Fight night in Houston

Munguia retains WBO belt with win over Inoue

Jamie Munguia lands a left hook against Takeshi Inoue. Photo courtesy of Tom Hogan-hoganphotos and Golden Boy Promotions

Junior middleweight titlist Jaime Munguia earned a tough fought victory, defeating challenger Takeshi Inoue by unanimous decision to retain his World Boxing Organization title Saturday night at the Toyota Center. Munguia won by scores of 120-108 (x2) and 119-109. SportsMap.com scored the fight 118-110 for Munguia.

Despite the wide scores it wasn't a walk in the park for Munguia (32-0, 26 KOs). Inoue (13-1-1, 7 KOs) came out with the intent to make the fight as physical as possible, rushing Munguia and trapping him in the corner of the ring. This tactic was successful early in the fight but Munguia adjusted as the match wore on, managing to keep his distance and fire off thudding combinations that pushed back Inoue.

Munguia invested heavily in body shots, repeatedly raking Inoue was huge liver and kidney combinations through the middle rounds. Despite this Inoue never appeared to be hurt to the body. Munguia did his best work in the ninth and tenth rounds, buckling Inoue with big shots just before the bell in each. Despite the big punches, Munguia could not score a knockdown.
"It was a great fight. He was a great warrior. It was a great battle for me," Munguia said through a translator. "I was surprised by him. He did great. But I'll take the title. I got the win, and that's what matters."

Munguia, who stands taller and broader than Inoue and most other 154 pound fighters, absorbed Inoue's interior punches without appearing to be stunned by them. Munguia mentioned after the fight that his plan was to ultimately move up to middleweight.

Munguia, who is just 22, defended his WBO belt for the third time. The Tijuana native claimed the title after knocking out former champion Sadam Ali in May of last year.

Golden Boy, the title promoter for the card, announced an official attendance of 7,408. The fights streamed live on DAZN.

XU STUNS ROJAS TO TAKE FEATHERWEIGHT CROWN

In the co-feature Can Xu sprung a big upset, defeating Jesus Rojas to take his WBA "regular" featherweight title. Xu (16-2, 2 KO) won a unanimous decision, with scores of 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112. The fight appeared to be closer than the judges scored it. SportsMap.com scored the fight 115-113 for Xu. The fight is a very early candidate for 2019 fight of the year, with both fighters firing off vicious combinations throughout the fight. Rojas (26-3-2, 19 KO) seemed to score with his heavier punchers earlier in the fight. As the match wore on Xu found more success defending and was able to beat Rojas to the punch on quick combinations. Xu, a virtual unknown out of his home country of China prior to the bout, is now in line for a major fight at 126 pounds, including the possibility of matchup with WBA "super" title holder Leo Santa Cruz.

ORTIZ BLASTS OUT VALDEZ

In the opening fight of the main telecast super-prospect Vergil Ortiz Jr. had no problem making quick work of Jesus Valdez in a fifth round knockout. Ortiz (12-0, 12 KO) spent the entire fight walking Valdez to the ropes, feeling no power from Valdez's counters. In the fourth Ortiz landed a huge right hand at the end of the round that caused Valdez to retreat and take more repeated shots to the head before the bell rang. In round five Ortiz opened a cut above Valdez's left eye. After busting the cut open further later in the round, Valdez was able to make it to the bell before the ringside doctor called a halt to the action. Following the fight Ortiz told DAZN's Chris Mannix that he felt he was ready for a title shot. Ortiz's promoter Oscar De La Hoya said he would like to make another fight for Ortiz, a Grand Prairie native, in Houston.

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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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