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Jessie Vargas Stays Focused Despite Foul Fest in Vegas

by Cliff Rold

In a bout marked by bent rules and dented cups, 22-year old Welterweight Jessie Vargas (18-0, 9 KO) of Las Vegas, Nevada, remained undefeated with a grueling ten-round unanimous decision win over 36-year old Lanardo Tyner (25-7-2, 15 KO) of Houston, Texas, on Friday night at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Vargas came into the fight a half-pound under the Welterweight limit at 146 ½ lbs., Tyner on the limit at 147. The referee was Tony Weeks.

Tyner feinted and immediately reached to grapple with Vargas as the first round got underway. Jabbing and hooking to the body, Vargas was soon to work. The steady drumbeat to the body opened up a hard right to the face and then back to the breadbasket Vargas went. His earnest attack strayed low and Tyner took a knee off a hard cup shot. Weeks gave Tyner time to recover and Tyner fought back hard down the stretch, angered by the foul. A right stung Vargas late and the younger man nodded and waved the elder on with disdain on his face.

The fight stayed largely at close quarters for the next two rounds, Vargas leading and landing more of the hard stuff but Tyner staying on top of him and winging big shots. In the fourth round, Tyner returned the favor of the low blow from the first round with a glancing right to the head on the way down. Vargas dropped hard and in obvious pain. Replays showed a booming left uppercut to the groin and Vargas took ample time to get his air back.

Tyner was all over Vargas after action resumed, banging hooks to the body before Vargas launched back with fury. Looking to gain a measure of revenge, Vargas banged hard to the cup and then followed with a combination to the head and now it was Tyner back on the floor. Tyner crumpled and then leapt up, Weeks jumping between before matters got ugly. Both men were warned about a disqualification. At the bell, Tyner slipped in a low shot and they fought after the bell. Vargas appeared to have a cut well inside the hairline on the left side of his head as he went to the corner.

The fifth was comparatively clean, and hard fought, until another rough exchange after the bell initiated by Tyner. Vargas used his legs and jab to slow the action down in the sixth and through most of the seventh, Tyner exploding late in the latter after being stung by a stiff Vargas right.

The eighth saw the fight return to form with a stern low blow warning leveled at Vargas and a wrestling clinch than ended with Tyner falling out of the ring while holding Vargas in a sort of headlock. The frame was slow paced aside from that. Vargas kept Tyner pinned to the ropes for a long stretch of the ninth and steadily outworked his man.

Vargas closed with a winning tenth, a hot fight in the first half steaming off as the favored man mostly controlled the second half. Vargas got the lopsided call at three nods of 99-91.

In the televised opener, a former title challenger looked for his third straight win. He nearly got his blocked knocked off.

In the end, 26-year old Jr. Middleweight Deandre Latimore (23-3, 17 KO), 156, of St. Louis, Missouri, escaped two late, if debatable, knockdowns to secure a majority decision in ten over 24-year old Milton Nunez (23-4-1, 21 KO), 157, of Barranquilla, Colombia. The referee was Joe Cortez.

How the drama unfolded was what made it all the more surprising.

Despite a spirited effort through much of the night, Nunez was well behind and taking a beating in the seventh. Cortez came to corner of Nunez after the round and warned he would allow him only one more if his offense didn’t pick up. It did, at least enough to stave off an end. Then, with second left in the ninth, Nunez struck with a big right to the temple to badly hurt Latimore. Attempting to follow up, Nunez swung while Latimore tried to hold. Falling out of the clinch, Cortez ruled a knockdown even if no clear punch caused it. Latimore made the bell on bad legs.

The drama increased in the tenth. Nunez was the aggressor throughout and wobbled Latimore early but it was another questionable call from Cortez made the round significant. Replays showed a headbutt landing where a right hand was ruled, Latimore dropped for a ruled knockdown with less than thirty seconds to go. A clear win was suddenly in doubt heading to the cards.

It was to Latimore’s benefit that he’d lodged so many early rounds, ultimately the victor despite a draw call of 94-94 with two winning scores of 96-92 and 95-94. Latimore continues to rebound from a majority decision loss to Sechew Powell in 2010. He is best recalled for a competitive challenge of then Jr. Middleweight titlist Cory Spinks in 2009.

The card was televised in the U.S. on Showtime as part of its “ShoBox” series, promoted by Mayweather Promotions.

Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]

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