We got a close, hard-fought bout Saturday on HBO between Anton Novikov and Jessie Vargas, one that most seemed to think Novikov won, but the judges, just plain hallucinating or something even worse, all saw Vargas winning by a very wide margin.
Vargas, from Las Vegas, fighting in Las Vegas and promoted by Las Vegas-based Top Rank — to steal from HBO’s Jim Lampley in his summation — did not win this fight by 118-111, 118-111 and 117-111. It’s fucking terrible that three judges saw it that way. I had it 115-113 for Novikov, with some having it wider and HBO’s Harold Lederman nudging it 115-113 for Vargas. That scorecard, even, was out of the mainstream of social media, but at least fans could’ve found that somewhat plausible.
The junior welterweight contender Vargas started strong, admittedly, matching or exceeding Novikov’s work rate. But from the 3rd on, Vargas usually got outworked. He wobbled Novikov with a straight right in the 5th, so you could’ve given that one to him, despite Novikov rebounding strongly, and he landed a huge overhand right in the 6th, so maybe that one, too. He didn’t deserve much if anything after that. Novikov outworked him, landing hard to the body and sitting down on combinations. Yet two judges awarded him 10 points in 10 separate rounds. Impossible.
When I say the judges were hallucinating “or worse,” well, people seeing scorecards like this are inclined to turn toward the notion of conspiracy. There’s always kind of a “soft” corruption of bias toward the house fighter, but this didn’t feel so soft. Novikov deserves another chance. Vargas, who isn’t a good enough boxer not to end up in brawls with close outcomes, moves ahead, alas.
The bout took place on the undercard of the split-site doubleheader for Sergey Kovalev-Blake Caparello and Brandon Rios-Diego Chaves.
(photo via @hboboxing)