Liam Smith stopped Jessie Vargas in the 10th round of a hard-hitting fight on the Taylor vs Serrano show at Madison Square Garden, capping a very good night of undercard action with a rugged battle.
Smith (31-3-1, 18 KO) still proved he’s plenty relevant as a contender at 154 lbs, and it was perhaps his natural size advantage over Vargas (29-4-2, 11 KO) — who was making his debut in the division — that paid off more than anything else.
The 33-year-old Smith had said he would retire if he lost to Vargas, 32, the former welterweight titleholder who hadn’t fought since a competitive loss to Mikey Garcia 26 months ago.
But he won’t have to make that decision. Smith was his usual rock solid self in this one, seeing what an emotional Vargas had in the first couple of rounds, which we did score for Jessie, but landing good shots late in each round. Having scouted what he needed, the fight and Smith’s pace picked up in the third round, and by the fifth he looked to be in clear control, wilting Vargas’ resistance from there until referee Steve Willis stopped the fight at 0:41 of round 10.
Nonito Donaire, who was working as an assistant in Vargas’ corner, had told Vargas that he was going to stop the fight if things didn’t go better in round 10. At the time of the stoppage, Bad Left Hook had the fight scored 88-83 in favor of Smith.
Smith now has a minor WBO belt and will at the very least keep his high ranking with them, and he’s still in the hunt for a title fight. All four major belts will be decided in the May 14 rematch between Jermell Charlo and Brian Castano, and then everyone will kind of see what the landscape looks like from there.
Give respect to both of these guys, because this was a hell of a fight between two good, sound professional fighters, both of them once again proving not just their ability but their toughness and determination. Vargas got stopped, but he was fighting back as much as he could until the very end. Smith just executed the game plan well and took over this fight, and Vargas couldn’t knock him off course once he’d gotten the momentum.
Franchon Crews-Dezurn UD-10 Elin Cederroos
A rugged, hard-hitting fight, and one where Crews-Dezurn (8-1, 2 KO) went to a new level. There was some concern early that her very aggressive style was perhaps wasting too much energy, that Cederroos (8-1, 4 KO) might be able to take advantage as the fight wore on, but Crews-Dezurn never really faded, kept the stamina throughout, and won clearly.
Scores were 97-93, 99-91, and 99-91. Bad Left Hook scored it 97-93 for Crews-Dezurn. The win gives her all four major titles at 168 lbs, making her the undisputed champion of the world.
“I still have some improvements to make, my nerves got to me a little bit, but this is the start of something new,” she said. “I had a full training camp, my manager got behind me, my team got behind me, and we just worked and worked. It was amazing.”
“I felt her punches and they weren’t harder than mine, so if we were going to sit there and trade, we were going to sit there and trade,” Crews-Dezurn said of Cederroos, saying that the initial plan was to box more. “(Her nose) was target practice, I just wanted to keep hitting it instead of going to the body.”
Crews-Dezurn isn’t sure what will come next, and on that note, it’s hard to ignore that the division lacks a lot of depth. BoxRec have a grand total of 23 super middleweights ranked in the entire world, but they also still have former middleweight titlist Christina Hammer ranked at 160 even though her last two fights have been at 168. She could be an option, as could another middleweight coming up, someone like Ema Kozin, but there are still fairly limited options for the time being, because there are only a handful of notable middleweights, too.
Galal Yafai RTD-2 Miguel Cartagena
Yafai’s second pro fight puts him at 2-0 (2 KO), as he totally dominated this one, and he didn’t eat the shots coming back that he did in his first outing, not that they bothered him much.
Here, he just peppered Cartagena (17-7-1, 8 KO) with constant offense, nothing the Philly fighter could do with him in there, because the punches just never stopped coming. Not huge power on any one shot, really, but just bam-bam-bam-bam, relentless offense, and it was smartly executed, not wild. Referee Harvey Dock was warning Cartagena he was on a short leash in the second, and he did get through it, but it was stopped in the corner, and understandably.