A pair of fighters answered the door in a big way last weekend.
Heading into last weekend, Alexis Rocha had risen in enough esteem at welterweight to be ranked in the top five by both TBRB and Ring Magazine. The WBO ranked him number one while the WBC and IBF both had him in the top ten.
Giovani Santillan didn’t give a damn about any of that. Over six rounds, Santillan followed an aggressive, focused game plan and success followed. He busted up the nose of Rocha and then just flat busted him apart. Two knockdowns in round five set the table for a sixth round finish and the arrival of a certified serious contender in what is often boxing’s most difficult weight class to navigate.
It was one of two big breakthroughs on Saturday’s card from the Kia Forum. While Santillan stamped himself a contender, another fighter became a champion.
Gabriela Fundora, the sister of junior middleweight contender Sebastian Fundora, was making her twelfth start against a far more experienced foe. IBF flyweight titlist Arely Mucino had won eleven in a row and hadn’t suffered a stoppage loss in a dozen years.
Like her brother, Fundora towers over the competition, standing 5’9 as a flyweight. She delivered a towering performance, dropping Mucino twice in the fifth and ultimately forcing her corner to throw in the towel. Fundora beat her brother to championship gold.
Can she add more hardware before she’s done?
Futures: Fundora has a logical target in the flyweight division. The rest of the straps, and the lineal throne, of the division belong to Marlen Esparza. It might not be the first fight Esparza should look for. Like Mucino, Esparza stands 5’3 and would give up the sort of height disadvantage one doesn’t see often in the women’s flyweight division.
Esparza, once an Olympian, has never shied away from a fight and unification fever remains very real in boxing on both the men’s and women’s side. Considering some of the talent below flyweight, including the outstanding Seneisa Estrada, Fundora’s win comes at a moment where she can hope to capitalize. She just has to keep winning until opportunity knocks again.
For Santillan, he can hope his win moves him into the sights of a title shot. He will surely move well up in the WBO standings and, for now, all roads lead to Terence Crawford. That might not last forever if Crawford elects to chase glory at junior middleweight. If not Crawford, Santillan is now perfectly positioned to chase any vacant title that arises.
Jack Catterall won, and that’s better than losing. That’s about all there is to say about what was a fairly ordinary win over Jorge Linares. Linares is pretty far removed from what he was at his best, flaws and all, and still managed to win a handful of rounds. Considering Catterall’s last year and a half were largely lost to waiting on Josh Taylor for a rematch that never came, perhaps just winning was more than enough…Isaac Chamberlain appeared to be there to lose to a rising light in undefeated Mikael Lawal. He went out and made his own luck. That’s why they fight the fights.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org