PUERTO RICO (March 19, 2021) — Ring City USA held its second NBC Sports Network card of 2021. A pair of former Puerto Rican champions were among the show’s biggest names in Alberto Machado and Angel Acosta. Both men fought in bouts at different weights than when they suffered their career setbacks.
Machado (22-3, 18 KOs), a former Super Featherweight champion, faced Angel Fierro (18-1-1, 14 KOs) in a thrilling main event contested at the Lightweight max of 135 pounds. Acosta (22-2, 21 KOs) fought Gilberto Mendoza (17-10-3, 8 KOs) up at Super Flyweight in an 8-round bout. He lost his WBO Light Flyweight title to Elwin Soto when he was stopped in the 12th round of their June 2019 bout.
The two served as hosts at the Albergue Olimpico complex in Salinas, Puerto Rico last night. But Machado ran into problems he’s encountered in the ring before, as Fierro roared back from two early knockdowns to stop the rangy Puerto Rican in Round 6. Acosta’s fight went the distance, and was mostly one-sided en route to a unanimous decision.
The NBCSN televised action included a total of four fights, including an exciting women’s Middleweight bout between Maricela Cornejo and Alma Ibarra, a rematch between Light Heavyweights Joe Ward and Marco Delgado, and then a competitive Super Flyweight bout between Jose Martinez and Israel Gonzalez. The event’s theme was Puerto Rico versus Mexico.
Machado initially had very few problems with Fierro, who was a late replacement for the bout. In a fierce opening round, Fierro slipped off to the side to go to work on the taller Machado’s body, and then suddenly Fierro found himself down on the canvas. He stepped into a right hook that landed flush on his face. The 22-year old Mexican willed himself back onto his feet.
I told you in the interview (before the fight), I didn’t come here to be a tourist in Puerto Rico. I came here to win. — Angel Fierro
Machado attacked early in Round 2, trying to capitalize on the previous round’s big moment. He unleashed hooks from both hands that backed the shorter Fierro away. Fierro fought his way back into the fight later in the second round. However, he got caught by a second crushing right hook that violently snapped his head around. Fierro dropped down to his knee, but popped up immediately. The bell rang before the action could resume.
Machado pressed forward behind his guard at the top of Round 3. With about 90 seconds to go Fierro reacted to another right hook. The former Super Featherweight champion started finding success going to Fierro’s body. Surprisingly, the 22-year old Mexico-born San Diego resident made it through the rest of the round.
Machado started the fourth round off working fiercely. Suddenly, Fierro started punching in between the 5-foot 10-inch fighter’s punches. Machado’s body language started changing. Fierro pressed forward and landed several telling shots. He closed the round with an explosive rally that got Machado’s attention.
Both fighters exchanged freely, and violently, in the first half of Round 5. Fierro’s momentum continued to build. Machado fired a short combination at the end of the round, and Fierro backed away afterwards.
Machado’s jab returned at the start of Round 6. But, as the action moved away from center-ring, Machado backed away with his hands down, and Fierro strafed him with a crushing left hook that dropped the Puerto Rican. Machado’s body went rigid at the top of his descent downward. He landed underneath the bottom rope, and barely did anything to get back up to his feet. The official time of the stoppage was :47. At the time of the knockout, Machado was up 48-45 on all three cards.
“I’m happy, I faced a top-notch fighter tonight in Alberto Machado,” said Fierro, who was a three-to-one underdog. “He is world class and dropped me twice. But I am ecstatic that I was able to come back and beat a fighter of his caliber.”
“He dropped me twice in the beginning of the fight,” added Fierro. “When I got back to my corner, I told them, ‘remind me of my daughter.’ Because with this fight I can change her life and that’s exactly what they did after the third round. They motivated me and that’s exactly what I did.”
Prior to the fight, Fierro told the Ring City USA broadcast team, “the best judge is a knockout when you’re fighting in someone else’s hometown.” He stepped in for undefeated prospect Hector Tanajara on one week’s notice, and kept his word to take matters into his own hands.
“We found a lot of gaps in Machado’s game in the sixth round,” stated Fierro. “I took advantage of them and I turned it around. I told you in the interview (before the fight), I didn’t come here to be a tourist in Puerto Rico. I came here to win.”
Joe Ward (3-1, 2 KOs) vs Marco Delgado (7-2, 5 KOs)
In the co-main event, a 6-round Light Heavyweight affair, Joe Ward returned from a lengthy injury-related layoff to face Marco Delgado. A leg injury Ward suffered against Delgado in their October 2019 resulted in a defeat by technical knockout on the Irish Olympian’s record.
Delgado swung for the fences several times in Round 1. The taller southpaw, from Moate, Ireland, stayed poised and looked for mistakes. Ward chopped away at Delgado’s body with big hooks throughout the first three frames. The action worked itself into full-blown rough-housing as Delgado realized he couldn’t outbox the taller 27-year old.
Ward gradually started to land more powerful punches on Delgado who fought increasingly desperate over the last three rounds. During Delgado’s calmer moments, Ward popped him with his right jab to set up straight left hands. However, the left hand punches were mainly single punches.
At the end of the six rounds Ward avenged his lone loss via unanimous decision with totals 60-54 on all three judge’s cards.
Israel Gonzalez (26-4-1, 11 KOs) vs Jose Martinez (21-1-3, 14 KOs)
Gonzalez boxed sharply to open the 10-round Super Flyweight bout. He jabbed, attacked Martinez up-and-down, and turned on all of his exits out of the pocket. Martinez followed him around the ring, not changing up much through the first half of Round two. Martinez, a 28-year old Puerto Rican, landed several punches to the head of Gonzalez to close the round.
Gonzalez moved less in Round 3, opting to stand and fight. He doubled up his left hook to the body of Martinez.
Referee Melva Santos got involved a lot in the fourth round. Gonzalez repeatedly tied up Martinez who attempted to walk the Mexican down. The pressure from Martinez started paying dividends in Rounds 4 and 5. Gonzalez went back to fighting on his toes. Martinez punctuated the round with a flush right hand to Gonzalez’ face seconds before the bell.
Martinez continued to assert himself in Round 6. Gonzalez tried to evade the Puerto Rican’s pressure and power punching, but his own power couldn’t deter Martinez’ push forward. The pressure remained a problem for the 24-year old Mexican in Round 7, but he managed to disrupt Martinez’ rhythm often in the frame.
Gonzalez pressed forward in the second half of Round 8. Martinez attacked fiercely to open the frame. But, Gonzalez gained some momentum walking towards the Puerto Rican fighter to close the round.
The bout remained up for grabs going into the final two rounds. Martinez’ attack remained direct. Gonzalez moved side-to-side up on his toes, and he returned punches in short bursts. The final round screeched to a halt about midway through. The two engaged in a lot of clinching, and it appeared that Martinez’ acceptance of the holding could have thwarted him defending his home territory.
The judges’ scorecard totals revealed a majority draw, with one card favoring Gonzalez 96-94 that was overruled by two 95-95 cards.
Maricela Cornejo (13-5, 5 KOs) vs Alma Ibarra (8-1, 4 KOs)
Middleweights Maricela Cornejo of Los Angeles, Calif and Alma Ibarra squared off for an 8-rounder. Both enjoyed moments fighting their respective fight in the opening stanza. Ibarra may have swayed the judges with a more spirited close to the round.
Cornejo opened the second frame in the center of the ring, throwing double and triple jabs. Ibarra, a 33-year old from Monterrey, Mexico, stalked the Angeleno in search of power punches.
Ibarra’s aggression continued to serve her well through Round 3. She threw left hooks and overhand rights as Cornejo mistakenly moved to her left often.
Ibarra landed a flush right hand to Cornejo’s face shortly into the subsequent round. The punch got Cornejo’s attention. Cornejo closed the round coming forward, attempting to establish some control.
Both ladies opened Round 5 with their jabs. Cornejo added in foot feints to set up her jab and to then follow with her right hand. Ibarra stood her ground and continued relying on her overhand right. In the following round, Ibarra used her jab whenever Cornejo moved within range. Cornejo still struggled with gaining the confidence to punch first.
Ibarra continued to land clean left jabs to offset any work Cornejo offered in Round 7. Cornejo moved out of the pocket and away throughout the fight, and rarely made Ibarra pay for pressuring her relentlessly.
The Monterrey native pulled out the victory unanimously with score totals of 79-73, 79-73 and 77-75. Cornejo, a three-time title challenger, dropped her second consecutive decision, and 3 of her last 4 bouts.
Angel Acosta (22-2, 21 KOs) vs Gilberto Mendoza (17-10-3, 8 KOs)
Former WBO Light Flyweight champion Angel Acosta took on 31-year old Modesto, Calif native Gilberto Mendoza in an 8-round bout. Mendoza managed to fight four times in 2020. Acosta, a San Juan, Puerto Rico resident, last fought in October 2019.
Acosta landed the most effective shots through the first three rounds. The hometown fighter picked up the pace even more in the fifth round. He battered Mendoza with several thudding shots, but the Californian weathered the storm.
Mendoza continued to compete in Round 6. One of Acosta’s many left hooks finally dropped Mendoza in Round 7. Mendoza beat the count, fought on, and made it to hear the final bell in Round 8. The cards weren’t a mystery, as all three judges had totals of 79-72 for a unanimous decision in Acosta’s favor.
All photos by Tom Hogan/Ring City USA