Lightning Strikes Again For Edwin Valero with a KO of Antonio Pitalua in Two
By Gabriel Montoya, (April 5, 2009) This article provided by MaxBoxing (Photo © German Villasenor)  
Golden Boy Promotions “Lightweight Lightning” card from the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, was full of action and a few surprises as 8 men met in 4 crossroads bouts looking to get a toehold in the stacked lightweight division. From top to bottom, the card met expectation with aging vets Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez (43-8-1 with 24 K0s) and Jesus Chavez (44-5 with 30 KOs) gave excellent accounts of themselves in losing efforts against Vicente Escobedo (20-1 12 K0s) and Michael Katsidis (25-2 with 21 KOs) and last second replacement Rolando Reyes (31-4-2 with 20 KOs) provided the upset special by stopping Julio Diaz (36-5 with 26 KOs) after losing nearly every round before stopping Diaz in 5. The star of the night, unknown quantity, Internet sensation (some say creation) and now WBC lightweight champion Edwin Valero (25-0 25 KOs) met expectations by blowing out Antonio Pitalua (46-4 with 40 KOs) in two rounds. It was a night that opened up the lightweight division a bit, creating some interesting match-ups and setting up a nice second half of the year for the lightweight division.

In the opening bout, Julio Diaz came out strong, taking charge against a reluctant Rolando Reyes, firing combos and looking for openings. Reyes stayed patient, however and looked for countering opportunities. Diaz dug to the body and shot his jab repeatedly but nothing seemed to be landing flush or having much impact. Reyes would open up late and land a crisp jab, right hand that rocked Diaz back on his heels. He would recover quickly and get off a jab, one-two to the body but would eat another right. Diaz would get off a one-two to the body (that would garner a warning for a low blow) and a left at the bell to punctuate the round.

Diaz kept the pressure on in the second and got in a looping right off the bat followed by a body shot. Reyes was still waiting and waiting to get off shots, looking for his opening to strike. Diaz seemed to be forcing his openings, looking to land and get a flow going. Reyes would spend the round catching and slipping but not throwing back. Two body shots and one-two at the bell would be as good as it got fort him in this round. But in the third and fourth, Reyes would slowly start to warm into the fight. Diaz seemed to be falling into a false paradise, getting off his shots, thinking he was in charge because Reyes was so passive. But as he got more comfortable, he got more careless and it ultimately cost him in the fifth.

The round seemed to be like the others with Diaz leading and Reyes waiting. But an uppercut would get through for Reyes and Diaz seemed buzzed. A right would hurt him badly and left hand would send Diaz crashing to the canvas. He would rise but on wobbly legs, the whole fight turned all the way around now, Reyes moved in for the finish and got is as he landed left hook, an uppercut, a right hand, then spun Diaz to keep him from tying up and a left uppercut that rocked Diaz’ world. Another left and Diaz would be down again and the fight waived off at 2:17 of the fifth.

He next bout turned out to be an unexpected brawl as Carlos “Famoso” Hernandez came out swinging and looking to kill Vicente Escobedo’s body. Escobedo, who himself was a replacement fighter on the card, spent much of the early going looking for long range and trying to keep the bull rushing Hernandez off him. Famoso shot his jab and dug to the body, keeping him on the ropes and smothering the younger man’s best chance of gaining control. But the round would turn Escobedo’s way as he landed a perfect right hand after missing a jab and dropped Hernandez near the end of the round.

Despite the knockdown, Hernandez came right out firing in the second, looking again to smother Escobedo and get to the body. Crisp left hooks to the head on the inside and hard rights and lefts to the ribs of Escobedo kept things going for Famoso. But another right hand by Escobedo would drop Hernandez again and send him face first to the canvas. Escobedo would come in cautious to follow up and land a right hand, flurry with one-twos and eat a left hand in return. A jab right hand seemed to stun Hernandez again and the fight’s end appeared to be a mater of time as the bell sounded.

In the third, however, Hernandez seemed to take over, the bodywork paying off. Escobedo seemed unsure how to proceed against a man who had been knocked own twice but was seemingly undeterred. An accidental elbow would cut Famoso over the brow but between the eyes. This seemed only to excite him as the blood and punches blood from Famoso. A big left hook would land from him and Escobedo looked hurt by it. Hernandez would get an uppercut through and with Escobedo wobbled, he opened up his arsenal. A clubbing right here, a body shot there. Escobedo lay on the ropes, trying to weather the storm and find a way to adjust and get back in control. He would find it by digging to Hernandez’ body but the vet would come back with a left hook after backing off a second. Both men gave and took down the stretch of a very exciting round.

A fight had broken out now and over the course of the next three rounds, Hernandez would take his best shot and have his most success as he got low and dove into Escobedo’s ribs, getting inside behind his jab or eating Escobedo’s on the way in. They traded left hooks and Escobedo tried to get on his bicycle and get his jab reestablished. But Hernandez was having none of it, overwhelming the younger man with volume, experience, and sheer will. Escobedo was getting his shots in but it seemed that despite the blood flowing from his cut, Hernandez was getting in the harder blows.

By the eighth, Escobedo seemed to give up simply trying to box and found a comfort zone on the inside as he lay in the phone booth with Hernandez and gave to the body as well as he got and defended Hernandez’ previously effective uppercut well. Hernandez seemed to wilt under the tempo of the fight through the eight and ninth as Escobedo mixed in movement and solid boxing with inside brawling when necessary. Hernandez’ output seemed to drop and he was eating more and more shots coming in as he abandoned the jab and only shot one punch at a time.

But in the tenth and final round, with the fight possibly on the table, Hernandez found that extra bit of energy and won the round on my card as Escobedo, rather than take advantage of an aging, tired, bloodied fighter, instead chose to box and move, preserving his lead. Hernandez, bleeding, tired, and down on the cards, went after Escobedo with every ounce of fight left in him, trying to will his way to victory It was an impressive sight as the aging veteran pushed the young up and comer all the way to the bell.

Judges at ringside didn’t see it as close as I did (I had a draw) scoring it 96-91, 94-93, and 95-91. All agreed unanimously for Escobedo.

In the co-feature, Michael Katsidis got a little lucky as he was soundly getting out boxed both on the outside and the inside by a rejuvenated Jesus Chavez but still won when Chavez couldn’t answer the bell for the eight round. Katsidis seemed tight and tentative to start, fighting outside of his usual style and trying to box. Chavez boxed well behind a steady jab from the outset, utilizing movement and digging to the body on the inside.

Katsidis’ face was reddened early as Chavez tagged him often and won the inside battle over and over again despite that being where Katsidis usually lives. Chavez was the overall better technician, using experience and guile to keep Katsidis off balance while executing his game plan.

But as the fight wore on, Katsidis seemed to warm up and get his offense going. It wasn’t pretty or effective but his punches more and more landed with greater effect and seemed to be getting to Chavez. But the fight would really turn in the fourth, as a clash of heads would open as gash on the hairline of Chavez that flowed with blood freely. This energized Katsidis, who jumped all over Chavez with his wild shots and started to overwhelm the aging veteran.

Chavez, whose turning and effective jab, seemed to be frustrated by the blood flowing from his head, abandoned his jab and began moving straight back to the ropes while absorbing more and more from Katsidis. Over the course of the next two rounds, Katsidis took control, landing more and more to the head and body of Chavez and surging in energy and output. By the end of the seventh, Chavez looked discouraged, eating a left hook and a right uppercut at rounds end. In the corner, Chavez never sat down, informing his corner, who agreed, that he could not continue with his injury. The official result was a Katsidis TKO round 7.

Now it was time for the main event. If most everyone in the crowd was there to see hometown favorite Chavez, the hardcore boxing heads who bought the PPV were there to see Edwin Valero and his vaunted 24 fight KO streak. With 40 KOs to his credit, Antonio Pitalua seemed to be poised to provide his sternest test. But it was not to be.

The action started tentative as Valero came out looking to box at range. Stalking behind a jab, jab, and double jab, Valero tried out the straight left to body and a right hook upstairs. Pitalua, the veteran here, looked patient, gauging his opponent and waiting for his moment to strike. Valero would land a hard jab and work Pitalua into the corner, unloading a combo that Pitalua seemed to take well even if he wasn’t answering back. Another left would land for Valero but overall, the first round was not exactly eventful.

In the second, Valero got things going quickly. In what seemed to be his first punches thrown, he would land a straight left followed by a right hand that crumpled and badly hurt Pitalua. He would rise but was very shaky and Valero jumped all over him. A wild flurry ensued and Pitalua fell again under the onslaught. Rising again but in even worse condition, Pitalua retreated to a corner as Valero rained shot after shot all over him forcing him down and prompting to the ref to stop it at :49 of the second round.

It was short night for Valero who said afterwards, “ I demonstrated there is a lot of power in both hands. As soon as he made a mistake, I knew I could get him out of there.”

Though this was a tournament designed to set up another series of fights, Valero, who picked up the WBC lightweight belt, seems more interested in the bigger fish in boxing. “If it was up to me, I would fight Juan Manuel Marquez next. But it is up to my promoter, Top Rank. I would move up to 140 to fight the winner of Hatton/Pacquiao and then move back down to 135 if I could. At 140, I would hit just as hard and be faster than those guys.”

Whatever he and the rest of the winners tonight decide to do, the lightweight division gave us a little more clarity and a lot of great action tonight. Hopefully, the fighters and the promoters continue to do so in one of the most exciting divisions in all of boxing.

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