Boxing prospect Bruno Escalante grew tired, and Joseph Rios — a fist-fighting veteran who despite losing eight times in 23 professional bouts had never been knocked unconscious — knew it.
Behind on every scorecard, the San Antonio journeyman Rios uncoiled a hellacious right hand in the seventh round to the chin of the young man who was supposed to win Saturday night. And all the young man did was punch back — and grin.
"I smiled," said Escalante, the super flyweight Filipino-Hawaiian prospect boxing out of San Carlos. "Because the crowd's reaction was the opposite of how I felt. I wasn't hurt at all. It was a good shot, but I thought my conditioning really helped."
The southpaw Escalante, 24, used speed, movement and a timely left hand to capture an eight-round majority decision over the gritty Rios (13-9-2, 4 KOs), 31, over the weekend.
"I was surprised," Escalante (10-1-1, 5 KOs) said of the one judge who scored the bout even. "The only time he got close was in the seventh round. But I thought it was a unanimous, but it is what it is."
But with the win, Escalante moves into position to be one of the top 115 pounders in the nation. And with an upcoming bout on Oct. 28 in Redwood City against an opponent yet to be named, he'll have a chance — a puncher's chance — to better his American super flyweight rank.
But he'll likely still be below the only man to best him in the pro ranks.
"Matt Villanueva," Escalante said. "The only loss I got."
Meanwhile in Southern California, San Francisco's Karim Mayfield (18-0-1, 11 KOs) scored an eighth-round knockout over veteran Christopher Fernandez (21-16-1, 13 KOs) in Carson on Saturday.
The junior welterweight Mayfield, 32, outmuscled the 37-year-old Utah native, decking him twice in the fourth and once in eighth. Mayfield, with seconds left, pummeled Fernandez's body with multiple left hooks. The final shot to Fernandez's liver left the Utah fighter a battered and beaten hulk.
Mayfield, making his promotional debut with Bob Arum's Top Rank, is looking to return in December, possibly against Russian 140-pound titleholder Khabib Allakhverdiev.
"They're both about in the same stage in their careers," Mayfield's manager Marlon Sullivan said of his fighter and Allakhverdiev. "So that makes sense. We all want it."