Rey Vargas Outthinks, Outboxes Mark Magsayo

Despite being dropped and hurt in round 9, Rey Vargas (36-0, 22 ko) became the new WBC featherweight champion with a split decision win over Mark Magsayo. Two judges had it 115-112 for Vargas, and one had it 114-113 for Magsayo (not reality). 

Magsayo came out fast early in round one and surprised Vargas, timing him with multiple overhand rights that got his attention. But midway through the second, Vargas adjusted and started to find his rhythm, letting go of his long jab and awkward combinations.

For the majority of the fight, Magsayo (24-1, 16 ko) tried to get inside Vargas length and size and would occasionally land something nice, but could never really follow it up. Every time he would land, Vargas would either respond with a combination or make a defensive adjustment to end the exchange. Even after knocking down and hurting Vargas in round 9, Magsayo was unable to land anything meaningful for the rest of the round. As I had thought, his biggest issue was offensive consistency. 

It wasn’t the most eye catching or flashy, but Vargas fought a legitimate champion and beat him convincingly. On the heels of of a huge win over Gary Russell Jr., I could have seen a world where Magsayo came in with a new level of confidence and out-muscled the inactive Vargas. But the reality is, Rey Vargas is a hell of a fighter who has spent a few years out of the spotlight, and whether you find him entertaining or not, what he does in the ring is extremely effective. At 126, he’s 5’10’ and uses it. it is hard to imagine many fighters outside of Emanuel Navarrete being able to crack the Vargas bubble.

One of the more interesting fights for him could Brandon Figueroa (23-1-1, 18 ko), who had an impressive featherweight debut against Carlos Castro (27-2, 12 ko) on the undercard. The two went 50/50 until the 6th round, where after taking a barrage of shots from Castro, Figueroa turned Castro to the ropes and unloaded right back, prompting the referee the stop the fight. 

I didn’t love this stoppage. It seemed premature, and while I agree that Castro was buzzed, the fight was very physical and Castro didn’t seem defenseless at the moment of the stoppage. I would have liked to see this one play out more. All that being said, Figueroa’s pressure and physicality may be just the kind of style that could force Vargas out of his comfort zone. 

There are also fights with guys like Leo Santa Cruz, Robeisy Ramirez, Leigh Wood and Mauricio Lara, all good matchups for him. Gary Russel is still in the mix. The winner of Isaac Dogboe vs. Joet Gonzalez. But without the added weight cut of getting down to 122, I think Vargas looks like a bigger, stronger, more durable version of his 122 lb self. And that is a problem for ANYBODY at featherweight, and maybe even 130. 

Also on the undercard, lightweight Frank Martin (16-0, 12 ko) stopped Jackson Marinez (19-3, 7 ko) in the 10th and final round of a very competitive matchup. Martin has some defensive holes, but looks like a good young fighter with some nice offensive pieces and the right people around him. 

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Dakota McCormick

Dakota McCormick

Gym rat, trainer, and host of "The Slip and Weave Podcast"