Chandler, Arizona–Saturday night at the Wild Horse Pass Resort and Casino Main Theater the sweet science took center stage as Showdown Promotions, in conjunction with Top Rank presented Rumble by the River II.  This was a fight card I was excited to see because it was filled with some tremendous local Phoenix area prospects including the headliner and much-ballyhooed Jose Benavidez Jr. Usually cards featuring such young fighters often are lopsided and somewhat uneventful but this card was anything but. If featured a thunderous upset, some impressive skills by baby faced youngsters, and the star of the show sealing deal like all of his fans wanted him too.

The main event pitted local sensation and elite prospect Jose Benavidez Jr. (12-0, 11KO’s) vs. journey man Correy Alacorn (14-17, 4KO’s) hailing from Denver, Colorado. Alacorn was there to lose, and he lived up to his side of the equation when in the 4th round the fight was mercifully stopped by the referee at 1:02 mark.

Alacorn grew desperate in the 3rd round after already tasting the canvas, and starting using his head as a weapon. It was clear to everyone that he had no chance to win at that point being severely outclassed, so he attempted to make the fight as physical as possible by repeatedly grapling. At one point he even pulled down Benavidez guard and attempted an off balance head butt.

All this did was anger Jr. who stepped it up even more, and started letting his hands go. He showed the competitive drive that you like to see in responding to an obvious dirty move, but equally impressive was that he never went Jermain Taylor and got out of control. His balance and technique stayed on point as his offensive onslaught continued.

What immediately stands out about Benavidez is his height and his polish in the ring. Much of that credit has to go to his father/trainer Jose Benavidez Sr. So many young fighters, especially making their home professional debut, are so eager to dazzle the crowd that they rush their attack and open themselves to unnecessary punishment. I love the way Jr. jabbed so effectively, but more importantly he jabbed to the chest of Alacorn. And I am not talking about a measuring jab either, it had some pop, was accurate, and he didn’t leave his long left hand out there so as to be counter punched.

At this stage of his career you are really judging Benavidez now against the fighter that you think he will ultimately become. So when I see that long extension on the jab, incredibly fast hands and a frame that could easily add weight, I definitely see what the hype is about. I think long term with him being only 19, the real question is what weight class he ultimately chooses to campaign in. We all know fighters will fight at the weight where there is the most money to be maid and 140-147lbs have traditionally always been loaded with big name fighters and big paydays.  I don’t think it is a matter of if he becomes a world champion but just a matter of when.

The immediate plans are to have him fight in Phoenix every other fight, to keeping building his brand in his hometown, yet expanding his fan base through out the southwest. If you visit the site from time to time, then you already know that one of my biggest pet peeves in all of boxing is the lack regional focus by promoters. With such an obvious talent and a city starving for a fighter to get behind I look forward to catching more of Jr’s fights here in AZ.

OSCAR MEZA (22-4, 18KO’s) 2nd round TKO over KELLY WRIGHT (4-8)
This was probably truly the only mismatch of the night. Meza, while a little stiff, did what he had to do, in getting the out of shape Wright up out of there. Wright, channeling his inner Lennox Lewis had his trunks up to his nipples at one point. You could tell from his body language, and well his body in general that he wouldn’t last long.

I thought Meza fought in straight lines, and against Wright that was more than ok. Having never seen him before I am not sure if that is his style or just his glaring lack of respect for Wright’s beer gut. Meza does look strong, and throws punches with full intent of doing damage. I liked that he didn’t play around with Wright at all, and let him build some confidence.

After what should have been a 10-8 first round for Meza, as he knocked Wright into the ropes where he sat down to stay in the ring, Meza ended the inevitable with a nice body and then to head combination, that left Wright unable to make it to his feet.

EMILIO GARCIA (2-0-1 1KO) DECISION over ERIC HENSON (0-1)
What time is it? Milo time! That was the chant resonating through out the arena as Garcia made his ring entrance in front of his hometown fans. This fight looked like it wouldn’t even make it out of the first round, when Milo started the fight with a beautiful all out body assault on Henson. He dropped the Albuquerque native twice in the opening stanza, on a left hook to the liver, and a second time with an blistering over hand right to the temple.

To my surprise Henson survived the round, and the rest of the fight. Henson showed a ton of heart and won over the crowds respect by not only getting to his feet, but also being the aggressor for the 2nd part of the fight. While I didn’t have him winning a around it was impressive none the less.

The only issue with Milo, if you can even call it that, was that he didn’t stick with the kidney assault he started the fight with. He was launching left hand body shots reminiscent of a young Miguel Cotto. His timing was impeccable, and the punch just looks so natural for him. It was like watching a pretty home run swing. Same motion, same spot, same gripping results every time.

In the last two rounds while not as aggressive he still showed his overall skill advantage, pot shoting at will, while taking minimal punishment. While “some” fans may not have appreciated it as much as me, the goal is to hit and not get hit. Everyone loves a fighter that is an all out brawler and all, but those same fans always want to know what ever happened to so and so brawler a couple years later. Taking unnecessary punishment is not the recipe for a long boxing career. Garcia was willing to trade on his terms, as he should have, seeing as how he was clearly the superior fighter.

I have always told people in my dealings with professional athletes Boxers and Hockey players are consistently the most fan friendly. And Garcia is no different. He just get’s “it”. Not only is he a student of the game, he loves the fan interaction, and is a showman in the ring as well. But not in the annoying cocky way that alienates fans, but more in that he has a strong since of self belief  and wants to be great at his craft. I really look forward to seeing him evolve in and out of the ring in the future.

What time is it?

JUAN GONZALEZ (2-0, I KO) DECISION MOSES ALVIZO (0-2)
This was a mismatch in talent and in age. Juan a baby faced 19 year old, who fought with a high guard reminiscent of Winky Wright, easily dispatched of Alvizio who looked about as old as Morgan Freeman.  For a second I thought it was the real Moses.  Having said that, I must give Alvizio credit for hanging in there, and eating some good shots from his much younger combatant.  When I look at a young prospect it is my belief that whom he fights is almost irrelevant, rather it is how he fights. And I loved Gonzalez’s game. He was very poised, wasted no motion and never changed his facial expression. You couldn’t tell if he was winning or losing, he was all business.

He did a couple of subtle things that really caught my eye. First off he cut off the ring exceptionally well. I see guys like Andre Berto that have over 15 televised fights that still struggle to cut off a ring properly. And secondly, even when Alvizio was on the attack, he never backed up. He would avoid the punches with his shoulders and pivot off of his front foot. That enabled him to always be in a great position to counter punch. And did he ever. His left hook always found a home, and that opened up the over hand right which ultimately did the most damage. As he gets more experience and fights better completion, he will have to straighten that right hand out some, but that will come in time. As for now he is cool customer in the ring.

ALEXIS SANTIAGO (8-0-1, 2 KO’S) VS CARLOS LUQUE (2-7)

In what turned out to be the fight of the night Alexis “Beaver” Santiago won a close decision (I had it 58-56 for Santiago) over the very rugged and granite chinned Carlos Luque. After a cautious feel out first round from both fighters that I gave to Santiago due to his good jab work, it was all out action.

Luque came forward for the last 15:00 of fight time, save for a couple nice uppercuts by Santiago to slow his charge. It was a classic turtle and the rabbit race. Luque the shorter stocker fighter being the turtle. He attacked Santiago’s body relentlessly. To the point of where he abandoned any type of a jab what so ever.  It seemed like all he did was keep hitting the circle button, throwing nothing but hook after hook.

Santiago, as the rabbit, countered that aggressiveness with left hooks of his own (but to the head) and right hand uppercuts. There is no doubt Santiago landed the more crisp punches, leading to multiple cuts over Luque’s eyebrows. But what makes a fight like this is so difficult to score is do you reward the more aggressive fighter, who is a tad more wild, but is landing body shots, or the fighter that throws less, and is an accurate counter puncher?  Either way if this was a 10 round fight, there is no way it was going to end in decision.

Either the bodywork Luque put in early in the fight would have paid off, or Santiago’s consistent left hooks would have taken their toll. This was a great all action fight that had, all the fans in attendance into it; with both fighters receiving great ovations afterwards.

Going forward I would love to see Santiago, learn to fight off the ropes better. He tended to cover up instead of countering, or even spinning his opponent around. But seeing as how this was only his 9th professional bout, and he has a fan friendly style he has plenty of time to keep evolving. He is definitely a fighter I look forward to seeing again.

JUSTIN WILLIAMS (3-3-1) TKO over JOVAN MUNOZ (12-1, 5 KO’s)
This was the first bout of the evening and set the tone for would be some spectacular action going forward. The “opponent” Williams a New Orleans native fighting for his first time in Arizona, scored an upset 2nd round TKO over the favored Jovan Munoz. In the first round, Williams controlled the tempo and the distance at which they fought at with his left jab, rarely throwing the right hand. But you could see him measuring the distance to strike. Munoz, while eating jabs stayed aggressive and kept circling to his left in attempt to land something big himself.

Round 2 started much the way round 1 ended, with Williams jabbing and Munoz loading up. Williams finally let his right hand go and landed a solid shot but Munoz took it well. I think that gave Munoz a false sense of confidence that hey had just taken Williams best punch. After another 30 seconds or so of action the same scenario played out, but this time Williams sat all the way down on his straight right hand. The next sound we all heard was Munoz face hitting the canvas as he got the Nyquil treatment courtesy of the braided Williams. The fight was stopped at 2:22 of the 2nd round.  Just from their physical stature and their records coming in, I don’t think anyone saw this coming.  From talking to him after the fight Williams seemed even keeled about the Knock out and taking satisfaction that he knew something all of us in attendance did not.  Records in boxing don’t mean a thing.  It’s all about what you do inside the ring.

All in all it was a very good night of fights. We got to see some exciting new faces, a thrilling knock out, and a young star in the making keep building toward what should be a world championship one day. Thanks to Gerry Truax at Showdown Promotions, and the Wild Horse Casino.

In the next couple of weeks there will be even more exciting fight action in the valley of the sun. Friday July 8th ESPN Friday night fights will be in town for Fanbase Promotions fight card. And just two weeks later  Facetoface events will be putting on another tremendous fight card July 22nd.

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