Luis Alberto Lopez (left) vs Joet Gonzalez – Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank via Getty Images
Luis Alberto Lopez did enough to come victorious Friday night.
Lopez, The Ring’s No. 1-rated featherweight, held off a late rally from Joet Gonzalez to win by unanimous decision at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas. Scores were 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112 for Lopez, who improved to 29-2, 16 knockouts and successfully defended his IBF title.
From the opening bell, Gonzalez was the aggressor and initiated exchanges between the two, backing up Lopez against the ropes. Lopez finally got going during the third, utilizing lateral movement to make Gonzalez miss and counter.
Lopez momentarily stunned Gonzalez with a right hand to the head during the third round. Undaunted, Gonzalez continued to walk down Lopez during the first half of the fight, but Lopez ducked and weaved to avoid many of Gonzalez’s hooks and crosses.
Early in the sixth round, Lopez stunned Gonzalez again, this time with a counter left hook to the head. Gonzalez was able to recuperate and fight on.
Lopez dictated and outboxed Gonzalez for the next couple of rounds, but Gonzalez looked as though he was the more effective fighter. Both had their moments landing counter and lead left hooks to the head.
Gonzalez did some of his best work in the final round of the fight, putting Lopez on the defensive twice and connecting with an array of punches to his head. Lopez did not choose to hold and at times engaged with Gonzalez up until the bell sounded to end the round.
Friday marked the second defense of the IBF world title belt for Lopez, who is rated No. 1 by The Ring at 126 pounds. In his last bout on May 27, Lopez knocked out Michael Conlan in the fifth round.
Gonzalez, who resides in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendora, falls to 26-4, 15 KOs. The loss to Lopez was his third attempt at a world title belt, with the first coming in October 2019. That defeat came at the hands of Shakur Stevenson for the vacant WBO world featherweight title.
In the co-feature, junior middleweight Xander Zayas dropped Roberto Valenzuela, Jr. twice en route to a fifth round knockout victory.
Zayas, who is originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico and now resides in Sunrise, Florida, improved to 17-0, 11 KOs.
The 21-year-old Zayas looked sharp from the opening bell, throwing and connecting punches and combinations that produced two knockdowns during the opening stanza.
Despite being the power-puncher between the two, Valenzuela looked overwhelmed and would have to deal with a bloody nose and a cut on the bridge of his nose from the amount of punches Zayas landed.
After almost getting dropped in round four, Valenzuela, who was game throughout the fight, was battered by Zayas during the following round. Valenzuela was taking punishment when referee Mark Nelson stepped in to save him from further punishment.
Valenzuela, who resides in Agua Prieta, Mexico, falls to 21-5, 20 KOs. The 24-year-old has lost three of his last five bouts.
In the opening bout of the Top Rank on ESPN telecast, lightweight prospect Emiliano Vargas of Las Vegas, Nevada stopped Spain’s Alejandro Guardado (5-1, 1 KO) in the fifth round.
Vargas, who is the son of former two-time world junior middleweight champion Fernando Vargas, improved to 7-0, 6 KOs.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]