Saturday, March 25, 2023  |



Robinson Castellanos scores upset, stops Gamboa in seven

Robinson Castellanos (right) punches Yuriorkis Gamboa during their WBA elimination bout in May 2017. (Photo by Tom Hogan / Hoganphotos-Golden Boy Promotions)

LAS VEGAS – Once the dust settled from an enthusiastic weigh-in hours beforehand, Robinson Castellanos pulled off an upset of Yuriorkis Gamboa Friday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The lightweight contest was the main event of a card televised on ESPN2.

After seven full rounds of getting beat to the punch by a bigger man and being put on the canvas twice, Gamboa didn’t get off his stool to answer the eighth bell, resulting in a technical knockout win for the Mexican veteran from Celaya.

“I felt super dizzy, and felt like I couldn’t go on,” said Gamboa (26-2, 17 knockouts) afterward. “We trained hard.”

Gamboa, 35, just didn’t have the fast hands that brought success in the amateur and pro ranks. As early as the first round, the Cuban was getting tagged often with Castellanos unleashing his right hand off the jab. The distance he kept prevented Gamboa from finding his range, and at the end of the third round, Gamboa was dropped hard by one of those rights. Getting up on wobbly legs, the bell saved him right after the referee’s count.

Hoganphotos-Golden Boy Promotions

Early in the fourth, an overhand right from Castellanos sent Gamboa to the mat again. Gamboa somehow survived the round by forcing a clinch and skipping around the ring when he could, but his situation looked dire. Starting in the fifth round, however, Castellanos let Gamboa back in the fight. The 35-year-old eased off his attack, and that let Gamboa regain his legs and start to find his lead right. The fight slowed down tremendously through Round 6, but Castellanos began to find that right hand again in the seventh, and after three minutes of getting peppered on the outside, Gamboa had had enough.

“I am super happy and excited to get such a big win,” said Castellanos, who was visibly emotional after it. “I won against a revered Olympian, and this win puts my career back on track after my last fight. This win is the opportunity that I needed, and it’s because of the incredible team around me.”

Castellanos (24-12, 14 KOs) indeed breathed new life into his later career and could very well find himself in another big fight, possibly vying for a world title.

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In the co-feature, Jesus Rojas upset Abraham Lopez with an eighth-round stoppage victory after scoring three knockdowns. The featherweight contest was scheduled for eight.

Lopez, the house fighter, had no problem firing off combinations early in the fight, but he also had no issue with keeping his hands down, and that became a consistent detriment to his success. In the second, a Rojas right hand found the Lopez’s chin and dropped him to the canvas. The La Puente, California, native went for broke in the next round, and his toe-to-toe aggression sparked a back-and-forth war.

That style of fight played into Rojas’ favor. The Puerto Rican had felt the extent of Lopez’s power and he was getting the better of the exchanges. In the fourth, Rojas bloodied Lopez’s nose before forcing him to take a knee for a knockdown. For about half the round left, Lopez, 29, had to survive, but was still willing to try and land a body shot that would turn the tide.

Both fighters seemed to tire in the fifth, but Rojas took control of the fight going forward. With an obvious advantage in power, Rojas continued to land big right hands and left hooks on Lopez, and had he cut off the ring better, the fight could’ve been over with earlier. It was more of the same leading up the eighth round, where consecutive right hands forced Lopez to his knees for the knockdown. Lopez got up, but continued to get tagged with clean shots with his left hand still down. Referee Tony Weeks decided to step in moments later with Lopez on his feet, but there wasn’t a single argument in the place, including from Abraham.

“It’s tough to swallow, I’m still processing it, but it happens,” said Lopez (22-1-1, 15 KOs) after his first defeat. “After this, I know I’m going to go back to the drawing board and start training hard again.”

“It’s going to be about three years since I’ve fought in the U.S.,” said Rojas (25-1-2, 18 KOs). “This win is the opportunity to be on the global stage and take on world champions. I promised my father that I would become a world champion, and even though he is not with me anymore I carry on our dream. I hope that by the end of the year, I am competing for an interim title or even a world championship.”

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Vergil Ortiz Jr. got himself a knockout win after unleashing a tremendous right uppercut that hurt Angel Sarinana enough to warrant a third-round stoppage. The junior welterweight contest was scheduled for four rounds.

Ortiz (5-0, 5 KOs) got off to a fiery start in his television debut, stalking his Mexican counterpart with powerful overhand rights and left hooks to the body. The thudding shots permeated the arena, and while it seemed like a first-round knockout was imminent, Sarinana showed his toughness by lasting.

Fighting out of Durango, Sarinana (7-6-2, 3 KOS) did a little better in the second round, but much of that had to do with Ortiz easing off the gas pedal. In the fateful third, Ortiz got back to landing his right hand more often, and midway through it, he abruptly sent Sarinana to the canvas. It was a right uppercut that Sarinana ran right into as he bent down, after which referee Jack Reiss evaluated his balance and waved off the bout at the 1:44 mark.

“I saw him get hurt in the first round when I ‘fake-jabbed’ him to the body with a hook,” said Ortiz, 19, who’s from Dallas but trains in Indio, California, under the direction of Joel Diaz. “Since that moment, I was just looking for the opportunity to get the knockout, but he was a tough guy and was able to make it through. In the third round, I saw him lose his guard, and I landed my uppercut that sent him to the floor. I think after this, I’m ready to increase my rounds. I think I am ready to take on some tougher opponents.”

Hoganphotos-Golden Boy Promotions

The opening bout of the Golden Boy Promotions card on ESPN2 featured two undefeated middleweights, and Yamaguchi Falcao was the one who left the ring unscathed as he got a wide unanimous decision win over Morgan Fitch.

All three judges ringside scored it 100-90 for the Brazilian from Sao Paulo, but it wasn’t nearly that uncompetitive.

Falcao (13-0, 6 KOs) began to separate himself from Fitch in the last half of the fight thanks to an accurate left hand. The southpaw threw it from many different angles, and by the end of the fight, Fitch’s left eye was almost swollen shut. Falcao, 29, even shuffled his feet a few times to mock Fitch.

“I don’t know what happened in there,” pondered Fitch after his first loss. “I just know that I could have done better and been more serious in there. I’m at a loss of words.”

Before the sixth round, Fitch (18-1-1, 8 KOs) was able to unleash a body attack that made the first half of the contest a competitive one. They exchanged some big shots as soon as the opening round, in which Falcao made good use of his left, but Fitch bit down and came forward often. He was successful upstairs but the body attack was key for him, and it of course disappeared once Falcao took it over.

“It’s been five months since I’ve been in the ring from my last fight. I had a lot of trouble adjusting and finding my rhythm,” said Falcao about the fight. “It’s a journey, and I’m glad I got the win, but if I want to reach my goal of fighting the big-time fighters I have to improve everywhere.”

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In a close super middleweight contest, Alexis Salazar (9-3, 3 KOs) got the split-decision nod over Even Torres (6-3, 5 KOs) after scores of 58-56 and 58-56 overruled the other account of 58-56 in favor of his counterpart.

Carlos Morales (16-1-3, 6 KOs) edged Cesar Valenzuela (14-4-1, 5 KOs) by split decision (78-74, 78-74, 75-77) in another competitive contest, this time at the lightweight class and a bloody affair once a clash of heads cut the fight’s loser.

By scoring a knockdown in the third round, Mexican featherweight Horacio Garcia (31-2-1, 21 KOs) prevented a draw after receiving a closely scored majority decision (78-73, 76-75, 76-76) victory over Fernando Vargas (32-14-3, 24 KOs).

Closing the show, Oscar Negrete (16-0, 6 KOs) blanked Victor Ruiz (21-7, 14 KOs) with a shutout unanimous decision win, receiving an 80-72 score from all three judges ringside.