August 4 -- Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL
Winner: Ulises Solis TKO-8
Another chapter in today's greatest culutural rivalry in boxing, this undercard junior flyweight title fight preceded Diaz-Morales in Chicago, and, in my view, stole the show on a night where that wasn't easy to accomplish. The Mexican-Filipino wars are piling up in remarkable fashion, and both sides have scored notable wins and losses. Manny Pacquiao, of course, leads the charge for the Filipinos, along with Gerry Penalosa, Nonito Donaire, Rey Bautista, Mayol and so many others. While the Mexicans used to have Barrera and Morales, both of those men are, for the time being, retired, and clearly past their primes even if they decide to fight on.
But the Mexican fight fans, such a vital demographic to the health of the sport, are being left in good hands. The Marquez brothers, Israel Vazquez, and, yes, Ulises "Archie" Solis are some of the key players from south of the American border. Not bad, huh?
Mayol was just a few days shy of his 26th birthday when the former strawweight contender was to receive a shot at IBF junior flyweight beltholder Solis, and had lost only one fight in his career, a thrilling unanimous decision at Korakuen Hall to Eagle Kyowa in 2006. He was an underdog, but a live underdog, as everyone knew he could punch, or at least, that was the word. Only Kyowa and journeyman Mexican Lorenzo Trejo stood out as notable names on his 23-1 record.
Solis was unbeaten in his previous nine contests, with only a draw against Omar Salado keeping him from a perfect record in those bouts, and his only loss (to Nelson Dieppa) came in 2004 via bizarre majority decision (120-108, 120-108, 114-114). He already had two wins on his record in 2007, dominating Will Grigsby and Jose Antonio Aguirre. And he was in the premier undercard seat below Erik Morales' quest for a fourth divisional world title, unheard of in Mexican boxing history.
They made the most of it. They did not, however, do it sans controversy.
At the time of the wise eighth round stoppage, Solis was ahead on all three official scorecards. But in the sixth, he was beaten up pretty badly. Mayol rocked the champion with a beautiful left hook, and Solis went down. It was a delayed reaction knockdown, and referee John O'Brien ruled it as a slip.
I don't think there are too many that thought it was a slip. Mayol certainly did not, and while he didn't complain about losing the fight, he did want an immediate rematch. To date, nothing has come of that, as Solis fought again against Filipino myth Bert Batawang to close the year in December. He was robbed of a knockdown, plain and simple. Given that the physical and mental effects were there for Solis either way, I don't think it would have changed the outcome, and I do think Solis is the better fighter. But it was a bad call by O'Brien, and there's no getting around that.
Solis deserves the credit for the fight ending the way it did, though, in spectacular fashion. It was a pretty even fight, and Solis was winning, though narrowly on my card. After being shaken up in the sixth, Solis turned the heat up, and Mayol may have been in danger of wilting under the pressure. While Solis said after the fight that he was aware and cautious of Mayol's power, it turned out to be the Mexican that scored the one-punch KO, as he landed a quick jab and followed it with a magnificent right hand off of Mayol's chin. Rodel Mayol didn't see it coming, and this was a textbook example of the old saying: The punches you don't see coming hurt the most.
Jab, right hand, and Mayol goes down in a heap, face-first to the canvas. It was stunning, sudden, and perfectly delivered. Though Mayol was able to make it to his feet before the count of ten, O'Brien waved it off. This time, he made the right call, as Mayol was clearly out of it.
Fights in boxing's two lighest divisions are often disregarded by much of the public, even the diehard boxing fans. For some, the competition is just suspect, and I can identify with that. To me, the divisions have a handful of elite fighters, and everyone else is just sort of out there waiting for their shot at Solis or Calderon or whomever. It also doesn't help that outside of a rarity like Calderon-Cazares, the biggest possible fights just don't happen. These guys struggle to even make it onto major undercards, and there's a lot to lose for them if they drop a fight.
Aside from being action-packed and a pleasure to watch, Solis-Mayol also helped really invigorate the Mexican-heavy crowd at the Allstate Arena, getting them rolling for the main event. And what we also saw is just how good Ulises Solis has become, a very skilled boxer with good power, fast hands, and newly-proven resiliency. Mayol gave him a test, and he got an answer via that big right hand.