Buellton’s Angel Flores put his undefeated record on the line when boxing returned with WFC 131 at the Samala Showroom at Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez on Friday night.
The fight was action packed. It didn’t disappoint the partisan crowd, although the result did as Flores (now 8-1) lost his first professional fight in a split decision to St. Louis’ Derrick Murray (15-4-1) .
“A full house, great fights – some of the best fights a lot of these people have ever seen,” said Matt McGovern, president of the WFC (World Fighting Championships). “The place was full, about 1,100 people.”
“This was our first live event in nearly two years,” said Mike Traphagen, senior public relations officer for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. “There was no better way to be back from boxing live events. Energy, exceptional athletes, great fights – there is nothing like it.
The night featured six fights – four professional and two amateur – culminating in the highly anticipated Murray/Flores fight.
The fight between the 137-pound fighters lasted the scheduled six rounds with Flores getting the nod from a ringside judge (59-55) while the other two judges favored Murray 58-56.
The action was non-stop from the start.
Both fighters pushed the attack, landing solid punches all over the place.
Murray bloodied Flores’ nose late in the first round for the only visible damage to either fighter.
“Once I saw the blood, it became a target for me,” Murray said. “But he is tough, so tough. It didn’t seem to bother him at all.
Murray gained confidence as the fight progressed, but Flores never backed down from the action.
Whenever it appeared that Murray was taking the lead, Flores fought back with panache – both landing powerful punches with every round.
In the fifth, Flores had the chance to put the fight aside – shaking Murray with a right uppercut quickly followed by a jarring left/right combo to the head.
“In the fifth round, when he hit me, my knees gave out. I didn’t know where I was,” Murray said. “He was hitting me with trucks, with howitzers – this man can hit. don’t know how I survived that.
While it might be hard to believe, Flores’ hard-hitting style is what gave Murray the edge.
“I didn’t know anything about Angel. I only took this fight on a week’s notice,” Murray said. “But at first I saw that he was a hard puncher and hard punchers swing slowly. I was able to counter, pass under his blows and score points.
Flores was unavailable to the media after the fight.
The co-main event pitted Rudy Ochoa of Oxnard and his 10-1 record against undefeated (8-0) Belleville, Illinois fighter AJ Graham in a 132-pound bout.
Scheduled for six rounds, Ochoa suffered his first loss with a third-round knockout.
Both fighters started cautiously, trading body and head shots.
Midway through the first round, Graham started landing more punches.
Graham’s confidence grew as he took control in the second round.
At the start of the third round, sitting at ringside, you could clearly hear Graham saying “You’re going down this round.”
And then he opened a fierce attack.
A barrage of left/right/left combinations got Ochoa in trouble – holding onto the clinch to catch his breath.
Right after referee Sharon Sands separated the two, Graham forced Ochoa into submission – six straight punches sent Ochoa to the canvas.
Graham scored the knockout at 2:10 of the third round.
“My game plan was to use my jab,” Graham said. “In the second round, I started hurting him. In the third round, I brought it to him but I had to be careful, I didn’t want to hit myself. I knew it could last four, five or six laps. I didn’t want to get ahead of myself but I know I hurt him in the third round and I wanted to finish him.
“I wanted to test myself and give the fans a good show, so it was a good opportunity,” Ochoa said. “I love him here 100%. It was great to get back in the ring. I’ll be back – hopefully when the WFC is back here in April.
In early pro fights, San Fernando Valley heavyweight Josue Vargas moved to 2-0 with a first-round knockout of Kingman, Arizona’s Neil Cannon, who was making his pro debut – sending him down twice on the canvas and ending the fight at the 2:02 mark.
In both fighters’ pro debuts, Ventura heavyweight Anthony De La Cruz picked up an even quicker victory, knocking Matt McCrary of Dayton, Nevada to the mat twice, winning by knockout in 1:23 of the first round.
The night started with two amateur fights.
In the first, Santa Maria’s Raul Castellanos won a unanimous decision over Los Angeles’ Jordan Minns in a 150-pound match.
Next, Santa Maria’s Kenny Dato Olpindo scored a unanimous decision over Grass Valley’s Alex Mosier in a 130-pound match.
“It was an extraordinarily even group of fighters all night long,” said Jack Reiss, the night’s other referee. “Those last two fights in particular – they were next level, possibly the best fights these fans have ever seen and Derrick probably fought the best fight of his life.”
The WFC will return to the casino for two nights in April – a night of boxing on Friday April 8, followed by a night of mixed martial arts and kick boxing on Saturday April 9.