Former world titleholders Adrien Broner and Jessie Vargas were both looking to rebound from poor performances the last time they faced a top fighter, and they put on a show for the 13,964 fans in attendance Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
The result? Inconclusiveness as the judges scored the bout a majority draw, which left a sour taste in both fighters' mouths.
Judge Julie Lederman scored the fight 115-113 for Broner, while Eric Marlinski and Kevin Morgan had it 114-114. FightNights.com scored it 115-113 for Vargas.
"I beat him 7-5 [in rounds]," Broner said at ringside after he and Vargas embraced. "As you can see, I was letting my hands go more. I felt great. I ain't got a scratch on me. He's fu**** up.
"I want to thank Jessie Vargas. He's a two-time world champion for a reason. He came to fight, but at the end of the day, you all know I beat him. Point blank, period. I was connecting with right hands. I got warmed up in the early portion of the fight before taking over."
Vargas also thought he won the fight, but was more composed than his counterpart.
"I saw myself winning, but if the judges said it was a draw, you have to respect that," Vargas said. "I think it was a good fight. The fans seemed to like it. I hit the body; I worked inside. In the beginning, I worked the distance. In the later rounds, I let him come at me and was looking for the counterpunch."
Vargas (28-2-1, 10 KO's), 28, a Los Angeles native training out of Las Vegas, controlled the opening round with a snapping jab and Broner, as he normally does, got off to a slow start with just 17 punches thrown.
Vargas went on to control the first half of the fight, but as the bell rang for the seventh round, he started to tire, and Broner mounted a comeback.
Broner (33-3-1, 24 KO's), 28, of Cincinnati, who was fighting for the first time since splitting from careerlong trainer Mike Stafford following a unanimous decision loss to four-division world champion Mikey Garcia last July, credited his new trainer, the widely respected Kevin Cunningham, for his improved performance.
"My trainer was a big help tonight," Broner said. "I want to thank Coach Cunningham as well as my original coach, Mike Stafford, for realizing I needed to do something different."
The last time Vargas fought a top opponent was in November 2016, when he got dropped and lost his welterweight world title to Manny Pacquiao. Then, Vargas left Top Rank and returned with Al Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions in December 2017, defeating Aaron Herrera in a 10-round unanimous decision. And despite stepping up in opposition and putting up a strong performance, victory eluded Vargas.
In the second round, Vargas was tagging Broner with lefts to the body and to the head, using his quick reflexes to keep his opponent at bay. Vargas, who is not known for his power, kept up his high volume pace, and kept to tag Broner with a quick jab.
Broner had his moment towards the end of the third round as he really picked up the pace. That continued in the fourth round, as he found success with left-right combinations.
Vargas welcomed the challenge, and both fighters let their hands go in the fifth round. However, it was Vargas who ended up winded, and Broner capitalized by landing the sweeping left hook.
Broner was warned for a bad low blow in the sixth round, and referee Charlie Fitch allowed Vargas time to recover.
In the eighth round, Vargas connected with a big right hand, but it did not affect Broner, who returned fire with a combination, exciting the crowd.
Late in the ninth round, Broner found a second wind and nailed Vargas with a tremendous uppercut, and followed up with damaging combinations. But Vargas managed to stay on his feet. However, his left eye did not come out unscathed.
Broner finished the 10th round with another strong showing, landing a straight right hand, a left hook, and a powerful series of punches to the body. And it was the same story in the 11th, as Broner opened up a cut over Vargas' left eye.
The fight was up for grabs in the 12th round, but the effects of a crowd-pleasing fight appeared to enervate both fighters, and they made it the full distance.
According to CompuBox punch statistics, Broner connected on 194 of 507 punches (38 percent), and Vargas landed 203 of 839 blows (24 percent).