SAN DIEGO, November 21, 2015 – As the crowd filtered into the Mandalay Bay Events Center awaiting the start of the main event, the undercard bouts provided opportunities for athletes who aspire to be in the spotlight like Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez someday to make an impression. Some succeeded, some did not.
Super featherweight Francisco Vargas (23-0-1, 17 KOs) of Mexico and Takashi Miura (29-3-2, 22 KOs) of Japan provided the cure for a boring undercard, a fan-friendly show of force in the Gatti-Ward tradition.
Vargas stunned Miura barely a minute into the fight. It didn’t seem Miura would last. Not only did he survive, he recovered and started turning the tide. By the third round, Miura had taken over, landing a variety of quality punches. In the fourth round, Miura dropped Vargas for the first time in his career, amateur or professional, with a straight left down the middle. Miura and Vargas continued to trade punches, both trying to get the other to submit to the punishment. Neither would.
Miura drilled Vargas at the end of the eighth round; it seemed referee Tony Weeks would have stopped the bout had the bell not sounded. As Vargas came out for the ninth, he mustered everything he had left and dropped Miura to the canvas. Miura bounced up, but had no legs and was fighting on sheer instinct, holding to Vargas to stay on his feet.
Vargas did not let his opportunity get away. Referee Tony Weeks gave Miura every chance to recover, but Vargas sealed one of the best comebacks in a long time on a straight right halfway through the ninth round, becoming the new WBC Super Featherweight title holder. Never was a fighter nickname more fitting: “El Bandito” stole the victory. Vargas’ face showed a lot of damage, but the smile on his face said it all.
“I’m the champ, I’m the champ!” said an elated Vargas. “This is a dream come true for me, something I have been fighting for my whole life. I knew Takashi was going to be a tough opponent, that’s why he is the champion, so I had to make sure I was prepared to face a fighter like him. I feel that my preparation paid off for this fight. I knew I had to be very aggressive, and I showed that in the first round so he knew that I would not be bullied.
“When I was knocked down in the fourth round, I felt even more motivated to win this fight,” said Vargas. “I made sure to fight the way I wanted, how I wanted and my style and now I’m the champion of the world! I hope all the fans enjoyed themselves tonight with my performance.” They certainly did. Miura said he’d like a rematch. Fans would welcome one.
Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux (16-0, 10 KOs) showed no rust despite a layoff of nearly a year, scoring a shutout unanimous decision victory over Drian Francisco (28-4-1, 22 KOs) of the Philippines to remain undefeated and begin his drive back toward top pound for pound status. Two judges had it a 100-90 shutout, the third 97-93.
The CompuBox stats tell the story: Rigondeaux won landing 72 punches of 347 thrown (21%); Francisco landed just 42 punches of 228 (18%). Rigondeaux is a technician and makes no apology for it. He knows how to make contact while remaining elusive. Francisco tried to engage but Rigondeaux is too skilled to allow it. It doesn’t make for a thrilling fight for the fans, especially in front of a crowd craving Mexican Style action, but it isn’t something Rigondeaux cares about. But without the fans, fights are an empty exercise.
“He threw heavy but his style has nothing on mine,” said Rigondeaux. “It’s been 11 months since I’ve been in the ring and I definitely felt some cobwebs but I d like to see some other fighters be out 11 months and come back with a win. I definitely wanted to give the fans a better fight so I need to get back in to the gym, get more active to give a better performance. I promise that with the tools I have now after signing with Roc Nation that next time I’ll be explosive.”
Francisco blasted Rigondeaux after the bout. “Rigondeaux is not a fighter, he is a runner,” said Drian Francisco. “He is afraid of getting hurt and doesn’t want to fight. I felt pressured into being the aggressor during this fight because he wasn’t fighting, he was running away … I trained really hard for this fight and I feel like it was a waste of time because I didn’t encounter a fighter tonight.” Many fans felt the same way.
Ronny Rios (25-1. 10 KOs) of the U.S. survived a point deduction for low blows from referee Jay Nady, but it was his excellent bodywork that wore down opponent Jayson Velez (23-1-1, 16 KOs) of Puerto Rico and gave Rios the unanimous decision victory for the WBC Silver Junior Bantamweight title. Velez suffered his first loss. Scores were 97-92, 96-93, 95-94. Rios landed 40 percent of his power punches to 33 percent for Velez.
“I felt like I dictated the pace of the fight, and I felt like I was landing more power punches than him,” said Rios. “He did throw a few body shots at me that hurt but they weren’t significant enough for me to stop pressuring him and doing what I needed to do to secure this victory … This is a really big victory for me. I have a belt now, and I know that bigger things will come my way because of it.”
“I was expecting that to be a tough fight, but I did my job,” said Velez. “I did my job tonight but he was better at his job tonight.”
Alberto Machado (12-0, 10 KOs) of Puerto Rico made quick work of Tyrone Luckey (8-4-2, 6 KOs) of New Jersey, notching another win for the Boricua fans with a knockout at 2:44 in the first round. “This was a great opportunity for me on the biggest stage,” said Alberto Machado. “I like to consider myself a diamond on the rope, but this was only a 6.5 out of 10 performance. I have to keep working and learning, and I am working toward a world championship. I am so happy for my team,” said Machado of his brief appearance.
The bout between junior bantamweights Jose Martinez (16-0, 10 KOs) of Puerto Rico and Oscar Mojica (8-1, 1 KO) of Dallas sounded more like a tennis match due to the vocal punctuation of each punch by Martinez worth of Maria Sharapova. Martinez scored the first win of the night for Puerto Rico with a unanimous decision, 78-74 on all scorecards. Martinez and Mojica put on a busy, competitive fight until Martinez decided to get on his bicycle at the end of the final eighth round. Martinez tested Mojica with combinations but Mojica stayed tough.
On the non-televised undercard, heavyweight Zhang Zhilei (6-0, 3 KOs) of China remained undefeated with a unanimous decision over Juan Goode (6-3. 5 KOs) of the U.S. despite a knockdown at the start of the fourth and final round. Goode threw a straight left for a flash knockdown; Zhang popped right back up and Goode couldn’t capitalize in the time left. “I feel very good that I am still undefeated,” said Zhang. “I was careless during that knockdown. I am going to keep fighting until I am a world champion.” All three scorecards had it 39-37.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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