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  Vargas Tears Down Salka’s Wall

By Albert Castillo
Photos: William Trillo


In the main event of the evening, In front of a crowd of 1,456 fans at Fantasy Springs Casino and Resort in Indio, CA., Golden Boy Promotions and ESPN witnessed former Mexican Olympian and WBC Super Featherweight Champion, Francisco “El Bandido” Vargas (25-1-2 18KO’s), dominated an outclassed Rod Salka, (24-5, 4 KO’s) of Bunola, PA.

Blazoned in red, white and blue trunks, depicting a wall with “America First” written across the belt, Rod Salka attempted to intimidate the Mexican Vargas with politics. Unfortunately for Salka, Vargas would have none of it. He bounced Rod Salka around the ring for five solid round dropping Salka in the fifth to one knee with a sharp body shot. Salka could not answer the bell for the sixth and Vargas recorded his 18th win by knockout.

"I wanted to put a great show," said Francisco Vargas."I did what he worked on in the gym, fighting cautiously and moving my head. I feel great because we did a great job. I want the rematch against Miguel Berchelt. We're ready for that fight."

With the crowd behind him, the Pride of Blythe, CA, Andrew, “Chango” Cancio (18-4-2, 14 KO’s) stopped Kazakhstan fighter Aidar Sharibayev, (7-1 6 KO’s) at 43 seconds of the tenth round to win the vacant WBA Intercontinental Super Featherweight Title.

A surprised and overconfident Sharibayev was dropped in the third and fifth rounds by a left uppercut and a straight right hand respectively. Sharibayev who was often fighting with his hands down could not match Cancio’s firepower. In the tenth round with his hands down once again, Sharibayev got caught by a Cancio combination only to have Referee Raul Caiz step in to stop the fight. The jubilant crowd went wild and Cancio was crowned the new champ.

“I listened to my corner, and I trained hard. That’s why I got the victory,” said Andrew Cancio. “I threw jabs and combinations, and I kept moving my head. This was a great performance in front of my fans. It feels amazing because hard work pays off.”

In the opening bout of the evening undefeated East LA Kid, Jonathan “Thunder” Navarro (14-0, 7 KO’s ) outlasted a resilient Justin Savi (9-15-1 6 KO’s) to garner a unanimous decision. This was one of Navarro’s sturdiest opponents.

Navi withstood Navarro’s relentless body attack and connected with a few overhand rights of his own. At times it seemed as if Navi might go down from several right and left hooks to his liver and midsection. However, in the end, the tough Maryland native was still standing at the final bell. The fight went to the scorecards and the judges had it all for Navarro. 80-72, 80-72, 79-73.

“It was a tough fight because he can take a punch,” said Navarro “I’ve been staying very busy because I’ve been finishing my bouts clean and without taking too much punishment. Hopefully, I can take a little break and come back in the summer.”

Popular San Diegoan Genaro Gamez (8-0, 5 KO’s) remained undefeated by earning a unanimous decision in what proved to be his toughest opponent yet in technically sound Japanese fighter Shoki Sakai (22-8-2, 13 KO’s. Whoa! And what a fight it was as both fighters threw hard rapid-fire combinations in every round. Sakai was no joke, as he attempted to give as good as he got.

However, he just brought out the best in Gamez as the San Diego pugilist returned fire with sharper and harder right-left-rights. The highly entertaining fight went to the scorecards and judges had it all for Gamez. 79-73, 77-75, 79-73.

“I felt great, though he [Sakai] was much bigger,” said Genaro Gamez. “It was good experienced because he was tough, but at 130 or 135 nobody beats me.

In this rematch of super bantys hometown boy Javier Padilla (6-0-1, 5 KO’s) avenged the only blemish on his record by whipping Mexico’s Ricardo Arias. This fight was non-stop action as both fighters shot from the hip with Padilla outgunning Arias.

The biggest punches were landed more frequently by Padilla and emphasized with exclamation points by the Padilla heavily favored crowd. Arias refused to go down and the fight went to the cards. 40-36, 40-36, 39-37 all in favor of Padilla.

“I’ve dedicated myself more to boxing this time around,” said Javier Padilla. “That’s why I won this rematch. I was working the graveyard shift before heading to the weigh-in for the first fight. But I’ve quit my job, so I was well rested for this one. I can’t wait to be back.”

Ireland’s budding prospect Aaron, “The Silencer” McKenna (3-0, 2 KO’s) wasted no time in drilling once beaten Keason Freeman (4-2, 2 KO’s) into the ground with devastating right hands that Freeman never saw coming. McKenna dropped Freeman early in the first round with a powerful right hand.

After the second knockdown, Freeman was seeing double and the referee called a halt to the bout at 2:06 of the first round. Aaron McKenna continues to impress with an aggressive style reminiscent of young hungry fighters on their way up. We look forward to seeing him again!

“I felt very strong,” said Aaron McKenna. “I landed some good, solid shots. After he went down the first time, I knew he couldn’t handle my power. I knew I had to start fast but at the same time be patient, and it all came together.”

Due to an accidental headbutt Los Angeles native, Eric Rodriguez (1-2-1) suffered a huge gash over his left eye and was not able to continue, thus spoiling the pro debut of hometown favorite out of Coachella, CA, Rommel Caballero (0-0-1). In the first and only round Rommel Caballero showed flashes of the Caballero pedigree. Unfortunately, as a result of the headbutt the fight ended in a technical draw.


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