BOXING

Broner and Vargas Draw, Charlo Bombs Out Centeno

Close Fight Between Adrien Broner and Jessie Vargas Ends in Draw

The fight between Adrien Broner and Jessie Vargas wasn’t for a world title. It wasn’t an elimination bout, with the winner moving on to get a mandatory title shot. It wasn’t a fight that fans had been clamoring for. It wasn’t even a fight that was originally supposed to happen. Vargas stepped in when Omar Figueroa suffered an injury in training camp.

But that doesn’t mean the fight didn’t matter. There was plenty on the line.

Broner has talent but he too often fails to have the results to match it, falling short time and again, and often showing maddeningly little of what he’s otherwise believed to be capable of, a strange but accurate description for a fighter who has won world titles in four weight classes. Vargas has lost twice — admittedly against two of the best in Timothy Bradley and Manny Pacquiao — but he still needed to prove that he belonged.

The result was inconclusive, a split draw in which two judges had it 114-114, or six rounds apiece, overruling the one judge who had it 115-113 for Broner, seven rounds to five.

The good news for each fighter is that they didn’t lose and can continue on, whether that’s in a rematch or against another opponent. The bad news is each still showed plenty of reason to question how much good their futures will hold.

The fight started slow, Broner doing a good parrying the jab early but doing little on offense, and Vargas therefore taking the first round based on activity. Broner was there to counter, not so much to lead, and the action seemed reminiscent of recent fights in which Broner didn’t let his hands go often enough, not giving himself enough of a chance to win. Broner would shake his head when blocking or absorbing Vargas’ shots. Shaking your head doesn’t win you points on the scorecards.

But Broner began to warm up, exchanging body shots with Vargas halfway through the third, then trading with him some more toward the end of the round. He still wasn’t throwing more than Vargas, but he was landing the more eye-catching punches, which gave the judges a choice between activity and accuracy.

For a brief moment in the fifth, it seemed as if Vargas had landed a fight-changing punch, sending out a one-two and Broner soon dropping to the canvas. The sequence was rightly ruled a slip. Vargas’ punches had actually missed their mark. Broner had thrown a left hook but lost his balance in the process.

Vargas was beginning to tire. He was still throwing, yet there wasn’t much snap on his shots. His face was swelling up. The fight was Broner’s to take, and his new trainer, Kevin Cunningham, exhorted him to do more. “The problem is you not letting your hands go,” Cunningham said after Round 7.

Broner responded, even hurting Vargas toward the end of the ninth, landing a left hook counter over Vargas’ right, following up with several right hands, then unleashing a combo just before the bell, with one uppercut popping Vargas’ head back.

Vargas started Round 10 trying to hold, perhaps still needing more time to recover. Broner wisely dug to the body to further tire Vargas out. The round ended with Broner landing and then Vargas raising his gloves while walking back to his corner, an attempt at defiance that otherwise betrayed the reality of the situation.

Yet Broner seemed to take his foot off the gas in Round 11. And he’d also perhaps started too late to create much of a lead on the scorecards. The draw wasn’t controversial. It seemed about right. Broner is now 33-3-1 with 24 knockouts. His losses came to Marcos Maidana, Shawn Porter and Mikey Garcia. Vargas is now 28-2-1 with 10 KOs.

Both men spoke afterward about being open to meeting again. It’s a possibility, though it’s not the most desirable move for either.

Vargas, once a 140-pound fighter, has been a welterweight in recent years. He had to make 144 for this fight. It makes more sense for him to remain at 147 and the big names available in that division.

Broner had to strip his clothes off in order to make 144 and has fought at 147 in the past, though the past few years have largely seen him competing at junior welterweight.
Neither man can be too picky at this point in his career, though. They’ll take whatever the best available fight may be, whether that takes them in another direction or brings them back into the same ring once more.

Jermall Charlo Sends Message With Quick KO of Hugo Centeno

When it comes to the middleweight division, everyone tends to talk about lineal champion Canelo Alvarez, unified world titleholder Gennady Golovkin, the rivalry that led to their disputed draw last year, and the rematch that was supposed to happen this May — until Canelo tested positive for a banned substance occasionally found in beef in Mexico.

They are the two big names at 160. But Jermall Charlo made sure to send a reminder to boxing fans on Saturday that there are more than two names to talk about. He gave them a good conversation starter, once again exhibiting his considerable punching power, blowing out Hugo Centeno in just four minutes.

Though the fight had an explosive end, the first round actually started slow, with Charlo stalking while Centeno feinted and moved, preventing any possibility of taking damage but failing to produce any either.

Charlo changed that quickly, effectively — and conclusively — in the second round.

He drove Centeno to the ropes, sent out a jab and missed a left hook, inspiring Centeno to try to fight his way back toward the center of the ring. Charlo quickly landed a right to the body that put Centeno back on retreat. Charlo pursued, sending out two jabs that had their desired effect — encouraging Centeno to throw a counter right hand.

Charlo was ready. His right hand landed first, and hard. He soon landed another as Centeno tried to return fire. Then came four more shots: a left hook, then a right hook, another left hook to the temple that sent Centeno toward the canvas, and one more right hand. Centeno fell on his back, his head beneath the ropes, the referee kneeling over him and counting.

It was over.

Charlo moved to 27-0 with 21 KOs. This was his second fight at 160 following a campaign at 154, where he took out the ancient Cornelius Bundrage for a world title, stopped prospect Wilky Campfort in his first defense, won a battle with former titleholder Austin Trout, and then ended his time at junior middleweight with an exclamation point, demolishing highly touted contender Julian Williams.

Now he’s looking for a defining fight at middleweight. Charlo called out Golovkin after the victory. That’s doubtful for the near future, however. Golovkin is facing late replacement Vanes Martirosyan in May and may still very well move toward the big-money rematch with Canelo afterward — Canelo’s suspension from the Nevada commission ends before the rematch’s presumed September date.

There are other good fights available, however, against the likes of titleholder Billy Joe Saunders or top contenders such as Daniel Jacobs, Demetrius Andrade, Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Ryota Murata. Wins against any of them would help push Charlo to the front of the line for the next shot at Canelo or Golovkin.

Centeno is now 26-2 with 14 KOs. He’d suffered a stoppage loss to Sulecki two years ago but had rattled off two straight victories since, including an impressive third-round knockout of prospect Immanuwel Aleem last August. This fight was a reality check for where he truly stands at middleweight.

Carl Frampton Defeats Nonito Donaire, Heads Toward Title Shot

2017 wasn’t a good year for Carl Frampton. He lost his world title, had a fight canceled at the last moment when his opponent suffered a freak injury in a bizarre accident, and then came in overweight for his only win of the year.

This year is looking to be a much better one.

Frampton’s first bout of 2018 came this past Saturday, with him headlining in front of an adoring hometown crowd that cheered him on to victory against former four-division titleholder Nonito Donaire.

The win set up a featherweight title shot, a chance to return to the top of the 126-pound division. And Frampton has more than one option.

He’s now the mandatory challenger for the belt held by Oscar Valdez. But there’s also talk that Frampton, who hails from Northern Ireland, could go on to face the winner of an all-British showdown between titleholder Lee Selby of Wales and unbeaten contender Josh Warrington of England.

Valdez is recovering from an injury. Selby vs. Warrington is scheduled for May. It’s likely that Frampton will instead take on another opponent in Windsor Park stadium in Belfast, something that has been a dream of his.

Donaire stood between Frampton, that dream, and the eventual title fight.

Donaire also was motivated. He is 35 years old, past his best days and about a year and a half removed from the last time he held a world title. This fight represented an opportunity to put forth one more big performance and earn one more big shot.

Donaire dug to Frampton’s body with hard hooks in the first round, trying to establish himself as the boss. Frampton showed him otherwise in the second, forcing Donaire into the corner and into exchanges, landing better in the process and bringing swelling underneath and around Donaire’s left eye.

Frampton proved evasive, controlling distance well from mid-range, comfortably slipping Donaire’s shots, getting in to land his own, then getting back out. He also knew how to get close without putting himself in too much danger, smothering Donaire while working on the inside.

Donaire began the fifth with an adjustment, moving away to try to better set up counters. He was able to land a right uppercut as Frampton bulled forward and soon returned to that shot with both hands on the inside. And it was Donaire’s uppercuts in-close that momentarily wobbled Frampton in the seventh.

In general, though, it was Frampton who dictated the action, demonstrating better timing, boxing well when he needed to, getting inside when he wanted to, and landing more often in the process. Donaire just wasn’t able to switch to another strategy, though he still had occasional moments.

One such moment came late in Round 11, when Donaire landed a left as Frampton was pulling away, then got in with another left hook as Frampton sent out a right.

“I was definitely hurt in the 11th round,” Frampton admitted afterward. “But champions survive, and that’s what I did.”

Donaire likely knew that he was behind on the scorecards and came out for the 12th and final round looking to land big shots and succeeding in scoring with some. Frampton was able to absorb them and finished the fight strong, unleashing a barrage while Donaire was on the ropes.

The final scores were unanimously in Frampton’s favor, all three judges seeing it 117-111, or nine rounds to three.

Frampton is now 25-1 with 14 KO, the lone blemish coming in his rematch loss to Leo Santa Cruz last year. Donaire is now 38-5 with 24 KOs. He still has enough to hang in there at times with good opponents, but this latest defeat may be a sign that he should get out before things get worse.

David Greisman
About the Author:

David Greisman. David Greisman is an award-winning boxing writer based out of Washington, D.C., who has covered the sport since 2004. He is the senior staff writer and "Fighting Words" columnist for BoxingScene.com and a reporter for The Ring magazine. Greisman is the author of the book "Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing." Follow on Twitter @fightingwords2

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