WBC super featherweight champion Francisco Vargas (23-0-2, 17 KOs) retained his belt with a majority draw against former two-weight world champion Orlando Salido (43-13-4, 30 KOs) at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
The judges scores were 14-114, 114-114 and 115-113 for Vargas.
The bout will be a fight of the year candidate as the two Mexicans exchanged punches from the start. Salido rocked Vargas with a hard right hand in the third round but the champion fired back with a combination, and they traded until the end of the session, which brought the crowd to its feet.
Both landed more brutal power shots in the following rounds and Vargas staggered Salido with a right hand in the 6th. But Salido fought back and hurt Vargas, who was cut over both eyes, with a series of right hands in the 8th.
The two-way action continued, only halted briefly at the start of the 12th when referee Raul Caiz Sr called timeout to have the ringside doctor examine Vargas’ eye. Both slugged it out until the final bell, exchanging more than 2,000 punches in the fight.
In April, Vargas failed a random drug test for the banned substance clenbuterol, but the California State Athletic Commission accepted his reason of having ingested contaminated meat in Mexico. He was then tested several more times before the fight and passed each time.
Vargas was making the first defence of the title he won when he defeated Japan’s Takashi Miura by 9th round TKO in November.
“I think it was a great fight and a fight that the fans liked. I feel really good about this decision,” said Vargas.
“I knew coming in that I was going to be facing a very tough opponent. We never give up. I’m very happy. This is what they wanted. I’m happy I was able to face this skilled warrior. I’m looking for more challenges.”
Salido acknowledged the hard-fought encounter was close but thought he deserved the decision.
“It was a close margin but I felt I won. It was a tough fight. We fought like Mexicans do in the ring, but I thought I won.”