In what was an all time classic, it took four knockdowns apiece to finally declare Jose Zepeda a fifth round knockout winner against Ivan Baranchyk inside the MGM Grand Bubble, Las Vegas on Saturday.
Zepeda (33-2, 26 KOs) moved towards a third world title shot, after producing a showreel knockout of Baranchyk (20-2, 13 KOs) following a dramatic eight knockdown affair on Top Rank’s latest bill.
Former world champion, Baranchyk planted his feet from the off, and wanted Zepeda to feel his power, landing with a chopping left hook midway through the opener, and a glancing right hand right on the top of the Californian’s head, which floored him with just over a minute to go.
The former two-time world title challenger easily beat the count, but was decked again right at the end of the session, when a right, left combination forced him to the canvas.
Zepeda, 31, was caught by the speed and timing more than anything, and again beat the count comfortably enough.
The start of the second saw more drama, and as Baranchyk leaped in, Zepeda caught him with a left that floored him, but no knockdown was ruled.
There was no doubt a matter of seconds later, as the 27-year-old over reached again, allowing Zepeda to land a combination and a counter left that dropped him heavily.
He rose on unsteady legs, and after a brief exchange in which the Belarussian was again wobbled, Zepeda hit the deck for a third time when ’The Beast’ countered with a short hard right hand bang on the chin.
There was no sign of the brutality stopping, and it was more of the same in the third, with the pair taking turns to unload power punches.
Zepeda’s were the more crisper though, and after a couple of combinations pierced the Baranchyk guard, two straight, power lefts knocked the former IBF champion down for a second time.
Baranchyk seemed at his most dangerous when hurt, and he roared back into action, rushing in and continuing to walk forward, although Zepeda showed composure to keep him at bay.
It was back and forth action, and the fourth was quiet by their standards, although Baranchyk nailed Zepeda with a jolting left uppercut.
The drama was saved this time for the end of the round, with Zepeda landing another punishing combination as Baranchyk reached in too much, and a hard left hand again had the him on the deck, with the knockdown count now at six.
With just over a minute to go in the fifth, Baranchyk nailed Zepeda with a massive right hand, which forced him to stagger towards the ropes, and with the ropes holding him up, a seventh knockdown was ruled.
In a dramatic conclusion, Baranchyk fell short, and Zepeda punished to the maximum, landing a short right followed by a monster left that crumpled Baranchyk’s legs from underneath him, and he was out cold before he hit the canvas.
Baranchyk was worryingly motionless for several minutes after the fight, but eventually got to his feet, and left the ring under his own steam in what was a massive relief to all concerned.
Zepeda picked up the vacant WBC Silver Super Lightweight title, as a result of his thrilling win, and he manoeuvres himself into a position for a possible rematch with WBC and WBO champion, Jose Ramirez, who took a majority decision win last year.
“I feel great. It was a hard fight, and boxing is no easy game, it’s the hardest sport,” Zepeda told ESPN post-fight.
“I know I’m tough, but I didn’t know just how tough, and a fight like this was a great learning experience.
“I would love to fight Ramirez again. I’m going for titles, and that’s why I’m here, so I’d love that fight.”
The co-main event saw Gabriel Flores Jr (19-0, 6 KOs) take a wide points decision over ten rounds against Ryan Kielczweski (30-5, 11 KOs) at Lightweight.
Scores of 100-90, 99-91 and 98-92, were enough for the 20-year-old to extend his unbeaten record to 19-0.
At Heavyweight, former Olympian Guido Vianello (7-0-1, 7 KOs) maintained his unbeaten record, but was forced settle for a majority draw by Kingsley Ibeh.
A score of of 59-55 in favour of Ibeh (5-1-1, 4 KOs), was overruled by two scores of 57-57 in a gripping affair.
Featherweight prospect Duke Ragan (2-0, 1 KO) overcame a negative John Moraga (1-2, 1 KO) to remain unbeaten taking a 40-36 win on all three scorecards over four.
Whilst, Frevian Gonzalez (4-0, 1 KO) took a majority decision win over the same distance at Super Featherweight against Carlos Marrero III (2-4-1).
Haven Brady Jr (1-0, 1 KO) made a winning debut, stopping Gorwar Karyah (2-2, 2 KOs) in the fourth and final round at Featherweight.
The show opener saw JJ Mariano (3-0, 2 KOs) stop Mathew Reed (1-1, 1 KO) inside a round at Welterweight.