By Brian Stanley
Central Coast boxing favorites John Leo Dato and Angel Flores remain undefeated, collecting victories to close out an action-packed night of World Fighting Championship 114 at Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez on Friday, October 4.
As the crowd chanted “Dato, Dato, Dato,” veteran boxer German Meraz (62-58-2), of Sonora, Mexico, was taken to the six-round limit by Dato (13-0-1, 8 KO) in the 132-Pound Lightweight Division bout to force a decision by the judges’ scorecards.
Fighting out of Santa Maria, Dato won by unanimous decision to earn his second victory inside Samala Showroom this year.
“This is like a dream come true. Being a winner, working hard, training hard every day, anything is possible if you train hard,” Dato said. “I love what I did today. All this crowd from Santa Maria, 805 and the Central Coast, it’s the best feeling ever. Hearing them cheer my name, it’s a win-win for me.”
Dato controlled much of the fight, continually cutting the ring off to prevent Meraz from escaping the head and body attacks from the Philippines native. Fatigue was setting in on Meraz as Dato maintained his pace forcing Meraz to tie-up with Dato to try and slow the fight down.
“He’s a veteran. He has more than 100 professional fights, he knows how to survive,” Dato said. “I give him props but one more round and I would have finished him off.”
Following Referee Jack Reiss deducting a point from Meraz for an illegal hit to the back of Dato’s head in the sixth round after repeated warnings, the Santa Maria based fighter won on all three judge’s scoresheets 60-53.
Meraz was a recent addition to the fight card to challenge Dato, who was originally scheduled to fight Luis May (21-16-1), of Cancun, Mexico.
Taking center stage in the co-main event was Santa Ynez resident Angel Flores (7-0, 5 KO) in a 135-pound lightweight bout, defeating Braulio Avila (3-5), of Tlaxcala, Mexico, at the conclusion of the second round by technical knockout.
“I grew up here, it means a lot to me,” Flores said about fighting in his hometown. “Just winning and being here fighting at the casino is like a dream come true. I’m grateful for all the people that game out and all the sponsors and supporters that came and supported me.”
Flores was attacking aggressively in the second-of-six schedule rounds, driving Avila into the ropes delivering a barrage of shots and nearly getting the knockdown as Avila was saved by the ropes.
“I thought the ref told me to backup,” Flores said when Avila fell into the ropes. “I kind of paused but once I didn’t hear anything else, I continued to go back to work.”
As the final moments ticked away in the round Flores connected with a head strike that left Avila off-balance at the bell.
As the fighters returned to their respective corners, Referee Marcos Rosales evaluated Avila and called a stoppage to the fight giving Flores his seventh win and fifth knockout. Flores has collected three of his seven fight wins at Chumash Casino Resort.
Representing Central Coast Boxing in Santa Maria, Manuel Romero had a slow start against the debuting Donald Gonzalez, of Hilo, Hawai’i, in the opening round of the 132-pound bout. After allowing Gonzalez to gain the upper hand Romero took charge, sending Gonzalez to the mat after several shots to the body.
Romero (5-5-3) maintained control of the ring, sending Gonzalez (0-3) to the canvas twice in the second and again in the fourth before the ref stopped the match. Romero won by knockout in the fourth at the 2:03 mark.
During the post-fight interview with ring announcer Dreu Murin, Romero announced he was retiring from boxing. “Tonight was my last bout, I ended it on a knockout,” Romero said. “I ended it successfully.”
Opening the professional fights on the card at 132 pounds was Rufino Serrano, of Central Coast Boxing, challenging Aaron Hollis, of Price Hill, Ohio. Serrano make quick work of Hollis in the first round, sending the Ohio boxer to the canvas three times forcing referee Jack Reiss to end the contest.
Earning his fifth career knockout, Serrano improves to 16-6 as Hollis (4-10) loses his fourth match consecutively by knockout.
The night also featured seven amateur fights that was capped off with the crowning of a new WFC 130-pound Division Championship between Santa Maria’s Eddie Perez, Jr. and Tyrone Salmo, of Los Altos. Perez set claim to his first WFC championship taking the split decision over Salmo.
“It feels good being able to come out here, still amateur, and fighting alongside these pros, Dato, Angel, Ruffino and Manny,” Perez said.
Rounding out the amateur card, Valentino Ruiz won two-of-three rounds all three judges scorecards to defeat Adrian Gonzalez by unanimous decision. Chris Graham remains undefeated with a 170-pound win after the referee stopped the fight for Marcelino Pena, who made his amateur debut.
AB Sosa collected a win in the 114-pound division over Johnathan Esqueda following three knockdowns in the third round resulting in referee Steve Solderman calling a stoppage to the action. In the 120-pound weight class, Isaiah Magana took the split decision against Ivan Meraz.
Taking a first-round victory at 165 pounds was Daniel “The Apache Kid” Flores, knocking Jorge Rivera to the canvas twice before Rivera was examined by the ringside doctor and Solderman called the bout. Winning by unanimous decision in the opening fight of the night, Miguel Aguilar beat Nicko Agapay at 140 pounds.
World Fighting Championships is set to return to the Santa Ynez Valley at Chumash Casino Resort on January 10.