Kissimmee, FL: Just a few minutes from Disney World, in the town of Kissimmee next to Orlando, the Osceola Heritage Park Events Center played host to ProBox TV's latest boxing event, Locked and Loaded.
Puerto Rico's Jonathan “Bomba” Gonzalez (26-3-1) made the first defense of his WBO junior flyweight title against the Philippines' Mark Anthony Barriga (11-2) in a battle of southpaws. Gonzalez set out to hold on to the distinction of being the island's only current male world champion. The Filipino southpaw fell short in his last title opportunity in 2018, losing a split decision to Carlos Licona for the IBF strawweight title.
Both pugilists entered the bout with highly credentialed amateur backgrounds. The 31-year-old Puerto Rican won a gold medal at the 2010 Central American & Caribbean Games in Puerto Rico and represented the island at the Olympics in 2008. Barriga was a 2012 Olympian for the Philippines, including winning gold medals at multiple tournaments in 2011, 2012, and 2013 at the Southeast Asian Games and the Sidney Jackson Memorial tournament.
GONZALEZ OR BARRIGA 👊🤔
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The match was technical, with each fighter looking to exploit any mistake made by either man. In the first few rounds, Barriga landed a right hook on the inside on Gonzalez that surprised the Puerto Rican and would be landed continually by the Filipino. Despite only having two knockouts on his record, by the fourth round, Barriga was backing up Gonzalez putting him on the defensive. Skillfully, Barriga was able to use a quick check-right hook on Gonzalez while coming forward.
Gonzalez changed his tactics in the sixth round by being the first to attack, using his jab and the left hand to keep the Filipino backing up. There wasn't much separating either fighter in each round, and many were left up in the air for interpretation. By the ninth round, Gonzalez was beginning to take over, having his best round as he landed punches to the body and head-turning up the intensity of his pressure. In the championship rounds, the Puerto Rican's experience weighed heavily with both men less than sharp and fatigue setting in; Gonzalez was more effective backing the Filipino up while targeting the body.
All three judges agreed after 12-rounds with scores of 115-113 and 117-111 twice for Gonzalez. The Puerto Rican reached his goal of keeping his world title by successfully defending his WBO championship.
What's Next For Jonathan Gonzalez?
Before the fight, Gonzalez spoke with Jacob Rodriguez of NY Fights, expressing his thoughts on the current state of Puerto Rican boxing.
“The problem with Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican boxing is that they haven't followed much boxing since Miguel Cotto,” said Gonzalez in an exclusive interview with NY Fights. “We got Berlanga, a tremendous fighter, but I see people are not following a lot of boxing. People don't even know I'm a world champion. The promotional things got to get better in Puerto Rico, that's what I think. I received a lot of messages since the fight, and I still receive messages, but I think Puerto Rican fans are forgetting about boxing since Miguel Cotto.”
There's no doubt that boxing Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto's absence has left a large hole in the state of boxing in Puerto Rico. However, with Amanda Serrano's recent fight of the year against Katie Taylor and Gonzalez continually proving he is one of the best 108-pounders in the world, he'll be given more recognition. Regarding what's next for Gonzalez, unification fights against WBA and Ring Magazine champion Hiroto Kyoguchi or WBC champion Kenshiro Teraji would be ideal.
Angelino Cordova Escapes With Fortunate Split Decision Over Axel Vega
In the night's co-main event, for the vacant WBO Latino light flyweight title, Venezuela's Angelino “Huracan” Cordova (17-0-1) took on Mexico's Axel “El Mini” Aragon Vega (15-5-1) in the most action-packed match of the event. Cordova would be fighting for the first time outside his native country and the United States. With the added motivation of losing his previous two world title opportunities against Hiroto Kyoguchi and Wilfredo Mendez, Vega fought as if he had something to prove as a victory here would put him back in the title picture.
The match began at a furious pace, with Vega applying pressure-putting Cordova on the defensive. Vega's attacks forced Cordova to be reactionary, not allowing him to set up an attack and be first. During exchanges, Cordova attempted to time Vega whenever he rushed on the inside with uppercuts and right hands.
Using his shorter size to his advantage, Vega evaded many of Cordova's punches by ducking underneath the blows and used a sneaky right hand to get his way on the inside of the Venezuelan fighter. Due to his passion and fighting spirit, the Mexican fighter gained some of the biggest reactions from the crowd. The predominantly Puerto Rican audience even let out chants of ‘Mexico' in support of Vega.
The frenetic rate at which Vega fought was overwhelming for Cordova as the rounds went by. In spite of the fact that Cordova landed hard, clean punches on the inside, they were far between Vega's relentless strikes. A cut formed above the right eye of Cordova, and it bled throughout the fight. It was unclear if a right hand or head butt caused the cut; however, it wasn't a significant factor in how either man fought.
Fortunately for Cordova, the fight slowed down in the seventh round, allowing him to land punches in the middle of the ring. Vega was still able to land his share of hard left hands to the body leading to both men taunting one another, but overall, Cordova had his best round of the fight so far. The Venezuelan fighter held quite a few times to thwart Vega's attack on the inside, but he was constantly put into exchanges that seemed to favor the smaller Mexican fighter.
After 10-rounds, the judges were put in a challenging position as there were many competitive close rounds. The judges came back with a split decision, with two of the three scoring the fight for Cordova with scores of 97-93 and 98-92. The third judge had the fight for Vega with a score of 97-93.
Hakim Lopez Outlasts Curtis Stewart With Unanimous Decision Victory
In the light heavyweight division, Hakim Lopez (13-0) took on Cruse “Hitman” Stewart (8-1) in an eight-round match. Lopez is the brother of Najee Lopez, and in attendance would be his mother, Daphne, and twin sister Shaasia. Hakim's mother would be seeing both brothers fight live for the first time as a professional or amateur.
Although Stewart missed his first attempt at making weight the day before, it was evident from the beginning that he was not there to be a showcase for Lopez. Stewart, when on the inside, would throw hard combinations on Lopez with some success drawing some sounds of despair from the crowd in attendance.
The Georgia-based Puerto Rican utilized his jab throughout the fight to back up Stewart's workmanlike performance. The eighth round was the most exciting of the fight, with Lopez looking for the stoppage, landing punches in combination to the head and body.
After eight rounds, Lopez was given the unanimous decision victory as all three judges scored the fight 79-73 in his favor.
Jaycob Gomez-Zayas Wins Unanimous Decision Over Marcelo Williams
Garnering one of the biggest receptions of the night was 20-year-old Jaycob Gomez-Zayas (5-0) out of Caguas, Puerto Rico. In the junior lightweight division, Gomez faced off against Brazil's Marcelo Williams (3-14). The Brazilian may be one of the most active fighters in the entire sport and has already fought three times in 2022, including the week before, on the 18th of June.
Gomez, sporting a unique Dragon Ball Z-inspired set of trunks, even exhibiting the same bounce step before attacking, resembled a southpaw version of Miguel Cotto. Gomez even had Cotto's uncle and former trainer, Evangelista Cotto, in his corner.
Williams hasn't had the easiest career losing his first nine fights. However, his durability and ability to survive were on display, as his awkward style sometimes made it difficult for Gomez to land as much as he wanted. Gomez never became over-anxious or frustrated and continued to work little by little each round, delivering clean blows with the left hand from a distance and the right jab.
William kept an off-rhythm upper body movement that was difficult to time for Gomez, thus allowing him to land occasional pot shots from awkward angles as he switched back and forth from orthodox to southpaw. Ultimately, Gomez did more than enough work to earn a unanimous decision victory after six rounds.
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All three judges scored the fight in favor of Gomez with scores of 60-54 twice and 59-55. Although Gomez didn't get the stoppage, learning experiences against fighters like Williams are of the utmost importance for young fighters. They test the fighter's patience and ability to keep their composure when they can't score a knockout. Against a tricky fighter like Williams, Gomez exhibited the mental aptitude needed to succeed in the future.
Najee Lopez Stops Jeysson Monroy In Three Rounds
The biggest fight on the card, as far as the size of the fighters, took place in the cruiserweight division, with Najee “Chino” Lopez (5-0) taking on Columbia's Jeysson Monroy (1-1). Lopez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, is a multi-time national champion with over 140 amateur bouts and, at 22 years of age, is one of the premier up-and-coming fighters in the cruiserweight division.
Monroy was in attack mode from the first round, pushing the pace on Lopez and attempting to catch the younger fighter off guard. However, Lopez remained patient, waiting for Monroy to leave openings for hard counter punches. Lopez's punch selection must be commended for a young fighter, as he knew the right punches to throw at the right time. The second round saw Lopez land a beautiful right-hand counter that dropped the 37-year-old Columbian. Monroy got to his feet only to get dropped again, barely surviving the round.
The end of the match came in the third round with Monroy complaining of an issue seeing out of his right eye. The ringside doctors spoke with Monroy and determined there was an injury to the eye, thus stopping the fight at the 1:45 mark of the third round. Lopez was awarded the victory and the fifth straight stoppage of his career.
Jan Paul Rivera-Pizarro Takes Out Spain's Cesar Martinez in One Round
Part of the ProBox TV Future Stars series, Salinas, Puerto Rico's Jan Paul Rivera-Pizarro (3-0) scored the third straight stoppage in his young career, stopping Spain's Cesar Martinez (4-7-2) in a scheduled four-round featherweight bout. Heading into the fight, Martinez had been out of the ring for over five years and last laid claim to victory in 2012.
Needless to say, the young Puerto Rican did what he was supposed to do. The Puerto Rican brutalized the Spaniard, leading to a first-round technical knockout. Martinez was greeted with a rude welcome back to the ring after half a decade out of the squared circle. Rivera-Pizarro looked sharp in the one round and could be someone to keep an eye on as a future contender from the island of enchantment.
JAN PAUL RIVERA 👊💣
Jan Paul Rivera wasted no time in registering his third professional victory live on ProBox TV 👊📺
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Trinidad Vargas Has Successful Professional Debut Stopping Josh Aarons in the First Round
The broadcast portion of the night started with the debut of Carrollton, Texas's Trinidad Vargas (1-0) in the super flyweight division taking on Saint Petersburg, Florida's Josh Aarons. (0-3). In his first professional match, Vargas was anything but hesitant, unloading barrages of punches on Aarons, who looked overwhelmed by the onslaught.
The 19-year-old Vargas would hurt Aarons with a counter right hand and follow up with a left and an uppercut that dropped the 33-year-old. Aarons attempted to get up from the canvas but would be unsuccessful on his first try. The referee Emil Lombardi had seen enough, halting the fight at the 2:31 mark of the first round.
Jocksan Blanco Makes Quick Work of Ramon Esperanza, Stopping Him In Two
The first fight of the event was a four-round match in the junior middleweight division featuring two fighters from South America on vastly different spectrums of their careers. Venezuela's Jocksan Blanco (4-0) took on a veteran of 43 fights Ramon Esperanza (22-21-1) of Paraguay. The 38-year-old Esperanza lost his previous eight fights before facing Blanco and had not had his hand raised in victory since 2016.
Blanco, 27, instantly took control of the bout using his height and reach advantages keeping Esperanza at the end of his jab. The damage from the jab was apparent after the first round, with a small hemorrhage growing under Esperanza's right eye.
In the next round, Blanco would put an end to the bout with a vaunted body attack that dropped the older veteran. Esperanza's corner stopped the fight, as he did not seem like he would be competitive for much longer, saving him from further punishment. Blanco walked away with the victory, with the fight being stopped at the 1:37 mark of the second round.