Jaime Arboleda was stepping up a fair amount in competition tonight against veteran Jayson Velez, but the 25-year-old fighter from Panama was able to pull out a split decision win in a WBA junior lightweight eliminator — barely.
Even for a split decision, this fight was an extremely close call. Velez (29-6-1, 21 KO) started nicely, somewhat schooling Arboleda (16-1, 13 KO) in the opening few rounds, but Arboleda came back strong, hurting Velez in the fourth and using his size and power to dictate the next few rounds.
Velez, 31, came back, though, and put the fight up for grabs going into the final rounds. He hurt Arboleda pretty badly in the 10th round, but Arboleda was able to stay on his feet and come back for a nice 11th himself.
Then, late in the 12th and final frame, a charging Velez put Arboleda on the canvas:
Arboleda got up and desperately tried to stay out of trouble, but was almost down again before the round could end.
Scores were 114-113 twice for Arboleda, and 115-112 for Velez. Bad Left Hook had it 114-113 for Arboleda on one card, and 114-113 for Velez on another. This was truly an exceptionally close fight, and it was a highly entertaining one, too, with action from bell to bell and no sluggish rounds at all.
The win puts Arboleda in the mix for a WBA title shot at 130 pounds, which could mean a fight with Leo Santa Cruz, and on paper it’s the sort of matchup Santa Cruz’ team would like, one where Leo would be heavily favored. Or it could mean a fight with the secondary “world” titleholder Rene Alvarado. We’ll have to see where he goes, but he’s in the best position of his career to date, obviously.