(Guillermo Rigondeaux throws a left to the face of Drian Francisco during their junior featherweight bout at the Mandalay Bay Events Center Saturday in Las Vegas; Photo: Isaac Brekken/Getty Images)
Keep coming back here for updates on the Cotto vs Canelo undercard on HBO Pay-Per-View:
Well, the main event is going to have a lot to live up to after Francisco Vargas-Takashi Miura. This fight had the special sauce that makes boxing great when it is, and will be a strong contender for the best of 2015. Vargas scored a massive comeback knockout in the 9th round. Well, a comeback from Miura’s comeback. That’s because Vargas came out and hurt Miura right away in the 1st. But Miura got in some licks; he opened a cut under Vargas’ right eye that would increasingly trouble Vargas. It wasn’t until midway through the 3rd that Miura stopped getting his ass kicked and began kicking ass back, and in the 4th he dropped Vargas with a huge left hand. Miura would proceed to beat up Vargas for a couple rounds before slowing a little, perhaps because nobody should take as many clean shots as Miura does, and Vargas was still landing some. By the end of the 7th, it looked like Vargas might be getting back into the fight. And of course Miura rocked Vargas hard in that round, and it looked like it was gonna be over very soon. It was, just not the way we expected. Vargas caught Miura with a combo in the 9th that finished with a huge right hand, wobbling Miura, and as he stumbled backward Vargas caught him with a couple more nasties. Miura somehow got up from that knockdown, and somehow held on for a little while longer. When referee Tony Weeks stepped in, he’d taken an absurd amount of punishment on the verge of knockout, and it was the right call.
This is what we do it for, gang. This is why we put up with all the politics, and nonsense scoring, all the bullshit: to get a chance to watch something like this happen.
Junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux ratcheted down his activity level from “low” to “anemic” and still won a shut out over Drian Francisco. Rigo took the fight on short notice and was coming off about a year’s layoff, but his inability to vaporize a journeyman who was himself vaporized by a journeyman just two fights ago — it’s damning for the case some make that Rigo is the best pound-for-pound fighter alive. No. And that’s a separate question from how boring he is, which was extra-boring tonight. Francisco never could find the defensively astute Rigo, landing just 42 punches over 10 rounds. How does Rigo only land 72, though? That’s a low punch count for heavyweights. The fight against Vasyl Lomachenko still has appeal because of the elite ability that would be in the ring, but Rigo would probably make sure it was unwatchable (and that’s coming from someone who has found Rigo occasionally enjoyable to behold).
Junior lightweight Ronny Rios took a decision over Jayson Velez to kick off the Cotto vs Canelo card, overcoming a good start from Velez and a low-blow deduction from referee Jay Nady. Rios was going low, really, and the HBO team’s talk about “if you can’t see a fighter’s bellybutton” was mooted by the fact that you never really see fighters’ bellybuttons in the ring these days. Anyhow, Velez was moving, countering and landing volume early, but Rios began to even up some of the rounds with his own increasing volume and pressure, and by the middle rounds he had taken over. By the late rounds, Velez was reluctant to engage. By the end of the fight, Rios had a set of 97-92, 95-94 and 96-93 scores, contrary to some of our fears Velez would get the edge anyway. It was Rios’ best win, just two bouts after his first loss.