Welterweight prospect Alexis Rocha will leave Indio, California, with his unbeaten record still intact, but the 22-year-old got a legitimate early scare from short-notice opponent Roberto Valenzuela.
Valenzuela (17-2, 16 KO) hurt Rocha in the second round on a hard left uppercut to the chin, rocking Rocha pretty clearly. As Rocha looked to survive — not holding, but trying to play defense, often against the ropes — the 20-year-old Valenzuela threw everything he had at the A-side fighter. At one point, a gassing Valenzuela was struggling to keep his own mouthpiece in, and eventually had to just let it fall out.
That all backfired a bit, as a spent Valenzuela found himself on the back foot late in the second, and took some clean shots. But it was good to see an underdog, who came in on 10 days’ notice, take the shot when he had the opening.
Valenzuela was physically spent after that second round, though, and Rocha looked good in methodically picking his man apart from there, going to the body effectively and looking to take the rest of his opponent’s legs away from him. After the fifth round, Valenzuela simply had nothing more to give, and the fight was stopped in the corner.
All in all, you have to say it was a good 2019 for Rocha, who went 3-0 on the year with wins over Valenzuela, Shoki Sakai, and Berlin Abreu.
“He caught me in the second round,” Rocha admitted. “I was being lazy, to be honest. But I come to throw body punches and wear my opponents down, that’s a key in boxing in general. I know the body shots took a toll on him.”