The undercard results for bouts supporting Saturday's homecoming fight in Mexico by unified super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez didn't generate high expectations among boxing observers.
These fights met those low expectations, filling the time and providing a platform for regional talent, but not much more.
Julio Cesar Martinez Defends Title
Julio Cesar Martinez STOPS Ronal Rolando Batista with a big flurry of punches. 👊💥#CaneloRyder is LIVE on DAZN PPV in the US and Canada and available as part of your regular subscription in selected territories. pic.twitter.com/xa5x1mD0Ls
— DAZN Boxing (@DAZNBoxing) May 7, 2023
With fans filing into the Estadio Akron in Guadalajara in anticipation of the main event, Julio Cesar Martinez of Mexico City (20-2, 15 KOs) was positioned to put on a show against lightly regarded Ronal Batista of Panama City, Panama (15-3, 9 KOs) in defense of his WBC World Flyweight title. But someone forgot to share the script with Batista.
Martinez needed a good outing after a loss to Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (and no shame there), and a ho-hum effort against Samuel Carmona last December.
Martinez pulled the trigger and stopped Batista after an uneven performance for most of their fight, pinning Batista and unloading power shots to finally stop the fight at one minute of Round 11.
Batista proved durable and willing to stand in the pocket and trade with Martinez. If the Mexican thought he'd have an easy night, it was frustrating to pound away without seeing early results. Martinez had to settle in and get to work, establishing the jab and going at Batista the hard way.
The Panamanian had success splitting the guard with uppercuts. At times a firefight broke out, getting the crowd’s attention. Martinez had more power tools in the toolkit.
In the seventh, Martinez finally scored a knockdown – or so fans initially thought. He dropped Batista in a clear knockdown from a left hook to the head. Batista backpedaled, falling to the canvas in the corner as Martinez missed with another shot. It was initially ruled a slip by referee Celestino Ruiz.
Before the start of round eight, Ruiz announced a review correctly overruled the call as a knockdown for Martinez. In the end, it wasn't a dealbreaker, but it's a heartening development in boxing to at least correct the record. Batista was also docked a point after the fourth round for hitting Martinez after the bell.
Martinez hopes to score a unification fight among the flyweights in the Matchroom Boxing stable, likely Sunny Edwards. Based on Saturday's fight, this could be a challenge for the Mexican flyweight.
Guns Blazing: Gollaz Grinds Out Win Against Spark
No time was wasted when the opening bell sounded by lightweights Gabriel Gollaz of Guadalajara (27-3-1, 16 KOs) and Steve Spark of Queensland, Australia (16-3, 14 KOs). Both had plenty to prove at Akron Stadium. Gollaz wanted to put on a show in front of the hometown fans. Spark hoped to continue a four-fight win streak since his defeat by Tim Tszyu by third-round TKO in 2021.
In a tight contest with neither man wanting to yield, the hometown fighter prevailed thanks in part to a knockdown midway through the fight. Judges narrowly scored it for Gollaz with scores of 96-93 and 95-94, with Spark getting a 95-94 card for the split decision to Gollaz. The Mexican fighter may have gotten the benefit of the doubt from judges in several swing rounds.
Spark delivered an excellent effort through the first half of the fight. In round six, Gollaz found something in the tank, dropping Spark with a series of body shots. Gollaz sensed his opportunity, but Spark wouldn’t yield easily, surviving another hard body shot to the end of the round. Spark staged his own comeback, pressing forward and digging into the body of Gollaz. Neither man would yield, eventually handing the verdict to the judges.
Promising Prospect Nathan Rodriguez Wins On Big Stage
Teenage featherweight Nathan Rodriguez of Pico Rivera, California (11-0, 7 KOs) defeated veteran Alexander Mejia of Nicaragua (19-6, 8 KOS) with a majority decision in his first ten-round fight. Scores were 96-93, 96-94, and 95-95.
Rodriguez has only a handful of amateur fights, deciding to turn pro quickly when the pandemic threw a wrench into the Olympic Games schedule. Instead, the 18-year-old Rodriguez fought in Costa Rica and Mexico before fighting twice in Southern California, most recently in November 2022 in undercard results on the Prograis vs. Zepeda card.
The jump to the big stage didn’t intimidate Rodriguez, who has solid fundamental skills and patience for such a young boxer. There’s a lot to like here.
Gvozdyk Continues Comeback With TKO Win
A familiar name opened Saturday’s card. Former WBC World Light Heavyweight champion Alexandr Gvozdyk of Kharkiv, Ukraine (19-1, 15 KOs) had a sluggish start against Ricards Bolotniks of Latvia (19-7-1, 8 KOs). Gvozdyk came to life by the fifth round, dropping Bolotniks and leaving him bloodied and battered with an endless series of hooks and body shots. Bolotniks’ corner threw the towel into the ring to protect their man, giving Gvozdyk a sixth-round TKO win at 1:53.
Gvozdyk retired in 2019 after a devastating loss to Artur Beterbiev, suffering a concussion. He decided to make his return and won a six-round decision in his first fight in three years, hidden deep on a club fight undercard in Pomona, California. Gvozdyk is training with Anatoly Lomachenko, the highly regarded trainer of son Vasiliy and of heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk.