Lightweight Rod Salka Jr. dropped previously unbeaten Alexei Collado with a third-round left hook on the way to a unanimous decision victory on Friday before his fans at the Convention Center in Monroeville, Pa. The fight was a ShoBox: The New Generation main event on Showtime.
The 31-year-old Salka (19-3, 3 knockouts), whose hometown of Bunola is nearby Monroeville, won by scores of 96-94 and 96-93 (twice) over Collado (18-1, 16 KOs), a 26-year-old former Cuban amateur standout, and then immediately stated his case for a title shot.
Salka wants the winner of an April 26 bout between WBC lightweight titleholder Omar Figueroa Jr. and Jerry Belmontes that is the opening bout of a Showtime-televised tripleheader at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.
“I’m heading to Carson next week to call out the winner of Figueroa-Belmontes," Salka said in a prepared release. "I want to fight whoever wins that. Doesn't matter to me. I earned a shot at the title."
Salka had previously been in the ring in December, when he lost a junior welterweight bout against Ricardo “Dinamita” Alvarez, the 32-year-old older brother of Mexican star Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, by disputed majority decision at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
The bout represented the American debut for Alvarez in support of the main event featuring Marcos Maidana's unanimous decision that dethroned Adrien Broner as WBA welterweight titleholder on Showtime. His younger brother was sitting at ringside.
At his hotel, later that night with cornermen Paul Spadafora, Buzzy Garnic, Ron Roule and Rod Salka Sr., Salka lamented the lost opportunity based on the judges' cards, one of which scored it even at 95-95.
Salka did not let that happen against Collado.
"I dictated the pace of the fight," said Salka. "I kept him where I wanted him and forced him to keep going for that overhand right, which he couldn’t land cleanly. I was throwing first and throwing last, just like I wanted to do. I mixed up my offense well and kept my hands up."
A former Cuban amateur standout, Collado chalked up the loss as a learning experience.
"He was smart and that was the difference." said Collado. "He kept moving. His movement was the problem for me."
In the ShoBox co-feature, Felix Diaz, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist from the Dominican Republic, scored an eight-round split decision against Ghanaian-born Brooklynite Emmanuel Lartey.
Diaz (15-0, 8 KOs), a 30-year-old from Santo Domingo, turned in a performance as auspicious as his surroundings, as the southpaw waltzed his way to two scores of 77-75.
Lartey (15-2-1, 7 KOs), who pushed 2012 US Olympian Errol Spence to his toughest test in his previous bout, won by 77-75 on the thrid card. Neither fighter was satisfied with the split verdict.
"It's disappointing to know it was scored a split decision," said Diaz, who is trained by Robert Garcia. "I think I dominated most of the rounds, so I don't see how the judges scored it that way. I want to see my family – it's been three months – and then head back to Oxnard to get in the gym with Robert."
Lartey took issue with the scoring of the fight.
"I can’t tell the judges what to do," said Lartey. "I think it should have been scored a draw. This is the only job I know. I need to go back to the gym and work on some things."
In the opening bout of the broadcast, Samuel Vasquez (14-0, 10 KOs), of Monessen, Pa., scored three quick knockdowns of Juan Rodriguez Jr. (11-1, 5 KOs), of Union City, N.J., forcing referee Gary Rosato to stop the fight at the 2:49 mark. Vasquez is a former All-Army and All-Armed Forces champion as an amateur, and has served two stints in Iraq.
"It’s not that it was easy. It was that it was well-executed. We had a game plan, stuck to it and that's what happened," said Vasquez, 28. "All the fans, the soldiers watching overseas on AFN [American Forces Network, my family watching on Showtime, that was the biggest part of the night."
Also on the card, Yudel Jhonson, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist from Cuba, outboxed Lenwood Dozier (9-6-1, 4 KOs) en route to an eight round unanimous decision. Jhonson (15-1, 9 KOs) scored a knockdown in the opening round en route to scores of 80-71 on all three cards.
The event was promoted by Iron Mike Promotions.