Manny Pacquiao wins 60th career fight with seventh-round knockout

  • Lucas Matthysse of Argentina, left, shields himself from Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines, during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao won the WBA welterweight world title after a technical knockout in the 7th round. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Manny Pacquiao, center, of the Philippines listens to his trainer during WBA World welterweight title bout against Lucas Matthysse of Argentina in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao clinched his 60th victory with a seventh-round knockout of Argentinian Matthysse, his first stoppage in nine years. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

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  • Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines, right, fights Lucas Matthysse of Argentina during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao won the WBA welterweight world title after a technical knockout in the 7th round. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Manny Pacquiao, left, of the Philippines fights Lucas Matthysse of Argentina during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao won the WBA welterweight world title after technical knocking out Matthysse on round seven. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Lucas Matthysse of Argentina falls after receiving a punch by Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao clinched his 60th victory with a seventh-round knockout of Matthysse, his first stoppage in nine years.(AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines prays before his fight with Lucas Matthysse of Argentina during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao won the WBA welterweight world title after knocking out Matthysse on round seven. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Lucas Matthysse of Argentina, left, lands a left at Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao won the WBA welterweight world title after knocking out Matthysse on round seven. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines, right, strikes Lucas Matthysse of Argentina during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao won the WBA welterweight world title after a technical knockout in round seven. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Lucas Matthysse, left, of Argentina falls after receiving a punch by Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Filipino boxing legend Pacquiao clinched his 60th victory Sunday with a seventh-round knockout of Matthysse, his first stoppage in nine years, that will help revive his career. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines, right, strikes Lucas Matthysse of Argentina during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao won the WBA welterweight world title after a technical knockout in round seven. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines, left, celebrates after defeating Lucas Matthysse of Argentina during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Filipino boxing legend Pacquiao clinched his 60th victory Sunday with a seventh-round knockout of Matthysse, his first stoppage in nine years, that will help revive his career.(AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

  • Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines poses after defeating Lucas Matthysse of Argentina during their WBA World welterweight title bout in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sunday, July 15, 2018. Pacquiao won the WBA welterweight world title after knocking out Matthysse on round seven. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao clinched his 60th victory Sunday with a seventh-round knockout of Argentinian Lucas Matthysse, his first stoppage in nine years, that will help revive his career.

Pacquiao, 39, said his “convincing victory” in the World Boxing Association welterweight title fight, his 12th championship win, showed age isn’t a barrier.

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He rebounded from his disappointing loss last year to Australian Jeff Horn and his victory could extend his boxing career that had taken a backseat to his political life as a Filipino senator.

“This is it. I am back in boxing,” Pacquiao said. “I am not done. I’m still there.”

“It’s just a matter of time. You have to rest and get it back and that’s what I did.”

He said training with new coach Buboy Fernandes, after parting ways with longtime trainer Freddie Roach in the lead up to the fight, was effective and that he felt in control from the start.

“At the beginning of round one, I had in my mind that I could control the fight but our strategy is to be patient, to take time, don’t rush, don’t be careless like we did before,” he said.

His aggression knocked Matthysse down on one knee in the third and fifth rounds. A third knock down in the seventh round led Matthysse to spit out his mouthpiece, causing a frenzy among Pacquiao fans in the stadium.

“I am not boasting but…I think he’s hurting from my punches. Every punch that I throw, he’s hurt. I think he’s scared of my punches,” Pacquiao said.

Matthysse, who won 36 out of 39 matches by knockout, hailed Pacquiao as a “great fighter, a great legend” and said he will take a break after his loss.

“This is part of boxing. You win some, you lose some,” he said.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad also attended the fight, the biggest boxing match in the country since the 1975 heavyweight clash between Muhammad Ali and Australian Joe Bugner.

“I would like to congratulate Senator Manny Pacquiao for giving us pride and bringing the Filipino nation together once more,” said Duterte, who flew to Malaysia earlier for the bout ahead of an official visit.

Duterte said in a statement that Pacquiao has proven himself again as “one of the greatest boxers of all time” and that the win will cement his legacy in the sport.

Scores of screaming Filipino fans in the stadium waved flags and chanted “Manny Manny” throughout the match. Pacquiao’s rise to fame from an impoverished rural boy to one of the world’s wealthiest sportsmen over his 23-year career has made him a national hero.

Pacquaio said he will return to his senator work for now but won’t be hanging up the gloves just yet.

“I am addicted to boxing. I really love to fight and bring honor to my country. That’s my heart’s desire,” he added.

In the other title fights, Filipino Jhack Tepora defeated Edivaldo Oretga of Mexico with a knockout to win the interim WBA featherweight title. Venezuela’s Carlos Canizales defended his WBA world light flyweight title against China’s Lu Bin, stopping him from making history by becoming the first boxer to win a major world title in just two career fights. South African Moruti Mthalane won a close twelve round unanimous decision over Pakistan’s Muhammad Waseem to capture the IBF flyweight title.

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Santa Cruz fights off another challenge by Mares in another Staples Center classic

  • Leo Santa Cruz goes 12 rounds with Abner Mares at Staples Center Saturday. Leo Santa Cruze  took the win by  unanimous decision over Abner Mares for the WBA featherweight title and WBC diamond tile on showtime. Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews/SCNG

    Leo Santa Cruz goes 12 rounds with Abner Mares at Staples Center Saturday. Leo Santa Cruze took the win by unanimous decision over Abner Mares for the WBA featherweight title and WBC diamond tile on showtime. Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews/SCNG

  • 6-9-18. Los Angeles, CA. (in goldtrunks ) Leo Santa Cruz goes 12 rounds with Abner Mares at Staples Center Saturday. Leo Santa Cruze  took the win by  unanimous decision over Abner Mares for the WBA featherweight title and WBC diamond tile on showtime. Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews/SCNG

    6-9-18. Los Angeles, CA. (in goldtrunks ) Leo Santa Cruz goes 12 rounds with Abner Mares at Staples Center Saturday. Leo Santa Cruze took the win by unanimous decision over Abner Mares for the WBA featherweight title and WBC diamond tile on showtime. Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews/SCNG

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  • Leo Santa Cruze goes 12 rounds with Abner Mares at Staples Center Saturday. Leo Santa Cruze  took the win by  unanimous decision over Abner Mares for the WBA featherweight title and WBC diamond tile on showtime. Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews/SCNG

    Leo Santa Cruze goes 12 rounds with Abner Mares at Staples Center Saturday. Leo Santa Cruze took the win by unanimous decision over Abner Mares for the WBA featherweight title and WBC diamond tile on showtime. Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews/SCNG

  • 6-9-18. Los Angeles, CA. (in goldtrunks ) Leo Santa Cruze goes 12 rounds with Abner Mares at Staples Center Saturday. Leo Santa Cruze  took the win by  unanimous decision over Abner Mares for the WBA featherweight title and WBC diamond tile on showtime. Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews/SCNG

    6-9-18. Los Angeles, CA. (in goldtrunks ) Leo Santa Cruze goes 12 rounds with Abner Mares at Staples Center Saturday. Leo Santa Cruze took the win by unanimous decision over Abner Mares for the WBA featherweight title and WBC diamond tile on showtime. Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews/SCNG

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LOS ANGELES — Somewhere in Oxnard there’s a drawing board, and at some point Abner Mares and trainer Robert Garcia will drop by.

They diagrammed this rematch with Leo Santa Cruz.with a new protractor and compass. They cruised through two fights, calibrating their message for the fight they knew was coming.

Mares stepped into the Staples Center ring Saturday night and did everything chapter and verse, jumping in, jumping out, even opening a cut beside Santa Cruz’s eye in the eighth round. And as the fight hurtled to a conclusion, it was Santa Curz, not Mares, who was creating clinches and hanging on.

The cooking instructions were followed and still the souffle collapsed. Santa Cruz was a clearer winner, on the judges’ cards, than he was in 2015.

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He took a unanimous decision and held onto the WBA featherweight championship. In doing so, he and Mares captivated a crowd of 12,505 that recognizes the two L.A. kids embody the class and passion that should be the bloodstream of boxing.

Put it this way: When Antonio Santa Cruz, Leo’s brother, got up to speak at Thursday’s press conference, he said he was uncomfortable speaking English before a crowd. So he found a translator, right there up front. It was Mares.

But no matter what Mares and Garcia can concoct for a third fight, they won’t be able to shorten Santa Cruz’s arms or elongate Mares’. That’s a three-inch height advantage that Santa Cruz knows how to use.

Although Mares was more judicious in how he attacked the taller, thinner champion, he still couldn’t get to the barrel of the bat without getting hit. When Santa Cruz began emphasizing his jab in the fifth round and keeping Mares on the perimeter, that’s when this fight came close to a turning point.

“It’s always a problem getting on the inside,” Mares said. “I fought a hard, close fight. Without a doubt, Leo is the number one featherweight in the world. I take my hat off to him.”

Well, there is some doubt in the corner of Gary Russell Jr., who is the WBC champ and is coming off a win over Jo Jo Diaz. But Russell enjoys life inside the Beltway and might be hard to persuade.

The other champion in the division is Oscar Valdez, who is part of the Top Rank operation and suffered a broken jaw as he defeated Scott Quigg on a rainy night in March. “He’s the future of the division,” Mares had said, but Valdez will have a limited future if he continues to suffer the abuse he did in the victories over Quigg and Miguel Marriaga.

Plus, Santa Cruz does have a rubber match to settle with Carl Frampton, who beat Santa Cruz in Brooklyn but lost to him in Las Vegas.

“Valdez has a lot of power,” Santa Cruz said. “I’d have to be careful with him. Russell is fast. But I’ve trained against faster guys before. Timing beats speed. If you can be first against guys like that you can do OK. And Diaz hurt him when he hit him with body shots. He quit doing it, but I would do it the whole fight.”.

But we could also have Chapter 3, even though Santa Cruz won the first two. The consensus was that No. 2 was a more compelling fight than No. 1, and yet Santa Cruz won it more decisively. He was judged the winner by seven, four and two points on the cards, after he won on only two cards in the first bout.

Santa Cruz threw 1,061 punches, Mares 931. That’s a full night’s work. Three years ago Santa Cruz threw 1,074 punches and Mares 971. In this fight the champ hit Mares with 36.5 percent of his power shots and got hit with only 30 percent of Mares’.

Of course, a six-point margin does not automatically mean the judge (Zachary Young, in this case) thought it was a romp. Every round was its own short story. You can win most of the close rounds and make the score more decisive than the fight was.

It’s fair to say that neither Santa Cruz nor Mares fought one unchallenged round. If there was something close to resolution it happened in Round 7 when Santa Cruz landed an uppercut and a right and then rocked Mares with double left hooks. Mares lost his balance temporarily and had to scramble for survival against the ropes. Then, in the eighth, he rallied and got to Santa Cruz to bleed.

“He knows how to survive,” Santa Cruz said. “He fought smarter this time, so I couldn’t just stand in front of him. I had to box him a little different, too.”

But there’s mental toughness as well, and Santa Cruz showed it Friday during the weigh-in.

His dad Jose is the only trainer he has had. Jose is the guy you’ve seen in the corner, with the black cowboy hat and the mustache. Jose has also been fighting for cancer for years. He was feeling good through most of the week, but on Friday he had severe pain in his neck and back. He went to another room and lay down during the weigh-in.

“He knows I worry about him,” Leo said. “So he tells me he’s OK, but I can tell when he isn’t feeling well. I didn’t think I’d see him in the corner, but there he was.

“He takes every opponent and shows me what I can do against him. He’s a hard man, a smart man.”

Santa Cruz’s ribs look more visible with each fight and you wonder how long he can remain an effective 126-pounder. But it would be a shame to leave the featherweights with all that unfinished business, and one more tasty leftover.

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Golovkin says he wants Canelo. Martirosyan says Canelo doesn’t want that

  • Gennady Golovkin poses with his belts after defeating Vanes Martirosyan in a middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin poses with his belts after defeating Vanes Martirosyan in a middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Vanes Martirosyan reacts after losing to Gennady Golovkin in a middleweight title boxing match, Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Vanes Martirosyan reacts after losing to Gennady Golovkin in a middleweight title boxing match, Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

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  • Gennady Golovkin, left, hits Vanes Martirosyan during their middleweight title boxing match, Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin, left, hits Vanes Martirosyan during their middleweight title boxing match, Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Gennady Golovkin, left, hits Vanes Martirosyan during their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin, left, hits Vanes Martirosyan during their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Vanes Martirosyan, right, throws a right at Gennady Golovkin during their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Vanes Martirosyan, right, throws a right at Gennady Golovkin during their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Gennady Golovkin, left, tries to avoid a right from Vanes Martirosyan during their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin, left, tries to avoid a right from Vanes Martirosyan during their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Gennady Golovkin, left, hits Vanes Martirosyan during their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin, left, hits Vanes Martirosyan during their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Gennady Golovkin, right, is embraced by Vanes Martirosyan after Golovkin their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin, right, is embraced by Vanes Martirosyan after Golovkin their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Gennady Golovkin, right, shakes hands with Vanes Martirosyan after their middleweight title boxing match, Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin, right, shakes hands with Vanes Martirosyan after their middleweight title boxing match, Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Gennady Golovkin stands in a corner after knocking down Vanes Martirosyan in their middleweight world championship boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin stands in a corner after knocking down Vanes Martirosyan in their middleweight world championship boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Gennady Golovkin celebrates after knocking down Vanes Martirosyan in their middleweight world championship boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin celebrates after knocking down Vanes Martirosyan in their middleweight world championship boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Gennady Golovkin celebrates after defeating Vanes Martirosyan in their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin celebrates after defeating Vanes Martirosyan in their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

  • Gennady Golovkin celebrates after knocking down Vanes Martirosyan in their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

    Gennady Golovkin celebrates after knocking down Vanes Martirosyan in their middleweight title boxing match Saturday, May 5, 2018, in Carson, Calif. Golovkin won the bout. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

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CARSON — Wherever Canelo Alvarez was on Saturday night, his message light was burning brightly.

Gennady Golovkin invited him to meet him inside the ring once more. “Of course he is still the priority,” Golovkin said.

Vanes Martirosyan also had a message for Canelo.

“Run,” he said.

Martirosyan was still rearranging himself after Golovkin bludgeoned him to the canvas at StubHub Center, late in the second round. It was hard for him to sort out the shots, since they all felt the same.

“He’s a helluva fighter,” Martirosyan said. “All of his shots had the same power. That’s what I couldn’t believe. Each time it was like getting hit by a train.

“He surprised me at first. I thought he might try to be aggressive with his jab, but he came out trying to actually box.”

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Martirosyan actually tagged Golovkin with a left to the chops in the first rund. Asked later, Golovkin smiled and pretended to put his jaw back in place. “It’s boxing, it can happen,” he said.

But when Golovkin rocked Martirosyan in the jaw with a right uppercut, the first responders began to gather. Golovkin backed his man into the corner and teed off with nine punches, the most telling of which was a seismic left hook.

“I think the last two guys who got into the ring with him just wanted to go the distance,’ Martirosyan said, referring to Daniel Jacobs and Canelo. “If Canelo actually wants to stand in front of him instead of running, he’s going to get knocked out, too.”

He smiled. “Now I see why he wanted that beef,” Martirosyan said.

It all comes back to that, doesn’t it? Canelo tested positive for clenbuterol and still claims it was due to contaminated Mexican meat.

Golovkin was not in a joking mood as he approached this fight. He shelved that illuminating smile of his, and preferred to communicate through a Russian interpreter.

“He was edgy,” said promoter Tom Loeffler.

Evidently punching out people is theraputic. Golovkin’s light-hearted side returned after the knockout, and he was speaking English again.

The win gave Golovkin 20 consecutive successful defenses in the middleweight division, tying Bernard Hopkins’ record.

Triple-G had said that there was only “a 10 percent chance” that the proposed September rematch with Golovkin would actually happen.

Now? “Well, 10 percent is a lot,” he said.

But Loeffler and trainer Abel Sanchez said without equivocation that Canelo must enroll in the VADA drug testing program before any dotted lines are signed.

“Gennady has been tested since February,” Sanchez said. “He’s proven he’s a clean athlete. It’s time for Canelo to do the same thing.”

Loeffler said he had received assurances from the brain trust at Golden Boy Promotions that Canelo will enroll.

“But suddenly the middleweight division has opened up,” Loeffler said. “There are some good young middleweights who want to fight Gennady instead of scattering for the hills.”

If that’s true, they haven’t read their messages from Martirosyan.

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Whicker: Oscar Valdez still undefeated, no longer untested after he beats Miguel Marriaga

  • Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT122

    Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT122

  • Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, for a knockdown during the 10th round of a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT117

    Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, for a knockdown during the 10th round of a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT117

  • Miguel Marriaga, right, of Colombia, connects with Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT120

    Miguel Marriaga, right, of Colombia, connects with Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT120

  • Oscar Valdez, Jr., right, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT121

    Oscar Valdez, Jr., right, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT121

  • Miguel Marriaga, right, of Colombia, connects with Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT123

    Miguel Marriaga, right, of Colombia, connects with Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT123

  • Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT124

    Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT124

  • Miguel Marriaga, left, of Colombia, sits on the canvas after being knocked down by Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, as referee Jack Reiss give him a count during the 10th round of a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT125

    Miguel Marriaga, left, of Colombia, sits on the canvas after being knocked down by Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, as referee Jack Reiss give him a count during the 10th round of a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT125

  • Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT127

    Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT127

  • Miguel Marriaga, right, of Colombia, connects with Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT130

    Miguel Marriaga, right, of Colombia, connects with Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, during a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT130

  • Miguel Marriaga, left, of Colombia, sits on the canvas after being knocked down by Oscar Valdez, Jr., center, of Mexico, as referee Jack Reiss give him a count during the 10th round of a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT118

    Miguel Marriaga, left, of Colombia, sits on the canvas after being knocked down by Oscar Valdez, Jr., center, of Mexico, as referee Jack Reiss give him a count during the 10th round of a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT118

  • Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during their WBO featherweight world championship bout on Saturday night at StubHub Center in Carson. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Oscar Valdez, Jr., left, of Mexico, connects with Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, during their WBO featherweight world championship bout on Saturday night at StubHub Center in Carson. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, poses with referee Jack Reiss after defeating Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, in a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT126

    Oscar Valdez, Jr., of Mexico, poses with referee Jack Reiss after defeating Miguel Marriaga, of Colombia, in a WBO featherweight world championship bout, Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) ORG XMIT: CAMT126

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CARSON — The printout says it was the 22nd pro fight for Oscar Valdez.

Actually it was his first.

The previous 21 had been scrimmages, pre-ordained victories, tightrope walks with several nets below.

A fight, by its very nature, is something bilateral and demanding and maybe a little unprecedented. When Valdez punched the clock Saturday night, it punched back.

Miguel Marriaga was the guy who barely blinked when Valdez unloaded, kept moving forward through the ill winds.

He was the one who made Valdez fight an 11th round for the first time in his career, and then a 12th round, too.

He and Valdez put on a show that was worthy of the StubHub Center tennis stadium that housed it, one that honored the boxers before them who had all their defenses stripped away and somehow found a way home. Valdez got there, winning a unanimous decision in his first defense of his WBO featherweight title. At the end he and Marriaga hugged, and a crowd of 5,179 stood in salute.

“You can’t fight in this place without expecting a knockdown,” said Jessie Magdaleno, the super-bantamweight champ who dismissed Adeilson Dos Santos in the second round. “You can’t come here without getting some bumps and bruises.”

It was a close, uncertain fight for everyone except the judges, who gave Valdez the nod by 11, nine and five points. That seemed strange and lopsided even to Manny Robles, Valdez’s trainer.

Marriaga got through Valdez’s early rush and seemed ready to take control after the halfway point. He was moving Valdez around the ring, slowing down his pace, and landing enough fire of his own. He has only lost once, and that was to Nicolas Walters on a night when Walters was over the featherweight limit at the weigh-in.

“I was scolding Oscar,” Robles said. “We lost a round, maybe the fifth or the sixth, and I said, kid, you lost that one and now we’re heading into the second half of the fight. I didn’t know what to expect. What was he going to be like after the 10th round? These are the championship rounds.”

Valdez seemed to answer that question with a left jab and then a big left hook, thrown off-balance, that put Marriaga down. But Valdez was overeager, and nearly exhausted himself trying to finish it, and Marriaga got his bearings and had Valdez backing up and gasping when that bell rang. Marriaga also held his own in the 11th and 12th.

When it was over, Robles went to the opposite corner and told Marriaga, “You’ve got everything it takes to be a world champion. You’re a great fighter.”

But then Marriaga was saying approximately the same thing to Valdez.

“The only other time I went 12 rounds was in sparring,” Valdez said, the price of the fight now visible in purple, beneath his eyes.

“I learned I’ve got to pace myself more. Maybe go back to the gym and work on bobbing and weaving a little more. You never stop learning. I didn’t listen to my trainer a couple of times. I’m just thankful I won the fight.”

Before Saturday, Valdez’s longest fight was a 10-round decision over Ruben Tamayo, also at StubHub two years ago. The next five fights totaled 21 rounds. Valdez beat quality fighters, like Evgeny Gradovich and Matias Rueda, but Marriaga was really his introduction to top-tier boxing, to nights of definition.

Even then, Marriaga never could make Valdez pay for missing home run right hands, and he didn’t have the one-punch power to make Valdez shiver. But you can be assured Valdez’s next fight won’t be this arduous, and it won’t be soon either.

Most likely, Valdez will fight a lightly qualified opponent in a homecoming bout in Tucson, where he went to high school. Then the plan is to fight someone like Scott Quigg, the Brit who lost a split decision to Carl Frampton and fights on the Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko card in a sold-out Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

Quigg is now trained by Freddie Roach and would challenge Valdez. But let’s get real.

With Valdez training at The Rock Gym in Carson, the L.A. area has three of the world’s top fighters in boxing’s deepest division.

Valdez, 26, should be fighting either Abner Mares or Leo Santa Cruz, after they fight each other for the second time, and it should happen at either Staples Center or The Forum. The fact that it won’t happen, at least not initially, is another sad victory for alphabet politics.

But if such stalemates give Valdez time to get better, maybe that’s good.

“I didn’t like how he reacted after he got the knockdown,” Robles said. “He started trying to bang with the guy. I told him, take your time, set things up, go back to boxing. He didn’t box enough in the last two rounds either. I said, why are you letting yourself get hit? Don’t be one-dimensional and try to chop his head off.”

Mistakes are fine when you survive them. They become lessons.

“It’s nice to know what you have,” Robles said. “After this fight, I know I got a guy with a great chin who can really crack. When you have those two things, you know you have the total package.

“And I thought he won by four or five rounds. The jab won him the fight, in the end. He was the better, more well-rounded fighter. That was the whole game plan. Sometimes you need to go into the deep waters.”

Robles smiled.

“If boxing was for everyone, the gym would be full of fighters,” he said. “This ain’t baseball, baby.”

It wasn’t, even though it felt like Opening Night.

Read more about Whicker: Oscar Valdez still undefeated, no longer untested after he beats Miguel Marriaga This post was shared via Orange County Register’s RSS Feed. Orange County Shredding Service

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