SAN DIEGO, June 5, 2016 – Fans at the Stub Hub Center in Carson, California were on their feet from the opening bell and stayed there for 12 rounds of mindblowing nonstop action as Mexican powerhouse punchers Orlando “Siri” Salido and Francisco “El Bandido” Vargas fought to a majority draw.
On an evening that began with a touching final ten count tribute to the late Muhammad Ali who died 24 hours prior to Saturday’s bout, the fight seemed a fitting expression of the beauty and brutality of boxing.
Pull every adjective you can out of your theasarus for this Fight of the Year candidate. Hellacious. Blistering. Fierce. Crazy. Amazing. They barely do this bout justice. Salido (42-13-4, 29 KOs) and Vargas (23-0-2, 17 KOs) seemed to be on the verge of being stopped multiple times each, yet neither ever suffered a knockdown despite trading wicked body shots and head snapping hooks and upper cuts.
Vargas had the upper hand in the first two rounds, scoring nicely with right hooks. The crowd was so loud, referee Raul Caiz Jr. thought the 10 second warning clapper was the bell for the end of the round. He realized his mistake and got the last few seconds of the round in. (To all those who blasted referee Pat Russell for a similar issue in Bradley vs. Vargas at Stub Hub last year, we rest our case).
Vargas hurt Salido to the body, but Salido returned fire with his own body work and an impressive upper cut. In round four, Salido tagged Vargas with perfect hooks, and Vargas roared right back. Punches flew and landed with force, but neither man would back down. In round five, Vargas put Salido on the ropes and any mortal boxer would be down and done, but not ‘Siri’ Salido. Salido countered off the ropes, and got Vargas’ attention with a few head shots. By the end of the round, Vargas was bleeding from cuts to the eye. His corner did an exceptional job to keep the damage to a minimum the rest of the bout.
In round six, Vargas hurt Salido with a beautiful upper cut, and Salido seemed to be in trouble. Vargas poured it on, not wanting to lose the opportunity to stop the fight. But Salido was determined not to fall. No one can doubt Salido’s toughness. The crowd lept to its feet, cheering the effort from both boxers. This is the Round of the Year so far.
As the second half of the fight began, Salido started putting together good rounds, slowly backing up Vargas, and scoring with hooks to the head. Salido’s counterpunching skills were not only textbook, they maintained impressive power.
By the tenth round, CompuBox stats showed Salido and Vargas virtually dead even in power punching numbers. In the tenth round alone, Vargas threw 120 punches, stopping Salido’s growing momentum in the fight and turning the tide back in his direction. How the pair were still on their feet is a mystery right up there with Easter Island and Stonehenge.
Vargas and Salido did what they could to try and end the fight in the 12th round, but if they weren’t going to be knocked down in the previous 11 rounds, it wasn’t going to happen in the final three minutes. The fighters’ faces told the story at the final bell; battered and bloody. This is the brutal beauty of boxing, two individuals giving their all for pride and for our entertainment.
Judge Jerry Cantu scored the bout 115-113 for Vargas, while Lou Moret and Hurbert Mimm scored it a 114-114 draw. The judges disagreed only on the third, fifth, and 11th rounds. Vargas will retain his WBC super featherweight title with the draw. It didn’t matter in the end who won. Fans are eager to see both fighters again, whether against each other or against new opposition. But no one is likely eager to get into the ring with either one of them.
“This is what I wanted,” said Vargas after the bout. “I feel really good about this decision. I knew coming in that I was going to be facing a very tough opponent. However, I didn’t expect for him to head butt me and give me so many cuts to the face. Overall, I’m happy I was able to face this skilled warrior.
“Yeah, he surprised me. I gave him my best shots and then he came back very strong and surprised me, so I just tried to remain very calm and catch him again,” laughed Vargas.
“I know I hurt him two or three times in the fight, so I feel I was ahead … Takashi Miura was a much more powerful puncher, but my respects to Salido. He is a very tough fighter and has a very strong chin,” added Vargas. What’s next? A long vacation, said Vargas.
“I felt I won…we fought like Mexicans do in the ring,“ said Salido calling it a complicated fight and ”a very difficult fight from beginning to end with a lot of action. It was a great spectacle for all the fans. They got what they wanted. They wanted to see blood and they saw blood.”
Reacting to criticism prior to the fight about Salido’s fitness due to his age, he said “I proved tonight that I’m still a warrior and I can still get it done.” Salido said he thought it was a close fight, but didn’t think Vargas beat him.
Salido said he’d like to fight Vargas again, even though he felt he won. He said he would also welcome a fight from Vargas’ previous opponent, Takashi Miura of Japan, or a rematch with Vasyl Lomachenko, who fights next Saturday against Roman “Rocky” Martinez. Salido handed Lomachenko his only defeat last September. “I’ll fight anyone,” said Salido.
Vargas landed 386 of 1184 total punches (32.6%), Salido 328 of 939 punches (34.9%). The pair landed 615 power punches out of 714 combines total punches. Salido threw only 12 jabs the entire fight.
While it was breathtaking to watch the bravery and skill of Vargas and Salido, these type of bouts can take years off a boxer’s career. One has to wonder how much more fans can ask of them for our entertainment.
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.
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