THE crowd at the Dignity Health Sports Park lustily booed the decision given to defending WBC super-bantamweight champion Rey Vargas over Tomoki Kameda. However, Kameda of all people did not agree, saying: “Vargas definitely won the fight.”

Kameda’s sportsmanship, save for a brief lapse in the 12th, was as refreshing as the effort he put forth in the ring. The challenger carried the fight to Vargas and made his Japanese fans proud. He probably deserved closer scores than he got from judges Kevin Scott, Zachary Young, and Lou Moret, all of whom had it 117-110.

For Kameda, a former WBO bantamweight champion, it was all about getting to the top again. Vargas, making his fifth defence, said all the right things beforehand, but was looking past Kameda to a unification fight with IBF and WBA champion Daniel Roman.

Having beaten Kameda twice in the amateurs gave Vargas an added layer of confidence. Style-wise, the challenger was suited for him.

Long and lanky, Vargas jabbed, moved and generally made himself elusive. He forced Kameda into the role of the puncher. Kameda would score with jolting blows from time to time, but in the interim Vargas piled up the points. The champion’s technical skills were giving Kameda fits.

Kameda’s only option was to rough the champion up, but Vargas did not stay still long enough to allow that to happen.

A desperate Kameda continued to punch when told to break by referee Jerry Cantu early in the last. He had a point deducted, but by then it did not matter. Kameda went all out for a knockout, but Vargas remained elusive.

Now that he has suffered his first professional defeat, cynics will say that Diego De La Hoya had been babied all along and was living off of his cousin Oscar’s name. That criticism would be unfair on both counts. For one, De La Hoya (24) has been matched like most young prospects with potential, easy at first, but then progressively harder – as he was on this night against former title challenger Ronny Rios.

Golden Boy Promotions had been building Diego up, but he was doing his part by winning. The time had come for him to take it to the championship level, but he hit a severe speed bump in fellow Californian Rios, who halted him at 1-17 of the sixth round of a scheduled 12 for the vacant NABF super-bantamweight title.

Tom Hogan/Hogan Photos/Golden Boy

The manner in which De La Hoya lost will make it hard to come back. The first four rounds were all close with each buckling the other in the second, but Rios gradually started to do the better work and had De La Hoya under duress at the end of the fifth.

The pace was wearing on De La Hoya, who was dropped by a right uppercut in the sixth. He was up at Rudy Barragan’s count of seven, then informed the referee he did not wish to continue.

Shockingly, judge Alejandro Rochin had given De La Hoya every round to that point (50-45), but Max De Luca (49-46) and Hubert Minn (50-46) had Rios ahead.           

In a shocking upset Rocky Hernandez, the WBC’s third-rated super-featherweight, was iced at 2-39 of the opening round of a 10 by unheralded Roger Gutierrez.

The Venezuelan took control from the start firing away with big blows which Hernandez had difficulty avoiding. A left-right combination put Hernandez on his back. The Mexico City fighter staggered up but his equilibrium was gone. He went down again and Barragan stopped it.

Manuel Avila made a promising start in the first couple of rounds of his scheduled 10 against fellow-Californian Joet Gonzalez, but faded out after that and took a beating before being pulled out at 2-27 of the sixth.

Gonzalez, rated number two by the WBO in the featherweight division, dropped Avila for a seven count in the fifth round and punished him to the body throughout.

Santa Ana’s Alexis Rocha found a willing opponent in the Bronx’s Berlin Abreu, but in the end was too strong, halting him at 2-56 of the eighth round in a 10. They fought early in the evening when the heat in the outside venue was high. This may have played a role in Abreu being unable to maintain the pace Rocha was setting.

The Verdict Vargas against fellow-Mexican Emmanuel Navarrete would make an intriguing unification match-up.

Rey Vargas (121lbs), 34-0 (22), w pts 12 Tomoki Kameda (121 1/2lbs), 36-3 (20);Ronny Rios (121lbs), 31-3 (15), w rsf 6 Diego De La Hoya (121lbs), 21-1 (10); Roger Gutierrez (129 1/2lbs), 22-3-1 (19), w rsf 1 Rocky Hernandez (130lbs), 28-1 (25); Joet Gonzalez (125lbs), 23-0 (14), w rsf 6 Manuel Avila (125lbs), 23-2-1 (8); Ruslan Madiyev (139lbs), 13-1 (5), w pts 8 Ricky Sismundo (139lbs), 35-14-3 (17); Jousce Gonzalez (134 1/2lbs), 9-0-1 (9), w rsf 2 Jorge Hugo Padrón (134 1/2lbs), 3-4 (3); Alexis Rocha (146lbs), 14-0 (9), w rsf 8 Berlin Abreu (145 1/2lbs), 14-3 (11).