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Ituarte Edges Out Zarate Over 12 Rounds

Erick Ituarte (76-75, 77-74) clinched the vacant Junior NABF Featherweight championship on Friday night by overcoming a third round knockdown by Isaac Zarate(12-3-2KO’s) to win via 12 round split decision.


“I opened up a little too much in the third round,” said Ituarte, referencing the knockdown. “I was a little more patient the rest of the way. Zarate is a terrific competitor. He never backed down. It’s a great win.”


Zarate, who had one judge see the fight in his favor (76-75), struck pay dirt in the third when he landed a counter left hook that dropped Ituarte. After that, Ituarte settled down and became more precise in his punching.


In addition to the featherweight title, Ituarte takes home area bragging rights as he and Zarate hail from neighboring cities in Southern California.


The “New Blood” co-feature showcased a thoroughly entertaining, back-and-forth struggle between junior bantamweights and hometown rivals Ricardo Espinoza (10-2, 8 KOs) and Christian Nieto-Ayala (10-1, 4 KOs).


The action began in the first round with Espinoza connecting on what appeared to be a flash knockdown. Ayala quickly brushed it off and began firing shots of his won. Both Ayala and Espinoza landed shots from a variety of angles with minimal holding or clinching.


Ayala, understanding that he needed to undo the deficit from the first round, went forward on Espinoza for most of the fight. The tactic proved to work as Ayala escaped with a narrow split decision win (76-75, 77-74). One judge had it for Espinoza (76-75).


“This was a tough fight,” said Ayala, who resides in Tijuana, Mex. “I knew going in that it was going to be a close one. Espinoza is a very talented fighter and I’m just happy that I was able to do enough to win.”


Top featherweight prospect Ruben Villa (6-0, 4 KOs) continues to impress early in his professional career. Villa, a southpaw fighting out of Salinas, Calif., picked apart Anthony de Jesus Ruiz (2-3, 2 KOs) to win by fifth round technical knockout.


Villa, who was naturally bigger than Ruiz, unloaded a serious of damaging shots in the fifth round. By that point, Ruiz had already absorbed a great deal of punishment and his corner wisely put an end to the onslaught at the 2:43 mark.


“My jab was working well all night,” said Villa, who is promoted by Thompson Boxing and Banner Promotions. “I worked off backing him up with the jab and then that opened up a lot of angles for me to land power shots.”


Exciting bantamweight prospect Mario Hernandez (2-0) routinely backed up May Garduño (0-1) to win by one-sided unanimous decision (40-36 x3). Hernandez displayed superior punching ability and appeared to grow stronger as the rounds progressed.


Garduño could not find an answer to Hernandez’s aggressive style, and consequently got shut out in his professional debut.


Junior welterweights Juan Garcia Mendez (19-2-2, 12 KOs) and Cesar Villarraga (9-3-1, 4 KOs) put on a show during their 6-round scrap that ended in a controversial split draw. One judge had Villarraga ahead by a wide margin (59-55), while the second observer scored it 58-56 for Mendez. The third judge had it even at 57-57.


Lightweight Brandon Trejo (1-0) of Napa, Calif. delivered a steady beating to Pablo Cupul (5-23, 3 KOs) of Lakeside, Calif. to win by unanimous decision, sweeping it 40-36 on the three scorecards.

Trejo looked confident from the outset, landing a stiff jab followed by strong power shots. It was Trejo’s first professional outing after amassing an impressive amateur career that saw him net two National PAL titles in addition to being a two-time California Silver Gloves champion.







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