Sadam Ali (23-1, 13 KOs) had a tougher-than-expected time outpointing Saul Corral (21-8, 12 KOs), of Agua Prieta, Mexico, over 10 brisk rounds.

Ali, who suffered the first loss of his pro career in his last bout – a ninth-round stoppage to Jessie Vargas in a bid for the vacant WBO title in March – scored a knockdown in Round 4 and controlled the distance well over the first half of the bout, but Corral pressed him hard down the stretch and had moments when he buzzed the 27-year-old New Yorker with overhand rights.

Another New York-area standout, Zachary Ochoa (16-0, 7 KOs) scored an eight-round unanimous decision over game-but-outclassed Daniel Montoya (11-5, 8 KOs), of Tamaulipas, Mexico. The 23-year-old Brooklyn native beat Montoya to the punch and blocked-and-countered well throughout the fight but was not able to drop or buzz his lesser-talented opponent.
Lightweight prospect Hector Tanajara Jr (7-0, 4 KOs), of San Antonio, easily outpointed very late-sub Roy Garcia (3-20-1, 2 KOs), of Alice, Texas, over four rounds.

London-area cruiserweight prospect Anthony Yarde (8-0, 7 KOs) lived up to the hype of being a “Nigel Benn-style” puncher by brutally separating journeyman Rayford Johnson (11-22, 5 KOs), of Longview, Texas, from his senses with a crisp and compact lead left hook in the opening round of their scheduled six rounder.

Alexis Salazar (8-3, 3 KOs), one of Canelo Alvarez’s sparring partners for the Smith fight, scored a sloppy six-round unanimous decision over veteran journeyman Larry Smith (10-29-1, 6 KOs). Salazar, a training project of Alvarez’s trainer/manager Chepo Reynoso, started strong by winging looping power shots to the pesky opponent’s body and head but quickly ran out of steam and was visibly gassed by the fourth round.