The ‘Three Amigos’ – and Shakur Stevenson – prevail on Top Rank Pay-Per-View card
Oscar Valdez retained his WBO featherweight title with a unanimous decision Saturday night over Miguel Marriaga but not without having gone through the most vigorous 12 rounds of his young career. The fight was the main event of a Top Rank Promotions Pay-Per-View broadcast, hosted at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
119-108, 116-111 and 118-109 were the winning scores for Valdez but those could be thrown out as they didn’t tell the story of the fight.
With well-timed right hand counters and subtle left hooks to the body, Marriaga, 30, showed signs early on that he was smart enough to keep up with Valdez and take advantage of his weakness. Valdez, 26, seemed anxious to let go of his hooks early on and, with seemingly every one of them having knockout intentions, Marriaga handled the lack of variation rather handily. Valdez started to pump his jab more often in the fourth round and, there, he landed a few left hooks that bothered Marriaga.
Valdez, 22-0 (19), couldn’t impose his will on Marriaga and, for much of the first half, circled the ring and fought off his back foot against a pressing Marriaga. The Colombian was fearless when trying to exchange with Valdez and, in the sixth round, he had his best three-minute span – forcing Valdez to reel off the ropes and show signs of desperation. Close rounds proceeded as the two were able to get off shots yet were unable to overwhelm the other. All that changed quickly, however, with one shot.
The jab Valdez fired throughout the fight’s entirety finally paid off as it set up a left hook that sent Marriaga to the canvas. It was an abrupt, thunderous shot during an exchange that had referee Jack Reiss shouting his count in front of the Colombian contender’s face. Marriaga sat on his backside as he gathered himself from a punch he didn’t see and, once Marriaga was on his feet, Reiss, unknowingly gave him extra time to recover, once asking him to step to the left in order to see if he was fit to continue. Valdez proceeded to let his hands go, as time continued, with about two minutes left in the round but Marriaga weathered the storm and landed a few right hands of his own in the round’s waning seconds.
Noticeably tired, Valdez held back in the 11th and gave Marriaga a chance to fully recover. The 5,419 in attendance were on their feet in the final three minutes, in which both men gave everything they had left in some heated exchanges. It was as if they fought the 12th knowing the fight could’ve been up for grabs but, as the scores indicated afterward, that was not the case.
“Definitely my toughest fight,” Valdez admitted to reporters after defending his belt a second time. “I’ve never been that tired.” Valdez, Nogales, Mexico, expressed his interest in unifying his WBO featherweight belt with any of the other three candidates – Gary Russell Jr. (WBC), Lee Selby (IBF) and Leo Santa Cruz (WBA).
Dragging his feet with his head down, Marriaga, 25-2 (21), looked distraught while exiting the Stub Hub Center. With teary eyes, he spoke with UCNLive.com about the fight.
“It was a great fight,” Marriaga said. “We did our job and I think everything is fine. I thank God. There will come another opportunity to fight for a world championship.” As for his thoughts on the wide scores, Marriaga replied, “I’m happy because I did good work in the fight. I won a lot in the loss.”
Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez outboxed Max Bursak to a shutout unanimous decision and, with the victory, successfully defended his WBO super middleweight title for the first time. All three judges scored the bout 120-106 for the Mexican from Sinaloa and those scores were warranted after a monotonous 12 rounds.
Ramirez, 35-0 (24), didn’t show any signs of hesitation in throwing the right hand that had kept him out of action for a year. The southpaw freely threw his trademark left as well behind a rangy jab but Ramirez couldn’t hurt the Ukrainian tough guy. Bursak, 33-5-1 (15), was limited in his skills, as he couldn’t find a way to get Ramirez into an inside fight but the 32-year-old showed a good chin, as he showed little to no signs of being hurt. By the fifth round, the crowd lost interest in the fight and started doing the wave. That’s basically all that needs to be said to describe this glorified sparring session.
In his professional debut, featherweight Shakur Stevenson earned a technical decision win over Edgar Brito, 3-3-1 (2), after the fight was stopped in the sixth and final round because of a cut from an accidental headbutt. All three judges ringside scored the bout 60-54 for the 2016 Olympic silver medal winner from Newark, New Jersey.
Stevenson, 19, won every second of every round and did so with precise combinations, along with a slick defense. However, he couldn’t get out of the way of his bull-rushing opponent’s noggin. Luckily, Stevenson wasn’t the one who was cut and, in the fourth, Brito’s face started to bleed from his own undoing and continued to do so throughout the fight, as he got peppered by quick combinations. Prior to that round, Brito was docked a point for leading in with his head by referee Edward Hernandez Sr. The fight was stopped abruptly in the opening seconds of the sixth and, while Brito pleaded to continue, it was out of his control.
Accompanied by IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Andre Ward and two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields, Stevenson was put in there with a bully in his debut but he weathered the storm rather easily while his counterpart looked like he was in a fight. Yet there was plenty for Stevenson to improve upon when asked.
“Yeah, I want to work on my power,” Stevenson told UCNLive.com after the fight. “When I hit somebody, I want to make sure they feel it. That’s the main thing for my next training camp; we’re gonna work on my power and work more on the inside.” Stevenson later revealed he will be training with WBC/WBO junior welterweight champion Terence “Bud” Crawford, in preparation for a May 20 date on which they will both fight at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.
In the opening bout of the Top Rank PPV, Jessie Magdaleno made his first defense of the WBO junior featherweight title with a second round knockout of Adeilson Dos Santos.
The blowout started once Magdaleno landed a right hand in the fateful round. It was followed up with a left uppercut to the chin by the southpaw and the shots momentarily paralyzed the Brazilian while on his feet. Once quickly absorbing a flurry, Dos Santos was on his back for a knockdown. Dos Santos, 25, was still shaken up, once the fight continued and Magdaleno didn’t let him breathe by throwing his straight left hand often.
Magdaleno, 25-0 (18), managed to send Dos Santos back to the floor a second time, moments later, and, while he did get up in more than enough time, referee Dr. Lou Moret waved off the contest. Magdaleno, 25, hopped up on the turnbuckle in jubilation after the win and embraced his trainer Manny Robles, as well. Against a nameless opponent who could’ve made the fight look ugly, Magdaleno really couldn’t have done it any better.
“Honestly, yeah,” replied Magdaleno to UCNLive.com in the post-fight presser, when asked if he was going for the knockout. “It’s this place – StubHub Arena – you can’t leave without a knockout or you can’t leave without someone getting dropped, cut or bloody. This is a place where you’re going to have to pull everything out. Yes, this is what I was trying to do: Prove that I could knock people out. I haven’t done that in awhile and I think I needed it for myself.”