Regarding 6-foot-1 Rafael Espinoza, the tallest featherweight titleholder in boxing history, as little more than a sideshow is a good way to get yourself hurt. One imagines challenger Sergio Chirino took Espinoza much more seriously than that in the ring Friday, and all he has to show for it is lumps, a sore liver and an early night.

Espinoza landed early and often Friday night at the Fontainebleau Las Vegas, dropping Chirino in the first round and again in the third before finishing off the challenger for a frighteningly dominant fourth-round stoppage win.

Rafael Espinoza (25-0, 21 KOs), of Guadalajara, Mexico, needed just a fraction of the scheduled 12 rounds to put his first successful title defense in the books, making it look ridiculously easy against a top 126-pounder in Mexico’s Chirino (22-1, 13 KOs).

It all started innocently enough as several Chirino offerings touched Espinoza, who is known – in spite of his pterodactyl-like reach – for straying into the range of his opponents and being hittable. But just as Chirino’s confidence may have begun to lift, he sailed a straight right hand that Espinoza countered with a short uppercut to the challenger’s chin – a punch that Espinoza likely never saw land, but one that Chirino felt plenty.

The punch sent Chirino backwards on his seat at 1:01 of the first, and although he bounced right back up, it was a shot that seemed to instantly change the complexion of the fight. Espinoza spent the remaining moments of the first, plus much of Round 2, stalking and stabbing away with his jab.

Chirino wasn’t helpless. He would land a left hook here, a lunging straight right there. But he also was never able to fully sit down on his punches or feel comfortable staying in the pocket too long for follow-up shots. In the third round, Chirino let a looping right hand go and caught leather back. It happened again moments later, this time with return fire in the form of an uppercut. Espinoza was intelligent with his pressure, clinical with his jab and courageous in routinely positioning himself within range, but it was his counterpunching that was most impressive. That confidence that had buoyed Chirino early? It seemed to have taken the last bus out of Vegas.

With roughly a minute left in Round 3, Espinoza caught Chirino’s jaw with a windmill right hand and kept the punches coming until a nasty little left-handed uppercut crunched the challenger’s ribs. Espinoza kept pouring it on, chinning Chirino with an uppercut before wheeling a left hook into his liver, dropping him again. In their corner after three rounds, Espinoza smiled between sips of water while Chirino’s seconds nursed his bloodied face. The titleholder had landed 30 punches to the challenger’s nine, and the momentum had officially swung.

Chirino walked out for Round 4 and landed a pair of right hands off the back foot, but he was in scramble mode. Espinoza was walking him down, jabbing, steering him into position. A right hand to Chirino’s body stung him, dropping his hands. Jab. Then another left hook downstairs. Uppercut. Chirino had on guess what was next and nowhere to go. When Espinoza unfurled a four-punch combination, he might as well have been Babe Ruth calling his shot. He was taking whatever he wanted.

Then, with a dazzling display of pure talent, Espinoza took the last bit of fight left in Chirino. After blinding the challenger with his long jab, Espinoza loaded up for the right hand, adjusted to thump a left uppercut to Chirino’s chest, then lined him up and rattled his chin one last time with an uppercut sent from the depths. Chirino didn’t go down immediately, but when he couldn’t find an escape route, he took a knee and referee Raul Caiz Jr., at 2:45 in the fourth, decided that it was quite enough.

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