Isaac Cruz couldn’t knock out an aged former champion Saturday night, but he was plenty active and accurate enough to defeat Francisco Vargas.
Mexico City’s Cruz consistently landed the harder punches in their 10-round lightweight bout and won a unanimous decision over the bloodied Mexican veteran. Judges Jesse Reyes (97-92), Randy Russell (99-90) and Eva Zaragoza (100-89) scored the 23-year-old Cruz the winner of a fight Showtime televised from Toyota Center in Houston as part of the Jermall Charlo-Juan Macias Montiel undercard.
The 36-year-old Vargas (27-3-2, 19 KOs) had hoped to rejuvenate his career by upsetting the rising, rugged contender. Instead, Cruz (22-1-1, 15 KOs) added the most noteworthy name to his list of conquests by beating the former WBC super featherweight champion.
Vargas lost for the second time in his past four fights. Rival Miguel Berchelt (38-2, 34 KOs) stopped Vargas following six rough rounds in their 130-pound championship rematch two years ago in Tucson, Arizona.
A left-right combination by Cruz made Vargas reset his feet with just under 1:20 to go in the 10th and final round. With just over 30 seconds left in the fight, an accidental clash of heads caused a grotesque gash above Vargas’ right eye.
A ringside physician took a close look at the cut, but he allowed Vargas to continue. Vargas already had smaller cuts above each eye.
Cruz tried to finish off Vargas as soon as the action continued. A left-right combination by Cruz landed as Vargas tried to hold him and Vargas went down to his knees with 47 seconds remaining in their fight.
Referee James Green called it a knockdown. Vargas didn’t seem hurt, got right to his feet and made it to the final bell.
Cruz’s right hand knocked Vargas into the ropes 20 seconds into the ninth round. Two straight left hooks backed up Vargas 1:20 into the ninth round.
A right hand by Cruz turned Vargas’ head with just under 40 seconds on the clock in the ninth round.
Cruz attacked Vargas’ body 30 seconds into the eighth round, which caused Vargas to tie him up. Referee James Green warned Cruz for a low blow just after the halfway mark of the eighth round.
Cruz backed up Vargas with a right to Vargas’ body late in the eighth round.
Vargas’ left hook backed up Cruz just after the halfway point of the seventh round. Vargas’ vicious right uppercut landed earlier in the seventh round and made Cruz move away from him.
Vargas’ right hand landed about 1:10 into the sixth round. Vargas drilled Cruz with another right hand with about 1:35 to go in the sixth round.
Cruz’s right uppercut made Vargas hold with just under 20 seconds on the clock in the sixth round.
Cruz drilled Vargas with a right hand, but Vargas took that shot well with just under 50 seconds remaining in the fifth round. Vargas, whose scar tissue around his eyes has been an issue in his career, had small cuts over each eye by the end of the fifth round.
Cruz turned Vargas’ head sideways with a hard right hand that landed just before the midway mark of the fourth round. Cruz cracked Vargas with a thudding left hook to the body and followed up with a left hook to the head with just under 40 seconds on the clock in the fourth round.
A left hook by Cruz wobbled Vargas and made him hold about 40 seconds into the third round. Vargas tried to hold Cruz to prevent him from following up on that impactful punch.
Vargas regained his footing soon thereafter, but Cruz caught him with a straight right hand that backed up Vargas with just under a minute to go in the third round.
Cruz had more difficulty getting inside on Vargas during the second round, which was marred by continuous clinching.
Cruz’s left hook backed up Vargas late in the first round. Cruz caught Vargas with a right uppercut toward the end of the opening round as well.
An awkward clinch sent Cruz and Vargas crashing to the canvas 1:10 into the first round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.