WBC middleweight king Jermall Charlo retained his crown with a dominant decision over spirited Mexican underdog Juan Macias Montiel in front of his hometown fans at the Toyoya Center in Houston on Saturday night.

The scores were wide at 120-108, 119-109 and 118-109, but the story of the fight was Montiel’s remarkable gameness under fire. The outsider was hurt in the fifth and sixth rounds but never lost heart to finish the fight on his feet. Montiel, nephew of former three-division champion Fernando, took unfeasible punishment at times, but always came back for more.

“It took a real warrior to get in the ring with me,” Charlo told Showtime’s Jim Gray afterwards. “He fought each and every round as hard as he could and I could tell by his eyes that he’s a true warrior from the beginning and he wanted to fight. It didn’t matter what I hit him with, he wanted more. I love that spirit. He’s going to be great.”

Showing championship mettle, Montiel (22-5-2, 22 KOs) gained pride and momentum from his showing. “I needed an opponent of this strength to show what I’m made of,” said the challenger. “I know with this experience, later on down the line, I will become a world champion. I love to fight. I know that I have the passion and I have what it takes to become world champion. I needed to go down this road.”

The Mexican somehow survived a brutally one-sided sixth with Charlo unleashing his full repertoire of punches, but held firm down the stretch to score a moral victory. The high-octane Charlo (32-0, 22 KOs) suffered a cut over his right eye from the eighth round before going the distance for the fourth time in his last five fights.

In the chief support, rising Mexican lightweight contender Isaac Cruz (22-1-1, 15 KOs) clearly outpointed former world champion and countryman Francisco Vargas (27-3-2, 19 KOs). Scores were 100-89, 99-90 and 97-92.

In a rough and ready encounter, a head clash opened a big cut over Vargas’ right eye in the 10th round with the former WBC 130lbs title-holder dropped (but unhurt) in the final minute of the fight by a left-right combination.

“What can I say? I’m elated,” said Cruz. “This was exactly the kind of fight we expected. ‘Bandido’ was crafty and fought his fight, that allowed him to stay on his feet until the 10th round. Lots of embracing, but we knew how to manage it.

“We proved to be in top shape, our conditioning paid off. I think fans were happy, because this is what all of Mexico and the Toyota Center wanted to see. I think Vargas held on to me more than he’s used to and couldn’t put on the show he usually does, and we couldn’t counter that. However, I value the fact that I learned that lesson.”

Meanwhile, former WBO 122lbs champion Angelo Leo (21-1, 9 KOs) clinched a close majority decision win over a determined Aaron Alameda (25-2, 13 KOs). The scores were (a too wide) 98-92 , 96-94 and 95-95. 

Mexican southpaw Alameda, a former WBC title challenger, riddled Leo with hurtful counters, causing a swelling under the former champion’s right eye. Leo impressed to the body, but there wasn’t much in it.

“I knew it was a close fight,” admitted Leo. “Aaron Alameda is a tough fighter. He has 25 wins for a reason so I knew it was going to be a tough fight. I think I landed more blows. I was the busier fighter. He didn’t throw as much as me and I was the more active fighter.”

Main image: Sean Michael Ham/TGB Promotions.