Junior welterweight contender Antonio Orozco, looking to position himself for a world title shot, knocked KeAndre Gibson out in the fourth round in a fight between unbeaten fighters on Saturday at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
Orozco (26-0, 17 KOs) lived up to his nickname of “Relentless” as he went right after Gibson (16-1-1, 7 KOs) in the main event of the “Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN” card. He backed him up throughout the bout and blasted away to the body.
In the second round, Orozco forced Gibson to the ropes and continued to pound his body. A couple of shots strayed slightly low, and referee Russell Mora warned Orozco about the infraction.
With a minute left in the third round, Gibson landed a very low left hand that badly hurt Orozco, and Mora issued him a stern warning. But Orozco shook off the low blow, and in the fourth round, they continued to battle at close range before Orozco flicked out a jab and followed with a right hand behind it that caught Gibson hard near the temple.
Gibson dropped to the canvas on all fours and was clearly hurt. Although he beat the count, he was unsteady and did not respond to Mora when asked if he wanted to continue, forcing Mora to wave off the fight at 1 minute, 31 seconds as Orozco leaped in the air and pumped his fist in celebration.
“My corner was telling me he’s got the jab [figured out], so hide it and follow with the right hand,” Orozco said. “They were telling me, ‘Follow up after the jab,’ and that’s what we did — double jab, right hand.”
Gibson, who was stepping up the level of his opposition, had no excuses.
“I tried to outbox him,” said Gibson, whose purse was $20,000 compared to Orozco’s $30,000. “Unfortunately, I got caught. It happens.”
According to CompuBox punch statistics, Orozco landed 81 of 248 punches (33 percent) and Gibson landed 62 of 185 punches (34 percent), though nothing appeared to remotely bother Orozco. Of Orozco’s 63 landed power shots, 43 were to the body.
It was a big turnaround for Orozco, 29, of San Diego, compared to where he was three months ago. He was preparing to fight Fidel Maldonado Jr. on Dec. 16, knowing a win would send him into a world title elimination fight or perhaps directly to a shot at unified world champion Terence Crawford.
However, two days before the fight, Orozco was struggling to make the 140-pound weight limit. He was dehydrated and lethargic and ultimately passed out. He wound up in the hospital, and the fight was canceled. He had waited too long to cut weight, and it cost him the title eliminator.
He was deeply apologetic to his team and took responsibility for what happened. In preparation to fight Gibson, 26, of St. Louis, Orozco hired a nutritionist to help him make weight properly, and he weighed in at 139.6 pounds on Friday afternoon and looked very sharp in the fight.
“From start to finish, I stuck to the fundamentals in this fight,” Orozco said. “We knew he was quick, had good foot movement [and was] a great boxer. Patience was the key, and we prevailed. I’m very happy to have won this fight, and now it’s time to go home to my family.”
With the victory, Orozco put himself back on track for a shot at a world title.
“This is the goal,” he said. “This is the first step [after what happened in December]. We’re here to become world champion.”
Gesta outpoints Gonzalez in slugfest
In the action-packed co-feature, lightweight Mercito “No Mercy” Gesta (30-1-2, 16 KOs) won a unanimous decision against Gilberto Gonzalez (27-3, 22 KOs) despite getting knocked down in the third round.
Gesta, 29, a Philippines native fighting out of San Diego, bounced back from getting dropped to win 99-91, 98-92 and 96-93 as he fought for the first time in 18 months, in part due to a shoulder injury.
“I listened to my corner in the fight and never let my opponent get too close,” Gesta said. “I’m happy with the outcome.”
Gesta, a southpaw, did not look rusty as he dictated the pace in a high-contact battle in which both combatants had their moments. By the third round, Gonzalez was bleeding from an apparent broken nose and had swelling under his left eye, but he nailed Gesta with a left uppercut that knocked him down. Gesta did not appear to be badly hurt and quickly shook it off.
They spent most of the fight going back and forth and cracking each other with hard shots, but Gesta got the better of the action against the slower Gonzalez, 29, of Mexico, who was fighting for the first time in exactly one year.
Gesta, whose purse was $15,000, and Gonzalez, who made $12,500, closed the fight with a terrific 10th round in which they fought toe to toe, though Gonzalez, who was also bleeding from the mouth, seemed to have more of a sense of desperation, probably because he figured he was trailing on the scorecards.
Gesta moved to 4-0-1 in his past five fights since he dropped a unanimous decision challenging then-lightweight world titleholder Miguel Vazquez in December 2012. Gonzalez saw his eight-fight win streak come to an end.