He didn’t get the knockout, but Karlos Balderas got the win.
The Santa Maria native won his fourth straight fight since beginning his comeback tour last year, scoring a unanimous decision on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Balderas won the junior lightweight bout via unanimous decision over 24-year-old Colombian Ruben Cervera on an ESPN+ fight card at Resorts World Las Vegas last weekend.
It’s the fourth straight win for Balderas since returning to the ring last August. He had picked up knockout victories in his previous three bouts, but couldn’t score a fourth against Cervera.
Balderas, the 2016 U.S. Olympian, is now 13-1 in his career with 11 knockouts. He dropped Cervera to 13-3 in his career. Cervera has 11 career knockouts and has only been knocked out once in his professional career.
Balderas, the Santa Maria High graduate, knocked down Cervera in the first and third rounds to take an early lead. He won 58-54 on two judges’ scorecards and 57-55 on the third.
Cervera swept the final two rounds on all three judges’ cards to tighten the margins.
Balderas scored both of his knockdowns against Cervera with powerful counter punches with his left hand. Balderas, 25, was strong offensively against Cervera, although his defense showed room for improvement later in the fight.
Balderas is now 4-0 in the past nine months since returning from a nearly two-year layoff last August. After suffering a stunning knockout loss to Rene Tellez Giron in December 2019, Balderas changed coaches and promoters, moving from RingStar to Bob Arum’s Top Rank and training under Buddy McGirt in Los Angeles. On Saturday, Balderas’ corner featured his father, Zenon, and his uncle David.
Saturday’s fight was the first to go on Balderas’ career scorecards after they previously ended by knockout. It was a good opportunity for Balderas to get more ringwork as he had just gone eight rounds combined in his previous three fights.
Tellez Giron’s loss doesn’t look as bad as it did in 2019. Tellez Giron is 16-2 in his career after beating Balderas in the sixth round in 2019.
Balderas knocked out Aelio Mesquita in the second round at Fresno two months ago after stopping Julio Cortez in the fourth round in November last year. In his first fight with Top Rank, he knocked out Fidel Cervantes in the second round in August 2021. Balderas then ended Cervera’s three-fight winning streak on Saturday.
In the main event, which aired on ESPN, Janibek Alimkhanuly destroyed previously undefeated Danny Dignum with a fight-ending uppercut in the second round to claim the vacant WBO Interim middleweight world title.
Janibek (12-0, 8 KO), a 2016 Kazakhstan Olympian, has landed 15 of his last 17 power punches and 21 of 33 overall. Dignum (14-1-1, 8 KOs), from Essex, England, previously held the WBO European title but was no match for the sensational southpaw. Janibek knocked down Dignum in the first round, and it was only a matter of time before the hammer fell.
In another featured bout, 26-year-old Jamaine Ortiz defeated former world champion Jamel Herring by 10-round unanimous decision in the lightweight co-feature.
Ortiz (16-0-1, 8 KOs), of Worcester, Mass., entered the fight as the betting favorite, but he and Herring (23-4, 11 KOs) fought evenly early on.
In a welterweight bout, Tiger Johnson (4-0, 3 KOs) defeated Agustin Kucharski (8-5-1, 3 KOs) with 54 seconds left in the third round. Johnson, the US Olympic star from Cleveland, ran through Kucharski, breaking and bruising the Argentine veteran.
In a featherweight bout, Adam Lopez (16-3, 6 KOs) scored a unanimous decision over William Encarnacion (19-3, 15 KOs) in eight rounds.