Welterweights Alexis Rocha of Santa Ana, California (19-1, 13 KOs) and Blair Cobbs of Philadelphia (15-1-1, 10 KOs) weren't the main event fighters Southern California fans expected to see at the USC Galen Center on Saturday. They paid their money to see rising star Vergil Ortiz, Jr.
When Ortiz Jr. was hospitalized due to rhabdomyolysis, a serious organ breakdown, the Rocha vs. Cobbs co-main became the main event. Fans were offered ticket refunds.
But Rocha's fervent Orange County fans stuck by him, and so did the hard-core Cobbs followers. After watching the local favorite rise to the occasion, the rest of the crowd became Rocha fans.
Rocha and Cobbs engaged in an all-action affair, with Rocha working his way through Cobbs' herky-jerky style to prevail with an impressive ninth-round stoppage.
— Golden Boy (@GoldenBoyBoxing) March 20, 2022
The Golden Boy Boxing stablemates have risen on parallel paths with no love lost between the smoldering Rocha and the bombastic WWE wannabe Cobbs. The two were good to their word, holding nothing back to move on to bigger matchups and paychecks.
Rocha made it happen through solid offensive pressure, brilliant punch selection, and a steady pace. Cobbs has shown himself capable of surprising comebacks in past fights, and he caught Rocha more than once. But Rocha took control by the fourth round. Rocha's corner reminded him to be defensively responsible (in far more colorful language in both English and Spanish), and it's all he needed to hear.
Monster uppercuts get the KO
“My mindset wasn't getting tired at all. I was going to throw 100, 200 punches to get him out of there,” said Rocha. Rocha scored the knockdown that signaled the end halfway into the eighth round, an uppercut so hard it threw Cobbs upward and off his feet before flying to the canvas.
Cobbs survived to the end of the round, but referee Rudy Barragan, the ringside physician, and trainer Freddie Roach were on the brink of calling the fight between rounds. “I'm going to stop the fight. You're getting killed out there,” said Roach. But he let Cobbs go out for the ninth round. Rocha needed less than 30 seconds to get Cobbs against the ropes and blast away. Barragan finally called the fight at 44 seconds of the round.
Rocha gave himself a C. “I know I got the KO, but he was running around. It was hard to adjust. It took me quite a while,” said Rocha. “I was getting careful. I could have gotten him out of there a long time ago,” turning to the fans to thank them. “Muchissimas gracias! Con Mexicanos no se juega! (You don't play with Mexicans!”).
“He was just a good fighter today,” said Cobbs. “He got me in the later rounds. Shout out to him and his team. I was throwing shots, but I wasn't following up. He was throwing good shots, and I just couldn't recover.” Cobbs had just enough left to vow he'd come back and issue a “Woooo!” before leaving the ring.
Rocha's performance should earn him another main event, possibly against Michael McKinson (no thanks) or Conor Benn (yes please). Cobbs will get another opportunity on a Golden Boy undercard. He has a following and works just as hard to sell a fight as he does In the ring. But it won't be a surprise when WWE comes calling.
Ho-Hum McKinson Gets Decision Over Martin In Co-Main
No one was more disappointed about the withdrawal of headliner Ortiz Jr. than his original opponent, Michael McKinson of Portsmouth, England (22-0, 2 KOs). As noted by Lee Groves of CompuBox, McKinson had four named opponents in 24 hours before Alex Martin of Chicago (17-4, 6 KOs) signed on and made it through the weigh-in and into the ring Saturday. Perhaps McKinson will live to regret it. He leaves Los Angeles with an uninspiring unanimous decision over Martin by scores of 99-91, 98-92, and 97-93.
Neither combatant showed even the tiniest spark in this tactical, cautious fight. It is not the sort of fight you put in front of a predominantly Mexican-American crowd in LA, which booed and colorfully cursed the lack of action throughout. This version of McKinson would have been a calf to the slaughter against Ortiz Jr.
Bek the Bully Blasts His Way Toward a Rematch
Bektemir “Bek the Bully” Melikuziev of Indio, California (9-1, 7 KOs) wanted to make the fans forget his devastating knockout loss last year to Gabriel Rosado. Mission accomplished. Melikuziev won by second-round knockout against David Zegarra of Lima, Peru (34-8, 21 KOs). Bek the Bully only needed a single punch, a vicious upward left hook to the body, dropping Zegarra in a spasm of pain. Zegarra slammed his gloves on the canvas, knowing there wasn't anything he could do about it, and called it a night at 30 seconds into the round.
Melikuziev's camp crew from Indio, including MJ Akhmadaliev, Israel Madrimov, and Dmitry Bivol, were on hand to help their pal celebrate his win. Also on hand was Rosado, who said he was happy to see Melikuziev get the win. Bek called on Rosado for a rematch. “The only thing on my mind is a re-match with Gabe Rosado,” said Melikuziev.
Rosado said he's focused on his upcoming April 9 fight on the Ryan Garcia undercard. “But if there's a belt on the line, let's go!” laughed Rosado.
Sanchez Scores Decision In Opening Bout
In the opener, super welterweight prospect Evan Sanchez of Parlier, California (11-0, 6 KOs) went eight solid rounds in an enjoyable scrap against Alejandro Munera of Medellin, Colombia (6-4-4, 5 KOs). Beyond the win, the matchmaking was intended to give Sanchez some work. Munera was just enough of a threat to keep Sanchez honest, but he handled his opponent's fire with his own, filtered through the kind of patience he'll need in the future againnst craftier opposition.
“In the first two rounds, I got a little wild, and he caught me with some shots,” admitted Sanchez. “I fixed myself after the third round and did way better. He could take a shot. I went to the body, and he was taking them. Hopefully, you see me next month.”