STUDIO CITY, Calif. – It wasn’t the prettiest of victories for Rico Ramos, but after a crushing knockout in his most recent fight at the hands of Guillermo Rigondeaux, which cost him his WBA 122-pound title, he was ready to take any win the judges would give him.
There might be some controversy surrounding Ramos majority decision over previously unbeaten prospect Efrain Esquivias, but in the end, the 25-year-old former beltholder landed more punches and was rewarded for his consistency. Ramos (21-1, 11 knockouts) won by two scores of 78-74. The third judge scored the bout even (76-76) and many of the fans who watched the fight inside of the packed Sportsmen’s Lodge on Saturday thought they saw a toss-up fight.
The two Southern Californian junior featherweights had faced each other in the ring three times before as amateurs (with two decisions going to Ramos), and they have even described their relationship outside of the ring as a friendly one. Once this fight started, however, each boxer fought with desperation and desire.
The first round was fairly even, as both fighters landed some hard punches. Esquivias (16-1, 9 KOs) seemed a little more relaxed than his opponent, understandable considering the embarrassing beating that Ramos suffered to Rigondeaux in January. His nerves were still shaky in the second round, as Esquivias looked in control with some big shots to his opponent’s head and body. Chants of “RI-CO, RI-CO” and “EFRAIN, EFRAIN” echoed throughout the Sportsmen’s Lodge, but the first two rounds belonged to Esquivias.
Ramos came out less skittish for the third round, connecting with a few hard punches and counters, but Esquivias caught him off-balance a few times and beat him into the ropes for longer than Ramos would have preferred. It wasn’t until the fourth round that Ramos found any rhythm, landing punch after punch to his opponent’s body. Ramos was moving backwards for the majority of the fight, giving Esquivias more power behind his punches, but Ramos was able to connect more frequently.
Esquivias seemed to take control in the sixth and seventh rounds, as Ramos had trouble staying off the ropes thanks to a barrage of body shots. Every time the referees separated the fighters, Esquivias was always the first to throw the next punch. That being said, Ramos looked ready for the eighth and final round, as he asked the crowd to pump him up before it started. Esquivias knew that Ramos was going to try to knock him out, but he remained aggressive. Both fighters dealt their share of punishment before the final bell sounded.
This is the first loss on Esquivias’ record, and it is unclear where he will go next, as he had title hopes before this evening. Ramos, on the other hand, took an important step towards redemption.
In other action on the Telefutura-televised card, former lightweight contender John Molina Jr. (24-1, 19 KOs) out-punched, outclassed and outpointed journeyman Miguel Angel Munguia (26-22-1, 22 KOs) over eight rounds, winning by unanimous shutout scores.
In the first round, Molina knocked Munguia down, who came up complaining that he had been hit behind the ear. He was knocked down again in the same round with a body shot, but still complained that he had been hit with a dirty punch. The referee had to tell Munguia to keep his head up on more than one occasion. Things got interesting in the third round as Munguia was knocked down for the third time with an overhand right and seemed to have no defense early. A vicious body shot sent Munguia to the floor in the fourth round, and while he complained that the shot was below the belt, he was given a long count and eventually got up. Molina simply toyed with him for the last four rounds, consistently hitting him with overhand right hooks. The judges all gave the fight to Molina 80-72, who lived up to his reputation as a power-puncher.
Undefeated American heavyweight hopeful Malik Scott (34-0, 11 KOs) outpointed Alvaro Morales (6-11-6) over six rounds.
After a slow first round Scott started timing Morales’ movements and landed big punches in the second round that threw his opponent into the ropes. Neither fighter was active and they did not make for an entertaining fight, but Scott used his superior athleticism to throw quicker combinations that Morales couldn’t handle. Scott took firm control in the fifth, as he repeatedly beat Morales back with some hard shots to the face and body. The sixth and final round featured a little excitement when Scott sent Morales back with a hard right hook to the chin and later landed hard uppercuts to the body. It wasn’t pretty or fun to watch, but Scott won by unanimous scores of 60-54.
In the co-featured bout of the Goossen Tutor Promotions card, Matthew Villanueva (8-0-1, 7 KOs) defeated fellow unbeaten junior bantamweight prospect Bruno Escalante (5-1-1, 3 KOs) with a unanimous eight-round decision.
Once the young fighters sized each other up, this bout turned into a fast-paced and fun match-up. Villanueva had trouble finding the quick Escalante in the first few rounds, and when he did connect, Escalante counter-punched well. Villanueva was cut over his left eye in the second round, but he came out swinging in the third round and began to overpower the smaller Escalante with a barrage of hard punches. Escalante seemed to run out of gas, and everything went Villanueva’s way from the third round on. A knockout looked imminent in the fifth and sixth rounds after Villanueva landed some particularly fierce blows to his opponent’s head, but Escalante stayed on his feet until the final bell.