By Jake Donovan
Miguel Vazquez picked up a vacant alphabet title at lightweight with a 12-round decision win over Ji Hoon Kim on Saturday evening at the Energy Arena in Laredo, Texas.
Scores were 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110 for the Fox Sports-televised main event.
Kim, best known for his wild style and propensity for drama, served as the aggressor in the opening round although landing little if anything of substance. The two fighter collided heads twice within the first 30 seconds of the bout, but proved to be isolated incidents until later in the fight.
After spending most of the first round trying to take in Kim’s approach, Vazquez took control in the second round and really never looked back. The rangy Mexican looked better with each passing round, employing a disciplined approach and keeping Kim at bay with his jab and long right hand.
With Kim, the threat of a knockout is always around the corner, but it was the Korean who was in danger of being stopped midway through the fight. After piling up the rounds, Vazquez decided to turn up the heat in the fifth, cornering his foe and landing a series of head shots.
Kim survived the round and fought back well in the sixth, even if not well enough to make a dent in the scorecards. But whatever success he enjoyed was only temporary, as Vazquez resumed control of the fight in the seventh, on several occasions landing multiple punch combinations without a response.
After a relatively clean seven rounds (save for the opening moments of the fight), a headbutt changed the tempo of the fight in a big way in the eighth. Kim’s undisciplined onward rushing style resulted in his noggin drilling Vazquez on the side of his forehead, prompting referee Laurence Cole to call time and survey the damage.
The sequence was instantly ruled as a cut caused by a butt, which meant that Vazquez presumably in good shape on the scorecards if the fight was stopped at any point. Instead, the 23-year old decided to let his hands go, punishing Kim in the corner with shots to the head and body.
Another cut-inducing clash of heads came about in the ninth, this time leaving Kim wounded with an opening above his left eye. Time was once again called, but action resumed soon thereafter, only for two more headbutts to occur in an obviously frustrating round for both fighters.
The tempo of the bout never changed in the championship rounds, save for Kim trying to fight more aggressive, though with little success. Vazquez continued to box down the stretch, as it worked for him all night, not to mention that Kim wasn’t coming close to turning things around with one punch, especially when that punch couldn’t land.
By night’s end, there was zero doubt as to who won the fight, just a matter of the margin of victory by which Vazquez would take the fight. The judges got it right, with Kim won only three of the 36 combined scored rounds.
With the win, Vazquez improves to 26-3 (12KO) and enters the lightweight title picture. The bout was his first in more than a year, having scored an upset decision win over Breidis Prescott last July but forced to ride the pine until this title opportunity surfaced.
In a perfect world, Vazquez would be able to stand in line for a shot at the division’s true lineal championship, presently held and recently defended by Juan Manuel Marquez. However, his Hall-of-Fame-bound countryman is clearly in the twilight of his career and already eyeing possible opportunities at 140 lb.
Less lucrative opportunities exist for Vazquez, such as fellow alphabet titlists Humberto Soto (should he elect to fight anyone with a pulse anytime soon), the always exciting Rocky Martinez and improving Miguel Acosta.
The winner of next month’s lightweight eliminator between Anthony Peterson and Brandon Rios is in line to next face Acosta, but could also serve as a possible future opponent for Vazquez if it means grabbing whatever title fight presents itself.
Meanwhile, it’s back to the drawing board for Kim, who falls to 21-6 (18KO) with his first loss in four years. The free-swinging Korean had won 13 straight, including 11 consecutive knockouts entering Saturday’s fight. Several came on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights, including a first round knockout of Ameth Diaz in this very arena three months ago.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at [email protected].