By Jake Donovan
Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev makes his U.S. debut in a 10-round heavyweight battle versus Romania’s Bogdan Dinu. Their bout will air live on ESPN Saturday evening from The Hangar in Costa Mesa, California.
Pulev (26-1, 13KOs)—who represented Bulgaria in the 2008 Beijing Olympics—is a leading contender for one of the heavyweight belts presently in the possession of England’s Anthony Joshua. He earned his place in line following a decision win over Hughie Fury last October, which streamed live on ESPN+.
The bout tops a two-fight telecast on ESPN’s flagship station beginning at 10:00pm ET. The televised co-feature pits a pair of former titlists as Jessie Magdaleno squares off with Rico Ramos in a 10-round featherweight battle.
Javier Molina picked up his second straight win following a hard-fought unanimous decision over Mexico’s Abdiel Ramirez.
Scores were 78-74 (twice) and 79-73, none of which reflected the competitive two-way action over the course of their eight round super lightweight battle.
Molina (19-2, 8KOs) jumped out to an early lead, boxing well in the first two rounds but quickly caught up in a slugfest as the fleshy but aggressive Ramirez was determined to turn the bout into a firefight. His aggression made for an entertaining affair for the adoring crowd, most of whom were there in support of Molina who hails from nearby Norwalk.
Just as Ramirez (24-4-1, 22KOs) appeared to narrow the gap, Molina—whose twin brother Oscar and older brother Carlos are also pro boxers—surged ahead in the final two rounds to secure the victory. The wide scorecards guaranteed him a victory well before that point, but his strong finish provided positive momentum for his career moving forward.
Erick De Leon suffered the first knockdown of his young career, but overcame the sequence to stop Jose Luis Gallegos in the 7th round of their lightweight battle.
The evening’s curtain raiser saw De Leon (19-0-1, 11KOs) well in control until round five, when Gallegos fought his way off the ropes to score a counter right hand for the bout’s lone knockdown. The moment was short lived, as De Leon recovered and unloaded power punches until forcing a stoppage at 1:51 of round seven with Gallegos (16-6, 12KOs) still on his feet.
Chris van Heerden returned to the ring for the first time since the WBC’s failed welterweight tournament last April, settling for a technical decision win over Mahonry Montes.
The fast-paced but largely uncompetitive welterweight battle was stopped in round six, when van Heerden (27-2-1, 12KOs) suffered a cut over his right eye due an accidental headbutt. The South African welterweight was ahead 60-54 on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage.
In addition to it being his first fight since last April, the event marked van Heerden’s first piece of ring action since his father was tragically murdered back home in South Africa last December. The boxer sported “DAD” across the beltline of his ring trunks in honor of his late father.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox