Super bantamweight title on line at Texas Station

Chris Avalos remembers the feeling of winning his first championship belt. It’s a feeling he wants again.

The 23-year-old boxer from Lancaster, Calif., a former NABO bantamweight champion, will fight for the vacant NABO super bantamweight title tonight at Texas Station, facing Drian Francisco in the 10-round main event of an ESPN2-televised card promoted by Top Rank.

“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for several months,” said Avalos (21-2, 16 knockouts), who won the bantamweight belt in 2010 with a second-round knockout of John Molina and eventually vacated it to move up to super bantamweight. “He’s a good fighter, but he throws a lot of looping shots on the outside. I think I can get inside on him and counter those punches.”

Avalos will be fighting in Las Vegas for the first time since 2008, when he won a six-round majority decision over Ernie Marquez at the Palms. In his most recent bout, Avalos stopped Jose Ariza in the fourth round Feb. 23 in Hawaiian Gardens, Calif.

“I’m a much better fighter now,” Avalos said. “I’m trying to be a lot smarter. I used to go in thinking I had to knock guys out in order to win. Now, whatever happens, I’m able to adjust and outbox my opponent.”

The 30-year-old Francisco (24-1-1, 19 KOs), a former WBA interim super flyweight champion who has fought most of his career in his native Philippines, recently made the move up to 122 pounds. But Avalos said he doubts it will be a factor.

“I remember when I was 118, and it was no big deal when I moved up,” he said. “He’s probably comfortable at 122.”

Avalos said he wants to make sure he’s not Francisco’s 20th knockout victim.

“I think he’s more of a big-punch guy, so I’m going to be on my toes and be watching him closely,” Avalos said.

ESPN2 will televise the Avalos-Francisco fight and the 10-round co-feature between junior middleweights Abie Han (19-0, 12 KOs) and Glen Tapia (18-0, 10 KOs) for the vacant NABO belt.

Las Vegas lightweight Jesus Gutierrez (8-0, two KOs) also will appear on the card, fighting Guillermo Delgadillo (4-3-1) in a six-round bout.

The first bell is scheduled for 5 p.m., with the telecast at 7.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.