Arnold Barboza Jr. took a key step toward securing a title shot at junior welterweight on Saturday as he gutted out a tough, hard-earned 10-round unanimous decision over Alex Saucedo on the Vasiliy Lomachenko-Teofimo Lopez Jr. undercard at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas. Barboza came out on top by the scores of 96-93, 97-92 and 97-92.
But it wasn't easy. Saucedo (30-2, 19 KOs) kept coming forward and applying pressure, and even earned a knockdown along the way. But ultimately, the difference between the two was Barboza's versatility and his ability to box a bit more from the outside, landing punches on the move.
Barboza (25-0, 10 KOs) began the fight in a southpaw stance, which left him vulnerable to Saucedo's left hooks. The fight began at a brisk pace, with both men landing their share of punches. But over time, the superior speed and quickness of Barboza gave him the edge.
When it seemed Barboza was separating himself from Saucedo in the scorecards, Barboza was sent to the canvas in the seventh round from a left hook, as the two were tangled a bit awkwardly with their feet. Originally ruled a slip, it was confirmed as a clean knockdown by instant replay.
However, Barboza regained his composure and continued to box strategically in order to win the last portion of fight and secure the win on the scorecards.
"This was like a championship fight to me," Barboza said after the fight. "It's all because of my father [head trainer Arnold Barboza Sr.], not me. I did this for kids and my father. My dream is to get a house for my kids. I came that much closer today.
"I want a championship fight. No more messing around. No more tuneup fights."
Berlanga's KO streak continues
One of the most eye-opening streaks in boxing continued as super middleweight Edgar Berlanga stopped Lanell Bellows in the first round. In 15 professional fights, Berlanga has scored 15 first-round KO victories.
Bellows (20-6-3, 13 KOs), a durable veteran, had never been stopped in 28 pro fights. But from the start of the fight, Berlanga started landing the heavy punches, hurting Bellows and cutting him over the left eye.
Berlanga (14-0, 14 KOs) is a natural puncher, and everything he threw seemed to shake up Bellows. As Berlanga started to put his punches together -- with both the right and left hands -- referee Robert Hoyle could be heard telling Bellows, "Show me something," as Bellows was backed up along the ropes.
After a left hook snapped back Bellows' head, Hoyle made the decision to wave off the fight at 1:19 seconds of the round.
It was another powerful display of power from perhaps the most lethal young puncher in the sport.
Vargas shows speed, power in win over Castaneda
Josue Vargas put forth an impressive effort in handily defeating Kendo Castaneda in a junior welterweight battle. All three judges scored the fight for Vargas -- 100-89, 98-91 and 99-90.
Vargas jumped out to an early lead by knocking Castaneda down with a left hand in the second round. Castaneda got up, dusted himself off and kept fighting. But Vargas (18-1, 9 KOs) continued to control the action throughout with a steady attack.
In the middle rounds Vargas started to land right hooks to the body and quick combination punches. While Vargas got clipped occasionally by Castaneda (17-3, 8 KOs), he was never truly threatened in this fight. His superior boxing skills and quick movements helped him control the entire bout. Castaneda's nose was bleeding for much of the bout, and while he went the distance, he was never really in the fight.
Vivas stops Moralde in Round 1
Jose Enrique Vivas needed just 76 seconds to stop John Vincent Moralde in what was scheduled to be an eight-round featherweight contest.
Vivas sent Moralde (23-4, 13 KOs) to the canvas early with a short left hook while the two boxers were exchanging on the inside. As Moralde got up, Vivas (20-1, 11 KOs) ramped up his attack by striking Moralde with a hard right hand over the top that stunned him, followed by a left hook to the body that had Moralde covering up on the ropes. At that point, referee Enrique Colon decided to wave the fight off.
Randall dominates Rivera
Quinton Randall defeated Jan Carlos Rivera by unanimous decision in a matchup of undefeated welterweights. After six rounds, Randall came out on top on all three scorecards, by scores of 59-55, 58-56 and 58-56.
Rivera (4-1, 4 KOs), an aggressive southpaw, didn't hesitate to come forward to attack Randall (6-1, 2 KOs). While Rivera was able to pin Randall against the ropes multiple times, most of his punches fell short, allowing Randall to box effectively and counterpunch throughout the bout.
Tucker stays unbeaten with unanimous decision win
In the opening bout of the night, welterweight Jahi Tucker notched his second professional victory by pitching a four-round shutout of Charles Garner. All three judges saw the fight 40-36 for Tucker.
While the scorecards were clearly in favor of Tucker (2-0, 1 KOs), it wasn't a scintillating performance. Tucker was the more active fighter and he consistently outworked Garner throughout the fight, but Garner (1-1) had his moments.
What this fight really showed was that Tucker, 17, still has a ways to go in terms of his professional development.