By: Simon Ruvalcaba
Punchline.live was on hand for Top Rank/ESPN Boxing’s latest show at the Stockton Arena in Stockton, CA on Mother’s Day weekend in a show that featured two World Title bouts between International fighters looking to make their Mother Countries proud by bringing home some jewelry.
In the Main Event Boxing’s ‘Boogey Man’ Janibek Alimkhanuly of Kazakhstan, but now training out of Los Angeles with famed trainer and former World Champion Buddy McGirt, made an impressive statement defending his WBO Middleweight Title over Canada’s Steven Butler. Butler came out with an elusive game plan and scored well in the first round. The confidence was short lived as Janibek landed flush about a minute into round 2 dropping Butler who got off the canvas still rocked. The follow up barrage was too much for Butler to overcome as he suffered two subsequent knockdowns which forced the stoppage at 2:35. The victory reestablishes Janibek as a force to be reckon with in the Middleweight division coming off of a sup-par performance in his previous Title defense. Janibek improves to 14-0 (9), while Butler drops to 32-4-1 (26).
The ESPN action kicked off with the Co-Main Event for the vacant WBO Bantamweight title between two prideful fighters determined to take a belt back to their respective Countries. Australia’s Jason Moloney attempted for the third time to take home a belt against Filipino Vincent Astrolabio. It was a tactical fight that was hard to score and several rounds featured good jabs and boxing by Moloney while Astrolabio finished seemingly trying to steal those particular rounds in the last 30 seconds. In several other rounds Vincent scored nice power shots and looked to have won rounds more outright than the potential Moloney rounds. It was an unpopular decision that could’ve gone either way. In the end Moloney finally earns his first World Title and goes back ‘down under’ with added luggage taking the majority decision (114-114, 115-113, 116-112) and improving to 26-2 (19) while Astrolabio falls to 18-4 (13). Punchline scored the bout 116-112 for Astrolabio, but he did fight the final rounds with more desperation as if he and his corner felt that he needed to pull out the rounds while Moloney looked more confident that he had secured the victory.
Some local flavor ended the ESPN+ action and if the crowd was lively in the bout before, they were out of the ballpark with the return of Stockton’s proud Son Gabriel Flores, Jr. now residing out of Las Vegas. It was a spectacular homecoming and 27 seconds into the bout is all it took for the crowd to jump in a frenzy as a spectacular counter left hook ended the night for St. Louis’s Derrick Murray in a lightweight contest. After facing some recent setbacks and career adversity, Flores is on a new track with him and his Father Gabriel Flores, Sr. now teamed up in Vegas with Fernando Vargas and Sons. The kind of defeats that Flores suffered in recent bouts may have killed the vibes of most other prospects. Flores proved to not have lost his swagger and looks to now be back on track. Although most would say that 27 seconds doesn’t show you a lot, it did show that he’s not gun-shy like many other fighters often become after the type of defeats that he suffered. Flores is now 22-2 (8) while Murray falls to 17-9-1 (6).
The lively crowd inside of the Stockton Arena got loud for Salinas, CA Featherweight Ruben Villa’s Top Rank debut and he did not disappoint as he attacked Mexico’s Maickol Lopez Villagrana from the gate and did not let up. Scoring a knockdown in round 4 with a right hook, left uppercut, straight left combo from the southpaw Villa. Villa stayed on Maickol and the never-ending attack forced the referee to stop the action at 1:55 of the 5th round. The former World-Title challenger seems poised for another crack at a strap as he is now 20-1 (7). Lopez-Villagrana falls to 16-5 (8).
In an 8 round battle of two unbeaten Middleweights, Milwaukee’s Javier Martinez and Sacramento’s Joeshon James showed the subjective nature of the sport as ringside opinion varied. The Southpaw Martinez controlled the inside action while James was in charge whenever there was distance between the two James landed the more solid shots. After 8 competitive rounds. were neither fighter could keep momentum for a sustained period of time, the bout suspensefully went to the scorecards and the official scorecards where just as widely varied as press row. The bout was scored 79-73 for James, 77-75 for Martinez while the deciding judge agreed with Punchline’s score of 76-76 for an official verdict of a split decision draw. Martinez is now 8-0-1 (2) and local favorite James is now 7-0-1 (4).
The Fernando Vargas legacy stayed unbeaten as Jr. Lightweight Amado ‘Malvado’ Vargas improved to 7-0 (2) with a unanimous (40-35) 4 round decision over Mexico’s Bernardo Manzano. Amado came out aggressive and scored a first-round knockdown and then cruised through the fight which looked like it could end at any time before the game Manzano did enough to survive. It was a nice showcase for Vargas as he develops. Manzano falls to 2-5. If this was Baseball, I would compare Amado to a minor league prospect on the rise and is improving with every showing, which makes one want to see him again as he climbs the boxing ranks.
In the night’s opening bout streamed on the ESPN+ app, unbeaten Atlanta, GA Welterweight Brian Norman, Jr. had a tougher than expected time against Mexico’s Jesus Perez who pressed the action and came to fight as Norman attempted to establish his jab and combos. It was a tough fight to score as Perez landed effectively but one at a time, while Norman had his moments of brilliance. IN the end it was Norman, Jr. taking an unpopular unanimous decision (77-75 twice and 78-74) to improve to 24-0 (19) while Perez earned fans despite dropping to 24-5 (18). Punchline scored the bout 76-76.
About the Editor
Army Veteran and former Professional Boxer Simon Ruvalcaba started boxing at the age of ten and Had a 71 fight amateur career which featured a 139 lbs. 1998 8th U.S. Army Boxing Championship out of Camp Casey, Korea and a spot on the prestigious Army Boxing Team at Fort Hood, TX. After a journeyman pro career of 18 fights, which included sparring sessions with many champions and contenders including Julio Cesar Chavez and Pernell “Sweat Pea” Whitaker, Simon started writing and has contributed to many publications and websites including fighthype.com, pound4pound.com, Tahoe Daily Tribune (South Lake Tahoe, CA), Nevada Appeal (Carson City, NV). He has also been the Boxing Instructor for Ken Shamrock and The Lions Den and was MMA and Bareknuckle star Paige VanZant’s first boxing coach!
Born and Raised in South Lake Tahoe, California he now resides in Sun Valley, Nevada and spends as much time as possible with his Sons Gabriel and Oscar! Beyond boxing, Simon is an all around sports fanatic and is passionate about the teams that he roots for. Simon also works as a Sportsbook Supervisor for Caesars Sportsbook in Lake Tahoe.