Diego Elizondo proved them wrong.
The Carson City boxer scored an upset victory Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, winning a unanimous six-round decision over South Carolina lightweight Desmond Lyons.
Lyons, 22, entered the night with a 6-1 record and had prepared at the Stafford, Texas, training camp of Ronnie Shields, who also guides middleweight champion Jermell Charlo and formerly trained Mike Tyson and Pernell Whitaker. Elizondo, 21, was seeking his first win in three years. He works out in a small, home-built gym with a speed bag. He is trained by his father.
“(Lyons) was slick and they had everything in their favor to win,” Elizondo said. “They thought they were going to win. Everybody did.”
Well, not everybody.
“I know my son,” Jose Elizondo said. “When we were walking up into the fight, waiting to step up in the ring, he was excited. He said, ‘I’m gonna show these guys who I am. You watch, Dad.’ ”
Each judge scored it 58-56, four rounds to two. Elizondo improved his record to 3-2-2.
“The first two rounds were more of a chess match,” Elizondo said. “He was very slick. I think those were the two rounds they gave to him.”
Father knows son
Jose Elizondo knew his son, a southpaw, was doing wrong.
“In the first two rounds, Diego moved to left, not to the right,” he said. “When he stopped doing that, that changed the fight. The jab and movement with his legs was the big key. He made that kid miss a lot just by movement with his legs.”
“I thought, ‘He’s trying to walk me down but he’s not being very successful at it. I’m going to walk him down instead,” Diego Elizondo said. “In the third round, I just sat down and started letting punches go. I was really busy and consistent and he didn’t know what to do.
“I was too fast for him. He couldn’t handle my speed. I don’t think he expected me to be that fast. I would be in the pocket for a second then I would step back and make him miss. I would counterpunch with about four or five punches.”
The fight card was televised on FS1, but the Elizondo-Lyons bout didn’t make the broadcast. Another Shields’ fighter, cruiserweight Efetobor Apochi, improved to 10-0 with 10 knockouts by stopping Joe Jones in the third round. If the knockout had occurred in the first or second rounds, Elizondo’s fight would have aired.
It was Elizondo’s first six-round fight. If this one had been a four-rounder it probably would have resulted in another draw. Longer bouts are more conducive to Elizondo’s style. Tall and lanky, he uses his right-jab to score punches and tally judges points.
Looking for knockout
Lyons entered the sixth round looking for a knockout.
“I said don’t drop your hands, he knows he’s losing this fight,” Jose Elizondo said. “They were a little desperate. They kept trying to bully Diego, but he was alert on his defense and they couldn’t do it. He’d press and press and just come up with empty. He just couldn’t hit Diego. … The last half of the round, Diego took over.”
Diego Elizondo described the round: “He came out strong but it lasted maybe about 45 seconds and he was getting gassed. I finished that round really strong. I landed a lot of big punches and I didn’t let him even take that round.”
Elizondo had nearly two months to prepare for the fight, compared to just three weeks he had for his last bout, a decision loss in July to undefeated Eric Puente.
“It pays off when you work out at 4,500 feet,” Jose Elizondo said. “When you go down and fight at sea level you have extra gas.”
Once a boxer gets a couple of losses he can be looked upon as an “opponent,” a guy who helps a rising contender pad his record.
“Top Rank throws in the big dogs to beat you,” Jose Elizondo said. “But this time, if they throw you one of those supposed big dogs, we’re not going to be easy to beat. Last time (vs. Puente) we took on this three-time national champion and if Diego had been prepared it might have been a different story.”
A father of a 23-month old daughter, Diego works full time at a manufacturing job. His wife Veronica works the graveyard shift as a nurse at Renown Hospital.
Seeking an opponent, Shields’ team tried to order a tomato can, but ended up eating soup.
Elizondo took a couple of days to decide to take the fight.
“Diego said, ‘Let’s fight this (expletive),” said Jose Elizondo said, apologizing for his language. “The record doesn’t matter. If we train good and we’re ready, we’re going to beat him. And that’s exactly what we did. That makes it even sweeter.”
“I learned a lot about myself,” Diego Elizondo said. “I’ve been down and I moved forward.”
Along with quick footwork and powerful hand speed, Elizondo displayed a smile thoughout the night.
“There were moments when I was sitting in me corner smiling at (Lyons) because I was having so much fun in there,” he said.
After the decision, Lyons and Shields were congenial but quiet. Did the esteemed trainer have any words for the surprise winner?
“No, they were, honestly, pretty upset,” Elizondo said. “I smiled at (Shields). He might not have liked that, but I had to.”
The smile remained on Elizondo’s face as his father and cousin took turns behind the wheel on the long, sleeplessly happy drive back to Carson City. Elizondo said he was still smiling Sunday morning as his sister prepared a big breakfast.
“My face is sore,” Elizondo said. “My mouth is sore. My jaw is sore. But that’s the fight game.”
— Tim Parsons