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  • Photos by Stephanie Trapp - Showtime

Ramon Cardenas Upsets Rafael Pedroza on SHO BOX



San Antonio’s Ramon Cardenas thrilled his hometown fans with a picture perfect performance, employing a textbook left-hook to drop, stop and upset Rafael Pedroza in the second round to win his debut on SHOBOX: The New Generation Friday night in the main event live on SHOWTIME from Boeing Center at Tech Port in San Antonio, Texas. Cardenas decked Pedroza twice in the second round, both on leaping, picturesque left hooks that landed cleanly and catapulted Pedroza to the canvas. On the second knockdown, as Pedroza landed awkwardly on his side, referee Rafael Ramos waved the fight off immediately at 1:22 of the second frame.



Pedroza became the 235th fighter in the 22-year history of SHOBOX to lose his undefeated record on the popular prospect series.



“The first knockdown I hit him with a right hand to the body and he dropped his guard, so I came back up on top,” Cardenas said. “I noticed his defense wasn’t that tight, so I threw it and when it landed, I dropped him. And I knew it would happen again, so I decided to do it again and that ended it. He was an undefeated fighter coming on SHOWTIME, so it’s my biggest win, for sure. From here, we’re onto bigger and better stuff. I’m sure SHOWTIME will want me back again after that. I want the champions.”



It was a nightmarish result for Pedroza, who was fighting for the first time outside of his native Panama and entered Friday with high expectations, undefeated and ranked fifth in the WBA at super bantamweight after a highly decorated amateur career. Instead, it was Cardenas, fighting in his hometown for the ninth time, who appeared relaxed and poised and had the night of his life to improve to 22-1 with 12 KOs as Pedroza fell to 15-1 with 11 KOs.



Cardenas, who was able to get inside of Pedroza’s six-inch reach advantage, earned a career-best victory at The Alamodome in July 2022 when he decisioned Michel Banquez in SHOWTIME BOXING® COUNTDOWN streaming action preceding Mark Magsayo vs. Rey Vargas. Now he has another spectacular performance to add to his list of growing achievements.



“I was ranked in every organization in the world for more than a year, but I didn’t get the chance then,” Cardenas said. “But now that I’ve made a statement, I’ll take the WBA (champ), WBC, whatever. My plan was to put the boxing world on notice, by going out and showing the world who I am. I believe I did that.”



In the co-feature, Mirco Cuello, a 2020 Argentine Olympian with a fun, aggressive style, pounded out a tough, 10-round unanimous decision win against the willing Rudy Garcia in their featherweight bout, handing Garcia his first loss. Cuello won by three scores of 99-90, 99-90 and 99-90 to improve to 13-0 with 11 KOs as Garcia dropped to 13-1-1 with 2 KOs. Currently ranked No. 4 by the WBA’s featherweight rankings, Cuello bested his sixth undefeated fighter, though he failed to stop his sixth straight opponent.



It wasn’t for a lack of trying.



Cuello sliced open cuts over Garcia’s left eye and over his nose with stinging jabs and muscular left hooks and loaded up on heavy shots that repeatedly found their mark. Cuello landed 35% of his jabs and 35% of his power punches and doubled up Garcia in body punches landed 53-24.



“That was the toughest opponent I have ever faced,” Cuello said. “This was the first time I’ve been 10 rounds and I learned a lot. I love fighting in the United States and hope to fight again on SHOWTIME soon.”



The bout wasn’t without a little controversy. Garcia appeared to drop Cuello with a short, cuffing left hook with 30 seconds remaining in the third, but referee Jon Schorle allowed the action to continue without calling it a knockdown as Cuello popped up and kept fighting.



Garcia went down with 52 seconds left in the fifth after absorbing a right to the shoulder. This time, referee Schorle ruled it a knockdown, though a clean shot didn’t seem to land. Cuello followed that up with a punishing left to the body with Garcia of South Central, Los Angeles languishing against the ropes to end the round.



In the telecast opener, the promising Freudis Rojas remained undefeated with a dominant, slick performance over the Freddie Roach-trained Saul Bustos in their eight-round welterweight bout, though his perfect knockout streak came to an end. The stubborn Bustos remained upright, despite spraining his left ankle in the sixth as Rojas cruised to a unanimous decision win by scores of 80-72, 79-73 and 79-73 to improve to 12-0 with 11 knockouts. The durable Bustos dropped his second straight after losing last October to fall to 15-2-1 with eight KOs.



A lanky 6-foot-2 southpaw technician who also has power, Rojas last appeared in the ring on July 15 when he scored a seventh-round TKO in the telecast opener of SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING®. The amiable Rojas followed that up with a strong showing on Friday, displaying his boxing skills, fast hands and snapping power in the SHOBOX opener. Rojas averaged 52 punches thrown and 19 punches landed per round, while Bustos averaged 33 and just seven punches landed, according to CompuBox.



“I feel like the jab was really working for me,” said Rojas, a Las Vegas native who lives and trains in Houston. “There was one point where I felt him applying some pressure and I said, ‘OK, we have to starting closing in.’ Not every fight is going to be a knockout and I don’t want every fight to be. I know the fans love it but at the same time I’m still growing as a young prospect, and I have to learn how to go into those later rounds and keep my composure.”



Rojas dominated the first round with his jab and lead left hooks that repeatedly found their mark. Midway through the second, Rojas started to back up the hard-charging Bustos, who absorbed a four-punch combination to end the frame. Bustos’ left eye started to swell as he continued to eat stinging jabs and left hands in the fourth. Rojas, who has sparred with Terence Crawford and Jaron “Boots” Ennis, started to incorporate feints in the fifth, causing Bustos to fall off balance. Bustos landed a sharp right to start the sixth, the first solid punch he connected on and followed that up with a slapping left hand. But Bustos rolled his left ankle with 46 seconds left in the sixth as he stepped on Rojas’ foot moving in, causing referee Ellis Johnson to stop the action and have the ringside physician briefly speak to him. The South El Monte, Calif., resident Bustos charged out of the corner to start the eighth and final round, but he was met with a series of combinations, a pattern that repeated itself over and over on Friday.



“Of course, I was a little nervous fighting on SHOWTIME,” Rojas said. “If someone’s not nervous going out there, something’s not right. It’s one of the biggest platforms in all of boxing.”



International Boxing Hall of Famer Barry Tompkins called the action with former world champion Raul Márquez and veteran combat sports reporter and MORNING KOMBAT co-host Brian Campbell also serving as an expert analyst, and Hall of Famer Steve Farhood remotely performing unofficial scoring duties. SHOBOX: The New Generation was executive produced by Gordon Hall with Richard Gaughan producing and Rick Phillips directing.



Friday’s SHOBOX telecast will replay on SHOWTIME EXTREME® on Monday, September 18 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.



The card was promoted by Sampson Boxing and Paco Presents.



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