By Marc Livitz:Former WBC super featherweight champion and fan favorite Francisco “El Bandido” Vargas made easy work of Rod Salka on Thursday evening at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California. The ‘Golden Boy on ESPN’ main event gave Vargas the result he needed in the hopes of earning a rematch with the current champion who took his belt in early 2017, Miguel Berchelt.
The two fighters traded jabs in the beginning of the first round. Salka kept his guard high as “El Bandido” Vargas (25-1-2, 18 KO’s) fired high, after which he’d answer with quick attempts at combinations to the body and head. He snapped the jab in the second, yet it didn’t stop Vargas from continuing to charge forward. They exchanged shots in close quarters throughout much of the second as Rod was able to hold his ground against his opponent who took part in successive “Fights of the Year” in 2015 and 2016, respectively. He moved well in spurts in round three, though it appeared only a matter of time until Francisco would finally be able to do his work. Signs of mounting pressure began to surface as the fourth was underway. He looked to time the jabs of Salka (24-5, 14 KO’s) in order to connect with body punches in turn. Rod’s efforts were solid only in terms of volume because they held little to no power, at least not nearly enough to slow Vargas one bit.
Francisco’s overhand right was beginning to find a home in the fifth. In the dying seconds, a right hook to the body set up a right uppercut which dropped Salka, who took a full nine second count from referee Jerry Cantu before he stood back up. Vargas remained aggressive and the 2008 Olympian continued to push his Pennsylvania opponent backward. Throughout round six, Salka’s punches held no mustard as “El Bandido” began to land more and more head shots. There would be no round seven, as Salka’s corner was unhappy with what they’d been seeing and decided that stopping the contest was better than their fighter leaving the ring seriously injured.
“I felt like I put on a good show,” said the victorious Vargas after the bout. “I’m ready for a rematch with Miguel Berchelt.”
Co-Main Report - Cancio KO’s Sharibayev
Andrew Cancio showed poise and patience as he withstood the initial barrage of punches from previously unbeaten Aidar Sharibayev en route to a tenth round stoppage win for the vacant WBA Intercontinental Super Featherweight title.
Sharibayev (7-1, 6 KO’s) was by far the aggressor early on in the bout. The Kazakhstani fighter utilized his jab in order to quickly try to get inside and land harder shots. He was last in the ring five months ago, while Blythe, California native Cancio’s last night inside the ropes was in September 2016, when he was stopped in the ninth round by current featherweight contender Joseph “JoJo” Diaz. Aidar kept the pressure on in the second and on into the third. He looked the sharper of the two boxers, yet Andrew connected with a nice combination, highlighted by an uppercut which caused Sharibayev to momentarily pause and slightly wobble backwards. In the final seconds of the round, Cancio (18-4-2, 14 KO’s) landed a precise left hook which brought the night’s first knockdown. Aidar beat the count and had the benefit of the bell to assist him before he returned to his corner.
Chances continued to be taken as he stood directly in front of his southern California opponent and dropped his hands. Andrew broke through once again, this time with a solid, straight right just before the fourth came to a close, though there’d be no knockdown this time. He emerged for the fifth round an emboldened fighter. It was as though he knew exactly what Sharibayev held in terms of power and felt he could take it. As Aidar backpedaled away from him in the last 30 seconds of the period, the bout’s second knockdown came to be. A snapping right was enough to put him on the mat. As before, he rose to his feet. Referee Raul Caiz implored the Kazakh fighter to show signs of life or risk having the bout stopped.
Cancio came out firing in the sixth with several unanswered shots until Sharibayev finally punched back just in time for the contest to continue. Andrew proceeded to do what had been working for him and the fact that Aidar was breathing heavy had to be a welcome sight for him. Multiple shots popped Sharibayev’s head backward in the last minute of the seventh. “Chango” Cancio allowed Aidar to come straight forward and get hit, which would put him on his back foot. Andrew snapped the jab as the eighth came to a close. Aidar showed heart, yet he simply refused to abandon the strategy of standing in front of his opponent. He took a hard body shot as the ninth wound down.
The final three minutes began and Cancio connected with a hard right hook to the head of Sharibayev. Moments later, Aidar’s corner threw in the towel, officially at the 43 second mark