Bruno Escalante’s accession to the stars continues as he put on a fantastic performance against Lorenzo Trejo, a man known for bringing the fight to his foe. “He either knocks you out, or he gets knocked out,” said Escalante’s manager Herb Stone, when talking about Trejo at the weigh in. Trejo passed backstage, getting himself ready for a war – a war in which Escalante would fire the final salvo.
Escalante used masterful deception as he hit the body, then the head, but only in single intervals. Escalante finished the final frame with a body shot that hurt Trejo, and finished it with a hook to the head. The combination left Trejo wincing in pain and unable to respond. Escalante, the 2013 Northern California Boxer of the Year, is starting off the year in the same venue that his historic 2013 began, the Fox Theatre in Redwood City.
After Escalante was very considerate acknowledged that although he performed the knockout, the effort to get to this point was that of a team, “I want to thank my team Brian Schwartz, Mike Bazzel and Victor Conte, they helped out so much,” Escalante said in a packed locker room as a line formed to talk to him. Escalante, who has become a star through hard work, is just flat out a nice person and is now in position to face the very best in the division, potentially within the year, since he merits that much attention. Bay Area fans may be disappointed as Escalante will have to travel to win one of the major belts, but the support for Escalante continues to grow.
Escalante will be back in action April 5th at Cache Creek Casino & Resort in Brooks, CA along with Paul Mendez, Andy Vences and others yet to be named.
Jonathan Chicas has been one of the fighters who has been on the fringes of stepping up in competition and after Friday night, he may have graduated into another class. Chicas fought an experienced foe in Rogelio Castaneda Jr., who may be at the end of the road, but at the same time is tough. Castaneda Jr. is known for facing tough foes such as LaMont Peterson, Lucas Matthysse and Oscar Godoy. Chicas looks to have turned the corner, some ringside wanted to put all the credit on Castaneda’s age and the war he has been in, but to discredit Chicas is no good.
Chicas has turned the corner in my opinion. A year ago Chicas was a puncher who didn’t ever seem to get the knockouts, for some reason. One year later, Chicas has two of the most dominant knockouts of recent Northern California boxing memory. Chicas has honed the art of the jab-cross- left hook and it seems as though when he connected on Castaneda in the first round he took the fight out of him.
Chicas switched his strength and conditioning over to working with Michael Bazzel and it seems that power and explosiveness has followed. Chicas now is eyeing a regional belt by the end of the year as well as putting on dominant performances. In what can only be described as a four round beat down it is now time to see how he fairs against the next level. Chicas is showing all the promise many hoped he had a year ago and is more dominant than ever.
Pinell Tested by Game Foe
Ricardo Pinell was tested by a game Saul Benitez, a man who fought Eddie Gomez and Aaron Coley over the past year and half, losing to both, but having moments in both fights. Pinell started slow. As a counter puncher, Pinell was simply too relaxed and showing little urgency early in the fight, as Benitez pitter patted him and used lateral movement that seemed to throw Pinell’s timing off.
Around round four, Pinell found his range, landing clean shots – yet still not landing as often as accustomed. Pinell, who throws punches like Juan Manuel Marquez, judiciously, seemed to never quite be able to get the timing of Benitez down, as it felt like Pinell could catch Benitez, and hurt him several times in the final four rounds. However, he never could put together the final combo that would put Benitez away.
Pinell is held to a higher standard in my opinion, since he has been knocking out all of his competition, and has faced tough opposition for someone who is just starting out in the sport, not having had an extensive amateur career. Pinell, who finished strong and picked up the win, needs to potentially show more urgency in fights of six rounds, or move up to eight rounds. Pinell fights composed enough to go twelve hard rounds, and seems to be getting stronger later in fights. The problem is class shows over time, and in fights of shorter duration Pinell may need to pick up the pace.
With this said, Pinell showed something that is very positive, the fight was not going his way and he fixed the problem. Pinell didn’t complain, he adjusted, and pulled off the win. Though it may not have been Pinell’s best victory, it was still a victory.
Tony Johnson Picks Up 3rd KO Win
Tony Johnson continues his foray into boxing and had a wild ride leading into his bout. Johnson was originally supposed to fight someone else, but due to some medical issues his foe pulled out the day of the fight, leaving Johnson without an opponent. “I want to thank my manager, Herb Stone. He is a great manager and he was able to find me a replacement on very short notice.”
For Johnson, the only man to beat elite Bay Area prospect Joe Gumina, his last fight in December was a battle of two different fights. “I had to lose a lot of weight prior to the fight…a lot of weight,” Johnson said with a laugh. “I am a Cruiserweight and this is where I am now, and I feel good”.
Johnson started his Cruiserweight career a bit slow. A tactical boxer, who has roots in kickboxing having worked at the famed gym in San Jose, CA, American Kickboxing Academy. Johnson seemed to want to analyze what was going on with his foe, Harry Gopaul, who he knew virtually nothing about. Johnson began to apply pressure and pick up the pace out landing Gopaul by 2 to 1 in punch output which seemed to dishearten Gopaul.
Johnson found his home for virtually everything in the third round and finished off Gopaul on the ropes in the third round to pick up his 3rd career knockout. To put it simply, Johnson did what he had to do and got his guy out of there. Johnson is looking to continue staying active and hopes to get in the double digits with his fights after this year.
Jesus Sandoval has long been, in my opinion, the most exciting fighter to watch live in the Bay Area bar none. Sandoval enjoys going to war with his foes with reckless aggression and on Friday night that style of fighting may have shown adverse effects as Sandoval was stopped by Cesar Valenzuela.
It was a shocking moment, Sandoval pressed forward trying to force the action and make it a wild fight. A right uppercut, one that Sandoval never saw coming and could not recover from landed. I felt Sandoval was looking to make an adjustment heading into 2014 and it appears he may be doing the same stuff; the stuff that got him a handful of draws last year, and a favorable decision that many were not fond of when he fought Christian Silva.
Sandoval is made for television, maybe not the top realms at this point, but ESPN or Fox Sports 1 would find Sandoval of great value, since on any given night he could have a fight of the year. The problem is that he just fights. That which makes him great, also appears to be his greatest weakness. Sandoval is a pure fighter and that is what hurts as he had the advantages over Valenzuela, but his inability to box when Valenzuela was most dangerous, and engage in a brawl, is what caught him. The knockout was devastating. The crowd looked shocked and concerned. The big question is, how will this effect Sandoval going forward?
Darren Mallard Edges Maurico Zavaleta
In what was the closest bout of the night, Darren Mallard pulled off the upset beating Maurico Zavaleta. Zavaleta one day earlier had trouble at the scales needing two hours to make the contracted weight. Whether that is what hindered Zavaleta’s performance is unknown, the jury is out, but one thing is clear, problems with weight did little good for him in the fight.
From the outset it was a battle of styles. Zavaleta wanted to close the distance and make the fight in the trenches. Mallard, on the other hand, used his length and frame to pump a jab and then masterfully cross following it.
“I think the first round was the only close round,” Mallard said backstage upon reflection. The judges in Redwood City disagreed as one judge scored the fight, 39-37 Mallard, another 39-37 Zavaleta, and the final scoring it as a shutout for Mallard. The shutout felt a bit of a stretch as it appeared from my vantage point that in the latter half of the fight, Zavaleta began to get new life, sort of like a runner running a marathon and hitting that infinity pace.
The third round had the wildest exchanges and was the point when Mallard seemed to stray from boxing and engage in Zavaleta’s fight, a dogfight. The two engaged in a war on the ropes that allowed Mallard to land the cleaner shots and even force Zavaleta back, but like every round in this fight, when you thought it was a Mallard round, Zavaleta landed a hard thudding overhand right.
The final frame saw Zavaleta pushing the pace and having Mallard in the corner, but unable to capitalize due to fatigue and maybe the weight cut. The two battled in close as the crowd got louder and louder. The two seemed to want the match to intensify the vibrant atmosphere that was being provided with in halls of Fox Theatre. The 40-36 card felt a little wide to me, but in all honesty, each round was hard to score, it simply came down to if you favor aggression or cleaner punches, since it felt as though they were throwing about the same number of punches. Nonetheless, a very big win for Darren Mallard, who took a fight on the road against a Zavaleta who fought 10 miles away from his home, and picked up a win, not an easy feat.
Xavier Vigney Stops Tinae
Former K1 kickboxer and Glory Million Dollar Tournament combatant, Xavier Vigney, put a halt to Andrew Tinae’s pro debut. Tinae, a standout in the amateurs, still looked a tad bit raw with wide punches that seemed to be a hair too late to land and power that could have changed the match in his favor. Vigney established a jab from the outset and began to work combos off the most vital punch in the sport.
The end came a little before the two minute mark as Vigney connected with a straight right that rattled Tinae, wobbled him and he seemed to lose control looking like he nearly turned his back to his foe. Vigney looked to continue to throw a punch when the ref stepped in. A moment of silence occurred as those in attendance were unsure of whether it was a standing eight or a TKO. The ref’s hands were in motion as the fight was called to a halt.
Vigney, who is making his professional boxing debut, has an extensive background at the highest level of kickboxing, knocking out Seth Petruzelli, the man who knocked out Kimbo Slice on broadcast television. “I taught [Vigney] boxing and kickboxing together…I wanted him to learn both the skill of boxing and the toughness of kickboxing,” Vigney’s coach Dan Black said. “[Vigney] fought Zabit Samedov, that’s one of the three best kick boxers in the world, but because it was a million dollar tournament we had to take it….[Vigney] showed him too much respect, that’s why we lost.” Vigney also beat recent UFC signee Jack May last year as his kickboxing accolades continue to expand.
As to how the six foot eight inch giant came in to the fight as the underdog, Vigney’s coach Dan Black simply smiled and explained, “I have my ways.”