The fight saw defending champion Jessie Vargas (25-0, 9) start off fast against Russian challenger Anton Novikov (29-1-0-1, 10) before being forced to slow his work rate courtesy of Novikov's body shots. The slowing of Vargas appeared to let Novikov back in to the fight and he appeared to win the next 3 to tie the bout off going into the second half of the contest. From then on however things became more and more competitive with neither man really establishing themselves as the boss for more than a few rounds at a time.
The back and forth, not just of rounds but actually in the rounds themselves was great to watch with both men appearing to trouble the other at times but neither really being all that hurt, in fact Novikov's legs straightening was as close as we get to a knock-down as the lack of power from both men showed it's self. Thankfully however the lack of power, which could have destroyed the bout in some ways, actually helped the bout with both men looking happy to take one if they were to land one, in fact both guys were happy to take 2 or 3 if they felt comfortable in landing the same in return.
By the later rounds Vargas was being admonished by his corner as they seemed to feel he was letting the title slip away. Round after round his corner were asking him what he was doing whilst he was being out landed, out hustled and generally given a very hard time by the Russian visitor. As well as struggling to keep the pace Vargas was also struggling to keep shots north of the border with several shots landing clearly below the belt. There was never any time in which 1 fighter appeared to look comfortable.
Sadly however Novikov he had battles outside of the ring that he was never going to win and when the score-cards were read out as 118-111, 118-111, 117-111 it was clear he was never going to win the fight with out scoring a knockout, in fact there every chance he was going to be jobbed even if that happened.
We have no problem with Vargas winning, but it was close and 115-113 either way would have been acceptable, in fact 116-112 either way was understandable. How any judges had it wider is a mystery though should make it clear that fighting Vargas in Nevada isn't worth the effort. This is the 4th or 5th time he has been given the nod in a close fight and it seems it will be impossible to dethrone him there.
We're glad that the fight was unexpectedly good, we're ashamed of the judging however.