Nobody knew what to expect of Raul Hirales in his first fight back since the tragic in-ring death of Francisco Leal last October. For the 30-year old super bantamweight prospect, it was business as usual as he battered old rival Fernando Vargas into submission in eight rounds Saturday evening in Tijuana, Mexico.
The bout - a rematch to their six-round draw in Sept. '10 - served as the televised main event on TV Azteca, with the show's lineup split between two broadcasts. The headlining act at the Tecate Arena is a super featherweight bout between Miguel Beltran Jr. and unbeaten Carlos Diaz, which airs via one-hour tape delay on UniMas.
Hirales dedicated Saturday's fight to his fallen previous opponent and even spoke after the bout of how difficult it was to get into the ring tonight. However, the boxer was able to put his emotions in check once the bell rang, and performed his job like a professional.
The first sign that he was able to return to form free of mental conflict came in round two. The first chance Hirales had to inflict pain on his oppponent, he didn't hesitate to move in. A flurry of headshots had Vargas in a heap of trouble for most of the second round, but the journeyman was able to make it to the bell.
Momentum never changed at any point in the fight, as Hirales continued to pile up points while slowly break down his opponent. The one-way action came to a grinding halt midway through the eighth, as Hirales was scoring at will before Vargas' corner requested that the referee step in and intervene.
The officially announced time was 1:34 of round eight.
Hirales improves to 21-2-1 (10KO) with the win, in his first fight in six months. The recently-turned-30 year old was cordial in his win, paying his respects to Leal before speaking about what it took - mentally and physically - to get the job done.
Vargas falls to 26-8-3 (18KO). The early ending marked his first knockout loss in more than five years.
TV AZTECA PRELIMINARY ACTION
Local junior flyweight Pedro Hacha bounced back from the first loss of his young career, feasting on hapless Carlos Lopez en route to a third round stoppage.
The lone competitive portion of the contest came when both fighters traded low blows in round three. Hacha found a home with right hands, scoring at will before forcing the referee to intervene.
The official time was 2:03 of round three. Hacha improves to 4-1 (2KO); Lopez remains winless as he falls to 0-8-2.
Opening the telecast, local featherweight southpaw Erick Orozco was fortunate to escape with a majority decision over Hector Garcia in their four-round affair.
Orozco suffered a surprise knockdown in round two, but won every other round on two of the three scorecards to avoid an embarrassing defeat. He advances to 2-1-1 (1KO), while Garcia falls to 0-2.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox