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Xander Zayas

Xander Zayas delivers another dominant victory

Teofimo Lopez escapes with split decision

Xander Zayas may not have been the main event Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, but he appears well on his way. The Puerto Rican junior middleweight extended will ultimately be the top headliner on the marquee.

Zayas added another impressive victory to his resume. He improved his undefeated professional record to 15-0 before a pro-Boricua crowd in the big room at Madison Square Garden.

The 20-year-old added the NABF championship belt to his NABO 154-pound crown to his collection after beating Alexis Salazar in a unanimous decision after eight grueling rounds.

Former unified lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez highlighted Saturday’s Top Rank card, which was broadcast on ESPN from Madison Square Garden. The son of Honduran immigrants was clearly unimpressed with his performance before his hometown crowd.

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The 25-year-old Lopez could be heard on video asking “Do I still got it?” after his split decision over Spaniard Sandor Martin.  

Teofimo Lopez appears shaky

“Every time that this man wanted to commit, I was countering him and tagging him,” Lopez told the New York media after the fight. “That’s why he was running the whole time. I felt great overall. I knew he was tired. He didn’t want to commit. 

“He was staying on his back foot and just running around the whole time. But it is what it is. This makes it look good. These guys are going to want to fight me now more than ever. Now this is great. Now I can actually have a good fight.”

Teofimo Lopez
Teofimo Lopez and Sandor Martin exchange blows at Madison Square Garden. Photo by Mikey Williams/ Top Rank via Getty Images.

The 10-round final eliminator for the WBC crown was closer than Lopez or his corner would want. Martin, who knocked Lopez down with a right hook in the second round, thought he had done enough to win the decision.

One judge agreed, scoring the bout 95-94 for the Spaniard. Fortunately for Lopez, he avoided a second consecutive defeat. The two other judges clearly saw the fight in his favor, scoring it 96-93 and 97-92 to help Lopez improve to 18-1 with 13 knockouts.

“It was a surprise with the judges,” Martin said. “I won this fight clearly. For one judge, I only won two rounds? Really? There were two knockdowns. The referee didn’t count one of the knockdowns. He missed all of his punches. That’s a masterclass of boxing. That’s a robbery. But that’s the sport of boxing.

“In the ring, I controlled all the action. The timing, the moments in the ring, (I) controlled everything with my will. Teofimo was overanxious. In the eighth round, his corner told him, ‘Hey, let’s do it. You could lose this fight.’”

Xander Zayas extends undefeated record

While Lopez had reason for doubt, Xander Zayas’ continues to surge upward. 

He ruthlessly punished Salazar (25-5, 10 KOs) with body shots. Zayas’ dominant performance made it somewhat easy for the judges. Two of them had him winning the fight 79-73. The other scored it 80-72.

In other words, Zayas was clearly the better fighter while proving to be one of the most impressive young prospects in boxing. The Puerto Rico native who was raised in Florida rewarded fellow Boricuas in the crowd. 

“Thank you to all my Puerto Rican fans who came out and are watching back home,” he said. “This one is for you guys. Thank you for all the support and the love. I got to go back and see this fight. But they told me that I looked good. There were a couple moments where I let down my defense. But I give myself a nice B+.

“Little by little, we keep improving, keep getting better. But I feel like we can still work a little bit on everything. My distance, my punch output, my defense, my angles, everything. I feel like we can improve on everything.”

Xander Zayas is clearly on his way to the top of the boxing world. 

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