Calling WBA light welterweight champion Jessie Vargas (25-0) the winner over Anton Novikov (29-1) on Saturday night from the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas is not preposterous, but the scores presented by the judges were.
Vargas was awarded a peculiar unanimous-decision victory over Novikov by a perplexing margin, according to the official judges. By most accounts, the fight was much closer than the scorecards indicated.
Official scorecards: 118-111, 118-111, 117-112 all in favor of the winner by unanimous decision @Jessie_VargasJV who improves to 25-0, 9 KOs— HBOboxing (@HBOboxing) August 3, 2014
Early on, Vargas seemed to be outboxing Novikov, but the Russian came on and made the Las Vegas resident work hard in his hometown. It looked as if Vargas may have been the beneficiary of some home cooking with the lopsided scorecards.
Nonetheless, he remains undefeated and maintains his hold on his title.
Twitter reacted after the official results were revealed.
Im stunned by the margins of the Vargas Novikov cards, but then, why should I be? That was putrid in many ways #BOXING— Steve Kim (@steveucnlive) August 3, 2014
After the bout was over, Vargas seemed almost apologetic for his performance, but he still tried to save face.
Here's how the fight transpired.
Vargas Dominates Early
Through the first three rounds, Vargas' hand speed, sharp punching and footwork were too much for Novikov. It looked as if Novikov was having issues adjusting the crispness of an opponent who was clearly the best he's faced in his career.
It's hard to see the first three rounds being scored anything different than a straight shutout in favor of Vargas.
Novikov Finds His Footing
In the fourth round, Novikov seemed to find his timing, and Vargas' pace slowed.
Novikov began to beat Vargas to the punch and did good work to the body. The Russian was so active and constantly pressed forward; the pressure seemed to force Vargas to stop throwing the jab as effectively as he had been.
Novikov seemed to win the fourth, fifth and possibly the sixth round. Vargas did regain some of the momentum when he landed a powerful straight-right hand that wobbled his opponent.
However, Novikov quickly regained his footing, but that punch might have saved the round for Vargas.
If Vargas thought this was going to be an easy fight, it was clear he had another thing coming. Novikov was taking advantage of Vargas' increasingly low guard.
Novikov was also continuing his work to the body with some well-placed lefts to the midsection. Vargas began to look a bit defeated in the ninth round. He also got away with countless low blows.
Instead of losing points, referee Kenny Bayless instead kept warning him. As it turned out, a deducted point wouldn't have changed the bottom line.
The Championship Rounds
Vargas looked almost spent late in the fight. He couldn't muster up any combinations, and Novikov was the fresher fighter. Though he didn't have the power to truly sting Vargas, Novikov seemed to be reaching the target easier.
"This round could very well determine the fight and both fighters realize that." - @AndreWard— HBOboxing (@HBOboxing) August 3, 2014
Heading into the final round, it looked as if the bout was there for either man's taking. Vargas was able to dig deep to outbox his opponent in the last three minutes of the final round.
I had the bout scored 116-114 for Vargas.
What's Next For Novikov
Unfortunately, a pretty strong performance won't be rewarded. Novikov had a solid game plan. He applied pressure and went to Vargas' body consistently, but he didn't have the power to score in a way that made it difficult for the judges to give the bout to Vargas.
Now he can only hope someone else gives him a chance to fight another reputable opponent in the United States.
What's Next For Vargas
There were several apparent cracks in Vargas' game on Saturday. His stamina didn't look great, and he still lacks the power to hurt 140-pounders.
While he looked good early, he faded through the middle and second half of the fight. He's fortunate to have escaped this bout with his title.
He doesn't appear to be a match for elite fighters in the weight region.
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