Diego Elizondo returned to the boxing ring in the same fashion as he left it 13 months ago, with a draw Saturday at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. Meanwhile, Reno’s J.J. Mariano won his pro debut by a fourth round technical knockout.
Elizondo, a 20-year-old lightweight from Carson City, started strongly but Sacramento’s Sergio Vega rallied with powerful left hooks to pull out a four-round draw. All three judges scored it 38-38. Elizondo’s pro record is now 2-0-2. Vega is 2-0-1.
“I set the pace in the first round and I believe I did enough to win the fight,” Elizondo said. “The first two rounds, I felt like I dominated. In the third round, I landed some good punches — I didn’t completely slow down.
“In the fourth round, I felt like I picked it back up. He had a hard time coming in on me. But that’s boxing. I believe I won the fight but that’s the judges’ job.”
Vega said he would have won the fight if it had been a six-rounder.
“I felt like I hurt him the last two rounds,” he said. “I was walking him down. He was throwing pitter-patter punches, amateur style. I landed cleaner, stronger punches and that’s what counts in the pros.”
Elizondo countered: “He can call it what he wants. It’s boxing . He says pitter-pat shots but obviously I was landing. They were clean.”
Elizondo opened the fight aggressively, throwing the first six punches. Then he moved outside and scored with a right jab. Both fighters are southpaws.
“I thought I had it in the bag,” Elizondo said.
Moving forward, Elizondo appeared to clearly win the second round as well. He landed some wide body shots. But Vega put him on the ropes and tagged him with a left hook, raising a red welt on Elizondo’s temple. Elizondo landed counter punches and escaped the ropes.
In the third, Vega moved forward. He landed the biggest punch of the night with Elizondo again on the ropes. The taller fighter danced out of harm’s way and raised his glove in triumph after the bell, even though it was Vega’s round.
“He is coming from sea level so I know he didn’t have the legs to dance around with me,” Elizondo said. “He was looking to set his feet to land punches so that’s why I began to move around.”
In the fourth, Elizondo landed twice the punches as did Vega, who scored the harder blows. The judges’ cards were quickly tallied and the partisan crowd jeered the decision.
“He tried a peek-a-boo kind of thing. Just explode out of nowhere. I’ll give him that, but he’s not as fast as I am. He’s got some power. I’m not gonna lie. But it’s nothing I haven’t seen before. I sparred with Gabriel Flores and he’s given me some of his best shots.”
Jose Elizondo, Diego’s father and trainer, was disappointed by undaunted.
“He fought with quick hands, moved well on his feet and he’s in good shape but they called it a draw,” he said. “He was never hurt. I think we won 3 rounds to 1. But we’re OK.”
“We shook off the rust,” cornerman Juan Torres added. “We’ll be back to work in the gym Monday.”
Mariano scores TKO in first pro fight
In his pro boxing debut, J.J. Mariano displayed patience before he made his opponent pay, scoring a technical knockout 45 seconds into the fourth round.
The 25-year-old super lightweight faced William Flenoy in the opening bout of the card, entering the ring to cheers from the hometown fans who filed into the Reno-Sparks Convention Center.
“Until punches are thrown, it feels surreal,” Mariano said. “Then you get hit and it’s go time.”
Flenoy, a fighter from Fresno who also made his pro debut, landed the first solid blows – a left jab to the jaw and later a left to the body. Mariano, who had a slight reach advantage, danced from the outside. He slipped several punches but appeared to lose the first round.
Midway into the second, after taking a few more shots, Mariano moved inside and began to mix it up. In the third round, Mariano moved Flenoy into a corner. The two traded punches and the one from Mariano floored his foe.
“I dropped him with an overhand right,” Mariano said. “I heard the crowd and I was excited. I looked to Pat (Jefferson, the cornerman). He said jab the body and take his head off with the right.”
Late in the third round, Flenoy grabbed his left collarbone in pain. Mariano said he didn’t know if he injured his opponent with a punch or a clash of shoulders.
Early in the fourth round, Flenoy turned his back to Mariano and the fight was stopped.
“He kept his composure and I was very happy with that,” Jefferson said. “He boxed at his own pace. The first time JJ hit him in the body (Flenoy’s) eyes lit up and I saw his mouthpiece. Anytime you see the mouthpiece, you know he’s out of breath.”
Flores goes distance in first eight-round bout
Stockton 19-year-old lightweight sensation Gabriel Flores Jr. won a unanimous decision in his first eight-round fight.
Relying a fast and powerful left-hand jabs and hooks, Flores built a lead early but was never hurt Salvador Briceno, a 25-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico.
“It was one, two, three, A, B,C – easy peasy,” Flores said. “I didn’t really get touched at all.
“He was cautious, trying to make sure he didn’t get hit with too many big shots.”
The judges saw a closer fight. The scoring was 78-74, 78-74 and 79-73.
Flores improved to 14-0 with 6 KOs.
Champion Valdez wins — possibly final fight as featherweight
In the main event, WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez successfully defended his title for the sixth time, scoring a unanimous decision over an incredibly resilient Jason Sanchez in front of more than 2,500 fans at Reno-Sparks convention center.
Valdez of Nogales, Mexico, improved to 26-0 with 20 knockouts. Sanchez of Albuquerque lost for the first time. His record is 14-1 with 7 knockouts.
Valdez pounded Sanchez all night with darting jabs and hooks but the challenger never backed down. Sanchez sustained a bloody nose and right eye and a fifth-round knockdown but he continued to fight back. Both fighters’ punches were aimed at the head.
Knowing he needed a knockout, Sanchez fought furiously at the start of the 12th round. He landed some shots and had the champion on the ropes. But Valdez weathered the storm and Sanchez appeared spent.
Valdez fired combinations, sending Sanchez on his heels and into his own corner and for the first time appeared in serious trouble. But then the champion seemed to tire. In the final 30 seconds the fighters went toe-to-toe, to the delight of the crowd.
It may have been Valdez final fight as a featherweight. He is at the same 126 pounds that he fought as in 2012 when he boxed for Mexico in the Olympics.
“If I fight another featherweight, I might not be 100 percent,” the exhausted champion told the ring announcer. “Sometimes I get tired in there, and I’m not sure if it’s because of the weight loss. We’ll talk about it as a team and we will do what is best.”
— Tim Parsons