With his recent win over Baudel Cardenas in Nogales, Arizona, featherweight Steven Luevano moved to 32-1 (14). He should be a groomed contender ready for his title shot, right? But whenever I see him fight on Telefutura (who must have had him on at least 10 times), I feel like I’m watching a prospect needing more time to grow. Two alphabet groups—WBC, WBA—rightly have him at #13. But the WBO somehow has him listed as the #1 contender for Juan Manuel Marquez’s belt—he ain’t ready.
There’s nothing wrong with him, per se. I just don’t think I’m looking at a future elite fighter. The southpaw is a solid fighter, and easily handled Cardenas—15-7-2, 6—earning a UD by scores of 119-108 twice and 118-109.
His best moment in the fight came at the end of the second. He pawed with his jab and connected on a perfect straight left dead on the chin. Cardenas went down and, visibly shaken, rose at four. Lucky for him the bell sounded soon thereafter.
Luevano has a sharp jab and likes to keep opponents at bay with it. He controls the pace and slows the tempo. He throws and good one-two and can, obviously, drop people with it. But he isn’t really a puncher. Rather, he needs to land the perfect shot to inflict damage. It doesn’t take a master architect to draw up the blueprint to beat him. Get in his chest, keep your hands busy, and bully him. He’d likely fold under the pressure.
The relentless brawling flyweight Jorge Arce was a guest commentator during a portion of the bout. If he weighed a few pounds more, he’d haunt Luevano’s dreams like Freddy Krueger. Luevano’s high-profile handlers (manager: Cameron Dunkin) are anything but stupid, and Cardenas is neither Arce nor Freddy Creuger. When he got inside he didn’t move his hands, when outside he waited on his man.
This was a stay-busy fight for a kid who’s now gone the ten- or twelve-round distance in his last five bouts. Last November he took his first loss to Martin Honorio. At 25, they can buy him some more time before stepping up. Eventually, they’ll have to send him out into the woods, and we’ll all find out how he faired with the big bad wolves.
The televised co-feature was an eight-rounder between jnr. welterweights Humberto Tapia, now 10-3-1, 6, and Ramon Montano, who fell to 11-4-2, 1. The name Tapia is no secret to boxing fans, whether it’s the great New Mexican bantam-madman Johnny or the word inscribed on the back of Marco Antonia Barrera’s trunks. (As my Spanish is lacking, I was unable to learn whether Humberto is related to either of the above ring legends.) Montano is also a name possibly familiar to devoted fight fans. He was robbed in Atlantic City last March against the heavily-backed kosher kid Dmitriy Salita. After knocking Salita down twice in the first, and giving him hell for the succeeding 7 rounds, he was given a dubious draw.
The UD loss—78-74, 77-75 twice—Montano was forced to accept in this fight was less controversial.
Tapia, 23, looked the bigger man, even though he has consistently weighed less than Montano, who is three years younger. The first round was close and featured hard in-fighting from both fighters. The body did not go ignored. The sparse Mexican crowd showed their appreciation with applause at the bell.
Montano returned to a corner that had to inspire confidence. Working cuts was the ubiquitous Miguel Diaz, and the chief second was Richie Sandoval, who held the WBA bantam title in the mid-80s, suffered only one loss in his last fight to Gaby Canizales.
But sound advice and encouragement alone couldn’t reverse the fact that Tapia was the stronger man, and Montano had agreed to fight his fight in close quarters for the second, third and fourth. Tapia never gave ground and when he dug a clean body shot, Montano appeared paralyzed for a split-second. It was Montano who gave ground and looked to rediscover his jab.
Montano would’ve been wise to give ground from the beginning. He’s the superior boxer of the two, putting together more fluid combinations and has good legs. Why he tried to match power with Tapia for so long is a mystery. Scratch that, it’s not. He’s just too tough for his own good, willing to take three to give one. Doesn’t he know he couldn’t given three and maybe taken none? Whenever there was daylight between the two, Montano was in control.
As Tapia’s energy flagged in the sixth, he decided he’d create some distance and take a breather in the seventh. Montano stuck sharp jabs to set up combos, used the entire ring, and generally made Tapia look amateurish.
By the eighth and final round it was too late for Montano—who has only scored one KO in his career. Much of the round resembled trench warfare, but it was clear Tapia had no fear of getting stopped. Still, it was a decent scrap and, just as they’d done at the end of the first, the fans made their appreciation known at the final bell.
Super middle Arturo Ortega won a UD 12 over Augustine Renteria.
Lightweight Brandon Rios won a UD 6 over Elias Lopez.
Manuel Sarabia scored a pts. win over Baladan Trevizo.
Leodegario Santa Cruz KO’d Pedro Silva in 2.