LAS VEGAS — Junior welterweight Jessie Vargas used his jab, outhustled his rival during critical moments and escaped with a disputed 10-round split-decision over rugged Josesito Lopez at the MGM Grand Arena on Saturday night.
Judges Patricia Morse Jarman and Duane Ford scored it 96-93, and, 95-94, respectively, for Vargas, while Dick Houck had it for Lopez, 95-94. RingTV.com had it for Lopez, 95-94.
The 22-year-old Vargas rose to 17-0, with 10 KOs, while the 27-year-old Lopez slipped to 29-4, with 17 KOs).
“I think that it was a good 10-round decision. I was surprised that he was able to take my power. He’s a good fighter, and I give him nothing but respect,” said Vargas, who had a pointed deducted in the eighth round for a low blow.
“I think that I fell into his game plan a little bit, but my corner straightened that out by the end of the fight.”
Vargas-Lopezl took place as the second bout on Saturday night’s undercard of the HBO Pay Per View televised main event featuring Floyd Mayweather Jr.-(41-0, 25 KOs) against Victor Ortiz (29-2-2, 22 KOs).
Also, Junior welterweight Anthony Crolla of England scored an eight-round split-decision over a rugged Juan Manuel Montiel.
The 24-year-old Crolla (22-2, 9 KOs) won for the ninth straight time with four knockouts during that run. Crolla had scored three consecutive stoppages entering the fight with Montiel (5-5-3, 2 KOs).
Judges Tim Cheatham and Duane Ford had it 77-75, and, 78-74, respectively for Crolla, while Patricia Morse Jarman had it 77-75 for Montiel, who bled from a cut over his right eye from a fifth-round punch.
The first and second rounds of Vargas-Lopez were fought at a furious pace, with Lopez digging to the body and rising to the head, and Vargas trying to keep him at bay with a stiff jab.
Vargas had the edge over the first couple of rounds, however, gaining some distance over the final stages and landing effective counters down the stretch.
Lopez enjoyed more success in the third, where he dug to the body and rose to the head, at one point, firing a succession of uppercuts on Vargas in his own corner, and, later, near a neutral corner.
Lopez shook and hurt Vargas and appeared to nearly having him ready to go as the bell sounded.
The fourth round was more of the same early on from Lopez, who drilled Vargas along the ropes early on. But Lopez appeared to ease up a bit, allowing Vargas to steal the round by jabbing, moving and creating distance over the next minute or so, occasionally landing a nice left-hand counter.
Vargas was effective, yet again, in the fifth, landing well to the head and body and generally out-hustling Lopez, who pressured but did not throw as many punches as he had earlier in the fight.
Lopez was on Vargas again in the sixth, which he took by pounding to the body and the head, most notably with a head-swiveling right uppercut late in the round.
Lopez rocked Vargas, yet again, with a seventh-round left hook and continued to bring the fight to the younger man, roughing him up along the ropes.
Without prior warning, referee Tony Weeks penalized and deducted a point from Vargas for a low blow, shortly after which Lopez cornered, pounded and wobbled his man for a possible 10-8 round.
Mysteriously, yet again, Lopez appeared to ease up in the ninth, where he appeared to be out-hustled by the boxing and moving Vargas.
Midway through the 10th, Vargas cam back with a hook off the jab that shook Lopez and gained him an advantage. To the delight of thecrowd, the two fighters battled toe-to-toe until the final bell, with Lopez getting the better of the action.
Crolla had been considered as a replacement when Lucas Matthysse (28-2, 26 KOs) cited a viral infection as his reason for pulling out of a clash with three-division titleholder Erik Morales (51-7, 35 KOs) for the WBC’s vacant “regular” championship belt.
Matthysse, instead, was replaced last week by Pablo Cesar Cano (22-0-1, 17 KOs) of Mexico City.
The night’s fourth bout featured 25-year-old welterweight Carson Jones (32-8-2, 22 KOs) of Oklahoma City dropping Said Ouali (28-4, 20 KOs) of Las Vegas in the fourth round of an eventual seventh-round stoppage.
With a severe cut over his right eye, Ouali was advised by a ringside doctor to retire on his stool between the seventh and eighth rounds of the scheduled 10-rounder with Jones,.
Jones earned his sixth straight knockout win over the course of as many consecutive victories since losing a 10-round split-decision to Rogerio Pereria in September of last year.
The victory was considered an upset against Ouali, a winner of three straight, all by knockouts, since losing a split-decision to Selcuk Aydin (22-0, 17 KOs) in April of 2009.
In the evening’s third bout, 33-year-old super middleweight Adonis Stevenson of Canada dropped Dion Savage of Flint, Mich., with a left-uppercut, and then cornered him and fired several unanswered blows on the way to a first-round knockout.
Stevenson (15-1, 12 KOs) trapped Savage (10-2, 6 KOs) and repeatedly landed to the head and body, forcing referee Tony Weeks to wave an end to the bout at 1 minute, 57 seconds of the round.
The victory was the second straight, with as many knockouts, for Stevenson since being stopped in the second round by Darnell Boone in April of last year.
In the opening bout, 26-year-old super middleweight Marco Antonio Periban (15-0, 10 KOs), of Mexico City, came up with an eight-round unanimous decision over Dhafir Smith (24-22,-7, 4 KOs), winning, 79-73, on the cards of Dick Houck and Robert Hoyle, and 80-72, on that of CJ Ross.
Smith lost for the third straight time since scoring an upset, 12-round unanimous decision over ex-titleholder Jeff Lacy in December of last year.
In a four-round lightweight battle of Las Vegas fighters who were making their professional debuts, Kyrone Butler pitched a shutout over Cassius Clay, winning, 40-36, on the cards of Cheatham, Ross and Hoyle.
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com