LAS VEGAS – Rey Vargas effectively returned from a long layoff Saturday night.

Vargas was busier and more accurate against Leonardo Baez for most of their 10-round featherweight fight on the Canelo Alvarez-Caleb Plant undercard at MGM Grand Garden Arena. They didn’t exactly excite the early-arriving crowd, but Vargas convincingly won this battle between Mexican combatants by unanimous decision.

Judges Eric Cheek (100-90), Glenn Feldman (99-91) and David Sutherland (100-90) scored Vargas a dominant winner in the second bout of Showtime’s four-fight pay-per-view event. Vargas (35-0, 22 KOs), the former WBC super bantamweight champion, beat Baez (21-5, 12 KOs, 1 NC) in a featherweight bout because Vargas wanted to shed some rest while ending a two-year layoff.

Vargas, 30, fought for the first time since July 2019. He hadn’t boxed since he out-pointed Tomoki Kemeda in a 12-round, 122-pound championship match in large part because Vargas suffered a fractured leg that made him take a considerable amount of time to recuperate.

The tall, rangy Vargas, of Otumba, Mexcio, made his debut at the featherweight limit of 126 pounds Saturday night. Baez, 26, mostly has fought as a 122-pounder as well, though he had competed at the junior lightweight limit of 130 pounds prior to facing Vargas.

Before his loss to Vargas, Baez had won three straight bouts since suffering back-to-back, technical-knockout losses to Jason Moloney and Carlos Caraballo.

Obviously way ahead, Vargas continued to out-landed an ineffectively aggressive during the 10th round.

Baez provided pressure during the ninth round, but Vargas often made him pay with overhand rights. An accidental clash of heads also caused a cut around Baez’s right eye during the ninth round.

An accidental clash of heads caused Caiz to warn Baez for leading with his head late in an eighth round Vargas largely controlled.

Baez and Vargas went toe-to-toe toward the end of the seventh round. Both of Vargas’ gloves touched the canvas with just over 10 seconds left in the seventh round, but Caiz correctly ruled that Baez pushed him down from behind Vargas’ neck.

Vargas blasted Baez with a left hook with just over 2:20 to go in the sixth round. Several seconds later, Vargas landed a hard left to Baez’s body.

Vargas landed a low left hand as he and Baez wrestled for position at one point during a competitive fifth round. After a competitive fourth round, Baez returned to his corner with marks around his right eye.

Baez lunged at Vargas and landed a left hook barely a minute into the third round. With just under 40 seconds on the clock in the third round, Vargas drilled Baez with a right uppercut and then a straight right hand that made him reset his feet.

Baez backed Vargas into the ropes with a right hand about 15 seconds into the second round, but Vargas appeared more off balance than anything. A body shot and then a left uppercut by Baez backed up Vargas about 1:15 into the second round, though.

Vargas went after Baez’s body with right hands almost as soon as their fight started. He landed a left uppercut with just under 40 seconds to go in the opening round, which backed up Baez.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.