By Keith Idec
Jessie Vargas’ return wasn’t nearly as entertaining as the knockouts John Molina Jr. and Jamal James produced on his undercard, but he easily out-boxed Aaron Herrera on Friday night.
In his first fight since losing the WBO welterweight title to Manny Pacquiao in November 2016, Vargas defeated Herrera by unanimous decision in the main event of a four-fight FS1 telecast from Pioneer Event Center in Lancaster, California. Vargas won each of the 10 rounds in their 147-pound bout and won by the same score, 100-89, according to judges Rudy Barragan, Fernando Villareal and Zachary Young.
Las Vegas’ Vargas (28-2, 10 KOs) was economical with his punches, but consistently connected with his jab and almost completely controlled the action against Mexico’s Herrera (33-8-1, 22 KOs). Vargas had hoped to knock out an opponent who had lost by knockout or technical knockout three times since March 2016, but settled for going the distance.
It looked like Vargas would stop Herrera in the sixth round, when he hit Herrera with a right-left combination that sent Herrera to the canvas with 1:45 to go in it.
Any momentum Vargas had following that knockdown was halted when Vargas went to his corner between the sixth and seventh rounds. The water he drank while seated on his stool seemed to go down the wrong pipe, which caused a choking Vargas to jump up and catch his breath.
After taking a cautious approach in the seventh round, Vargas went back to picking apart Herrera throughout the eighth round.
That trend continued in the ninth and 10th rounds. Vargas landed a flush left hook that moved Herrera backward with 1:10 remaining in the fight, yet couldn’t drop Herrera again.
The fight was the first for Vargas since he lost the WBO welterweight title to Pacquiao by unanimous decision 13 months ago in Las Vegas. Vargas has since parted ways with longtime promoter Top Rank Inc. and signed with adviser Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions.
Vargas’ victory over Herrera also marked his debut with former super welterweight and middleweight champion Mike McCallum as his trainer.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.