CELINA — It was clear from the opening bell of Saturday’s “Hometown Showdown” main event that Defiance super lightweight Raymond “Lil’ Rock” Castaneda III would have to dig deep in order to preserve his undefeated professional boxing record against hard-throwing Ann Arbor brawler Maurice Anthony.
Stepping into the squared circle for just the second time in his professional career after debuting with a victory, Anthony’s frantic pressing of the action through all four rounds with ill-intended power flurries evidenced why his first fight ended in a knockout.
But what Anthony found round by round was something Castaneda’s previous five opponents also learned the hard way …
Not only could “Lil’ Rock” weather a storm; he could also deliver a sky full of his own thunder in response.
Consistently picking Anthony apart with precision counterpunch combos and a jab that rarely missed its mark, Castaneda battled his way to an undisputed unanimous decision win that vaulted his pro mark to a perfect 6-0 in front of a wowed and loud crowd at the Mercer County Fairgrounds.
“It was a lot harder than what I expected,” admitted Castaneda, who also toted a pair of knockouts with him onto Saturday’s Apex Promotions card. “I kind of expected to finish late second, maybe mid-third round, but dude had a lot of heart. He could take punches, man.
“It was good because it kind of got me to see where my conditioning was at, when I could let my hands go,” he added. “So it was good for me … I really liked the show and everything, and I really liked how I performed.”
Based on the reaction of those in attendance, Castaneda wasn’t alone in that assessment.
The first round of action immediately lit up the eager fight fans, setting a frenetic tone and hinting at an early stoppage. With Anthony’s intent to punch his way to an upset clear, Castaneda – normally one to get a feel for the fight before picking up the pace – instead found himself in a much different situation.
The Defiance pro’s ring savvy kicked in as needed, though, defusing many of his opponent’s power shots with defensive counters that could be heard throughout the building. By the end of the opening round, Castaneda appeared to be up on the scorecard but facing an opponent who could thwart that with one clean shot.
It was a topic of conversation in the blue corner with his father and trainer, Rocky Castaneda, as the second round approached.
“This time I really had to think about what I was throwing,” said “Lil’ Rock”. “I think I picked the cleaner shots and made it to where that power could fully extend and get it. But my overall performance, moving around and trying to stick to that game plan with my composure … I really started off a little bit harder than what I expected or what I wanted to. I wanted to work his lower body and kind of get him gassed out a little bit and then go upstairs and try to get that knockout.”
Squelching a sparkplug like Anthony was not going to be a walk in the park, but the second stanza saw Castaneda start to stroll with more precision on the offensive.
Knowing he would be faced with more of the same, “Lil’ Rock” gradually claimed the momentum by beating his opponent to the punch. He began to feed Anthony a steady diet of left jabs that set up main course rights with maximum impact and point potential.
The Ann Arbor bruiser was still game, however, despite showing some increasingly visible effects of leather upon skin. While Anthony maintained his attempt to overwhelm with punches in bunches, Castaneda continued to respond with powerhouse counters that kept the payment due.
More of the same came through the third and fourth rounds, as a solid show of fisticuffs continued to convince the judges and thrill those on hand to witness. An enthusiastic echo of cheers followed each clean shot Castaneda landed, punches that fueled knockout anticipation before the final bell relegated the win to a unanimous decision instead.
Regardless, it notched another convincing win in the area fighter’s belt as he now ponders his next career move inside the ropes. After a slight break in the action, Castaneda plans to continue his pursuit of a reaching the next level as the possibilities continue to grow.
One main goal on the list is headlining a hometown professional boxing card to allow more fight fans in and around the community to get involved on the ride to potential contention. While a venue would need to be secured in conjunction with promotional and legal stipulations, an event such as this could revive the spirit of past amateur showcases put on by the Defiance Athletic Club, except now in the professional realm.
For the time being, though, Castaneda is ready to answer whatever bell rings next.
“It’s exciting being able to watch myself kind of step up that ladder,” he said. “We talked about trying to get that third KO, but sometimes it doesn’t work that way. As long as we just get the overall win, that’s more important than getting the knockout. The knockout will come eventually. You just don’t want to rush it because once you rush it, you open yourself up for dangerous spots. But it was good getting to 6-0 in front of Celina and having all the fans, my friends and family once again making it a hometown (Defiance) show, basically.”