By Jake Donovan
A card honoring the 49th annual WBC Convention in Las Vegas was topped by Mexican contender Marco Antonio Rubio pounding his way to a fifth round stoppage of battle-tested Matt Vanda in their middleweight bout Friday evening at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Rubio came in at 161 ½ lb, 1 ½ lb above the contracted middleweight limit. Unable to lose the weight, he was forced to give up a portion of his purse to Vanda, who came in well below the limit at 157 ½ lb.
Rubio slightly struggled coming out of the gate, as the heavily tattooed Vanda came out applying pressure right away. The Minnesota journeyman remained in his opponent’s face – basically the only way he knows how to fight – while Rubio sought the best course of action to take.
The answer to that riddle came in the second round, where Rubio appeared more fluid with his punches. A steady jab disrupted Vanda’s rhythm, which was always followed with combinations to the body that slowly proved its effectiveness.
By the third round, Vanda was already sucking wind and struggling to return to the level of success he briefly enjoyed early in the bout. Meanwhile, Rubio looked as calm as an assassin, mixing up his attack as he began landing more head shots that left Vanda off-balance and battered.
Chants of “Rubio!” filled the venue as the fourth round began, and the Mexican rewarded his patrons with crisp combinations that moved Vanda around the ring.
The attack was steady and constant throughout the fourth round and as much of the fifth as was allowed to take place before the bout was stopped. Vanda was heavily under fire before veteran referee Kenny Bayless stepped in to rescue the battered veteran from further punishment.
The official time was 2:42 of round five.
Rubio improves to 53-5-1 (45KO) with the win, his 10th straight since falling (way) short against then-middleweight king Kelly Pavlik nearly three years ago.
Vanda falls to 44-14 (24KO), having now lost six of his last eight contests.
Long revered as boxing’s nice guy, Rubio has since worked his way back to title contention, and the ball remains in his court in regards to a possible title shot against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. The fight is being targeted for February 4 in a bout that would air live on HBO, though there have been whispers that Rubio’s camp is playing hardball with the money being offered.
Not working in his favor are several matters: his coming in heavy for this bout (though possible it has no bearing on future title shots); the fact that an alternate opponent is already being lined up; and the threat of Chavez Jr. being stripped of his title should he not next face mandatory challenger Sergio Martinez.
In the event that Rubio passes, Top Rank will look to secure the services of Vanes Martirosyan. The move could be contingent on the outcome with Chavez Jr. the WBC. Martirosyan is presently one of several in line for a "mandatory" shot against junior middleweight titlist Saul Alvarez, though the on-again, off-again relationship between Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions could squash that fight in a hurry.
Whatever comes of the negotiations, Rubio can confidently look to 2012 knowing that he’s at a better place than ever before in his career.
Even if it’s not worth his demands for a title shot, it’s good enough to allow a nice guy to finish first for a change.
Javier Fortuna won a unanimous decision over Miguel Roman. Scores were 96-92, 96-91 and 97-90 in a bout that saw Roman floored in the opening round and both fighters docked points for fouls.
Laura Serrano ended a four-year hiatus from the ring, only to be held to a six-round majority draw against Ela Nunez. Scores were 59-55 Serrano and 57-57 (twice).
Azael Cosio of Panama scored three knockdown before forcing the corner of Ronnie Warrior Jr. to throw in the towel after six rounds of one-sided action in their welterweight bout.
Samuel Rogers boxed and brawled his way to a one-sided 10th round knockout over Jamar Freeman in a battle of unbeaten super welterweights.
Local super middleweight Badou Jack scored a 1st round knockout of Adam Collins.
Full undercard recap can be read here: http://www.boxingscene.com/javier-fortuna-tops-miguel-roman-las-vegas--47439
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]