Saul Canelo Alvarez vs Miguel Cotto, Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura, Guillermo Rigondeaux vs Francisco, Rios vs Velez
BY KID HERSH
HBO PPV from Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. First up was Ronny Rios (24-1, 10ko's) vs Jayson Velez (23-0-1, 16ko's). This is a battle of which guy has the heart to take it to the next level as I see it. In the first round Rios was looking to go the body and Velez was trying to control the distance and continue circling the ring while picking his spots and using his length to his advantage. The second round was closely fought, with Rios closing the gap a bit in landing a few overhand rights as well as landing some good body shots - a couple of which strayed low and referee Jay Nady warned him strict in this one (after warning him light in the first). Velez was still very accurate and boxing Rios well though, and this round was tough to pick a winner for but if I had to I think Velez is getting the style of fight he prefers, although it isn't massively favoring him. Rios carried the momentum of improving little by little into the third round, where he landed some good right hands that were very long and arcing through the air but were landing with accuracy and some power behind them - notably the ones two minutes into the round. Velez was countering off of them but as Lampley pointed out; it is surprising that a counterpuncher such as himself cannot avoid them better as they are pretty slow and long punches. In the fourth round both guys were throwing body shots back and forth - almost feeling as if it was a contest between who could throw lowest and not get a point deducted, being right on the belt line. Rios was warned twice for stray shots - being warned who knows how many times now - for shots that are all right in that gray area though I must admit. Rios finally had a point deducted in the fifth round for a low blow early on but this is going to be a debatable fight I can already tell due to the fact that as the HBO crew is pointing out; Velez is wearing his trunks high where you cannot see his belly button whereas Rios is wearing them to where you can see his belly button, so advantage Velez for the body shots that both fighters are trading round to round. Rios got going inthe sixth round, with the fifth seeming to spurn him on to a greater work rate and to establish himself as more dominant in a fight that may be slipping out of control for him due to the point deduction and the closeness of the rounds. He landed many left hooks in the sixth round and outworked Velez while landing the more telling blows and took control of the fight for the first time in such a dominant fashion in my opinion. Rios carried that success into the seventh round where he crowded Velez and painted him with more body shots that he followed up to the head, effectively crowding Velez enough to blunt his work rate. The eighth round was more success for Rios, who has Velez looking like he does not know what to do and is very gun shy as he moves about the ring but doesn't throw much of any shots - his work rate dwindling round by round since about the fifth round to this point. Rios continued with his clear success until in the final round Velez made a close round of it as he came forward and threw far more shots than in the previous rounds, getting tagged in return but doing some good punching of his own in this fight. The cards would come in a close but clear UD for Rios, handing Velez his first loss.
Next up Guillermo Rigondeaux (15-0, 10ko's) vs Drian Francisco (28-3-1-, 22ko's). A final ten count was tolled for Bob Foster before the fight began. In the first round Rigo was setting up Francisco for his straight left hand and making his opponent tentative to throw anything because he was getting a very powerful, quick left hand to the chin every time he attempted to plant and throw. In the second round the boos already were reigning into the ring from spectators that are expecting action packed fights on this type of a PPV but apparently don't know that Rigo always fights this way. Rigo has control of the ring and is blunting Francisco's work rate down to about a dozen punches per round or even less. His great footwork is not allowing the Filipino to get in range to throw without being punished by the left hand, clinched, or simply having no target to throw at unless he swings at air. As we got to the mid rounds of the fight there is not much to write about, with Rigo in complete control but really this is not a fan-friendly fight at all, with boos reigning in still and Rigo clinching much more often as Francisco is looking to try and do more but when he bulls into range Rigo does not want to trade and so he clinches his man, or grabs and pivots out of range. Harold Lederman would come on at the start of the seventh round to give his scorecard - a shutout of course - and also say that he just cannot stand watching Rigo because he has to do more to entertain to be considered a top ten fighter in the world. I have to agree with him, as most fans would say as well, because while he is ultra-talented, he just does not create any sort of buzz inside the ring at all whatsoever. The action continued, with both men combined throwing and landing less punches than the 122lb average from one fighter. Rigo came out in the ninth round looking to entertain more as he had his hands down at his waist and was looking to throw more punches - which he did - but it was still an ugly fight and he was not really dominating as much as one would expect for a top ten fighter in the world (supposedly) that was fighting a replacement fighter that is unknown and fill-in less than two weeks before the fight. Rigo would coast to the wide UD, shutout UD. Roy Jones Jr. had a good line when Max said "I don't think the fans are too excited." and Roy said "Excited that it's over."
Pre main event time featuring Francisco Vargas (22-0-1, 16ko's) vs Takashi Miura (29-2-2, 22ko's). This fight turned into a great one pretty quickly as Vargas landed a right hand to the chin of Miura a little over a minute into the round that buckled Miura's legs but he caught himself just before he was going to hit the canvas. He then did what only he (and other Japanese fighters does and fought back - taking more shots but also managing to eventually recoup enough to stabilize himself. Vargas poured on the punishment, getting some good body work in as well. The second round showed Miura's great recovering abilities as he looked to have completely shaken off the trouble from the first. He was not having more success though until the fourth round came and he started pushing Vargas backwards while landing hooks and straights. He then got everyone on their feet when he flooredVargas with a straight left right on the money. He Had led up to it beautifully too - backing his man around the ring while inflicting damage. Vargas got up and clinched to close the round but he was marked up pretty bad - with the cut on his right cheek being opened more and more (it was a small gash in the first round from an accidental clash of heads). In the next couple rounds Vargas was still looking pretty tired but he was landing all kinds of great shots but just couldn't put down the tough and rugged Japanese fighter. Miura was still having success but it was sporadic, with the best moments coming when he worked his way inside off of the jab. The seventh round was still closely fought again and a real grinder, with Vargas looking weary now and fighting on the inside where he really shouldn't be. The eighth round saw Miura gaining the lead and building on the slight advantage he has had going since the fourth round knockdown. Vargas looked very weary and suffered another cut on the right side of his face - this time above the eye from a punch. The right side of his face is looking pretty bad now coming out for the ninth round with blood and swelling. The ninth round brought a dramatic end to the fight when Vargas knocked downn Miura from a series of powerful shots. Miura somehow managed to get up after being on queer street and stuck his arms in the air to balance himself out to continue - just barely. Weeks put a stop to the action when Vargas was teeing off and Miura was looking pretty bad - but there will be some controversy to this one due to Miura's nature and the fact that Vargas was nearly spent himself in going for the knockout. His arms were so tired it looked like he had 40lb sand bags attached to them. Also, veteran referee Tony Weeks made a mistake in separating the action when he thought that Miura was going down but he managed to stay up. Weeks had to then make a decision because he could not give a standing eight count. This is when he stopped the fight, or actually shortly thereafter. It was not a bad stoppage by any means but this is the type of fight in my opinion that needs to be let go because of the nature of the fighters and the fact that a legendary fight could have just been prevented from happening. Fantastic fight though, as I expected forthese two warriors and their styles clash.
Main event Saul Canelo Alvarez (45-1-1, 32ko's) vs Miguel Cotto (40-4, 33ko's). The first round was a pretty even one as the fighters got their bearings. Cotto made it obvious that he is going to use movement (lateral - who would have thought!) and box Canelo, while Canelo is looking to land flush power shots and looking to go to the body to break Cotto down. In the second round it was similar to the first except that Canelo picked up the pace a bit and started to get busier towards the end of the round. Cotto is still outworking him though, as he is light on his feet and staying out of Canelo's range and making him reach for his shots. In the third round Canelo got his motor working and took control of the fight with powerful punching and angles on the shots that Cotto did not see or have time to react to at times. Cotto looks to me like he is trying to score and not do damage. It is working, but Canelo has started to take the fight over and the size/power/speed advantages are showing with Canelo. This continued in the coming rounds, with Canelo's advantages showing further yet in the fifth round as he outboxed Cotto and hurt him a couple times with body shots and a beautiful uppercut that split the guard. Canelo is also blocking or parrying the majority of body shots that Cotto is throwing and controlling the distance. After the seventh round it is pretty clear that Canelo is total control of the ring but Cotto fought this hard coming out in the eighth round and looking to turn the tide by getting busy and getting in Canelo's chest. It was great back and forth action - the best of the fight - and was nearly equal but then when Cotto had to back off the gas Canelo took the fight back over just like in the previous rounds with his superior defense, more powerful punching, and better angles on his shots that Cotto couldn't fully deal with or counter back on because Canelo would either lean back and slip or just counter right back and force Cotto to be apprehensive when not aggressing like he previously was. Going down the stretch the rounds were not separated by a whole lot as Cotto was really on his toes nonstop and landing good jabs but Canelo's powerful hands were clearly doing the damage and winning him the rounds in my eyes over the constant movement (mostly up and down) of Cotto where he was getting his body shots blocked by Canelo's elbows and was not putting much for mustard on his shots. The twelfth and final round was a great one - perhaps the best of the fight - with the fighters trading shots to start but Canelo quickly took over with powerful combinations that hurt Cotto and had him backing up to buy time. He also drew blood from his left eye and Cotto had the look of an exhausted and outgunned man to close out the round. Canelo would win the wide UD and was in tears following the fight because of the emotional moment of the biggest win of his career that just nabbed him the lineal middleweight title.