Garcia Shines Brightly in Anaheim; Linares Stops Morales

Barbara Pinnella

Barbara lives in USA and tries to cover as many fights as she can – which is never enough! She has been writing about boxing since the first series of The Contender, where she interviewed the loser of each match each week, and then the winner of the final bout and has been covering boxing ever since.

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We traveled to the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA for a Golden Boy event. The crowd was big, and they were not afraid to cheer loudly for their favorites, and boo the opponents. The DAZN main event featured lightweights boxing for the WBC Silver lightweight title, as Ryan Garcia (20-0, 17 KOs) faced off against Francisco Fonseca (25-3-2, 19 KOs). This was for a scheduled 12 rounds.

This fight did not need the 12, not even close. A giant left hook delivered by Garcia put Fonseca down and out cold at 1:20 of the very first round. There were surprised looks all around; not that Ryan won, but more the fact that he was able to deliver that knockout punch so early on. Wow!!

“I was hoping that it would last a little bit longer,” Ryan laughed. “When Fonseca faked, it gave me the opportunity to hit him with that left hook. I saw his left hook and let him get comfortable, and then took the time to my shot. I’m ready for everything.”

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In a fight that was scheduled for 12 rounds, the DAZN co-main event gave us Jorge Linares (47-5, 29 KOs) going up against Carlos Morales (19-4-4, 8 KOs). This fight was in the lightweight division. These two started quickly, fighting in close and landing some punches. There was also a clash of heads about midway through, which opened up a cut on Linares. Morales landed some great uppercuts early on in the second, but Linares was able to get in some body work and straight rights.

A body shot and then a quick right hand put Morales on the canvas in the third round. Before that, Linares had been very good with that body work. In the fourth, that body shot worked again. Linares once again followed a hit to the body with a giant right hook, and put Morales down and this time out. The time was 2:09. This was the first time that Carlos had been stopped.

“I surprised myself,” Linares said, “but I can demonstrate even more then that. I wanted to see if I could capture in a fourth weight class. He caught me, I was off balance, but now I’m back at 135 pounds. The best thing I could have done is go back home to Japan and train with Mr. Honda. I’m at the best moment in my career right now.

“I think the most helpful is being mentally well and that’s why going to Japan helped. It provided nutrients, and makes me feel better. I’m back at 135 and I’m ready for the best at 135. I’m ready for Ryan Garcia and then we will see what happens.”

The WBC Continental Americas welterweight belt was on the line when Alexis Rocha (16-0, 10 KOs) stood across the ring from Brad Solomon (28-3, 9 KOs). This bout was scheduled for 10 rounds. Unlike the fight before this one, these two came out swinging. Rocha was very balanced and really utilized his jab to his advantage straight away, followed up by his strong left hand.

Both men were active and scored in the second. Rocha is a slick and quick fighter, and had been showing that off in the fight. His right jab and left hand were continuing to shine as well. even though he had shown this to us prior, in the fourth he landed some good body shots. Alexis is the whole package.

Not much changed in the fifth. While Solomon was trying to slip the punches thrown by Rocha and land some of his own, he was not as successful at doing so. Alexis was showing all of his skill. Not much different in the next two rounds. Brad would try to take a bit of control, but each time he would come in to land his punches he would pay for that.

In the ninth round Brad was able to get inside and land a few without being hit in return. We moved into the final round. Finally, after it looked as if he had tried repeatedly, Rocha got his knockdown after a big right hand rocked him, and Alexis just kept on until Solomon went down. Still, we went to the scorecards. 100-89, 99-90, and 97-92, giving the unanimous decision to Rocha.

“That was definitely a close fight, right off the bat I thought he was really prepared,” Rocha said. “I’m glad I switched up my combination and knocked him down. I should have put more pressure on him up front, but I’ll do that moving forward. Trust me, I’ve learned a lot from this fight and I’m ready to keep moving up the ladder. I want to thank everyone in boxing for being supportive and showing up tonight.”

In the first televised fight, Blair Cobbs (14-0, 9 KOs) went up against Samuel Kotey (23-3, 16 KOs). This fight was for the NABF welterweight title and was scheduled to go 10 rounds. Blair came out to pro wrestler Shawn Michaels’ entry music, Sexy Boy, and had a broken heart on the back of his robe. On the back of his trunks he had WOOO!, a la Ric Flair. His music at the end was Stone Cold Steve Austin’s glass breaking, finished off by Triple H’s music. Ya think he’s a wrestling fan? Pretty funny.

Already an interesting fight, as both men are a bit awkward, but also seem to be able to pack a the second neither man has established any real dominance over the other. It would seem as if that would happen, but then it never did. That changed in the third, as Cobbs began to land some measured punches on Kotey. This is what his fans were waiting to see.

That commitment by Blair left in the fourth, and the boos came out. These two were standing straight up and not really getting in there, but rather pawing at each other. It was much the same in the fifth. In the sixth Cobbs started off very strong and was having his best round. but the tables turned in the second half of that round, and Kotey had his best moments thus far.

In the seventh the pace slowed down again. As the fight went on, Blair was not going on the attack and Kotey began to capitalize on that. In the ninth round referee Jerry Cantu took a point away from Cobbs for a low blow. We moved into the tenth and final round.

Samuel continued to land punches on Blair in this last round. Both men had more wild moments than bright ones. It seemed as if Kotey was the overall aggressor, but when Cobbs would land he made an impression. We moved to the scorecards. One judge had it 95-94 for Kotey while the other two saw it 96-93, giving the win to Blair. He not only kept his win streak alive, but he captured the NABF welterweight title.

After the fight Cobbs had a lot to say. “It was a good performance. I boxed really good, and I have to hand it to him, he had a hell of a chin. I’d hit him and he kept coming. He’s a wonderful fighter. Good turnout, and he had a tough chin.

“I’m practicing and getting better every time. I’m trying to be more patient, settle down, get a couple shots to the body and head. Good performance and good boxing inside, outside, and landing more punches. He’s coming forward, but I’m landing more punches. I’m ready for anything, working really hard and progressing little by little. I come and I conquer. Give me the boos, and give me the woos!”

In the next bout, Alejandro Reyes (3-0, 2 KOs) took on Nelson Colon (4-2, 3 KOs). This fight was scheduled for four rounds in the lightweight division. Within the first 30 seconds, Reyes was able to put Colon on the canvas, but despite being sent reeling near the end of the first, Nelson withstood the round. They fought in very close quarters in the second round, partly due to the fact that Colon would frequently hold the arm of Reyes.

Both fighters were throwing a lot of leather in the third. They were not all damaging punches, but both men were landing. It was the same in the fourth and last. Reyes was never able to finish the show, and we went to the scorecards. Two of the judges saw it 40-36, while the third had the scores 39-37, all for Reyes.

Reyes had this to say after his fight. “Not every fight is the same and I am so grateful to be able to have this experience to help me become a better fighter. This is a great arena and I feel so lucky to be apart of it. a huge thank you to all the people who came out to support us.”

In a super middleweight fight that was scheduled to go 10 rounds, Bektemir Melikuziev (5-0, 4 KOs) went up against Oscar Cortes (27-6, 14 KOs). Cortes looked to be out of shape, not a complete surprise since he took the fight on short notice.

A very fast left/right combination dropped Cortes but he got back up. He might have regretted that decision, as a hard shot to his body by Melikuziev put him down again and he was unable to continue. The fight was waved off at 2:05 of the first round by referee Eddie Hernandez, Sr.

“I’m happy I got this win,” Bektemir said after his fight. It was very quick, but I hope to stay busy throughout the year.”

Welterweights took to the ring as Evan Sanchez (7-0, 6 KOs) took on Daniel Evangelista (20-12-2, 16 KOs) in a bout that was scheduled to go six rounds. Sanchez kept up with powerful combinations throughout the entire round, at one point dropping Evangelista. Somehow Daniel managed to get out of the round. In the second round a solid right hand dropped Daniel again, and referee Cantu waved the fight off at 1:52 seconds of that round, giving the win to Sanchez.

“I think I did pretty well,” Sanchez said. “The first round I was pretty stiff, but I can work on that. I’m appreciative of all the fans who came out, and my goal is to continue to work toward a belt.”

In the opener of the evening, Tenochtitlan Nava (8-2 (1 KO) faced off against Anthony Casillas (8-2, 4 KOs). This fight was scheduled for six rounds in the super featherweight division. Got into the venue just in time to hear them announce that they had the scores wrong. The final scores were 58-56 on all cards giving Nava the unanimous decision.

For the most part this was an entertaining night of boxing, and it had a little something for everyone. Linares showed that he still has what it takes to win, and Ryan proved that he is the real deal. Love him or hate him, he delivered on this night, and a Garcia/Linares fight looks to be coming up this summer. We previously mentioned that there was a large crowd. The total attendance was 10, 310.

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