Vargas vs Salido named the 2016 TSS Fight of the Year

VARGAS VS SALIDO RUMBLE; AN INSTANT CLASSIC  — Forrest Gump’s mother told him that life is like a box of chocolates in that you don’t always know what you’re going to get.  Boxing matches also can play out in unexpected ways, but sometimes fight fans know exactly what to expect.

Like, for instance, whenever Francisco Vargas or Orlando Salido step inside the ropes. And especially when a couple of certified action heroes like Vargas and Salido square off against each other, which they did on June 4 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. Everyone had a pretty good idea that something very special was about to happen, and the two gallant little Mexicans did not disappoint. After 12 rounds of exhilarating, nearly nonstop two-way action, Vargas retained his WBC super featherweight championship on a majority draw, one judge favoring the defending titlist by a 115-113 margin while the other two saw the bout as a 114-114 standoff.

Although each fighter professed disappointment at having to settle for something less than an official victory, there were no losers on that night, especially the paying customers who got all they might have hoped for, and more.

“I think it was a great fight, what we promised,” said Vargas, whose battered face bore the marks of battle, including two nasty cuts around his eyes which required nearly 40 stitches to close. “(Salido) is a great fighter, and the result was a war, like we expected.


Vargas vs Salido

“I hope this fight is considered to be Fight of the Year.”

Yeah, and folks who go to bed each night hope that darkness gives way to daylight in the morning. Vargas-Salido immediately became the frontrunner for that designation, and it held serve the rest of the way in being voted The Sweet Science’s 2016 Fight of the Year. Two other memorable matchups – WBC flyweight champion Roman “Chocalatito” Gonzalez’s unanimous decision over Carlos Cuadras on Sept. 10 and heavyweight Dillian Whyte’s split decision over Dereck Chisora on Dec. 10 – also received strong consideration.

Vargas (23-0-2, 17 KOs) has been in this position before; the 32-year-old from Mexico City dethroned Japan’s Takashi Miura on a ninth-round stoppage in what became the consensus pick for 2015’s Fight of the Year. Salido (43-13-4, 30 KOs), the 36-year-old veteran from Ciudad Obregon, also is no stranger to rough-and-tumble bouts. He is the only pro ever to have defeated the great Vasyl Lomachenko, upsetting the two-time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine to win a split decision and the vacant WBO featherweight belt on March 1, 2014.

“I don’t dance around,” Salido, asked what might come next for him, said after his epic clash with Vargas. “I come to fight and that’s what I do, no matter who the opponent’s going to be.”

Vargas also dispenses with unnecessary niceties. Like Salido, he is cut from the same go-for-broke cloth as such legendary crowd-pleasers as Carmen Basilio, Matthew Saad Muhammad and Arturo Gatti. Asked once to explain why he was not only willing, but eager, to engage in the pitched battles for which he was known, Gatti said, “That’s who I am, that’s how I fight. Maybe I could fight a little more cautiously, but that wouldn’t be me.”

“Well, you know I tried to box a little bit during the fight, but that’s just not me,” Salido, channeling his inner Gatti, said of the furious exchanges in which he and Vargas took turns trying to impose their will on the other. “I just decided to go to war and take it to him.”

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