Welterweight prospect Jessie Vargas made his Top Rank debut tonight in Las Vegas on ESPN2, and came away with a solid win against Aron Martinez in the special Thursday Night Fights main event.
Vargas won on scores of 99-91, 98-92, and a way too close 96-94 from CJ Ross. Bad Left Hook scored it 99-91 for Vargas.
Vargas (21-0, 9 KO) was criticized for a fairly lackluster performance in May against Steve Forbes, where he won handily but didn't impress against the aging veteran. Tonight he had a bit more energy than usual, it seemed, and was forced by Martinez (18-2-1, 4 KO) to up his tempo and fight at a higher pace, which made for a better fight for fans to watch, and a greater display of Vargas' talent.
Vargas, 23, came up the ranks with Mayweather Promotions, and was featured on some Floyd Mayweather PPV undercards, but signed with Top Rank and manager Cameron Dunkin earlier this year when his contract with Mayweather ran out.
Out of this performance, I still see him as well short of the blue chip sort of level, but not everyone is a blue chipper, either, and he just keeps winning -- in other words, he's doing his job, and he's had the right connections to do it on TV frequently. That can lead to "overhype," but it doesn't mean he's a bad fighter. And at 23, he's got plenty of time left in the sport. He's not ready for a major step up, but another step into the second tier of the welterweight division would probably be a worthwhile risk in his next two or three fights.
In the co-feature, super featherweight Luis Cruz was upset by unproven young Mexican Jose Felix Jr over 10 rounds. Felix (21-0-1, 17 KO) had fought exclusively novice opponents thus far in his three-year pro career, but he hurt Cruz (20-2, 16 KO) early in this fight, got his attention, and survived a fourth round knockdown to win on scores of 97-92, 96-94, and 96-94. Bad Left Hook scored it 96-93 for Felix, who has some raw talent that might be worth someone with some stroke taking a long look at him.
As for Cruz, I've never been impressed with the Puerto Rican fighter, and tonight was no different. Whatever the "it" factor is, he doesn't have it. He's competent and will be around as long as he wants to be, but he reminds me of Bernabe Concepcion, who flamed out before he ever really got going, and now fights just to be there.