Santa Maria native Karlos Balderas earned the most significant win of his career Saturday night, stopping Esteban Sanchez with a TKO in the eighth round of their lightweight card in an undercard bout at the Pearl Concert Theater at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.

In a main event doubleheader, Janibek Alimkhanuly successfully defended his WBO middleweight world title with a unanimous decision (116-112, 116-112 and 118-110 on the three scorecards) against Denzel Bentley, and Seniesa Estrada retained her WBA minimumweight world title with a unanimous decision against Jazmin Gala Villarino.

Balderas (14-1, 12 KOs) stopped Sanchez, a native of Tijuana, Mexico, at 1:02 of the eighth round. Referee Raul Caiz Jr. stopped the fight after Balderas landed a right cross against Sanchez.

Balderas, a 2016 U.S. Olympian, dropped Sanchez with a right hand in the opening round. Sanchez pushed Balderas in the middle rounds, but he was trailing by shutout on all three scorecards before Balderas scored the TKO.   

It's the fifth straight victory for Balderas since he returned to the ring in August of 2021. He scored knockout victories in three of his previous four bouts.

Balderas is now 5-0 since he returned from a nearly two-year layoff in 2021. After suffering a stunning knockout defeat to Rene Tellez Giron in December of 2019, Balderas switched trainers and promoters, moving from RingStar to Bob Arum's Top Rank and training under Buddy McGirt in Los Angeles.

The Tellez Giron loss doesn't look as bad now as it did in 2019. Tellez Giron is 16-2 in his career after beating Balderas in the sixth round in 2019.

Balderas knocked out Aelio Mesquita in the second round in Fresno earlier this year after stopping Julio Cortez in the fourth round in November of last year. In his first bout with Top Rank, he knocked out Fidel Cervantes in the second round in August of 2021. Balderas then ended Ruben Cervera's three-fight win streak in May.

Kenny Cress is a sports reporter for the Santa Maria Times, covering local sports in northern Santa Barbara County.  You can send information or story ideas to him by emailing it to  


Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.

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