(Photo courtesy of Jan Sanders / Goossen-Tutor)
Just a few miles down the way from a big time boxing show at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, former junior featherweight beltholder Rico Ramos of Pico Rivera, Calif. got back into the win column with a hard-fought eight-round majority decision win over previously unbeaten Gardena, Calif. resident Efrain Esquivias. It was an an entertaining main event at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City in front of a capacity crowd. The bout topped a bill promoted by Goossen-Tutor Promotions and was televised on Telefutura’s Solo Boxeo.
The more intimate 1,000 seat venue housed a raucous crowd that was on their feet for nearly the duration of Ramos-Esquivias, which turned out to be a unanticpated barnburner. Though the majority agreed it was a well-matched fight, it was hard to gauge how action-packed the bout would be based on a combination Ramos’ poor showing in January against Guillermo Rigondeaux as well as Esquivias’ lack of name recognition.
Ramos (21-1, 11 KOs) showed flashes of the fighter that caught the attention of Goossen-Tutor when he turned professional in 2008 after a decorated amateur career. In the first 30 seconds of the fight, he let go more punches than he did against Rigondeaux the entire duration of their bout that ended when Ramos was stopped in the 6th.
From the opening bell, Ramos and Esquivias (16-1, 9 KOs) fought toe-to-toe on the inside, with Ramos’ speed proving to be the major difference. Ramos was able to let a high volume of combinations fly without worrying about the power of the incoming fire from Esquivias. When Esquivias was able to back Ramos into the ropes, the former titleholder showed his resilience in fighting well off of them. Esquivias definitely had more than his fair share of moments, landing in between some of Rico’s volume. Esquivias was also the guy largely moving forward, though Ramos was able to potshot and move effectively throughout the bout.
One judge tabulated an even scorecard, 76-76, which was overruled by two 78-74 cards in favor of Ramos. TQBR scored the bout 77-75 in favor of Ramos. It was the 25-year old’s first bout since losing to Rigondeaux in his first defense back in January on ShoBox. The performance in that fight was so dreadful that Ramos nearly didn’t get a TV date coming off of it. Goossen-Tutor matchmaker Tom Brown told TQBR when the fight was made that it largely was approved for TV because of the quality of the fight. Ramos’ performance definitely earned him another shot on television, and with the 122-pound division being as thin as it is currently, a future shot at one of the many overly available titles isn’t out of the question.
Ramos and Esquivias were widely considered two of the best junior featherweights in the United States. With the victory, Ramos will likely have to travel in order to get another crack at a major opportunity, something he didn’t have to do when Goossen-Tutor was able to lure then champion Akifumi Shimoda to the United States from Japan, something largely unheard of. It must be noted Ramos probably lost every round before stopping Shimoda cold in the 7th of their July 2011 contest.
With the loss, Esquivias isn’t completely out of the picture given his quality showing in a fight that was a major step up. It should at the very least get him another shot on television.
In the televised battle of unbeatens, California junior bantamweights Matthew Villanueva (8-0-1, 7 KOs) of Burbank and Bruno Escalante (5-1-1, 3 KOs) of San Carlos by way of the Philippines engaged in an exciting eight-round bout that saw Villanueva pushed the distance for the first time in his career as he earned a unanimous decision.
Villanueva nearly had a foot on his opponent and the definite advantage in power, but Escalante was game, landing heavy shots of his own in a fight that was much closer than the majority of the official scores, which were tallied 79-73, 78-74, and 77-75, all in favor of Villanueva. Villanueva suffered a bad cut outside his right eye in round two.
The fight was back-and-forth, especially in the early going. Villanueva managed to pull away late in the fight as he seemed to have a little more in the tank despite going eight full rounds for the first time of his career. Escalante had only previously fought scheduled four-rounders as he took a big step up in class and got a valuable learning experience out of it.
In an untelevised bout, John Molina (24-1, 19 KOs) of Covina, Calif. was extended the eight-round distance by Mexican journeyman Miguel Angel Munguia in his first fight in 364 days following a promotional dispute. Molina shut out Munguia 80-69 on all three cards. Molina has a date with Antonio DeMarco Sept. 8 in Oakland for DeMarco’s alphabet title that he won last October from Jorge Linares in the HBO televised co-feature to Andre Ward against Chad Dawson.
Philadelphia heavyweight Malik Scott (34-0, 11 KOs) also picked up a shutout victory, decisioning the surprisingly always difficult Alvaro Morales (6-11-6) of Las Vegas by 60-54 on all three cards. It was Scott’s second bout since returning from a more than 3-year layoff this past February in a Showtime Extreme televised decision win over Kendrick Releford.
Los Angeles-based junior middleweight John Hays (1-0) picked up a win in his pro debut, shutting out Raymundo Inda (0-4) over four rounds.
In a walkout bout, Palmdale’s Jessie Villanueva (3-0, 3 KOs), younger brother of Matt, scored a one-round knockout of debuting Frank Liera (0-1) of Los Angeles.
Promoter Dan Goossen told TQBR on Friday that boxing will return to the Sportsmen’s Lodge every eight weeks if all things go well. The Goossens used to regularly promote at the Reseda Country Club and honored Gabriel and Rafael Ruelas at the card tonight, two fighters who regularly fought on those country club shows.
Mark Ortega can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com and followed via Twitter at www.twitter.com/MarkEOrtega. Mark also contributes to renowned boxing publications RING Magazine and Boxing Monthly, and is a member of the Boxing Writer’s Association of America and RING Ratings Advisory Panel.