By Robert Aaron Contreras
On Saturday, super bantamweight champion Rey Vargas (34-0, 22 KO) fought off his toughest and most experienced title challenger to date, former beltholder Tomoki Kameda (36-3, 20 KO).
Three identical scores of 117-110 were met with boos from the crowd in Carson, California but Vargas overcame an early assault from his foe, adjusting in the middle stages to take advantage of his incredible size, and keep Kameda at bay to earn a justifiable unanimous decision.
“Kameda has a lot of experience but I fought an intelligent fight,” Vargas said in the ring. “The idea was to throw a lot of punches. I knew he was going to push forward but we made it a smart fight.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Tom Hogan – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy
The first two rounds appeared to belong to Kameda, 28, of Osaka, Japan. He continually befuddled the much taller Vargas, 28, with snapping overhand rights and calculated pressure—never darting in from the same angle twice, never giving the defending champion a standstill target to tee off on.
Flickering body punches set up lethal overhand rights from Kameda. And Vargas, punching in reverse, was unable to establish any early offense.
Vargas moved forward with purpose in the third period. But Kameda wrapped up his man to avoid being caught in a corner. The sizable champion relied on his range, navigating the outside of the ring, tossing out a long jab and smashing hooks into Kameda’s gloves. The Japanese banger remained effective with vicious, arcing blows focused upstairs.
The action grew chippy in fourth frame. Though over the next three rounds Vargas would outwork his challenger. Kameda was a bully up close but tried jabbing with the Mexican beltholder, which Vargas was going to win every single time.
Now picking Kameda apart, Vargas stepped in with elongated jabs, pausing to interchange right and left uppercuts. He had stole the momentum back and a telling moment in Round 7 demonstrated the fight’s unfolding narrative as Vargas pumped out two consecutive jabs, followed by a straight right hand (one-one-two) that skid off the left side of Kameda’s wincing face.
More prodding left hands from Vargas caught Kameda off guard, who would eat the shots while cocking back right hands.
In Round 8, there continued the undulating pattern between both men’s contrasting gameplans. Kameda, commending the center of the ring, walked the champion down, but in too much of an uncreative, straightforward manner that Vargas routinely deterred with long hooks. The Japanese brawler didn’t let off, dipping and gluing himself at times to Vargas’ chest, delivering very short punches to the midsection.
Slinging uppercuts from Vargas were more eye-catching and surely gained more attention from the ringside judges. Kameda found no success on the inside in the ninth and tenth stanzas. Even when he made it inside he opted to clamp up Vargas.
Urgency was at its peak by the penultimate round. With the end in sight, Kameda came barreling in. And Vargas’ offense disappeared, avoiding any exchanges. Kameda clinched up with his opponent and wasn’t shy about punching out of the break.
Early in Round 12, Kameda drove Vargas to the ropes, and as referee Jerry Cantu was between the two, he stuffed two punches into Vargas. The champion played up the punches, but on principle, Cantu deducted a point from Kameda.
The few minutes remaining were made up of Kameda chasing down a roaming Vargas, chippy shots reining down from all over, desperation punches—the creative pressure that stole the first segment of the fight, gone; as was all hope.
Kameda conceded the night to Vargas. “I recognize Vargas,” he said, refuting the jeering audience members. “I respect him as a champion—he won.”
The hefty output from Vargas amounted to nearly 800 punches, landing 173 of 793 total shots (22 percent) while Kameda landed 133 of 394 total punches (34 percent). The Mexican slugger threw over 400 jabs. Kameda, less than 100.
Now the five-time defending champion, Vargas seems to have turned his attention to unified titlist Danny Roman, who was in attendance.
“Danny, you are here,” Vargas said. “We need to unify titles. Why not? I want three titles. We’re ready. The people want the fight. When Mexicans fight another Mexican, it’s a war.”
Ronny Rios shocks Diego de la Hoya by sixth-round knockout
After continually falling short at the world level, Ronny Rios (31-3, 15 KO) pulled off the biggest win of his career, upending rising star Diego de la Hoya (21-1, 10 KO). It was blood and guts, two-way action through five rounds but early in the sixth period, a two-punch combination from Rios sent de la Hoya to a knee, and despite rising to his feet, the hotshot prospect let the referee know he had had enough.
It was nothing short of a feeling-out round in the opening three minutes. By the second round, Rios loosened up, briefly buckling DLH’s knees with a winging right hand. De la Hoya stuffed a couple of his own right hands into the chin of Rios and the action picked up in both directions.
Both men traded in the center of the ring—another classic SoCal melee seemed imminent. Each relying on their own brand of box-fighting: Rios firing short, chopping blows; de la Hoya’s right and left hands flaring here and there from a longer range.
Rios, 29, was eager to stay on top of his man to open the third stand. He immediately let his weight carry him onto a overhand right. Some left digs to the body complimented the assault. So the 24-year-old de la Hoya, now battling a bloody nose in addition to his rabid veteran opponent, began putting his hands together: various right and left hands always preceding a sharp right uppercut.
The younger combatant continued to have success, stepping into a long jab, and doubling up on lead right crosses. His combinations flowed effortlessly, but Rios went to work—not as pretty
But punches still careening in from every angle: right hooks followed by a sweeping left.
The violence seemed to simmer down in the fifth period. Early on here, de la Hoya refused to engage except on his own terms. Rios shot in and DLH easily sprang backwards, away from danger. Then he would blind his man upstairs with an elongated jab; once Rios lowered his hand and raised his gloves to catch it, a right uppercut from de la Hoya found its target through the older man’s gloves.
Rios wouldn’t be denied for long. Some left hooks bounced off of de la Hoya’s head. And the prospect was forced to bite down on his mouthpiece as he returned fire.
Both men walked out for the fateful sixth round composed. After a quick exchange, Rios coiled up his body to throw a left body hook, and then a slashing right uppercut that crashed into de la Hoya’s head. The upstart went down and after speaking with referee Rudy Barragan, his undefeated ledger was gone.
Rios has now won back-to-back bouts. Since 2014, his only two losses were a title fight and title eliminator. Five of his previous six wins are by knockout.
According to DAZN’s punch stats, Rios connected on 131 of 316 total punches (42 percent) and de la Hoya landed 112 of 336 total punches (33 percent). Rios also delivered 52 parent of his power punches, compared to DLH’s 45 percent.