By Jake Donovan
It was certainly a week to forget for the staff at Golden Boy Promotions, but one that was already due to end on a high note and now comes with even more reason to smile.
The same goes for Francisco Vargas, who for the second straight year served as one half of the top choice for the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) 2016 Fight of the Year, as announced by the organization on Friday afternoon
One year after being honored for his to-hell-and-back, off-the-canvas title winning knockout over Takashi Miura in 2015’s Fight of the Year, Vargas once again wears the badge of honor thanks to the bravery and courage he and Orlando Salido exhibited in their furiously-paced 12-round draw this past June.
With the aforementioned super featherweight title fight between two proud Mexican warriors being recognized by the organization, Vargas becomes the first boxer in history to be involved in the BWAA Fight of the Year in consecutive years. Fittingly, the back-end of the daily double comes in a savage slugfest that somehow exceeded ridiculously high expectations going into their June 4 headliner at the famed StubHub Center in Carson, California.
The BWAA Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier Fight of the Year award has been issued at the organization’s annual awards dinner since 2003 (for the 2002 Awards Banquet). Of the 15 annual winning bouts, the StubHub Center (formerly the Home Depot Center) has played host to five, including three of the last four choices.
The first of the lot came in 2008, when Israel Vasquez rode a last-second knockdown of Rafael Marquez to the finish line in nabbing a split decision victory in their epic third fight. The pair had split their previous two meetings, with part three the only of their eventual four-fight series to go to the scorecards in earning 2008 Fight of the Year honors.
Five years later, Tim Bradley headed to the venue that regularly churns out instant classics, his trek doubling as the first defense of his welterweight title.
The sculpted Californian entered on the heels of a highly questionable split decision victory over Manny Pacquiao the prior June and was in need of a memorable performance. He delivered that and then some, surviving a knockdown and a hailstorm of punches from Ruslan Provodnikov to give back as good as he got in eking out a 12-round victory in their March ’13 war.
Barely 13 months after the aforementioned gem, Lucas Matthysse and John Molina Jr. traded knockdowns and spilled blood in their April ’14 thriller. Matthysse – who was recovering from a 12-round loss to Danny Garcia in their World super lightweight championship seven months prior – ultimately prevailed by 11th round knockout to return to the win column.
Vargas’ knockout win over Miura – in which he had to recover from a mid-rounds knockdown and grotesque facial swelling and cuts to win – came at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. He needed seven months to heal the wounds, but they were hardly spared as he and Salido never stopped throwing punches.
The fight was so good and evenly matched, that not even the end result of failing to produce a winner served as disappointment to fans in attendance or to HBO viewers watching at home.
In that vein, it’s only right that they win together in the eyes of the BWAA voters.
Other bouts that were up for consideration:
- Carl Frampton MD12 Santa Cruz (7/28/16, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY);
- Roman Gonzalez UD12 Carlos Cuadras (9/10/16, The Forum. Inglewood, CA);
- Yoshihiro Kamegai D10 Jesus Soto Karass (4/15/16, Belasco Theater, Los Angeles, CA);
- Keith Thurman UD12 Shawn Porter (6/25/16, Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY);
- Dillian Whyte SD12 Dereck Chisora.(12/10/16, Manchester Arena, Manchester, UK)
Vargas and Salido will be honored at the 92nd annual BWAA awards dinner on Thursday, March 16, at Capitale, on 130 Bowery, in New York, New York.
Other award winners (all of whom will be honored at the dinner):
Sugar Ray Robinson Fighter of the Year: Carl Frampton
Eddie Futch Trainer of the Year: Shane McGuigan
Cus D’Amato Manager of the Year: Egis Klimas
Sam Taub Broadcaster of the Year: Gordon Hall (Showtime executive producer)
Bill Crawford Award for Courage in Overcoming Adversity: Lee Samuels (Top Rank)
Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service: Bill Caplan
Marvin Kohn Media Good Guy Award: John Beyrooty
As is the case with Frampton (who faces Santa Cruz in a rematch this Saturday live on Showtime from MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada), Vargas has the chance to make a run towards yet another BWAA award beginning this weekend. The all-action hero headlines the 2017 season debut of HBO’s Boxing After Dark series, as he defends his title versus countryman Miguel Berchelt. The bout tops a doubleheader airing live from Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.
In the opening bout, Miura faces resurgent super featherweight contender Miguel Roman.
It’s a fan-friendly doubleheader that will provide much needed relief to Golden Boy Promotions. The company was dealt a major blow when its two-year long, $300 million lawsuit versus Al Haymon and his enterprises was dismissed without prejudice in a California courthouse on Thursday. That news came less than two full days after company founder Oscar de la Hoya was arrested on DUI charges, also in California.
A night at the fights is the perfect cure-all for any boxing ailment, especially a fun show like the one in store this Saturday. Undoubtedly, the show is designed to help build interest for a rematch between Vargas and Miura. Nether are exactly in walkover matches – though as evidenced by this very award category, Francisco Vargas wouldn’t have it any other way.