Action-filled undercard bout trumps Castillo fight

Updated: February 5, 2006, 1:18 AM ET
By Doug Fischer |

Jose Luis Castillo scored a lackluster 12-round unanimous decision over late substitute Rolando Reyes in Saturday night's 140-pound main event headlining a Showtime-televised card from El Paso, Texas.

Castillo, who improved to 54-7-1 (47 knockouts), won by scores of 119-108, 117-110 and 116-111. He had his way with Reyes, a stand-in for Diego Corrales, who had to pull out of the scheduled rubber match with the mauler from Mexico because of injured ribs.

What would have no doubt been another thriller for however long it would have lasted was substituted by a slow-paced bout of cat and mouse. That's what happens when a methodical veteran is in the ring with a reluctant novice who punched more from anxiety than from any desire to win the fight.

After absorbing body punches and left hooks along the ropes in the first two rounds, Reyes, now 26-4-2 (16 KOs), picked up his pace just a little bit by firing off a few jabs and right hands over the next three rounds. But Reyes never threatened to seriously hurt Castillo and never appeared to commit to his punches. From round 6 through 12, Castillo, stalking behind a thudding jab, punished Reyes whenever he got the Oxnard, Calif., fighter up against the ropes.

Inbetween rounds, Castillo, who was never in any danger of being hurt, out-boxed or out-worked, laughed and joked with his trainers while the crowd at the Don Haskins Center booed its disapproval of the bout's lack of action. Hard to fault them.

While Castillo-Reyes wasn't the worst fight ever, it might as well have been a 140-pound version of Chris Byrd-DaVarryl Williamson in comparison to the all-out battle that lightweight prospects Jose Armando Santa Cruz and Edner Cherry waged in the co-featured bout of the evening.

Santa Cruz, who retained his NABF lightweight title with scores of 117-110, 115-112 and 114-113, won the exciting and dramatic contest with his constant punching, though it appeared at several points during the brawl that the Southern Californian was in danger of being knocked out by the hard-punching Cherry.

After a brisk opening two rounds that featured a lot of hard right hands landed by both fighters, it appeared that Santa Cruz was beginning to overwhelm Cherry, who fell to 19-4-2 (8), but the Floridian landed a short left hook in the middle of the third round that knocked Santa Cruz on his butt. However, beginning a pattern that would repeat itself over and over as the fight progressed, Santa Cruz, who improved to 22-1 (12), got up and pressed the action, finishing the round strong.

Over the next four rounds, Santa Cruz appeared to get the better of the game Cherry with his swarming octopus-like attack, which included a heavy amount of body shots. Cherry fired back in the trenches, but was getting hit by far more punches than he was landing. In the seventh round, Cherry absorbed a hard body shot, turned his back on Santa Cruz and laid against the ropes without attempting to defend himself from follow-up shots.

The referee separated the two and Cherry finished the round well, but it appeared that he was beginning to fold.

Not so. Cherry started the eighth round by charging out of his corner and pressing Santa Cruz back into the ropes, where he stunned the gangly swarmer with a right hand, and then proceeded to work over his former tormentor for the next minute. It appeared that Santa Cruz was out of gas and on his way down.

Not so. Somehow, Santa Cruz got a second wind, advanced on Cherry and landed some choice shots in the final seconds of the round. Santa Cruz looked completely drained at the start of the ninth but he flailed away with both of his long arms for the entire round. Cherry picked his shots, and landed a hard right in the middle of the round. In the 10th, Cherry resumed his charge and hurt a backpedaling Santa Cruz, who looked totally spent.

However, Santa Cruz again found some kind of reserve and rallied in the final seconds of the round.

Santa Cruz kept Cherry at bay for the most of the 11th round, but Cherry got inside with 45 seconds to go and caught him with a lead left hook.

Santa Cruz reeled back into a neutral corner, slipped on the canvass and almost fell out of the ropes while Cherry followed up with an assortment of punches. In the final round, a gassed Santa Cruz moved around the ring and picked his spots to stop and swarm the stalking but generally inactive Cherry.

After 12 rounds of action, Santa Cruz probably won the fight on sheer volume of punches. It was a breathtaking display of heart and desire by two 135-pound prospects who have earned the right to step up in class and monetary compensation. Had either Santa Cruz or Cherry been in the ring with Castillo, fans would have gotten their money's worth in the main event.

Instead, the co-featured bout of the evening turned Castillo-Reyes into a walk-out bout.