Blast Away – It was horrifying yet beautiful, it was mesmerizing and telling as WBC super featherweight titlist Francisco “Bandido” Vargas and former featherweight champion Orlando “Siri”Salido pumped out punches for 12 rounds to end in a draw on Saturday.
But moreover, it was the potential Fight of the Year for 2016.
A screaming crowd of 7,378 at the popular fight venue the StubHub Center once again saw gladiators perform at superhuman levels. This time it was Mexico City’s Vargas (23-0-2, 17 KOs) and Obregon, Mexico’s Salido (42-13-4, 29 KOs) who stepped up into the arena and proved why so many fans arrived with gleeful expectations.
“I believe it’s Fight of the Year,” said Oscar De La Hoya, president of Golden Boy Promotions. “They really gave a spectacular show in front of more than 7,000 people.”
Vargas, 31, just recently engaged in the Fight of the Year for 2015 last November and here he was once more sending crackling blows off the skull and abdomen of rock tough Salido. Round after round the two blasted each other like two human jackhammers. It was an incredible display of raw naked fighting without the pretense of jabs, movement or holding.
“I asked Vargas why he didn’t throw more jabs, that he was controlling the fight when he did,” said Eric Gomez a vice president of Golden Boy Promotions. “All he did is shrug and say Viva Mexico.”
Salido, 35, had just recently been involved in a match that ended in a draw last September against Puerto Rico’s Roman Martinez. Here he was again wondering why the judges scored it a draw.
“I think it was a great fight, a hard fight. Two Mexican warriors going at it,” said Salido. “It was complicated like I expected, but I thought I won the fight.”
After 12 rounds of head snapping blows and belly busting punches both fighters hugged each other knowing the fans cheering proved they had accomplished their goal of a fantastic fight to remember.
But when the scores were read 115-113 for Vargas and two for 114-114 a draw, many saw the fight ended in favor of their favorite, whoever it was.
“It’s their (judges) job, they saw a draw, I just have to take it,” said Salido. “I thought it was a close fight but I don’t think he beat me.”
Vargas was more diplomatic.
“Salido is a great fighter, it was a war like we expected,” said Vargas who seemed to relish being involved in such a raw and fan pleasing spectacle. “It was such a good fight I touched gloves with him after a big round between us.”
Throughout the fight fans of both were very vocal. Early on they shouted “Ban-di-do, Ban-di-do!” Later on fans began to get behind Salido the older Mexican veteran with a gift for rugged fights.
Vargas though diplomatic believes he won.
“I know it was close but I hurt him two or three times,” said Vargas. “Overall, I’m happy I was able to face this skilled warrior.”
Golden Boy’s Gomez said a rematch later this year is too early for either combatant.
“With a fight like that they are going to need a lot of rest,” Gomez said, adding that others like Takashi Miura, Vasyl Lomachenko or Yuri Gamboa could be in the mix too.
Vargas said a draw was good enough for him if the fans got what they wanted.
“I knew it was going to be good because Orlando Salido won’t back down and neither will I back down,” Vargas said.
A battle between undefeated featherweights from Southern California started with a bang and ended with heads scratching from the decision when Abraham “Chamaco” Lopez (21-0-1, 15 KOs) was given a wide unanimous decision over the always advancing Julian “Camaron” Ramirez (16-1, 8 KOs).
Lopez opened the fight with several slicing blows and had Ramirez on defense in the first round. But after that, it was the southpaw Ramirez who seemed to be delivering the harder blows throughout the fight and forced Lopez out of the pocket.
Ramirez landed the crushing left hands while Lopez landed the quick one-twos. After 10 rounds, all three judges scored it for Lopez 97-93 twice and 98-92. Many of the media were puzzled by the wide scores with many feeling it was Ramirez who won the fight. But Lopez was landing many less powerful blows and the judges favored his output.
A middleweight war between a Puerto Rican and Mexican proved to be the right formula to lead up to the main events. Gabe Rosado (23-9, 13 KOs) was knocked down in the fourth round but out-boxed Tijuana’s solid Antonio Gutierrez (20-2-1, 9 KOs) to win by a close but unanimous decision. The scores were 95-94 twice and 96-93 for Rosado in a very entertaining 10-round fight. The crowd booed the decision but it was a very close match.
Christian “Chimpa” Gonzalez (14-0, 12 KOs) passed a good test with stylish Filipino fighter Jhon Gemino (12-7-1, 5 KOs) whose record can be deceiving. The taller Gonzalez was able to score and defend against Gemino who has good defense and is also adept and countering. After eight rounds Gonzalez won by scores of 80-72 twice and 79-71 in the lightweight clash.
L.A. favorite Nick Arce (8-0, 6 KOs) remained undefeated with a workman-like performance over Mexico’s Francisco Dominguez (8-10) after six rounds of a super featherweight contest. There were no knockdowns.
Jonathan Navarro (6-0, 5 KOs) of East L.A. pounded out Marc Torres (4-2) of Texas at 1:21 of the second round of a super lightweight fight. A one-two combination by Navarro followed by a left hook to the body floored Torres in the first round. Then, in the second, Navarro used a left uppercut and right uppercut to drop Torres again. Referee Jack Reiss stopped the fight.
Alexis Rocha (3-0) of Santa Ana, Calif. won by unanimous decision against Anthony Woods (0-5) of Las Vegas, Nevada after four rounds. All scores were 40-36.
San Diego’s Genaro Gamez (2-0, 2 KOs) needed only 1:36 to knock out Texan Juan Bryand (1-4) with a left hook body shot in their lightweight match. Gamez trains in Riverside with Robert Garcia. He brought a large crowd from San Diego.
Heavy-handed Oscar Duarte (5-0, 2 KOs) of Parral, Mexico remained undefeated in winning by decision over Merida, Mexico’s Luis Lizarraga (5-9-1) after four rounds. Duarte knocked down Lizarraga in the last round with a four-punch combination in their lightweight bout. All three judges scored it 40-35 for Duarte.