Boxing at its very best is nothing short of awe inspiring and the courage and resolve displayed by both Takashi Miura and Francisco Vargas on Saturday night is testament to that truth. Both men exhibited the kind of courage and determination which in decades past earned boxing the title of ‘The Sport of Kings.’
The thrilling war was a violent back-and-forth affair, filled with drama and is now the leading candidate for 2015’s Fight of the Year. And while both combatants gave astonishing performances, it was the fortitude of Mexico’s Francisco Vargas that won through as he outlasted his illustrious rival, though only after he himself had been dangerously close to being stopped.
Vargas entered the ring dressed in a poncho and sombrero and if not for a pair of pistols he otherwise would have perfected the look of his moniker, ‘El Bandido.’ And indeed, The Bandit was here to take by force what didn’t yet belong to him. Miura, a Teiken promoted boxer was flanked by some current greats of the sport, champions who happen to be fellow Teiken fighters, Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez, Shinsuke Yamanaka and Jorge Linares. His confident glare when the referee gave instructions would have been enough to put doubts into the mind of any man. But not, as it turned out, Vargas.
The battle began with the challenger coming out guns blazing. He threw leather with a determined and hefty frequency that many hungry fighters display when they get their chance at the title. Halfway through the opening round Vargas landed a heavy straight right which buckled the legs of Miura but the champion refused to go down. Vargas, sensing he might finish the Japanese fighter early, went on the attack but Miura survived the onslaught.
Vargas, as all good orthodox fighters do against southpaws, continued to throw and land the straight right in the second round but the champion began to find his rhythm and range and land some of his own straight lefts. The third round saw Miura gain even more confidence and one could sense the momentum of the fight shifting. A cut on the right eye of Vargas was beginning to swell and Miura directed his punches to the damaged optic.
By the end of the fourth Miura was clearly in control. Vargas still landed some great shots but they seemed to have little effect. Conversely, Miura was doing damage with heavy left hands and the occasional crisp uppercut. With 25 seconds left in the round he landed a thunderous left hand which dropped Vargas to the canvas. The Mexican beat the count and made it to the bell but it appeared the match was slipping away for the challenger.
The savage pace and intensity continued through rounds five to eight, both men giving it their all but it was Miura who held the lead. Vargas, his eye a bloody, bruised and swollen mess, looked to be in trouble, a perception only further confirmed when the champion landed another jolting left hand at the end of the eighth which rocked his opponent yet again.
It’s when the unexpected occurs that great fights become legendary, and like so many classic battles of the past, just when it appeared the outcome was decided, Miura vs Vargas now took a truly shocking turn. With the bout on the verge of being stopped, the wounded challenger stormed out for the ninth round like a wounded bull. He went straight at Miura and threw a barrage of big punches and it was another straight right that landed flush and hurt the Japanese warrior. Vargas followed it up with a big right uppercut and a left hook and the champion crashed to the canvas.
Miura, attempting to regain his feet too quickly, stumbled and fell but then managed to climb off the canvas and beat the count. He then threw his hands in the air, a gesture meant to prove he was able to fight on. Despite this, in this writer’s opinion it would not have been out of order for the referee to have stopped the battle at that moment, but instead he gave the gallant warrior a chance to fight on. Miura’s legs were gone and he desperately clinched as ‘El Bandido’ attacked, but Vargas smelled blood and continued to land big shots before the referee wisely stepped in to save the brave champion from further punishment.
Vargas had triumphed and with his victory conjured up ghosts of his fellow ‘Tierra Azteca’ warriors from years gone by. He had taken a beating in the fight, something apparent with his grotesquely damaged eye, but like so many Mexican warriors before him, he never gave up. Put this performance next to the bravest of Chavez, Sanchez, Olivares and Zarate.
Meanwhile, Miura is no less deserving of accolades. His refusal to take a knee in the opening round when many would have, demonstrates his own warrior mentality. When he did finally hit the canvas in the ninth, the way in which he got back to his feet and threw his hands in the air to signal he wanted to fight on was distinctly Japanese, a hark back to the days of the Samurai warrior.
This was more than just a fight. Miura vs Vargas encapsulated the essence of boxing, showcasing the kind of courage few men possess and was a shot in the arm for a sport which now often fails to live up to the lofty standards set by its glorious past.
— Daniel Attias