In a tightly contested main event, Isaac Zarate (14-3-3, 2 KOs) pulled away in the second half against the very mobile Christian Ayala (12-2, 4 KOs) to win by unanimous decision (78-74, 77-75 twice) on Friday night.
Zarate, a southpaw from San Pedro, Calif., had trouble finding his range in the early rounds. Ayala smartly countered Zarate and kept him off balance. By the fourth round, however, Zarate discovered his jab and mixed in uppercuts to pull the tide in his favor.
“I was patient all night long,” said Zarate, who sparred with WBA super bantamweight champion Danny Roman to prepare for this fight. “I knew he would get tired and start dropping his hands. Once he did I knew I would be able to throw the uppercuts.”
Zarate battled through multiple cuts caused by accidental head butts. Zarate suffered cuts above his left eye in the fourth round and below his right eye in the eighth. Despite those setbacks, he was able to battle through and claim victory.
“I expected a tough fight,” Zarate said. “I just stuck with my game plan and that was enough to get the win.”
In the 6-round co-feature, Ruben Villa (10-0, 4 KOs) of Salinas, Calif. made it ten straight wins to start his career by outpointing veteran Juan Sandoval (15-18, 5 KOs) of Mexico. Scores: 59-55, 60-54 twice.
Villa, 20, capitalized on his southpaw stance by landing a strong jab and countering with a right hook that routinely found its mark. Sandoval often looked confused and never managed to find any angles against the busier Villa.
“I just tried to keep the pressure on him from start to finish,” said Villa, who is co-promoted by Thompson Boxing and Banner Promotions. “I think he fought a cautious fight, but I was still able to land a lot of punches in every round.”
Villa was most impressive in the fourth and fifth rounds when he delivered numerous sets of combinations that stunned the taller Sandoval. While Villa kept his unbeaten streak alive on Friday night, another, less recognizable streak ended. In his previous unanimous decision wins, Villa had won every round on every scorecard. On Friday night, one judge failed to give Villa all six rounds (59-55).
“That streak was bound to end sooner or later,” Villa said. “I’ll have to start another one.”
Unbeaten bantamweight prospect Saul Sanchez (7-0, 4 KOs) of Pacoima, Calif. handled the first test of his young career with ease, as he overwhelmed the veteran Pedro Melo (17-18-2, 8 KOs) of Mexico through four rounds.
Sanchez, 20, swept all three scorecards by unloading a heavy right hand throughout the fight. In addition to being a strong puncher, Sanchez possesses excellent head movement for such a young fighter.
Sanchez recently signed a promotional deal with Thompson Boxing.
Bantamweight prospect Mario Hernandez (5-0, 2 KOs) of Santa Ana, Calif. needed less than one minute to knock out Mexico’s Jorge Careaga (1-1, 1 KO). Hernandez struck to the body early and earned a knockdown thirty seconds into the first. Careaga would rise only to get knocked back down by another barrage of body punches.
He fell to the canvas for the second and final time at the :52 mark of the opening round.
Lightweight prospect Ruben Torres (4-0, 4 KOs) of Los Angeles continued his knockout win streak by dispatching Anthony De Jesus Ruiz (2-5, 2 KOs) of Mexico at the culmination of the second round.
Torres, behind an active jab, pressured and knocked down Ruiz three times in the second, but was deducted one point for hitting Ruiz after he was down. Referee Raul Caiz, Jr. put a stop to the fight at the conclusion of the second round.
Torres recently signed a promotional contract with Thompson Boxing.
In the “Path to Glory” show opener, lightweight prospect Zhora Hamazaryan (9-0, 6 KOs) stayed unbeaten by out boxing Sergio Ramirez (3-1, 3 KOs) through four rounds (scores: 39-36, 40-35 twice).
Hamazaryan, who is based in Armenia but will likely relocate to Los Angeles in the near future, dropped Ramirez in the second round with a counter right hook. Hamazaryan, 20, showed solid offensive ability in his U.S. debut.
“I’m pleased with the win,” Hamazaryan said. “He was a bit awkward, but it wasn’t enough to throw me off what I wanted to do.”
“Path to Glory” was presented by Thompson Boxing Promotions and sponsored by Everlast.