Western New York boxers defended their home turf quite well Friday night, but Buffalo's Guillermo Sanchez and Niagara Falls' Nick Casal earned triumphs they hope will serve as the springboard to bigger and better fights in the near future.
The southpaw Sanchez (13-2-1, 5 KOs) captured the vacant World Boxing Council Youth lightweight championship by earning a unanimous eight-round decision over Eddie Ramirez (6-7-1).
Sanchez hurt his opponent early in the fight and while the estimated 1,200 fans at the Hamburg Fairgrounds Casino Event Center may have been disappointed he opted to play it safe instead of going for the knockout once it became apparent that only a mistake would give Ramirez a chance at the triumph -- Sanchez earned something nice and shiny as his reward for playing it smart.
"It feels good to win this belt," said Sanchez, who won the New York State Super Featherweight title during his last WNY appearance in November 2009. "I wanted to take it slow, put on a good show and keep fighting. I didn't want to give him a knockdown. I want to keep on going forward, see who my next opponent will be."
Casal (21-4-1, 16 KOs) ended a 17-month hiatus by releasing some pent-up frustration, which was bad news for Martin Tucker of Toledo, Ohio. Casal scored a dominant TKO triumph in under three rounds as the former world under-18 amateur champion became the first to KO Tucker (7-9), who hadn't been stopped in his previous 15 fights.
Buffalo light heavyweight Lionell Thompson (6-0, 4 KOs) remained perfect as he stopped Angel Gonzalez at 2:29 of the fifth round. Friend and fellow former state Golden Gloves champion Excell Holmes (2-0-1) won via decision at heavyweight over Montreal's Taffo Asongwed (0-7-6). Former state Golden Gloves champ and recent college graduate Jordan Gaines of Buffalo won his lightweight pro debut via unanimous decision over Philadelphia's John Dippolito.
The only local not to win was Jamestown's Ela Nunez (9-9-1) who was stopped in the fourth round by unbeaten Amanda Serrano (9-0-1), the second time the Brooklyn boxer has beaten Nunez in three meetings.
But Sanchez and Casal helped send the fans home happy.
Sanchez put on the green title belt with the gold WBC logo in the middle of the ring before more than 40 family members, including uncle Angel Cepeda -- who made the trip from Puerto Rico.
They saw Sanchez, who has been known for postering in the ring against his opponents, remain focused throughout. He looked like a fighter who learned a lesson after a pair of humbling defeats last year against top prospects Dominic Salcido and Adrien Broner. This is Sanchez's second straight win.
Meanwhile, Casal has been "living life" since he last beat Christopher Fernandez in November 2009. He's been helping his father and trainer Ray Casal instruct youths in the art of pugilism at the family gym in the Falls.
While Nick Casal may have a future as a coach/trainer, he's only 25 and still has the potential to be an exceptional world-class fighter.
He made short work of Tucker, hurting him early with a hard left and just spent the rest of the night pretty much trapping Tucker along the ropes and pummeling him -- especially with a right hook that was simply devastating throughout the night.
"That hook was on tonight," said Ray Casal. "I'm real proud of his performance."
"It felt great [to fight]," said Casal, who now fights for 360 Boxing of New York. "After the first round I felt like I had him, I didn't want to walk into something stupid [after the dominant first round] and that's when I caught him."
Gaines, a former state Golden Gloves champion, controlled his fight through the start against Dippolito.