Karlos Balderas got another win.

But Saturday night, fighting for the first time outside of California as a professional, the Santa Maria native had to earn it.

After scoring first-round knockouts in his first three professional bouts, Balderas went the distance against Jorge Rojas, fighting at the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas.

Though he didn't score a KO, Balderas did plenty damage to Rojas, earning a unanimous decision in the four-round lightweight bout.

The 2016 Olympian is now 4-0 in his career.

The bout was broadcast live on network television, with the Premier Boxing Champions telecast on FOX becoming the network TV debut for the 21-year-old.

Balderas won 40-36 on all scorecards, with judges Elis Johnson and Levi Martinez scoring the bout.

Balderas, who advanced to the quarterfinals of the Rio Olympics boxing competition, wore blue and white trunks, adorned with badges of his local sponsors and pounded Rojas, who is six years older and featured a three-inch reach advantage over Balderas despite being nearly four inches shorter.

The FOX broadcast featured commentary from former three-time world champ Robert Guerrero and renowned trainer Virgil Hunter. Guerrero and Hunter critiqued Balderas' performance at times while also praising his showing.

"He has a great jab," Guerrero said of Balderas. "He needs to use it a lot more. If he used the jab a lot more, he would've set everything up and got Rojas out of here within two rounds."

Balderas was called for a shot below the belt against Rojas midway through the fight, though he wasn't deducted a point. Rojas and Balderas also clashed heads in the third round, with Balderas taking the brunt of the contact.

Hunter also felt that Balderas was chasing a knockout early on.

"The danger of a lot of young fighters today is that they feel pressure to get the knockout so they can be accepted by the fans," Hunter said. "But you have to reverse it. The fans will get you knocked out if you don't learn your craft and learn how to set up knockouts and at the same time be respectful of what's coming back."

Balderas dominated the first 90 seconds of the fight, but Rojas settled down and was able to fend off some of Balderas' power punches. Balderas continued to work the body and head as the fight wore on, though Rojas' tight defense combated the combinations from Balderas. Rojas and Balderas bumped heads with about a minute left in the third round.

Both commentators felt the bout should stand as a teaching moment for Balderas.

"Balderas needs to change his approach if he wants the knockout," Virgil Hunter said after the third round. "He needs to be more active with the jab and his footwork moving in and out... You just can't come in and be a slugger and look for these knockouts. That can backfire on you.

"This could be a good learning curve for him. Not everybody is just going to fall when you crack them. Rojas has shown a very good chin at this point and he's game. He's fighting back. He's not just taking it, he's giving it back."

Rojas did land a clean right hook counter to Balderas' body 30 seconds into the final round and just missed with a left-right combination, perhaps the best sequence for Rojas.

Hunter felt Rojas had a case to win the fourth round, but there was no suspense as referee Mark Calo-Oy raised both fighters' hands. Rojas' face bared the damage Balderas had delivered over four rounds. Balderas' face showed nearly no signs of a struggle and Calo-Oy raised Balderas' hand as the winner.

"These are the types of fights young fighters need to progress as a true professional," Guerrero said of the bout. "...The nice thing is, since he's on air, is that he's able to go back and look at this fight and assess himself and see what he has to do."

After the fight, Balderas posted on Twitter: "I didn’t get the KO I was looking for tonight but we got the Victory. It’s all (a) learning experience(.) I’m still young and still got a long way to go with so much to learn... Thank you all my people who’s with us."

Joe Bailey is the sports editor at Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Contact him with tips and story ideas at jbailey@leecentralcoastnews.com or (805) 739-2239. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jbaileysmsports


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