In a beautifully matched crossroads battle with a title fight opportunity on the line, the difference maker for Gonzalez vs. Dogboe was a pep talk from trainer Barry Hunter.
Isaac Dogboe of Anyako, Ghana (24-2, 15 KOs) won a razor-thin split decision over Joet Gonzalez of Glendora, California (25-3, 15 KOs) to win their WBO International and WBC featherweight eliminator Saturday in Hinckley, Minnesota. Dogboe won the final round on all three scorecards to avoid a majority draw.
“Whoever the champions are, I am the Royal Storm. I am back!” declared Dogboe.
In his fourth fight with Hunter, Dogboe started the fight strong, using his experience to box Gonzalez and draw him in. After losing the first few rounds, Gonzalez made an intelligent move to adjust his tactics and landed the most brutal punch of the fight, visibly buzzing Dogboe. But Dogboe's been here before, and he weathered the worst of it and stayed the course. The pair landed nearly the identical number of power punches, with Gonzalez having a six-punch edge overall.
Hunter knew the fight was close and found the right motivation for Dogboe. “We’ve been here before. Let’s go. I never asked you for nothing. Three hard minutes. Can you do it? I believe in you.”
Hunter's motivation swings Gonzalez vs. Dogboe
Dogboe acknowledged Hunter's role. “I’ve always seen Barry as a very special person, a father figure. When it seems like it’s all gone, he always has something to say to you. I really needed him in my corner tonight.”
“During the training camp, it was like, kiddo, you gotta settle down, because every now and then, I get ahead of myself, that thing in me that wants to stand there and fight. I’m learning the art of boxing. Not every punch needs to be a hard punch,” said Dogboe.
Dogboe also talked about his unwavering belief in himself. “When I came here (to the U.S.), I said to the people that my journey can be a Hollywood blockbuster movie. Regardless of wherever there is darkness, keep on going through it. At the end of the day, surely there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Praise God, all I did was have faith. My faith carried me through.”
A disappointed Gonzalez had to swallow a third tough loss. “Maybe I should have stepped on the gas a little more. As soon as I noticed I was pressing, he was backing up, and I was landing some shots. I guess it was a close fight. I thought I won the fight. I stunned him, he wasn’t landing too many punches.”
Gonzalez said he intends to regroup and get right back to work. “I feel like I'm still a top fighter at featherweight. I got to go back to the gym and make some changes. I’ll be back.”
Gonzalez said he'd love a rematch, but he'll need to go to the back of the line. Dogboe will now get a title fight opportunity. The most likely opponent is WBC champion Rey Vargas, who recently defeated Mark Magsayo. No one really needs to see a third fight against WBO champion Emanuel Navarrete, who fights on August 20 in San Diego.
It seems as if Dogboe had a long, hard fall, but his only two losses were both against Navarrete. He showed Saturday he's still a player at featherweight, and it's impossible not to like the cheerful Ghanaian. Bring on Vargas.
Giovanni Cabrera Delivers a Beatdown on Gabriel Flores Jr.
Gabriel Flores Jr. of Stockton, California, found himself deep in a hole without a shovel after Giovanni Cabrera of Chicago scored two knockdowns in the first round, one just seven seconds in. It was too much to overcome. Cabrera delivered a lopsided decision victory over Flores Jr., with all three scorecards 98-89 for Cabrera.
Trainer Freddie Roach said Cabrera planned to start strong, which was the right game plan. “It felt amazing. That’s what we worked on in the gym,” said Cabrera. “Everybody can see I’m a very slick boxer, but as you progress through the professional ranks, you learn. I have the best training in the world. Gabriel Flores is as tough as they come. Hats off to him.”
Fighting for the first time at 135 pounds, Flores Jr.’s power seemed lacking, and Cabrera was unafraid of him. Cabrera (21-0, 7 KOs) dropped Flores Jr. (21-2, 7 KOs) a third time in the fifth round. After six rounds, Flores Jr.’s father and trainer Gabriel Sr. said, “You gotta step to him, bro. Get your head off the line … get your shit together, bro.” At this point of the fight, only a stoppage would save the night for Flores Jr. Flores Sr. would have done better by his son to stop the beatdown and throw in the towel.
“The game plan was kind of a blur,” admitted Flores Jr. “I put it all on myself. My father was telling me everything right. It didn’t click.” Flores Jr. noted the ring surface was slippery and mentioned the ‘mind games’ before the fight. Flores Jr. seemed resigned to staying at junior lightweight, returning home to Northern California for a reset. It will be a long road back for the 22-year-old Flores Jr. Cabrera’s future is far more promising. He should get back in the ring for a fourth fight before 2022 ends to capitalize on his attention-getting performance.
Undercard Recap: Martinez, Vianello, Brady Jr., Mason, Warner, Mireles, and Benjamin Jr. win
Javier Martinez of Milwaukee (7-0, 2 KOs) put on a solid effort against Chino Hill of Davenport, Iowa (7-1-1, 6 KOs), scoring a near six-round shutout at middleweight. Cards for the unanimous decision were 60-54 and 59-54 X 2.
After a year out of the ring, Guido Vianello of Rome, Italy (9-0-1, 9 KOs) returns with a win over Rafael Rios of Tijuana (11-4, 8 KOs), stopping Rios inside four rounds with a one-sided beat down. Vianello dished out a lot of punishment, eventually dropping Rios to a knee following a flurry of punches, and Rios could not beat the count.
Haven Brady Jr. of Albany, Georgia (7-0, 4 KOs) went the six-round distance against Aaron Echeveste of Leon, Mexico (6-8, 3 KOs). Hat tip to the 35-year-old Eveveste for making the 20-year-old Brady Jr. go the six-round distance. Those rounds will be money in the bank for Brady Jr.
Lightweight Abdullah Mason of Cleveland (3-0, 3 KOs) made easy work of Luis Fernandez of Austin (1-4-1). Fernandez was too brave for his own good, suffering three knockdowns from Mason’s powerful left hooks set up by body shots before referee Mark Nelson stopped the bout at 2:39 of the first round. Mason, age 18, is trained by his father. It looks like all upside early in Mason's career if he's developed with patience.
Minnesota heavyweights Colton Warner (5-1, 3 KOs) and James Barnes (1-3, 1 KO) battled for local bragging rights over four rounds. Warner prevailed in the slobberknocker with scores of 40-36 on all cards.
Heavyweight Antonio Mireles of Des Moines, Iowa (2-0, 2 KOs) scored a second-round TKO courtesy of two knockdowns, though replacement fighter Dennys Reyes bloodied the winner’s face in the process. “El Gigante” Mireles is a 6-foot-9, 24-year-old trained by Robert Garcia, and he’s got all the skills necessary to be a next-gen star. The last prospect the RGBA team was this high on was Bam Rodriguez. Stay tuned.
Light heavyweight prospect Dante Benjamin Jr. of Cleveland (3-0, 2 KO) bloodied up Corey Thompson of Minnesota (4-1, 3 KO) and took care of his business in a single round.