Jermell Charlo was the headliner on Fox Sports Sunday, so we’ll get to that in a sec, but the fight really worth talking about — for reasons both good and ill — was Guillermo Rigondeaux vs Julio Ceja.
The true junior featherweight champion, Rigondeaux, bafflingly decided to turn it into a phone booth shootout against a guy whose best chance was Rigo turning it into a phone booth shootout. Later, he would say he was demonstrating he could have an appealing style, but yo, maybe don’t do that for the first time when you’re 38.
Rigo still won the exchanges in the 1st round, even though Ceja landed surprisingly clean shots against a man best known for his defensive, spoiling history. That all changed in the 2nd, and continued through the bulk of the fight, when Ceja started getting busy and connecting a ton, including some awfully painful-looking body shots.
Before long, Ceja had bloodied Rigo’s nose and built a commanding lead on the scorecard, despite an odd interlude where referee Russell Mora docked both men a point at the same time. (There had been plenty of head-butting and low blows, of course, but what did this do about it?) At one point Ceja even looked to rock Rigo briefly.
It very much seemed as though Rigo was en route to losing his crown, with steam coming off his punches and needing a KO to win. Then, outta nowhere, Rigo launched a rocket left hand that dropped Cejo and had him badly hurt. Except: He got up, nodded at Mora’s instructions, and walked forward when told. Mora stopped it.
Maybe Mora saw something nobody else saw. More likely, it was just a shady call. Notably, Fox didn’t show a replay of how Ceja looked after the knockdown, the kind of thing you’d see from an NBA home team video board when the fans are booing a call and the guy running the video knows damn well there was a foul and won’t show it.
Perhaps this version of Rigo is bad for Rigo. It was good for us. This was an honorable mention Fight of the Year-type slugfest. He says he wants Rey Vargas next, the #1 man behind him in the division. Let’s do that.
In the main event, junior middleweight Charlo defeated Jorge Cota, who accepted the fight less than a month ago when Tony Harrison, who snatched Charlo’s undefeated record, pulled out with an ankle injury. Charlo dropped Cota with an overhand right in the 3rd, then, after Cota rose and the ref should’ve stopped it because Cota was leaning on the ropes, Charlo advanced and brutalized him with a 1-2. Charlo accused Harrison of faking the injury. God, these Charlo twins are obnoxious.