Rey Vargas Outpoints Mark Magsayo, Becomes Two-Division Champ

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Vargas rises from a knockdown and overcomes a spirited effort from Mark Magsayo to become the new WBC World Featherweight Champion in the main event of an action-packed Premier Boxing Champions event Saturday night on SHOWTIME.

Rey Vargas is now a two-division world champion. Vargas earned the WBC World Featherweight Champion following a 12-round split decision win over incumbent Mark Magsayo in a spirited battle on SHOWTIME from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, in an event presented by Premier Boxing Champions.

Judges Tim Cheatham and David Sutherland each had Vargas winning 115-112 on their scorecards, overriding Jesse Reyes’ 114-113 score for Magsayo.

All three judges gave the last two rounds to Vargas (36-0, 22 KOs).

Using impeccable timing, his gangly height, an accurate jab and body shots, Vargas survived a ninth-round knockdown and kept Magsayo (24-1, 16 KOs) at bay much of the fight.

“I’m at a loss of words. I worked hard for this,” Vargas said. “I want to thank God, my family, [trainer] Nacho [Beristain]. The first title I won, I enjoyed it greatly but this one is special. This win is for me. It was a great fight; my dad was full of emotion when he spoke to me today.”

Just 26 seconds into the fight, Magsayo caught Vargas with a big right, and Vargas came right back at the defending champion with rights of his own. In the second, Vargas began establishing his jab, and mixed that with an occasional counter left hook.

The height difference seemed to be a problem for Magsayo. Vargas put his 5-foot-10½ frame to great use, fighting on the outside, a distance beneficial to him against the 5-foot-6 Magsayo, who at times lunged forward trying to land a big shot.

Each time Magsayo neared, Vargas timed him coming in. Through four rounds, Vargas had landed 18 body shots to Magsayo’s eight. Magsayo had his moments, like when he landed a counter left hook on the side of Vargas’ head. But the round—and the fight—appeared to be controlled by Vargas’ range.

Magsayo’s energy level appeared to be zapped in the sixth, which was a very effective round for Vargas. He chopped at the Filipino’s body with punishing left hooks, forcing Magsayo’s right arm to drop.   

In the seventh, blood began to trickle down the left side of Vargas’ face from a cut above his left eyebrow. It was determined that the cut came from a clash of heads.

As the eighth was winding down, Magsayo popped Vargas with a blunt, straight right with 1:09 left in the round. After the eighth, Magsayo’s Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach urged him to let his hands go.

In the ninth, Magsayo closed the distance for the first time in the fight. With 1:14 left in the round, Magsayo landed a left to the body. Then, with :42 remaining, Magsayo caught Vargas in the chin as he was coming forward with a crunching short right, which put Vargas down for the fourth time in his career.

“It wasn’t that effective but it counts, he did get me there,” Vargas admitted about the knockdown.

Overflowing with confidence, Magsayo attacked Vargas in the final seconds of the ninth. Vargas got up from the knockdown but was forced to clinch and move in order to make it out of the frame. Between rounds, Beristain warned him about Magsayo getting inside.

Yet, in the 10th, Vargas did not appear as if he was on steady legs. Magsayo failed to finish. By the championship rounds, Vargas had recovered and Magsayo looked like he needed a knockout to win. Vargas went back to using his height, keeping Magsayo at a comfortable distance with his jab and catching Magsayo coming in with whistling counter left hooks.

“It’s this today, no matter what I’ll come back stronger, I’m disappointed but I did my best,” Magsayo said. “When I had him down, the punch was straight, he did his job in the ring, running. I applied the pressure what we trained in the gym, but he was taller and he’s the man today.

“I will rest and watch the fight and I’m going to train to fight again and will correct my mistakes for the next time. Thanks to all my fans in the Philippines. I did my best and will come back stronger.”

As for Vargas, he’s ready for the next big challenge. “I was in control of the entire fight, except for the ninth when I lost a little control. Now I want the unification bout. I want to fight Leo Santa Cruz. We’ve already talked about it with my team.”

Brandon Figueroa blasts Carlos Castro in his featherweight debut

Brandon Figueroa wanted to make an early statement in his featherweight debut against Carlos Castro. Mission accomplished. 

Coming off his first career loss last November to Stephen Fulton in losing the WBC 122-pound title, Figueroa (23-1-1, 18 KOs) blasted out Castro at 2:11 of the sixth in the WBC Featherweight Title Eliminator.

“I know Carlos Castro is a crafty fighter, I had to be patient, I knew how to put the pressure on him, after the barrage of punches,” Figueroa said. “I got tired had to step back a little bit. I knew that he was hurt and I had him on the ropes and I had to put more pressure on him.”

Castro had pockets of success in the early rounds. Figueroa started the second round as a southpaw and switched to a conventional stance as the round progressed. With 1:27 left in the third, Figueroa blasted Castro’s head back with a straight right to the head, then followed by an onslaught of left uppercuts to the head and the body.

With 1:19 remaining in the third, Castro (27-2, 12 KOs) crumbled to the canvas for the second time of his career under a torrent of shots. Castro barely beat the count, but Figueroa would not let Castro breathe.

When Castro sat between rounds, he was immediately admonished by his corner for staying against the ropes. He responded with more solid moments in the fourth and fifth.

It was a very interesting juxtaposition in the sixth. With 1:18 left in the round, Castro had Figueroa pinned against the ropes landing tight shots. Then, with exactly 1:00 left, Figueroa opened with a double right hook to Castro’s head. Within seconds, “The Heartbreaker” had Castro against the ropes plowing Castro straight rights and lefts.

Referee Mark Nelson shouldered his way between the fighters and waved it over at 2:11 of the sixth. Nelson told Showtime’s Jim Gray that Castro did not answer when in trouble and after getting hit twice, that was enough.

“I caught him clean with a good looping left hand and I had him, I just put punches together and I dropped him,” Figueroa said. “Carlos Castro has a lot of heart, he’s a proven fighter in the ring and I knew it would be hard to get him out of here. I hurt him. I was waiting for that shot to the body. Once I caught him clean, I knew he was hurt. I put my punches together again.

“I’m pretty proud of myself. I know there’s a lot of work ahead of me, especially if I fight the winner of the main event. I have to study my fight and get back to the gym.”

Castro nor his corner complained about the finish.

Frank Martin is impressive stopping Jackson Marinez

Lightweight southpaw contender Frank “The Ghost” Martin knows he’s going to have to be placed in uncomfortable spots to develop. He’ll certainly be able to look back on his 10-round stoppage victory over late-replacement Jackson Marinez as a good step in his growth.

Martin’s goal this year is to be considered among the world’s best lightweights, in the discussion with Tank Davis and unified lightweight champion Devin Haney.

Marinez had a good opening round, using his jab and length in the pocket, though with 1:53 left in the second, Martin (16-0, 12 KOs) briefly stunned Marinez with a right hook, catching Marinez as he tried to avoid a straight left. Martin began banging away at the body in the third.

Considering he took the fight on nine days’ notice, with a career-long 17-month layoff, Marinez (19-3, 7 KOs) fought well. He just had trouble catching the counter-punching southpaw Martin.

After six, it was a tight fight. That changed as Martin’s body shots took its toll on Marinez, paving the way for Martin to close the show. A right hook wobbled Marinez in the ninth. The follow-up onslaught deposited him on the canvas.

“The knockdown in the ninth changed the tone of the fight,” Marinez said. “Maybe I could have been more careful. Bring on anyone, anytime. People know I still have to make things right with somebody in particular [Rolando Romero].

“These things happen in boxing, and you just gotta be ready to roll with the punches. He had power, and so did I. I felt great and very comfortable inside the ring. It would absolutely have been a different result had I had more than eight days to prepare.”

With 2:38 left in the 10th, Martin staggered Marinez into the ropes with a right hook. Martin, who is trained by Derrick James, jumped on Marinez and closed the show landing a barrage of shots. Referee Rafael Ramos quickly interceded and waved it over at :30 into the 10th.

“We had to really stay on the outside of the hook, I was doubling the two and trying to come inside with the hook,” Martin said. “I was on him once I had him hurt, I was hungry, he was in deep waters so I had to get him out of there.”

“I’m right there with those [top guys at lightweight], sit me at the table with them, whenever, I’m ready,” Martin said. “I’m going to sit down with my team and hopefully get something big. At the end of the day, we want them all.”

For complete coverage on Magsayo vs Vargas, check out our fight night page.

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