LAS VEGAS -- Robinson Castellanos is no stranger to pulling an upset and he did it again, outclassing and stopping Yuriorkis Gamboa in the seventh round of their lightweight bout Friday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena -- on the eve of the big fight of the weekend, Saturday night's Canelo Alvarez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. showdown.
Headlining "Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN," former unified featherweight world titleholder Gamboa was fighting for the second time in two months as part of a plan to get busy and continue shaking off the rust of a 15-month layoff and get in position to challenge for a junior lightweight world title.
Golden Boy signed Gamboa in January with designs on getting him active and securing a title fight for the one-time electrifying performer, but he showed very little against Castellanos, who has previously scored upsets against Ronny Rios, Rocky Juarez and former junior featherweight world titleholder Celestino Caballero.
Castellanos, who has been knocked out seven times, was a heavy underdog in the fight that took place at 133 pounds. He was coming off a seventh-round knockout loss to Oscar Escandon in an interim featherweight title bout in March 2016 and also had been stopped in 2014 by Rene Alvarado, the opponent Gamboa easily outpointed on March 11.
But from the outset Castellanos, 35, of Mexico, gave the shorter Gamboa problems and knocked him down twice. "I am super happy and excited to get such a big win," Castellanos said. "I won against a revered Olympian, and this win puts my career back on track after my last fight. This win is the opportunity that I needed, and it's because of the incredible team around me."
Seconds before the end of the third round, Castellanos landed a clean right hand on Gamboa's chin that sent him hard to the mat.
Castellanos was all over Gamboa (26-2, 17 KOs) at the start of the fourth round and landed a powerful right hand that sent him to the mat again. Gamboa made it to his feet but was shaky through the rest of the round as Castellanos hunted for the knockout and a desperate Gamboa threw wild punches.
Castellanos continued to take it to Gamboa, cracking him with a left hand that wobbled midway through the seventh round and then connected with another left hand as the round wound down, forcing Gamboa to try to hold. When the round ended, Gamboa, a 35-year-old 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist who defected and fights out of Miami, returned to his corner and moments later told his trainer he did not want to continue, giving Castellanos a major upset.
"I felt super dizzy, and felt like I couldn't go on," Gamboa said through an interpreter. "We trained hard."
The victory could set up Castellanos (24-12, 14 KOs) for a shot at world junior lightweight world titleholder Jezreel Corrales (21-1, 8 KOs) of Panama, a 25-year-old southpaw who recently signed with Golden Boy Promotions.
Rojas upsets Lopez
Featherweight Jesus Rojas, unbeaten since 2008, laid a beating on Abraham Lopez in an action-packed fight en route to an eighth-round knockout victory. The win put Rojas in position to challenge interim world titleholder Claudio Marrero.
"This win is the opportunity to be on the global stage, and take on world champions," Rojas said. "I promised my father that I would become a world champion, and even though he is not with me anymore I carry on our dream. I hope that by the end of the year, I am competing for an interim title or even a world championship."
It was a toe-to-toe battle most of the way, but Rojas (25-1-2, 18 KOs), 30, of Puerto Rico, could scarcely miss as he punished Lopez. Rojas had a big second round, rocking Lopez to his boots with a pair of left hands and then dropping him to a knee with another left hand midway through the round. Rojas stalked him the rest of the round, but Lopez was able to stay upright despite taking a few more heavy punches.
Rojas knocked down Lopez (22-1-1, 15 KOs), 29, of La Puente, California, again in the fourth round with a sustained eight-punch onslaught in a round that was filled with non-stop action. In the eighth-round Rojas dropped him for the third time, nailing him with an overhand right. Referee Tony Weeks allowed the fight to continue but when Rojas was pounding a defenseless Lopez he finally stepped in at 1 minute, 47 seconds.
"It's tough to swallow, I'm still processing it, but it happens," Lopez said. "After this, I know I'm going to go back to the drawing board and start training hard again."
In other scheduled bouts on Friday's "Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN" series:
Dallas junior welterweight prospect Vergil Ortiz Jr. (5-0, 5 KOs), just 19, continued to display tremendous power as he thrashed Mexico's Angel Sarinana (7-6-2, 3 KOs) in a third-round knockout victory. Sarinana showed a big heart to even make it out of the opening round when Ortiz knocked him all over the place. He continued to pour it on in the second round and the landed a clean right uppercut in the third round that dropped him hard. Sarinana made it to his feet but was in no condition to continue, and referee Jack Reiss waved it off at 1 minute, 44 seconds. "I saw him get hurt in the first round when I 'fake-jabbed' him to the body with a hook," Ortiz said. "Since that moment, I was just looking for the opportunity to get the knockout, but he was a tough guy and was able to make it through. In the third round, I saw him lose his guard, and I landed my uppercut that sent him to the floor. I think after this, I'm ready to increase my rounds. I think I am ready to take on some tougher opponents."
In the opening fight on ESPN, middleweight Yamaguchi Falcao (13-0, 6 KOs), 29, who claimed a bronze medal for Brazil in the 2012 Olympics, whitewashed hittable Morgan Fitch (18-1-1, 8 KOs), 34, of Pittsburgh in a shutout decision, winning 100-90, on all three scorecards.