Callum Walsh gets off canvas to outpoint game Ismael Villarreal in tough 10 rounder
Callum Walsh’s first 10-round bout was a real fight. The 22-year-old junior middleweight prospect had to get up from a final-round knockdown to outpoint the game and dangerous Ismael Villarreal by scores of 97-92 (twice) and 96-93 on Thursday at a packed Theater inside Madison Square Garden.
Walsh (9-0, 7 KOs) was the busier fighter throughout the 360 Promotions/UFC Fight Pass main event, but in Villarreal the budding Irish star finally shared the ring with an opponent who was tough enough to take him the distance and compete with him. Villareal (13-2, 9 KOs), a native New Yorker, was rocked in Rounds 2 and 9 and generally outworked and outmaneuvered by Walsh, but he remained defiant throughout and landed enough clean, hard head-snapping punches in Rounds 3, 6 and 10 to win those rounds.
“He’s a young fighter,” Walsh said during his post-fight interview. “This is his hometown, he didn’t want to lose, but I feel like I won every round besides one [the 10th].”
The fight was entertaining but also ugly in spots. Walsh absorbed a blatant low blow in the final seconds of Round 4, suffered a headbutt early in Round 6, and was shoved to the canvas a few times (including what was ruled a knockdown in Round 10). Pushing and grappling aside, both prospects punched with bad intentions throughout the fight, which electrified the partisan crowd (the Irish fans were a little louder, and sang a lot too, which added to the atmosphere).
The matchmaking for Walsh will be interesting going forward. He’s got a lot of talent, but not many fights and not a lot of rounds. He was definitely winded and slowed down during the late rounds vs. Villarreal and he appeared frustrated at different points (despite the non-stop smiling and trash talking between the two).
Walsh said he wasn’t hurt in the final round, and he seemed OK, but he’ll need to fix some defensive holes going forward. He will also need to figure out his ring style. Is he a seek-and-destroyer, a nimble boxer (he did well when he was on his toes, working his jab), a boxer-puncher? We’ll find out soon, especially as his level of competition continues to improve.
In co-featured bout, junior welterweight prospect Cain Sandoval punished a game Wesley Ferrer en route to a fifth-round stoppage but he had to walk through some big punches to earn the standing TKO. Sandoval (11-0, 11 KOs), who scored a hard knockdown with a minute to go in the opening round, applied steady pressure behind a stiff jab and hard, fast body-head combinations throughout the spirited bout. Ferrer (17-2-1, 8 KOs), a tough switch-hitter from Brooklyn, maneuvered well and landed flush power shots here and there but did not have the power or punch output to slow down Sandoval, a 21-year-old buzzsaw from Sacramento, California.
Light heavyweight prospect Umar Dzambekov outpointed Frederic Julan but had his hands full with the cagey Brooklyn-based Frenchman throughout their tactical eight-rounder. Dzambekov (8-0, 6 KOs), who won by scores of 79-73 and 78-74 (twice), was the busier boxer and the aggressor for much of the bout but he had difficulty landing clean shots on Julan, who snapped a sneaky jab, utilized slick upper-body movement, and did a good job of blocking punches. However, Julan (13-3, 10 KOs) seemed content landing jabs and occasional counter punches, never mounting any sustained offense.
Welterweight fringe contender Gor Yeritsyan methodically walked down and punished tough Argentine veteran Luis Alberto Veron en route to a unanimous eight-round decision. Yeritsyan (17-0, 14 KOs), an L.A.-based Armenian, won by scores of 80-71, 79-72 and 78-73. Veron (20-8, 2, 9 KOs), who has gone the distance with contenders such as Shohjahon Ergashev and Alexis Rocha, was durable and elusive but did not offer much offense. Yeritsyan, who scored a third-round knockdown, took command with his economic and accurate power punching and remained boss to the final bell.
Former amateur standout Brian Ceballo stopped tough Kenneth McNeil in the fourth round a scheduled eight-round junior middleweight bout. Ceballo (16-1, 8 KOs) had some early trouble with McNeil’s awkwardness, wild right hands and holding tactics but took over the bout once he gained his rhythm and began putting combinations together in Rounds 2 and 3. A hook dropped McNeil (13-5, 10 KOs) to a knee 2 minutes into Round 4 and the Alabama native remained down for the full 10 count.
In the opening bout of the UFC Fight Pass broadcast, Omar Trinidad, a featherweight prospect from the Boyle Heights area of East L.A., made quick work of Andrew Bentley, brutally stopping the New Jersey journeyman in the first round. Trinidad (14-0-1, 11 KOs) scored two knockdowns from an accumulation of heavy body shots and power punches, doing most of his damage while pressing Bentley (5-8, 1 KO) to the ropes. After the second knockdown (which was technical, as the ropes held the fallen fighter up), Bentley’s corner asked the referee to stop the bout at 2:20 of the opening round.
Trinidad, who brought tremendous energy to his New York City debut, will be back in the ring against Jose Perez (11-2-2, 5 KOs) on January 27 in Commerce, California.