On a night when several prospects unveiled the vigor of their youth, Josesito Lopez embraced his maturity.
The veteran Riverside welterweight produced a polished, wise showing Sunday night at the Novo in downtown Los Angeles, scoring a 10th-round knockdown en route to a decisive unanimous-decision victory over Mexican journeyman Saul Corral.
“It’s been all the work I’ve been putting in. More than anything, just being smart in the ring, taking it round by round,” Lopez, 32, said afterward. “I was a little careful in there, it’s been a while since I had got some good rounds. A few times I tried to go for the kill, but tough guy. He stayed alive.”
Lopez (35-7), who stunned Victor Ortiz in 2012 at Staples Center, then suffered losses in stiffer tests against Canelo Alvarez, Marcos Maidana and Andre Berto, had fought only once in the last two years and he credited his work with new trainer Robert Garcia for Sunday’s showing.
“My body felt good. I was alert, alive, and that’s the reason I’m most happy,” Lopez said. “My instincts were quick. I had good reflexes. I got hit with very few punches. I’m completely satisfied.”
Lopez hurt Corral (21-9) with a combination to the head and a follow-up barrage in the sixth, and after out-boxing Corral throughout, he landed a power punch to the head that set up a flurry that decked Corral in his own corner early in the 10th and final round.
The victory leaves Lopez a viable candidate in perhaps boxing’s deepest division.
“I want to step it up for my next fight,” Lopez said. “We’re working fight by fight. We have a plan. There’s more to come.”
Beyond Lopez, Sunday was all about the kids.
Karlos Balderas, a Santa Maria-based fighter who shined in the Olympics despite failing to medal for the U.S., set up and landed numerous heavy punches on Dallas’ Thomas Smith in the first round, and Smith’s corner halted the punishment before the second round began.
“I knew how to keep my composure,” said super-featherweight Balderas, who fought several times in the five-round pro-style World Series of Boxing before the Olympics.
Mexico’s Olympic silver medalist, Misael Rodriguez, meanwhile, defeated Los Angeles’ Brian True (1-7-1) by unanimous decision, with three scores of 40-36, but suffered through some of the defensive liabilities his manager, Abner Mares, and other handlers worry about moving forward.
Rodriguez’s nose was bleeding in the first round from openings he left while flinging heavy punches that ultimately hurt and slowed True.
“I didn’t anticipate that with the change in [smaller] gloves,” Rodriguez said. “It was my first fight. Maybe first-fight jitters. I felt like my power was there and I’m looking for my strength to improve.”
Bellflower lightweight Alejandro Luna improved to 21-0 by treating Andrey Klimov as a punching bag to gain a unanimous-decision victory by scores of 97-93, 98-92, 97-93.
Luna pelted Klimov’s midsection throughout the bout, but found a good late target in the Russian’s bruised left eye area and nearly dropped him with a ninth-round head punch.
In her unanimous-decision victory, super-middleweight Maricela Cornejo (9-2) increased her pressure on opponent Sydney LeBlanc as LeBlanc fatigued. Judges delivered Cornejo a victory by scores of 60-54, 60-54 and 59-55.
Cornejo took satisfaction in her conditioning under new trainer Joel Diaz in Indio, and Diaz was pleased by the boxing strides, including Cornejo’s ability to step back and hammer LeBlanc with power punches in the second half of the six-round bout.
Cornejo is trying to position herself for a meeting against two-time Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields.
“We would love to have a Shields-Cornejo fight. It would be an excellent event, one which would be great for women’s boxing,” said Mark Taffet, the former HBO executive who now manages Shields. He said she’ll fight three more times this year.
In the first of the five pro debuts, Alabama’s Money Powell knocked down Los Angeles’ Todd Templeton twice in the first round, then finished Templeton by TKO at the 2:55 mark of the first.
Mexico’s Lindolfo Delgado followed with a third-round TKO stoppage of Tijuana’s Luis Silva. After dropping Silva late in the second round, super-lightweight Delgado unleashed his impressive power punches again to inspire Silva’s corner to throw in the towel 32 seconds into the third.
Most impressively, Lithuanian Olympian Eimantas Stanionis showed precision power in a destructive first-round stoppage of Ventura’s Rasheed Lawal.
Trained by seven-time trainer of the year Freddie Roach, welterweight Stanionis struck Lawal flush with a power left, then backed him to the ropes with a right in the same combination and gained the stoppage at 2:35 with a multi-punch combination to the body.
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