Eric Mendez (3-1 2KO) came into Saturday’s affair in Brooks, CA at the Cache Creek Casino as an out of town underdog and left as the man who stunned the crowd. Mendez who took on top prospect and a fighter I think very highly of the slick Ricardo Pinell, who is a fast counterpuncher who seemed to be a step ahead of Mendez the entire fight.
Then it happened. The lively crowd, who came to the Casino in rural northern California, 20 miles from the State’s capitol, went silent. It just takes one punch in this sport and that’s all it was as Mendez connected with a counter that got Pinell’s foundation shaking. Seconds later, he was on the ground as the crowd screamed “Get up Ric!”
The crowd’s backing did not help as the damage had been done. It was more or less a formality, like dealing like dealing with taxes in the first quarter of the year. Pinell was stopped by Mendez as he was unable to regain his composure in the corner and the referee stepped in for the TKO stoppage. The time 1:53 of the second round.
Mendez exuberant yelled to the crowd “Hawaiian Gardens,” an homage to his hometown as jumped up and down in a circular motion. Mendez, who had a solid amateur career of give or take 80 or so fights, had more than double the amount of amateur experience of Pinell, who is still relatively new to the sport having started at a later age in 2009. Going into the fight, Mendez was being discredited because he had to travel and he was fighting Pinell, a fighter many feel is a hot rising prospect.
Then there is the other white elephant in the room, Pinell was coming in a little under the middleweight limit. It appears as though his move to light middleweight may have also hampered the performance as before the weigh in Pinell was jogging in the casino parking lot. Pinell missed weight, but made it one hour later. Mendez was a natural light middleweight and it brings up an interesting paradox of how much is too much weight to cut, and is there an advantage to cutting too much weight? Let me use an unpopular example but it fits. As former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar would cut three pounds to make 155 lbs. and constantly beat guys using cardio and speed.
The fun thing about going to small shows is you never know who out of this group will be the next television star, since someone out of the group is destined to make it. Mendez made me wonder if this was nothing more than two future stars meeting early or if this was something that had been foreshadowed earlier with Pinell, who had in past fights been getting tagged in the first round, but lately had not had that happen. It is an unwelcomed reminder of how fast things can change in a sport where one punch can change it all; Eric Mendez now becomes a fighter who during the next year or two will be interesting to watch to see his development. Meanwhile, Pinell who has been incredibly active this year, six fights in just this year, may need some rest and return to a weight that suits him better at this time in life. Either way, both Mendez and Pinell are tough fighters with interesting contrasting styles