(Art Hovhannisyan, left, Miguel Acosta, right; photo credit: Tom Casino/Showtime)
Though the main event kind of went against the spirit of the ShoBox: The New Generation series, an entertaining battle unfolded between two 30-somethings looking to figure their place in the lightweight division.
Friday night at the Chumash Casino and Resort, Art Hovhannisyan (15-0-2, 8 KOs) had to work harder than he would have liked to eek out a 10 round split-decision win over former lightweight titlist Miguel Acosta (29-6-2, 23 KOs) after dropping him hard in the opening round.
Acosta, 34, of Venezuela, was weary of the Armenian fighter’s power early on, yet tasted the canvas anyways when a straight right with seconds left put him down hard. Acosta was on wobbly legs but was happy to see the bell end after an otherwise uneventful round.
Hovhannisyan, 30, obviously liked what he saw in that opening round, because he sure fell in love with his power. Acosta fought very tentatively for the next few rounds as he regained his legs, and Hovhannisyan made the mistake of not putting the foot to the gas to see if he could get the stoppage.
After a few rounds, Acosta began to get a bit braver and started countering Hovhannisyan well as he slid off the ropes and out of harm’s way often enough to start working momentum into his favor. Things further tilted his way when a 5th round knockdown was correctly ruled when a sweet right hand forced the Glendale, Calif. based Hovhannisyan to touch his glove to the canvas.
Acosta then had a big round 6, but then the momentum was never firmly in either guy’s control and each fighter had their moments down the stretch. Round 10 saw some heavy back and forth shots exchanged, particularly in the closing seconds, with most believing that Hovhannisyan got the better of it.
The 96-92 scorecard in favor of Acosta was overruled by two 95-93 scores that were tabulated in favor of Hovhannisyan.
Acosta proved there is still life in him yet, going against the idea that Brandon Rios took whatever he had left in their 2011 Fight of the Year candidate. Off that loss, Acosta lost to Richard Abril and now has a three fight slide.
In the co-feature, unbeaten 20-year old San Ardo, Calif. based junior featherweight Roman Morales (11-0, 6 KOs) made his ShoBox debut an impressive one, dominating the game but outshined Alexis Santiago (11-3-1, 5 KOs) of Phoenix, Ariz. en route to a lopsided unanimous decision victory that included the first knockdown of Santiago’s career in round 3.
Both fighters were extremely busy with their punching, but the shots of Morales were much more thudding. Morales also committed heavily to the body, which contributing largely to Santiago being a standing target down the stretch.
In the early goings, Santiago seemed willing to trade recklessly with Morales until a beautiful right uppercut early in round 3 dropped him. Morales lost some sting on his punches as the rounds wore on, but he showed poise going eight rounds for the first time in his career.
Morales has proven he is a legitimate prospect, perhaps even the best in his division in the United States in that regard. Though he got clipped here and there, he was never hurt and always came right back with combinations.
Scores were 80-71 twice and 79-73 in favor of Morales. As a barometer against fellow 122-pound Californian prospect Randy Caballero, Morales came out of this fight looking much better as Caballero struggled a bit more with Santiago, though the scores of their fight last July do not reflect that.
Morales will come away from this one knowing that there is a lot he can improve on. He went southpaw a little too much given most of his knockdowns have come out of the orthodox stance. Santiago represented a good sized step up for Morales and he passed the test fairly easy.
Morales is set to fight atop a club show in Tulare, Calif. on Aug. 24 against Jonathan Alcantara, who is much more difficult than his record would suggest. Alcantara has given tough fights to Bruno Escalante, Efrain Esquivias, Mike Ruiz Jr., Jesse Magdaleno, Jonathan Arrellano, and Luis Rosa, all unbeaten when Alcantara fought them. Alcantara has also never been stopped, so he should be another good measuring stick for the young and impressive Roman Morales.
Mark Ortega can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed via Twitter at www.twitter.com/MarkEOrtega. Mark also contributes to renowned boxing publications RING Magazine and Boxing Monthly, and is a member of the Boxing Writer’s Association of America and RING Ratings Advisory Panel.