By Andreas Hale and Anthony Springer at ringside
Photos: Mary Ann Owen
Rising welterweight prospect and recent Top Rank acquisition Jessie Vargas had little trouble taking a unanimous decision over the durable but overmatched Aron Martinez in the main event of ESPN special edition of Friday Night Fights that aired on Thursday. The undefeated Vargas (20-0, 9 KOs) had an opponent who came to fight in Martinez but still owned the fight despite a relatively slow start in the early goings. Martinez (18-2-1) would bull his way forward and attempt to work the body but his punches provided little pop and never forced Vargas to drop his hands or leave himself vulnerable. Vargas did catch a few shots along the ropes but would reset himself and utilize his more polished boxing to score when necessary.
A firefight broke out in the 3rd round as Martinez stepped in and welcomed Vargas to an exchange of punches. The heated exchanges continued into the 4th round as Martinez found several openings to land some solid punches but Vargas would strafe Martinez with a straight right hand and began going to work along the ropes to take the round. Martinez refused to back down, however, and kept Vargas busy, but the infighting was still in the Las Vegas fighter’s favor. Although he was game, Martinez simply didn’t have enough power to dissuade Vargas.
Vargas again came alive and settled into his rhythm towards the end of the 7th round landing a blistering combination that shredded Martinez’ torso and a right hand that bounced off of his foe’s head. Martinez had a very strong 9th round but apparently blew his load as Vargas finished the fight strong in the 10th round and earned the unanimous decision with scores of 98-92, 99-91 and 96-94.
“Things didn’t go as we planned but we did win the fight,” Vargas said afterwards. “It was good for the fans but I didn’t get off and perform as I expected. He took some hard shots and I give him credit for that. At the end of the later rounds we did what we wanted to do. It’s really a learning experience. My performance was a 7 out of 10 tonight.”
In super featherweight action, Jose Felix Jr. (21-0-1, 17 KOs) put on a workman like performance, using a slow and steady attack to outpoint Luis Cruz (19-2, 15 KOs) en route to a unanimous decision. Both men started out slow in the early going and set a pace slightly higher than that of paint drying that lasted the majority of the bout. A hard right hand to the body sent Cruz stumbling back in the opening round but Felix was unable to capitalize after a temporary halt in the action. The Puerto Rican fighter scored big with a straight left hand that stumbled Felix before slapping the mat. But the plodding style of Cruz paid few dividends. Though he stalked Felix for the majority of the fight, he was countered into oblivion over the course of the ten rounds. All three judges scored it for Felix by scores of 96-94, 96-94 and 97-92.
Mikael Zewski (16-0) had little trouble dispatching of Xavier Toliver (23-9) with a TKO stoppage at the end of the first round. Zewski forced Toliver to take a knee with thudding power shots late in the round and continued the thumping until the end of the round. Toliver’s corner had seen enough and called the fight giving Zewski his 12th stoppage.
Heavyweight Andy Ruiz Jr. (16-0, 10 KOs) continued his winning ways with a dominant performance against Maurenzo Smith (10-3-2) that resulted in a KO at the 2:11 mark in the first round.
Terence Crawford (17-0, 13 KOs) remained undefeated with a 4th round TKO over the overmatched Hardy Paredes (15-11) in a scheduled 8 round lightweight bout. Time of stoppage was :40.
Joaquin Chavez came out with a rapid fire offense in welterweight swing bout action but ended up shooting blanks. A patient Jesus Gutierrez opted for quality over quantity, earning a one-sided decision win. Chavez threw lefts and rights in succession against the Las Vegan but came up empty more often than not. When Gutierrez turned on the gas midway through the fight, Chavez found himself on the wrong end of some vicious body shots. A final attack that started with a right hook sent Chavez to the mat late in the sixth frame, putting an exclamation point on the win for the undefeated Gutierrez. The judges scored the contest 58-55, 58-55 and 59-54.