THE broad smile on Oscar De La Hoya’s face was in appreciation of the Valentine’s day gift that lightweights Ryan Garcia and Jorge Linares delivered to his company, Golden Boy Promotions. Having already reserved the Staples Center, in Los Angeles, for a summer showdown between the two, it was crucial for the fighters to stay on script and take care of business at the Honda Civic Center. That they did while delivering outstanding performances in the process.

Garcia, a prohibitive favourite, reached into the archives of boxing history for his one-round demolition of Nicaragua’s Francisco Fonseca. “Watched video of Sugar Ray Robinson. It was the perfect left hook,” Garcia said referring to the fight in which Robinson knocked out Gene Fullmer.

Garcia intent on imitating one of his idols, could not have paid a finer tribute to him. As Fonseca, a battle tested two–time title challenger, threw a long right, Garcia took a gentle step back and connected with a short left hook that was eerily similar to what was called the perfect punch at the time Robinson landed it.

Fonseca crashed on his back, his head hitting the canvas, out cold. Referee Raul Caiz Sr. Immediately stopped the scheduled 10 rounder at 1-20.

Garcia had every right to be ecstatic, and inside he was. But in a refreshing display, he refused to celebrate until he was certain Fonseca was okay. When he got his confirmation a minute later, Garcia’s jubilation came to the surface.

Garcia stole the show, but it was Linares’ night as well. The Venezuelan’s fourth round knockout of Mexico City’s Carlos Morales not only revived his career, but sent out a message to the 21-year-old Californian, that he would be anything but a stepping stone when they meet. Of course, that remains to be seen, but the thought that former three-weight champion Linares’ best days were behind him was rendered premature on this night.

Jorge Linares
Jorge Linares is back in business Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions

Morales who had gone the 10 round distance with Garcia 17 months ago, fought confidently and stung Linares with an uppercut in the second round. But, as they say, class tells. Morales hung in well until late in the third, when a short right dropped him. Morales got up midway through referee Thomas Taylor’s count. Still in shock between rounds, Morales told his corner he never saw the punch land.

Linares was focused, on point and getting better as the match went along. Working behind the jab, he targeted the body and penetrated Morales’ defense while applying constant pressure.

In the fourth Linares forced Morales to the ropes, faked a punch downstairs, then came over the top with a slashing right to the jaw. Down went Morales where he was counted out by referee Raul Caiz Snr at 209 of the round. It was scheduled for 10.

“I can demonstrate more,” said Linares in the ring afterwards.

He will need to against Garcia, but what we saw on this night was that Linares is still a championship calibre fighter.

Alexis Rocha, after being given a unanimous 10-round decision over Georgia’s Brad Solomon said, “It was definitely a pretty close fight.” Yet judges Rudy Barragan 100-89, Max De Luca 99-91, and Chris Migliore 97-92, turned in lopsided scores in his favour.

Close rounds or not, there is no way Rocha should have been given the decision by those margins. A much better case in fact can be made that Solomon deserved the nod. But Rocha deserves credit for not only indirectly discrediting the judges’ scoring but also closing the show in good fashion, by dropping Solomon a minute into the 10th round. Ray Corona refereed.

Las Vegas’ Blair Cobbs loves to imitate wrestler Rick Flair and play the role of the villain. When he left the ring after being given a split 10-round decision over Samuel Kotey the crowd booed. But Cobbs deserved to have his hand raised. The Baltimore based Ghanaian took too long to get started. Cobbs’ speed enabled him to race to a big lead before Kotey began firing punches and forcing the action.

In the ninth, Cobbs had a point deducted by referee Jerry Cantu for going low. Carla Caiz scored 95-94 for Kotey but was overruled by fellow judges Zachary Young and Alexandro Rochine both scoring 96-93 Cobbs.