By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Rey Vargas’ face made it look like he was in a tougher fight than he actually was Saturday night.
Mexico’s Vargas overcame cuts above each eye and retained his WBC super bantamweight title by out-pointing Oscar Negrete in a 12-round fight at Madison Square Garden. Mexico’s Vargas won a unanimous decision, as all three judges – Kevin Morgan (119-109), Carlos Ortiz (119-109) and Alan Rubinstein (120-108) – scored the fight for him.
The 27-year-old Vargas (31-0, 22 KOs) made the second defense of the WBC 122-pound championship he won by beating England’s Gavin McDonnell by majority decision February 25 in Hull, England. The 30-year-old Negrete, a Colombian who moved up from 118 pounds to 122 to challenge Vargas, lost for the first time as a pro (17-1, 7 KOs).
HBO broadcast the bout before a main event that featured Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto and Brooklyn’s Sadam Ali.
Vargas returned to sticking and moving in the 10th, 11th and 12th rounds, a strategy that served him well earlier in the fight.
Bleeding from cuts over each eye, Vargas went after Negrete to start the ninth round. He buzzed Negrete with a straight right hand after forcefully turning Negrete around, against the ropes, and Negrete briefly held to gather himself.
Negrete came back to make the round competitive.
By the eighth round, Vargas had cuts over his left and right eyes. Gonzalez called for a New York State Athletic Commission doctor to look at those cuts with 1:10 to go in the ninth round.
Once the action resumed, Negrete wisely went after Vargas, who seemed to be slowing down. Like the first cut Vargas sustained over his right eye in the seventh round, the cut that opened over his left eye in the eighth round also was the byproduct of an accidental head-butt.
Negrete landed a right uppercut and then two straight right hands within the final minute of the seventh round that temporarily made Vargas hold. An accidental clash of heads opened a deep gash along Vargas’ right eyelid in the seventh round as well.
Vargas continued to stick and move throughout a fifth round he completely controlled. Gonzalez warned Negrete early in the fourth round for hitting Vargas low.
Vargas got Negrete’s attention with a left hook with just over two minutes to go in the third round. An off-balance Vargas went to the canvas with 1:19 to go in the third round, but Gonzalez ruled that it was a slip.
Gonzalez warned Negrete later in the third for holding Vargas behind his head and hitting him.
The aggressive Vargas opened up on Negrete with a five-punch combination that made Negrete retreat just before the halfway point of the second round. Vargas drilled Negrete with a left to the body and then a right to the body just before the end of the second round.
Vargas established his jab in the first round, in which he also went to Negrete’s body regularly.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.