Yorkshire faithful were left disappointed when Rey Vargas (29-0, 22 KOs) overcame their own Gavin McDonnell (16-1-2, 4 KOs) for the WBC Super Bantamweight title.
A win for McDonnell would have made him and his brother, Jamie, Britain’s first set of twins to simultaneously hold world championships. But Vargas and his visiting team (including one Nacho Beristain) had other plans.
The undefeated Mexican opened the with some buzzing left hooks. He was on the offensive early and often. McDonnell was visibly hesitant to engage after feeling his man’s power.
Things were no better for the Englishman in the second stanza. Vargas drilled him into the ropes, touching him from head to toe—and warned once for a low blow.
Beristain ordered Vargas to ease up between rounds. After a bit of a jab fest in Round 3, the young Mexican was back to gyrating his Cleto Reyes gloves in the fourth and fifth.
The 26-year-old Vargas did find himself on his knees in Round 5. McDonnell yanked on the back of his neck and cracked him in the midsection.
McDonnell, 30, was the beneficiary of referee Victor Loughlin’s incompetence. A former domestic and European titleholder, Gavin is a hot commodity in the United Kingdom under promoter Eddie Hearn so it was no surprise.
In the seventh round, the Yorkshireman’s fouling continued. Loughlin paid it no mind but did find time to warn Vargas for hitting below the belt again.
The Mexican road warrior began fighting backwards in Round 8. Weight fell on his back foot with remarkable fluidity as he stabbed right crosses into McDonnell and spun out and away from his stampeding opponent.
Vargas, however, did not look so graceful in the ninth period. McDonnell rushed his man into the ropes for almost three full minutes.
The narrative was the same in Round 10. The Englishman was somehow reborn by fire and began serving up venom. Leaping right hands turned Vargas’ chin over and the partisan crowd roared. That period was the best of the night.
Vargas finally returned some offense of his own in the penultimate round. He tested his foe’s whiskers with vicious right uppercuts via his lanky arms but was still being chased down.
The two combatants closed the show on a high note, brawling in the trenches as the final bell rang.
Sky Sports commentary, the company men that they are, tried to find a way to give the fight to McDonnell. But it was Paul Smith (of all people) who actually turned in a proper set of scores in favor of Vargas.
Two of the official judges did too. Tallies of 117-111 and 116-112 overruled Ian John Lewis’ nonsensical 114-114 mark and Vargas was announced the newest 122-pound beltholder.
Boxing‘s latest champion is an entertaining operator, with some fine hitting ability. He also has about four inches on Guillermo Rigondeaux and Jessie Magdaleno, the two best boxers in the division, standing five feet, nine inches tall.
The sport is always in need of unification matches and Vargas deserves another dance in the spotlight.
Header photo by WBC