TEMECULA, California – Arnold Barboza Jr. took a significant step Friday night toward earning a 140-pound title shot.
The undefeated contender dealt Danielito Zorrilla his first defeat, a 10-round unanimous decision, in a main event ESPN televised from Pechanga Resort Casino. Barboza was the more active, accurate puncher essentially throughout a bout he won comfortably on the scorecards of judges Lou Moret (98-92), Pat Russell (97-93) and Zachary Young (97-93).
The 30-year-old Barboza (27-0, 10 KOs), of South El Monte, California, is ranked eighth by the WBO and 11th by the WBC. He was listed by Caesars Sportsbook as nearly a 2-1 favorite Friday night.
“It’s been a while since I been out of the ring,” Barboza told a group of reporters after his victory. “So, it was a good fight, man. I look to be active more now. … But you know what? I’m only getting better. It was a great experience and I hope to fight soon.”
Barboza plans to attend Teofimo Lopez’s comeback fight August 13, when Lopez (16-1, 12 KOs) will meet Mexico’s Pedro Campa (34-1-1, 23 KOs) in a 10-round junior welterweight bout at Resorts World Las Vegas. Assuming the heavily favored Lopez wins, Barboza hopes to fight him next.
The 28-year-old Zorrilla, of Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, slipped to 16-1 (12 KOs). Zorrilla is ranked 10th by the WBO.
Zorrilla made matters interesting during the 10th round, when he landed several flush punches on Barboza, who obviously was ahead on the scorecards.
A right hand by Barboza made Zorrilla hold him barely 40 seconds into the 10th round. Zorrilla later blasted Barboza with a right hand that turned his head around with approximately 1:20 to go in the final round.
“He caught me, but, you know, I wasn’t really hurt,” Barboza said. “I got more off balance. … The last two rounds I tried to box, and he was just putting pressure, so I just decided to stay there again.”
Zorrilla swung wildly all the way until the final bell because he knew he was down on the scorecards.
Zorrilla landed a right uppercut with about 45 seconds to go in the ninth round. Barboza never appeared affected by Zorrilla’s shots and fired back with a combination later in the ninth round.
Barboza opened up on Zorrilla during the final minute of the eighth round, when he landed an array of power punches, including a right hand that stopped Zorrilla in his tracks. Zorrilla landed a right hand just before the bell sounded to end the eighth round, but it was clear by then that he needed a knockout to win.
Sensing Zorrilla was fading, Barboza aggressively went after him at the start of the seventh round. A right hand by Barboza wobbled him about 1:10 into the seventh round.
Zorrilla withstood Barboza’s attack, but Barboza landed a left hand that knocked him into the ropes with just under 45 seconds remaining in the seventh round.
A right hand by Barboza affected Zorrilla, who touched his nose after absorbing that punch with 1:35 remaining in the sixth round. With about a minute to go in the sixth round, Barboza drilled Zorrilla with a left hook.
A right-left-right combination by Barboza backed up Zorrilla a few seconds before the sixth round concluded.
Barboza’s right hand connected about a minute into the fifth round. A right-left combination by Barboza backed up Zorrilla with just under 50 seconds to go in the fifth round.
Zorrilla snuck in a right hand as Barboza backed toward the ropes just before the fifth round ended.
Barboza worked off his jab during the first half of the fourth round. He landed a left hook with just over a minute on the clock in the fourth round, but Zorrilla caught Barboza with a left hook of his own approximately 15 seconds later.
With just over 10 seconds to go in the fourth round, Barboza connected with a right hand that froze Zorrilla for a few seconds.
Barboza’s jab connected as Zorrilla moved backward with just over a minute to go in the third round. Most of their punches either missed or were blocked during the third round, though.
Barboza countered Zorrilla with a left hand about a minute into the second round, when Zorrilla missed with a right hand. A sweeping left hook by Barboza connected with just over a minute remaining in the second round.
About 20 seconds later, Barboza drilled Zorrilla with a right uppercut and then a straight right. Zorrilla blasted Barboza with a left hook, however, just before the second round ended.
Zorrilla landed a right hand with just over 1:20 to go in the opening round. Barboza connected with a left to Zorrilla’s body about a minute later.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.