By Jake Donovan
The presence of Felix Verdejo in the house - even if not in the ring - was enough to bring the fans out for a night at the fights at Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Florida.
Verdejo was due to headline the Halloween edition of Solo Boxeo Tecate on UniMas, but was forced to withdraw after feelings of discomfort in his still rehabiliting left hand following a recent training session.
The show still went on, with Clarence Booth picking up his 11th straight win. The St. Petersburg (FL) native was forced to contend with an elusive target in scoring a unanimous decision over Luis Joel Gonzalez in the evening's makeshift main event.
The aggressive welterweight signed with Top Rank earlier this year after impressing the company brass in previous undercard appearances. The mentality of fighting to entertain helped force the fight versus Gonzalez, who carries a defense-first style but managed to plant his feet long enough to hurt Booth in round three.
The threat of an upset was extremely short-lived; Gonzalez suffered a cut over his right eye and spent the rest of the night sticking and moving - boxing to a degree but also to avoid a firefight. It was a wise tactic, but just not effective enough as Booth's aggression carried the second half of the fight and eventually a win on the scorecards.
All three judges ruled in favor of Booth, with scores of 79-73 (twice) and 78-74 running his record to 13-1 (7KOs). Gonzalez falls to 11-3-1 (6KOs), dropping his second in a row.
Christopher "Pitufo" Diaz remained unbeaten following a 2nd round knockout of Karl Garcia in their featherweight bout. Diaz (13-0, 8KOs) scored two knockdowns, both coming in round two courtesy of left hooks in forcing the stoppage at 0:36 of round two.
Anthony Mercado returned following more than year away from the ring, knocking out Javier Garcia in one round. The unbeaten lightweight from Arecibo, PR has now fought three straight times in the Orlando/Kissimmee region, his last trip producing the lone distance win of his career.
This time around, the 23-year old was quick and merciless in his pummeling of Garcia (7-10-1, 2KOs), taking him out in just 1:18 for his sixth career 1st round knockout. The last ring appearance for Mercado (9-0, 8KOs) came last October, going the distance on the undercard of a Solo Boxeo Tecate card topped by Verdejo in Orlando.
Jean Carlos Rivera (not to be confused with Jean Carlos Torres) danced as hard as he could to deliver a knockout ending, but was forced to settle for a unanimous decision win over Jovanny Fuentes. Rivera prevailed over six rounds, improving to 4-0 (2KOs) while fighting for the first time in the Orlando region where he now lives and trains.
Rookie lightweight Jean Carlos Torres (2-0, 2KOs) picks up his second consecutive 1st round knockout in as many pro fights. The latest victim for the first-year pro from Trujillo Alto, PR was Curtis Vert (0-3), who was drilled at 2:41 of the opening round.
Nicklaus Flaz enjoyed a successful pro debut, scoring a 2nd round knockout of Canada's Bruce Lutchmedial (0-2) in the opening bout of the evening. Flaz (1-0, 1KO) - who hails from Vega Alta, PR - proved too much for the hapless super welterweight, forcing the stoppage at 1:10 of round two.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox