Sluggish Lara escapes with majority draw against Lugo

If Mauricio Lara thought a move to 130 pounds and a tussle with unheralded Daniel Lugo would put him back on the winning path after he missed weight and lost his featherweight belt to Leigh Wood last May, he was in for a surprise in Oaxaca on Friday night, escaping with a majority draw in a contest in which he looked well off his best.

The fight was the chief support bout to the mini flyweight title fight between Adrien Curiel and Sivenathi Nontshinga, and was streamed on DAZN. 

The first few rounds were relatively quiet, Lugo (27-2-1, 18 KOs) working behind a long jab and firing lopping power shots that Lara was mostly able to slip; it felt as if Lara was biding his time, waiting for an opening to land counter shots and perhaps goad Lugo forward into a brawl, and when Lugo began to open up in the fourth round, it appeared as if that indeed was what would happen. But it was Lugo who landed the more telling blows in the fourth, and by the fifth, Lara (26-3-2, 19 KOs) was suddenly looking a little ragged. His feet weren’t entirely under him, his punches looked listless, and he was clearly concerned by a series of head clashes and a lack of traction to the ring canvas that caused him to slip on more than one occasion. 

In the sixth, Lugo fully opened up, launching hooks to Lara’s body and bludgeoning his opponent to the head. Lara was barely returning fire and by round’s end was bent over the waist, seemingly on the verge of a stoppage defeat, when he was rescued by the bell. 

Lugo, however, failed to press his advantage in the seventh, trying to walk Lara down rather than cutting off the ring and setting up his power shots. That enabled Lara to move and box and stay out of trouble, and then, as the round drew to a close, it was Lara who landed a pair of right hands and Lugo who was suddenly in trouble. 

Lugo returned the favor with a right hand that hurt Lara in the eighth, and the two men exchanged combinations with growing weariness over the final two frames. 

One judge saw Lugo as the winner by a score of 96-95, but the other two called it a 95-95 draw. 

“I felt like I suffered from those nine months of inactivity,” conceded Lara afterward. “I felt heavy in there at times. I want the rematch as soon as possible.” 

For three rounds, 18-year-old super bantamweight Ernesto Garcia threw everything he had at Arturo Cardenas in an attempt to spring the upset over his favored, undefeated opponent. 

He drove forward, constantly working, perpetually punching, looking to wear down the Robert Garcia-trained prospect. Once the taller, more skilled Cardenas (13-0-1, 8 KOs) found his rhythm and distance in the fourth round, however, the fight turned, and Cardenas seized control. 

Working behind a stiff jab, Cardenas mixed in straight right hands and a series of sneaky uppercuts that snapped back the head of Garcia (11-4, 10 KOs). As he steadily seized control, Cardenas began to double and triple up on his punches, throwing five-and-six punch combinations, and digging his toes into the canvas to land blows with ever greater venom. 

Cardenas sent Garcia crashing to the canvas in the corner near the end of the seventh round with what seemed certain to be a conclusively concussive right hand, but somehow the youngster dragged himself to his feet, and continued to show heart and competitiveness in the eighth. 

A straight right and a sequence of combinations had Garcia on his heels in the ninth, and the referee’s body language suggested a stoppage was imminent, but once again the teenager fought back. He survived until the final bell, but the result was a foregone conclusion, the judges handing in scores of 100-88 and 98-91 (twice). 

In the broadcast opener, Oaxaca native Sergio Chirino (22-1, 13 KOs) dropped Dennis Contreras (24-14-1, 22 KOs) twice and stopped him at 1:44 of the third round when Conteras’ corner pulled their man from the super bantamweight fight.

The fight was effectively over in the first round when a short right hand exploded on Contreras’ left eye, sending him staggering backward into the corner, where he dropped to one knee. He rose to his feet at the count of nine after a long count, and promptly spat out his mouthpiece to buy himself more time – prompting apoplexy in Chirino’s corner. At the start of the second, Contreras’ eye was swelling, the orbital bone possibly broken, and the veteran spent the entire three minutes trying to evade Chirino’s assault. A similar tactic in the third proved ineffective when Chirino dug a left hook to Contreras’ body, dropping him for a second time and prompting his corner’s intervention.