An enthusiastic throng of boxing-starved fans north of San Diego piled into the Pala Events Center to watch a night of exciting fights promoted by Gary Shaw. There are a lot of fans in this neck of the woods who rarely get to see top boxing so close to home. Due to TV scheduling, the top 3 fights came first. Almost all fans, however, stuck around to see 6 more fights–most of them competitive and riveting.
In the main event, highly-rated lightweight contender Rustam Nugaev started slow, before overcoming Marvin Quintero, who bowed out after 4 rounds due to a busted left hand, giving Nugaev the TKO win to move to 27-7 (17 KOs). Quintero falls to 25-5 (21 KOs).
Quintero faced an uphill battle even getting to the fight. He faced issues at the border as he tried to cross from his hometown of Tijuana. He arrived at Pala just 6-7 hours before the fight. It didn’t appear to sap him at first, as he took the first two rounds over Nugaev with slick combinations and movement. In the third, Nugaev began to drive powerful body shots home and Quintero was palpably affected. In the 4th, Nugaev did even better going downstairs and the tide had definitely shifted. Quintero may have broken his hand, but there was only one way this fight was going to end. In fact, his early bluster seemed more like a desperate move in retrospect, as he knew he wasn’t up for a long hard fight and instead tried for something big early.
Nugaev, 31, is a guy who may be easy to overlook, but he is one of the more dangerous lightweights in the world. In a division lacking much star-power, Nugaev fits in well with any of the alphabet champs.
The co-main event featured an interesting prospect on the cusp of contender status in Roman Morales, who won a widely-scored 8-round decision over the now 16-4 Khabir Suleymanov. In going to 18-0, Morales showed good movement, precision punching, and an abundance of fighting spirit in dropping the defiant Russian 5 times throughout the fight. It took Morales, San Ardo, California, a round to get accustomed to the herky-jerky LA-based Russian, but once he did, he was firmly in control, showing good versatility in an impressive performance.
Rising teenage welterweight Dusty Hernandez-Harrison got a little more than he bargained for from Hawaiian Michael Balasi, but eventually went on to win a unanimous 6-round decision. After a competitive first round, Hernandez-Harrison dropped Balasi in the second round with a straight left. But Balasi, not to be outdone, connected later the same round with a blockbuster left hook that dumped the undefeated prospect to the mat. In rising to 21-0, Hernandez-Harrison went on to control the remaining 4 rounds against an increasingly-waning Balasi, who fell to 10-4.
In the most violent moment of the night, good-looking undefeated lightweight Alejandro Luna went to 17-0 (13 KOs) when he flattened Sergio Rivera in 1:29 of the first round. A left hook propelled Rivera, now 18-15-2, to the mat for the ten-count.
Middleweight Francisco Santana used body shots to bring an early end to his fight with Mexican veteran Jorge Pimentel. Santana, now 19-3-1 (9 KOs), closed the show, with Pimentel taking the 10-count at 3:00 of the third round. Pimentel is now 27-22.
Good looking 122-pound prospect Mario Barrios went to 2-0 with a 4-round win over winless Lionell Kelly, now 0-3. Kelly was floored by a right hand in the third, but managed to hang in there for the full 4 rounds, losing by 40-35 scores on all three cards.
Decorated amateur Eduardo Martinez made his debut a successful one with a 4-round win over Jalisco Mexico’s Juan Urbina, now 0-1-1. Scores were all 40-36. Looking back, it will look like a perfunctory, non-competitive bout for Martinez, but let the record reflect that he was in an absolute dogfight, with only his amateur seasoning and talent seeing him through a stormy passage. Urbina is as game as they come and he heaved himself with passion into Martinez, who had to fight very hard to not get run over in a very entertaining fight.
Another lauded amateur made his debut, as Kenneth Sims, Jr. made his first fight a successful one by decisioning Cory Muldrew, now 1-6. The swashbucking Muldrew was able to slide around and avoid getting knocked out by the talented Sims, Jr., but offered almost nothing in the way of offense.
The best fight of the night came last and had the crowd delirious, as local boy Aaron Garcia moved to 14-3-2 with a 4-round unanimous decision over the toughest 3-10-1 fighter you’ll ever see in Thomas Herrera. Scores were all 40-36 in this junior lightweight battle, but that hardly reflects the competitive nature of this fight. Herrera was right there with Garcia the whole way, with the former national amateur champion only able to achieve the tiniest amount of separation from the hard-luck Herrera.
All in all, it was a very entertaining night of boxing. Among the luminaries in the house were preeminent super middleweight kingpin Andre Ward, NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk, and poker star Phil Ivey, who has a promoting interest in Hernandez-Harrison.