If Francisco Vargas and Orlando Salido wanted to honor Muhammad Ali’s memory they did a fantastic job in their fight last Saturday at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
Vargas (23-0-2, 17KO) looked to defend his 130 pound title for the first time after winning it against Takashi Miura last year in the Fight of the Year. Throughout Saturday’s brawl, Vargas and Salido competed at an insane level of power punching which made their bout the perennial Fight of the Year candidate for this year.
The fight started with Vargas trying to use his jab to control space and Salido (42-13-4, 29KO) trying to smother Vargas while avoiding shots as he came in. By the third round, Vargas abandoned his jab and the brawl commenced.
Vargas threw and landed the short, straight shots while Salido threw and landed the long, looping punches. Vargas briefly stunned Salido with a left hook to the body in the second round, but Salido quickly regained his composure and took control of the fight in rounds three and four as he dragged Vargas into a phone-booth back-and-forth action brawl.
Salido continued to land hard shots to the head and body in the fifth as Vargas’ face started to break open with a cut above his left eye. Suddenly, it was the 35 year-old fighter who was quicker and more active as Vargas struggled to keep up with Salido’s pace.
Amazingly, Vargas rallied and even hurt Salido with a crushing right hand midway through the sixth round. Salido used all his experience and fortitude to survive the round. Incredibly, Salido rallied back himself and managed to take control of the fight once again.
Vargas would have to stage one more rally as a four-punch combination in the tenth round hurt Salido again. An overhand right from Salido stunted Vargas’ momentum however and before the 12th round started a ringside physician examined his eye, which was bleeding freely at that point.
In the 12th round, both men left it all hanging and unleashed vicious combinations on each other. Before the final bell even rang the fans were already on their feet cheering the two warriors.
The scores appropriately read 115-113 for Vargas and 114-114 (twice) which ended the fight in a majority draw. Vargas retained his WBC title with the decision to Salido’s disappointment, but his tremendous courage and skill more than earned him another shot at the title or another one of the beltholders in the division.
Sometimes, draws are just the right decision. Especially for a fight as brutal, honest, and exciting as this.