We got a little apocalyptic about the state of ShoBox last weekend, but this weekend’s outing was a return to form — just about everything you could want from Showtime’s program for putting prospects into the toughest fights of their careers. Thomas Oosthuizen, Luis Del Valle and Jose Pedraza all had to work hard to pass those tests, and all will probably be better off for it in the long run. Oh, and all three fights were action-packed.
Existential crises thrown to the backburner for the night, we can resume the usual response to a ShoBox card: What did we learn about the prospects Friday?
I’m not sure we learned terribly much about Pedraza, or at least I didn’t. I was least familiar with the lightweight’s ouevre coming in, and Showtime’s Steve Farhood assured us that he really was tagging Gil Garcia superhard, so Pedraza’s rep as a puncher wasn’t affected and the chin of Garcia got its own reputation, and a good one. Intitially, I couldn’t believe Garcia was even connecting on Pedraza, so sloppy and amateurish were his punches. But as the fight wore on, it became apparent that Garcia’s all-out aggression would’ve led to some punches connecting against most anybody. Garcia simply never stopped coming no matter what Pedraza hit him with, and while he stumbled in the 5th for what was erroneously ruled a knockdown, he wasn’t ever in any real danger. Pedraza’s defense improved as the fight went on, even if Garcia continued to connect a good deal, and Pedraza took the unanimous decision. The only thing I know for sure about Pedraza after this fight is that he’s fun, so I’m open-minded to seeing his mettle tested once more on ShoBox to determine whether he’s a real prospect.
Junior featherweight Del Valle has impressed in past television appearances, but Chris Martin was by far his toughest opponent to date, and Martin had played ShoBox spoiler in the past by upsetting Chris Avalos. Del Valle simply outworked Martin early, who couldn’t seem to find the range or timing on his usual counterpunches. But in the middle rounds, Martin began to find all of the above, and Del Valle found himself in a fight; he looked like he was in one, too, with a bruised up face. Martin’s momentum got stopped in its tracks, though, when Del Valle put him down with a left hand in the 7th. Martin had turned southpaw and left his left hand dangling, and Del Valle made him pay. Martin still ended up winning four rounds on my card, including the final two, when he landed some pretty hellacious shots; one judge absurdly had it a shutout for Del Valle, although the unanimous decision was the overall right call. One judge Even though Martin isn’t a huge puncher, we learned tonight that Del Valle can stay on his feet even when hit totally flush, and that made it so he could keep the pressure on. Del Valle saw a lot of tricks tonight from the crafty Martin, and he had to check his gut, both of which should benefit him going forward. I’m not sure of his ceiling, but with a bit more defensive polish he can make some noise on the contender level — and like Pedraza, he’ll be fun no matter how far he gets.
In the main event, busted prospect Marcus Johnson learned his lesson about being too lackadaisical in past fights and came hard at Oosthuizen in the 1st round, trapping the massive 6’4″ super middleweight along the ropes and teeing off on him. By the 2nd round, though, Oosthuizen figured out how to dodge some of those shots, and he was doing absurdly good work with his back on the ropes for a tall fighter who shouldn’t be engaging on infighting wars. It feels like well-fought, up-close bouts are an endangered species these days, but both men really did nice work on the inside. The problem for Johnson was, as much as his work rate had improved compared to outings like his defeat against Dyah Davis, Oosthuizen’s work rate was even greater. A fluky 8th round knockdown came off a body shot from Oosthuzien, but it almost looked like Johnson was upset that his mouthpiece had fallen out moments before and was trying to reach down to grab it — and the body shot was an afterthought. Nobody hurt anybody, really, throughout the whole fight, but they sure swapped a couple cows worth of leather. Oosthuizen was ridiculously blase about whether he got punched or not, and his face bore the results of that, but he showed off some kind of chin and a stamina that never wavered; dude must have some kind of training program. Johnson redeemed himself as a professional, if nothing else, but Oosthuizen is the one who looks to have the brighter future. How bright? Brighter than before Friday, anyway, but someone will make him pay someday for that afterthought defense, and he’s not blazing fast or powerful or anything. Still, his size, southpaw stance and punch output could make him a handful for a lot of contenders, and like the men he shared the stage with on ShoBox, he does his thing in a fun enough way that we’re going to enjoy seeing him whether he ever gets to the top of the heap.