Yokasta Valle powered her way to another title defense.
The three-division and reigning IBF/WBO strawweight titlist turned away a brave challenge from Guatemala’s Maria Santizo to take a well-earned, unanimous decision over ten rounds. Scores were 100-90, 99-91 and 99-91 for Costa Rica’s Valle in their DAZN-aired title fight Saturday evening from Commerce Casino in Commerce, California.
Santizo was committed to win in her second career title fight and went right at Valle immediately after the opening bell. The Guatemalan contender landed a right hand and later snapped back Valle’s head in the first round. Valle regrouped and quickly found a home for her right hand. Both boxers showed sturdy chins in taking the other’s power shots in a high contact contest through two rounds.
A similar pattern transpired in round three. Valle was more economical with her punches and tended to land the more convincing shots. Santizo let her hands go and depended on pure volume to gain an edge.
Valle was briefly caught off guard by Santizo’s early bum-rush in round five but quickly regained control courtesy of her right hand upstairs. Several shots landed for the defending champ, against which Santizo falled to adjust.
Santizo was hurt for the first time early in round six when Valle cranked a left hook to her challenger’s chin. The shot came as Valle’s head trainer, Gloria ‘Coach G’ Alvarado, encouraged her to concentrate more on a body attack and avoid a shootout. The allure of exploiting Santizo’s leaky defense was too tempting for Valle, who stuck with her right hand up top which continued to land with regularity.
An accidental headbutt left Valle with a small cut on the bridge of her nose in round seven. Santizo was wide with a right hand but was pulled forward when a Valle right wrapped around the back of her head which resulted in the clash of heads.
Valle spent the balance of the fight in pursuit of a knockout but defied every instruction offered by Alvarado to achieve the feat. Her desire to dig in and launch power shots came in lieu of targeting the body or doubling up on her job as she was advised in between rounds. Santizo managed to hear the final bell despite her fight-long inability to defend against Valle’s right hand over the top.
Santizo fell to 11-4 (6KOs), with all four losses having come in her past six starts dating back to a December 2021 fourth-round knockout to Seniesa Estrada. She has also suffered defeats to former strawweight titlist Anabel Ortiz and rising flyweight contender Gabirel Fundora (11-0, 4KOs) on April 8 in Carson, California.
Valle advanced to 29-2 (9KOs) with her sixteenth consecutive win. She has now made eight successful defenses of her IBF belt and registered her second as the unified titlist. Valle has also held an atomweight title and briefly reigned as the IBF/WBO junior flyweight titlist after she dethroned unbeaten Evelin Bermudez last November 26 before returning back to strawweight.
Headlining the show, unbeaten lightweight contender William Zepeda (28-0, 24KOs) faces former title challenger Mercito Gesta (34-3-3, 17KOs) in a scheduled 12-round bout.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox