Marlen Esparza defends her Ring belt against Celeste Alaniz in a war
In a bell-to-bell war of attrition, Marlen Esparza held on to her Ring magazine flyweight belt against Argentina’s Celeste Alaniz with a majority decision win at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas on Saturday, July 8.
Alaniz rushed out of her corner in the first round and seemed to be in control at both ends of the episode, with Esparza finding her range only occasionally in the middle of the round, in which she charged forward with her head more than once. Alaniz’s speed and range were key in maintaining her advantage in rounds two and three, with her superior level of activity being another point in her favor.
Esparza started to find her range towards the end of the third round, and dominated the fourth with a higher connection rate even though Alaniz’s output numbers remained higher. A cut had opened up on Esparza’s head by then.
A handful of powerful hands by Esparza stopped Alaniz on her tracks in the fifth, and the Texan fighter dominated the round with authority even though Alaniz had started the round unleashing a storm of leather and connecting clearly on more than one occasion.
The sixth round was one of the best for Esparza, who controlled the early going with tons of power and accuracy, and then made Alaniz miss dozens of punches towards the end of the round.
Esparza picked up where she left off in the seventh round, dominating with her superior power and connect rate. At the beginning of the eighth, it was already clear that Alaniz was going to be unable to sustain the neck-breaking pace of the first few rounds, and Esparza’s better use of her energies and superior pacing skills were going to make the difference down the stretch.
But Alaniz seemed to surge in the ninth round and found Esparza in more than one exchange, and closed the fight with one of her best rounds in the fight, scoring from all angles as the final bell approached.
The scorecards were Lisa Giampa with 95-95, Javier Alvarez with a ridiculous 99-91 and Esther Lopez with a more logical 96-93, the last two in favor of Esparza who therefore held on to her belts. A quick review of scorecards from media members had Alaniz up by an average of two rounds in the unofficial scorecards in a very close bout that could have gone either way.
With the win, Esparza improves to 13-1 with 1 knockout, while Alaniz returns to Argentina with a mark of 14-1 with 6 KOs. Esparza retained also her WBA and WBC flyweight belts and added Alaniz’s WBO strap as well.
Earlier in the night, Eric Tudor remained unbeaten with a solid win over Reggie Harris Jr. in eight rounds.
Harris visited the canvas briefly in the first round and looked on his way to a stoppage defeat. Tudor dominated the next few rounds but Harris took control briefly towards the end of the 4th round to make the fight more interesting.
Harris also had a great 6th and came out storming in the 7th, but Tudor closed strongly to receive scorecards of 77-74 and 78-73 (twice), thus improving to 9-0 with 6 KOs. Harris returns home with a record of 7-4 with 3 KOs having lost the last four fights of his career after a promising unbeaten start.
Diego M. Morilla writes for The Ring since 2013. He has also written for HBO.com, ESPN.com and many other magazines, websites, newspapers and outlets since 1993. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He has won two first-place awards in the BWAA’s annual writing contest, and he is the moderator of The Ring’s Women’s Ratings Panel. He served as copy editor for the second era of The Ring en Español (2018-2020) and is currently a writer and editor for RingTV.com.