Rey Vargas made his move to featherweight official and successful, winning a clear 10-round decision over Leonardo Baez on the Canelo-Plant undercard.
Vargas, the former WBC 122 lb titleholder, took scores of 99-91, 100-90, and 100-90 over the determined but over-matched Baez. Bad Left Hook had the fight 100-90 and 100-90 on our two unofficial cards.
The 30-year-old Vargas (35-0, 22 KO) hadn’t fought since the summer of 2019, going through some promotional issues and also suffering a broken leg at one point. There had been talk of him moving up to 126 to fight featherweight titlist Gary Russell Jr, but instead he got this fight, which proved a useful return for him.
Vargas was pretty active early in this fight, but toward the later rounds did settle into a more familiar groove, not taking any risks and boxing his way through to the win, cruising a bit down the stretch. But after a long layoff, it’s hard to blame him for wanting to get 10 rounds in, either; of course, he might have gone 10 just because he usually goes the distance anymore.
Baez (21-5, 12 KO) gave his best effort, but just didn’t have anything to sincerely bother the longer, taller, more skillful Vargas, and that makes for three losses in a row in fights of any consequence for the 26-year-old Baez, who also lost to Jason Moloney and Carlos Caraballo in back-to-back fights in 2020-21. (He did win three fights between Caraballo and Vargas, but they were all very low-level affairs in Mexico.)
Vargas will surely have his sights set once again on Russell, who generally fights once a year but appears set to skip 2021 entirely, and hasn’t fought since Feb. 2020. Russell is expected to first face Mark Magsayo, who was ordered as his mandatory challenger in September, but if successful in an early 2022 fight, Russell could certainly fight Vargas by early 2023 or so.