Isaac Dogboe fended off an ever-aggressive Joet Gonzalez on Saturday night to earn a featherweight title shot.
The former WBO junior featherweight champion got off to a strong start, withstood Gonzalez’s rally in the later rounds, and won a 10-round split decision in the main event ESPN+ streamed from Grand Casino Hinckley in Hinckley, Minnesota. Ghana’s Dogboe won their 126-pound match 96-94 on the scorecards of judges Tim Cheatham and Mike Fitzgerald.
Judge Patrick Morley scored Gonzalez a 96-94 winner.
Ghana’s Dogboe (24-2, 15 KOs) at least put himself in position to fight Emanuel Navarrete a third time by winning this eliminator. Mexico’s Navarrete (35-1, 29 KOs) could move up to the 130-pound division, however, after his optional defense of his WBO featherweight title against Eduardo Baez (21-2-2, 7 KOs) on August 20 at Pechanga Arena in San Diego.
Navarrete upset Dogboe by unanimous decision in their first fight to win the WBO junior featherweight championship in December 2018. He won their immediate rematch in May 2019 by stopping Dogboe in the 12th round.
Dogboe, 27, has won four straight fights since Navarrete beat him in their rematch.
If Navarrete gives up his WBO belt, Dogboe will face another highly ranked contender for that unclaimed championship.
Gonzalez (25-3, 15 KOs) lost a non-title fight for the first time in 10 years as a pro. Prior to Saturday night, the Glendora, California native had only lost unanimous decisions in WBO featherweight title fights to former champ Shakur Stevenson (18-0, 9 KOs) and Navarrete.
Gonzalez and Dogboe spent almost all of the 10th round trading hard punches on the inside. Both boxers landed to the body and head, but neither fighter appeared hurt at any point in those three minutes.
Dogboe caught Gonzalez with a left hook just after the halfway point of the ninth round. Another left hook by Dogboe made Gonzalez reset his feet about 10 seconds later.
Gonzalez and Dogboe traded hard shots from close distances during a fan-friendly final minute of the ninth round.
A right by Gonzalez got around Dogboe’s guard just before the midway mark of the eighth round. Gonzalez continued to press the action in the final minute of the eighth round, when he landed several clean right hands.
Gonzalez’s left hook rocked Dogboe with about 1:20 to go in the seventh round. Almost 20 seconds later, Gonzalez caught Dogboe with a left uppercut.
Gonzalez’s left hook backed up Dogboe with just over a minute to go in the sixth round. Gonzalez later snuck in a left to Dogboe’s body with just over 20 seconds remaining in the sixth round.
Dogboe got off to a strong start in the sixth round, when his combination punching kept Gonzalez from gaining momentum.
Dogboe and Gonzalez traded power punches in an entertaining exchange that began with just over 50 seconds remaining in the fifth round. They exchanged again just before the fifth round ended.
Dogboe out-boxed Gonzalez in the first three rounds, but Gonzalez staggered Dogboe barely 30 seconds into the fourth round. A flush left hook by Dogboe landed with just over 50 seconds on the clock in the fourth round.
Another right hand by Gonzalez made Dogboe retreat with about 10 seconds to go in the fourth round.
A right to the body by Dogboe landed 25 seconds into the third round. About 10 seconds later, Dogboe landed a left to Gonzalez’s body.
Dogboe connected with a chopping right to the side of Gonzalez’s head with 1:15 on the clock in the third round. The former champion caught Gonzalez with a left hook up top as part of a combination with about 45 seconds to go in the third round as well.
Gonzalez’s right hand nailed Dogboe with just under 40 seconds on the clock in the second round. Dogboe was the more accurate fighter for most of the second round, though.
Dogboe drilled Gonzalez with a right hand a few seconds before the first round ended.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.