Vargas vs. Kameda: Previewing a Super Bantamweight Showcase
By Robert Aaron Contreras
Oscar de la Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions are fans of staging fight nights in California. They return to the “Golden State” in Carson, Calif., to air world championship fight on DAZN.
In the main event, undefeated beltholder Rey Vargas attempts to not only secure another title defense but also a strong claim as the best fighter in weight class. Diego de la Hoya, close family member to the promotional president, looks to regain his footing in the same division after career-long weight issues.
The entire stream kicks off at 7 p.m. ET while the premium action will begin around 9 p.m. ET.
Rey Vargas (33-0, 22 KO) vs. Tomoki Kameda (36-2, 20 KO), WBC Super Bantamweight Title
The WBC is under fire for its continued proliferation of “championships,” handing over a newly minted franchise belt to Canelo Alvarez. But on Saturday, the sanctioning body is at least unifying their super bantamweight crown between champion Vargas and the interim stakeholder Kameda, from Japan.
The weekend marks the fifth title defense for Vargas, who again prepares for the action under the helm of the legendary boxing guru Nacho Beristain. The Mexican trainer is known tuning up his men into offensive machines. And Vargas looked every bit up to that reputation in his title winning performance over Gavin McDonnell.
In 2017, Vargas pierced McDonnell up and down with rangy, lethal hooks. Listed at times as tall as 5’9”, he seemed to show hooks from one corner of the ring to the other. The Englishman would storm back in the latter half of the bout but the final round culminated in a violent two-way showing. Vargas settled for a majority-decision victory but he had clearly done enough for his new gold belt.
Despite a gaudy knockout total—22 in all—Vargas has not stopped a single opponent inside the distance since back in 2016. All four of his successful title defenses have come by unanimous decision. Repeatedly fighting the championship distance finally caught up to his in 2018. Against Azat Hovhannisyan, Vargas stumbled across the finish line. The defending champion was huffing for air early on, unable to land anything signifiant until the third round, and even gave up the last couple of rounds to his challenger. In the end, he was lucky to be read such wide scorecards. This included a ludicrous 118-110 in his favor from judge Kevin Morgan.
In Vargas’ most recent outing, he cruised to a comfortable win over Franklin Manzanilla. But he was not any more impressive: extended 12 rounds by an unheralded foe and hit the deck hard from a whizzing left hook across the chin.
It was picture-perfect shot that dropped Vargas. And Kameda is fully capable of duplicating such a feat. The Japanese did so in 2014 in the form of a murderous liver punch that crumbled Pungluang Sor Singyu, a former world champion.
Otherwise, Kameda may not have knocked out many other standout opponents, he has certainly competed among the very best.
The youngest brother among the Kameda clan (which is made up of two brothers, who also lifted world championships—he decisioned Paulus Ambunda for his first title in 2013. That was at bantamweight-proper (118 pounds) where he narrowly missed out on making a massive name for himself after two razor-thin losses in 2015 to Jamie McDonnell. That short rivalry gives the Japanese bodysnatcher experience against a towering opponent as he faces a lifetime super bantamweight in Vargas.
Six years later since swallowing the only two defeats of his career, Kameda is still somehow only 28. And now a two-divisional champ after claiming the WBC interim belt last November with a points win over Abigail Medina, a rabid puncher and European champion. Kameda quenched the flames that was his dangerous opponent with a sharp jab and calculated punch output, winning across the board at the storied Korakuen Hall in his native Japan.
Diego de la Hoya (21-0, 10 KO) vs. Ronny Rios (30-3, 14 KO), NABF Super Bantamweight Title
De la Hoya is returning to 122 pounds (at least he plans on it) after a stint in the hospital for dehydration the last time he cut to the limit. After a promising start to his career, these weight issues have forced the blue-chip prospect into inactivity, competing just twice over the last three years.
In April, he even tried his hand at the featherweight division where he took on the veteran Enrique Bernache. De la Hoya’s fans looked crisp as ever, and his lead left hook was there to meet Bernache any time he charged forward. But two headbutts, the second of which opened up Bernache’s forehead, ended the bout in just the second stanza. Both men were handed no-contests.
De la hoya, the 24-year-old first-cousin to Oscar, the Golden Boy himself, is back in prime position this weekend against Rios. All told, de la Hoya has backed up his privileged position with his fists. Save for that trouble boiling himself down to a division he has been cutting to since he was a teenager, De la Hoya has complimented his name with real skill.
Without a doubt the best win of his career so far was a decision over Randy Caballero, who was technically a former world champion and once another darling child of Golden Boy Promotions. De la Hoya undressed Caballero, picking him apart round after round.
With just one more win to show in the ensuing two years, the young De la Hoya has work to do this weekend. Good thing for him he is still closer to 20 than 30.
Rios, 29, fought for a world title in 2017 against none other than the show’s headliner, Rey Vargas. The Mexican champion was too big for Rios and pelted him around. But Rios was never broken, giving it back here and there, surviving all 12 rounds.
The defeat made it clear where Rios stands: just a small notch below world level. He holds wins over solid fighters like Jayson Velez and current beltholder Andrew Cancio. But the Compton-born mauler was dropped and stopped in 2014 against Robinson Castellanos and eventually rattled and undone by the aforementioned Hovhannisya, losing to the Armenian puncher by sixth-round knockout.
To bring his record to 2-2 over the last 24 months, Rios returned to form on the undercard of the Rungvisai-Estrada rematch, where he forced journeyman Daniel Olea’s corner to throw in the towel by the fifth period.
On Saturday, he serves as the promotional pushover, a stepping stone for De la Hoya. But Rios has yet to ever roll over on command.