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Michael Hunter returns to action with stoppage win over Ignacio Esparza in Mexico

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Michael Hunter (right) vs. Iago Kiladze. Photo courtesy of Premier Boxing Champions

by Francisco Salazar | 

Heavyweight Michael Hunter II is hoping to make up for lost time.

Hunter returned to action this past Saturday night, knocking out Ignacio Esparza at H Live Music Patria en Zapopan, Mexico. Hunter, who lives and trains in Las Vegas, Nevada, improved to 22-1-2, 16 knockouts.

From the opening bell, Hunter peppered Esparza with a consistent jab to the head and body, at times, following that up with a left-right combination that occasionally connected to the head of Esparza. As the fight entered into the second stanza, Hunter began walking Esparza down, forcing him to fight off the ropes, again throwing and landing jabs to the head and body of Esparza.

At times, Esparza attempted to counter Hunter, throwing a right cross in an attempt to catch Hunter coming forward, but Esparza rarely connected.

Hunter continued backing Esparza against the ropes in rounds three and four. Esparza’s punch output dropped, often clenching Hunter as he again jabbed his way in. Hunter was able to sneak a right cross in, but never visibly hurt Esparza.

At the end of the fourth round, Esparza’s corner told referee Manuel Rivera Lopez that Esparza was not able to continue due to an injury to his right shoulder.

The 35-year-old had not fought since September 30, stopping journeyman Miguel Cubos in the second round. That fight took place in Tlajomulco de Zuniga, Mexico. Both Zapopan and Tlajomulco are in the state of Jalisco, including the largest city of Guadalajara.

Hunter announced on social media on Sunday that he was again fighting on April 14 in Uzbekistan. Hunter told The Ring in an interview this past week he hopes to also fight a third time later this spring.

Hunter is unbeaten in his last 12 fights since suffering his only defeat at the hands of then-WBO world cruiserweight titleholder Oleksandr Usyk in April 2017. He has notable wins over Martin Bakole, Isaiah Thomas, Jerry Forrest, Iago Kiladze, Aleksandr Ustinov, and Sergey Kuzmin. Hunter also has a draw against Forrest and Alexander Povetkin.

Esparza, who resides in nearby Guadalajara, falls to 23-4, 14 KOs. The 46-year-old had not fought since a decision win over Abraham Beltran in June 2021.

In the co-main event, flyweight contender Cristofer Rosales of Managua, Nicaragua defeated Francisco Gomez Sanchez by unanimous decision. Scores were 80-71, 80-71, and 79-72 for Rosales, who improved to 37-6, 22 KOs and is rated No. 10 by The Ring at 112 pounds.

Gomez was game, but the taller Rosales was the more-effective fighter throughout most of the fight. Rosales was more aggressive during the second half of the fight, even scoring a knockdown towards the end of round seven, landing a combination that ended with a right to the stomach.

The 29-year-old Rosales has now won his last five fights since a decision loss to unbeaten contender Angel Ayala Lardizabal in April 2022.

Gomez, who resides in Teopisca, Mexico, falls to 14-12, 11 KOs. The 32-year-old has now lost six of his last seven fights.

The card was co-promoted by Nueva Sangre Boxing, Factor Boxing, and No Boxing No Life.

Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]

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