By Austin Killeen April 29, 2016 Photos by Brandon Pena (Click on thumbnails for larger images.)
Fight fans keep track of a boxers KO percentage, but promoters count how many bodies a fighter can put in the seats. On Friday night 4,312 enthusiastic supporters of Jennifer Han pushed through the turnstiles at South West University Park to watch her defend the IBF Featherweight Title against Calista Silgado. At evenings end while fans were talking about the exciting card at the outdoor Venue, ticket counters were wondering how fast they could get Han back again to defend her title. To a promoter, KO’s are nice, ticket sales are nicer. I’ve been writing about boxing in the southwest for five years, by far this is the largest attendance of any card I have written about. Simply put; Jennifer Han is a very talented boxer who knows how to fill the seats.
In the ten round title bout, Jennifer Han (14-3- 1, 1 KO) 125.4 lbs. of El Paso, won by UD over Calista Silgado (14-6-3, 9 KO’s) 123.8 lbs. of Tolu, Colombia. In the opening round Han made it clear she planned to control the fight behind her left jab. Silgado was aggressive, but could only hit air against her elusive foe. When she threw her overhand right at Han’s head, the champ would roll under it and answer with more left jabs and left hooks to the body. Silgado landed one overhand right, but the fleet footed Han diminished much of its potency with her movement.
The first round would play itself out over and over again for nine more rounds, with the results always the same; Han on target, Silgado not. Occasionally the Colombian would land a left hook or overhand right, but not once did the hometown hero appear in trouble. This was the champ’s night and both girls knew it. I’m not belittling the challenger, as she was in excellent shape and never stopped trying. But Han was in the zone and looked like she was shadow boxing in front of a mirror.
The verdict was a mere formality with all three judges having identical scores of 100-90 for the defending champ. The only way Silgado could have won is if the three judges, who robbed Han in her title fight with Ji-Hye Woo in South Korea, were in attendance. Hopefully they were attending an eye clinic in Seoul.
If you have never seen Han in action, think of a female version of WBA and WBO super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux. On offense she has pinpoint accuracy, coupled with radar defense. The only knock on her style is a lack of hitting power; having one stoppage win in eighteen bouts. But walking through her offense is not an option, because anyone on the receiving end of her rapid fire left jabs to the nose will abandon that idea. Combine this with a solid chin, superior conditioning and excellent footwork; Jennifer Han is nearly unbeatable.
The entire undercard was made up of four rounder’s, with some of the bouts showcasing potential future stars. In the semi-final Evan Torres (4-0- 0, 4 KO’s) 165.2 lbs. of El Paso, won by TKO over debuting Miguel Llamas 163.5 of Lubbock, TX. I heard Torres was good but knew nothing about him. When he removed his robe, it exposed a chunky body reminiscent of Tony Ayala, junior middleweight sensation of the early eighties. That wasn’t the only similarity between Torres and Ayala, because Torres has excellent timing, cuts off the ring well and has deadly power in both hands. Unfortunately for Llamas a boxing ring has no large boulders to hide behind; it’s either fight or flight with neither being a good option for the game Lubbock import. Torres dropped Llamas three times in the first round, once with a left hook and twice with overhand rights. Somehow Llamas answered the bell for the second stanza, but referee Rocky Burke ended the one sided contest 34 seconds into the round.
In the evening’s 5th bout Alan Lerma (3-3- 0, 1 KO’s) 131.5 lbs. of Albuquerque won by UD over debuting Jordan Alvarado 131.4 lbs. of El Paso. I’ve seen the southpaw Lerma in action several times before and consider him an entertaining but frustrating fighter. The stocky Lerma is always in shape, but never seems to cut off the ring. Instead he elects to fight in mid ring, minimizing his obvious advantage in strength. Friday night was no different against the tough but inexperienced Alvarado. Alvarado had a height and reach advantage but did not know how to exploit it. Lerma landed the cleaner punches but would voluntarily retreat each time he trapped Alvarado on the ropes. Alvarado was feisty and landed some overhand rights and straight lefts during the entertaining contest. All three score cards were identical at 40-36
In the evening’s 4th bout Tim Meek (5-2-1, 3 KO’s) 175 lbs. of El Paso won by UD over Robert Sanders (1-2-0, 1 KO) 174.4 of Lubbock, TX. Like Lerma in the previous bout, I find Tim Meeks frustrating to watch. He possesses a lot of skills but seems to go out of his way to minimize them. As for Sanders, his last name is a substitute for the word action. I’ve seen all his fights and knew he’d bring it from the opening bell. The taller Meek clearly won the opening stanza behind an excellent left jab and solid defense. He was very relaxed when trapped on the ropes, I never saw him look better. The second round appeared to be a repeat of the first, but Sanders never gets discouraged when things are going bad. Suddenly Sanders countered a lazy left jab with an overhand right, dropping a surprised Meek. Rising on unsteady legs Meek didn’t panic, and used a tight defense to ride out the next thirty seconds. Pressing his advantage Sanders made the mistake of carrying his right low while moving in. Meek capitalize with a solid left hook sending his rival into the ropes. Instead of following up his clear advantage, Meek played the role of observer.
The third round was very close and could have been scored either way. The fourth was a repeat of the first with Meek clearly in charge. He hurt Sanders, driving him into the ropes and threw a bunch of punches to the head and body. Suddenly he gave up his advantage and backed into the center of the ring. The bell rang before anything else occurred. The decision was not a foregone conclusion, depending on how you scored a very close third round. All three judges saw the contest the same way with scores of 38-37 in favor of Meeks. This fight had it all and was my choice for fight of the night. I’d recommend Mr. Meek might want to watch some videos of former light heavyweight champ Joey Maxim. They have similar styles but Maxim took chances and knew how to utilize his advantages against the best fighters of his era (40’s and 50’s); an era that was loaded with talent.
In the evening’s 3rd bout between debuting fighters, Saul Gomez 133.2 lbs. of Juarez, Mexico won by UD over Jorrel Sparenberg 136.6 lbs. of Albuquerque, NM. The taller Sparenberg is a cage fighter who was entering the boxing ring for the first time. My observation of cage fighters who cross over is that they have a great deal of poise but lack punching power because of the difference in foot placement between the sports. In the cage your legs are targets. In boxing, proper leg placement allow you to sit down on your punches to generate power. I know nothing regarding the background of Gomez but would assume he has amateur experience based on what I saw on Friday night. Gomez employed a nice jab, right cross combination while Sparenberg was tentative and failed to utilize his height and reach advantage. As the fight progressed Sparenberg started throwing more but Gomez was in control most of the bout. All three judges had identical scores of 40-36 for Gomez.
In the evening’s 2nd bout, debuting Eddie Ortiz 164 lbs. of San Antonio, TX won by KO over Ivan Marruffo (0-2- 0) 163.6 lbs. of Juarez, Mexico. Talk at ringside was Ortiz, a southpaw, was the real deal and it didn’t take long for him to prove it. The taller Ortiz has a chiseled body and knew how to use it. Ortiz used his right hand to distract Marruffo and exploded a left hook to the head to drop his rival. Rising on unsteady legs, Marruffo walked into a right cross hitting the canvas again, this time for the full count.
In the evening’s opening bout, L’Darius Whetstone (4-0- 0, 3 KO’s) 138.2 lbs. of Arlington, TX won by UD over Luis Caballero (0-4- 0) 145.2 lbs. of Juarez, Mexico. This was the only bout of the evening in which I played the role of prognosticator. I turned to Bill Knight, sports writer for the El Paso Times, and assured him the fight would be over in less than one minute. I’d seen all of Whetstone’s KO’s and knew he had dynamite in both fists. I might have failed to impress Mr. Knight with my fortune telling skills.
Throughout the four rounds Whetstone pressed the action landing some hellacious body punches, but Caballero refused to fold. Instead Caballero was throwing his own arsenal of punches, forcing Whetstone to go on the defensive at times. I have no idea who Caballero has been fighting to have a 0-4-0 record, because he clearly has some ability. Whetstone is a beast and had a big advantage in both height and reach. Even the great Joe Louis failed to knock everybody out. When he couldn’t he was patient enough to look for an opponent’s mistake. Whetstone showed that same maturity, and my opinion of him has grown as a result of his performance. You’re not going to knock everybody out, it’s what do you do when you can’t that makes you a complete fighter. Judges Daniel Sandoval and Jennie Cardenas scored the bout 40-36 while Levi Martinez had the contest 39-37.
It was a beautiful night under the stars at the South West University Park, home of the El Paso Diablo’s professional baseball team. The attendance was impressive and no doubt Jennifer Han will return. Even Torres, Eddie Ortiz and L’Darius Whetstone showed why boxing people think they all have a bright future in the sport. Tim Meek and Alan Lerma continue to be an anomaly to me; they looked good but have yet to display the complete package. Put Robert Sanders on any fight card and you’ll get you’re monies worth, he’s exciting to watch. And finally a special thanks to Tony Aguilar and Alvin Garcia for their contribution to this excellent event. They made me feel like I was somebody special, which is never a bad feeling.