Cruz stops Romero; Lara, Martinez shine in wins


LAS VEGAS — Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz set the tone early Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena, with wild overhand rights that whistled by the head of Rolando “Rolly” Romero.

Then Cruz put on a masterclass in stalking and cutting off the ring against Romero.

Finally, Cruz completed his beatdown of Romero with at least six straight shots to the head, forcing referee Tom Taylor to stop the fight at 56 seconds of the eighth round. With the win, Cruz took Romero’s WBA junior welterweight world title on the co-main event of a card headlined by a junior middleweight title fight between Tim Tszyu and Sebastian Fundora.

“I didn’t want to come here and just win,” said Cruz. “I wanted to massacre Rolly and make him eat all the garbage he said to me. …I fought with the intention to leave the decision out of the judges’ hands.”

Mission accomplished.

The relentless Cruz (26-2-1, 18 KOs), of Mexico City, so dominated the fight that Romero had to be checked by the ringside doctor before heading out for the fateful eighth round. Romero almost went down in the first round after taking a left hook to the forehead, was docked a point for holding in the fifth and was again saved by the ropes in the seventh after taking a big right uppercut to the chin that essentially had him out on his feet.

Cruz has now won four straight fights since losing a unanimous decision to Gervonta Davis on Dec. 5, 2021 in Los Angeles.

“I was prepared for this. I wasn’t here to just fight. I was here to terminate him,” said Cruz. “I did my talking right here in the ring. And I did this not just for me but for everybody that is here at T-Mobile Arena. There’s going to be a Mexican champ at 140 pounds for a long time.”

The taller Romero, who fights out of Las Vegas but felt no home-ring advantage with a raucous pro-Mexico crowd, fell to 15-2 as he has now lost two of this last three fights.

He lost by a sixth-round TKO against Davis on May 28, 2022 in Brooklyn for the WBA’s lightweight title before stopping Ismael Barroso for the WBA’s junior welterweight title on May 13, 2023 in Las Vegas. He never looked comfortable with the way Cruz cut the ring off on him, while absorbing so many power shots.

Lara does quick work of Zefara; still champion

The crowd booed at the relative lack of action. It whistled derisively.

Then it shrieked in appreciation.

Such was the reaction to Erislandy Lara’s quick 1-2 combination knockout of Michael Zerafa at 2:59 of the second round to defend his WBA middleweight title.

With the clock winding down in the round, the left-handed Lara connected with a right jab to Zerafa’s jaw before unleashing a straight left to the same spot on the Australian.

Zerafa’s head bounced off the bottom ring rope, and while he rose before the count of 10, he negatively shook his head at referee Allen Huggins, who waved off the fight with a second to go in the round.

Lara (30-3-3, 18 KOs), from Guantanamo, Cuba and making his second title defense, has scored four stoppage victories in his last five fights. Zerafa (31-5, 19 KOs), from Melbourne, suffered his first defeat since December 2019.

“Rust? What rust? I’ve worked my f—ing ass off in training because I know that all of these fighters are coming for my title,” Lara said after the fight. “By staying ready, you don’t have to get ready.

“I have always said that I only need one or two rounds to size my opponent up, and I knew I had him from the very first round. That left hand shot was just a matter of time.”

“Rey” Martinez edges Cordova to retain WBC title

A game of chase became a game of catch — and survival — for Julio Cesar Martinez as the WBC flyweight champion twice knocked down challenger Angelino Cordova with left hooks in the first minute of the third round.

Martinez (21-3-1 NC, 15 KOs), of Mexico City, then had Cordova (18-1-1, 12 KOs), from Caracas, Venezuela, wobbly in the fifth round with another swift left hook before settling in for a majority decision (113-113, 114-112, 114-112) to successfully defend his belt, and give Cordova his first defeat.

But not without enduring a pair of gnarly-looking cuts, one to the side of his right eye in the eighth round and diagonally through his left eyebrow after an incidental headbutt with 23 seconds to go in the 10th round.

Cordova tried to set the tone in the first two rounds before Martinez went on the offensive with his pursuit. With a pro-Mexico crowd chanting the name of his home country, Martinez responded with a straight right to his opponent’s face, stunning Cordova 35 seconds into the seventh round.

The most entertaining round was the eighth, the two 112-pounders going toe-to-toe with haymakers in the middle of the ring. It was also when, with Martinez bleeding heavily from the cut on his right eye, Cordova was clowning and connecting, with a combo of a Sugar Ray Leonard windup punch and an Ali shuffle, despite having already been knocked down numerous times.

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