Alex Saucedo outworked Sonny Fredrickson to earn a unanimous decision in a rugged Super Lightweight crossroads bout
Josue Vargas cruises to 17th victory over Salvador Briceno; overcomes the absence of his father and trainer after a breach of COVID-19 protocol
(LAS VEGAS, June 30) — The mentions of Oklahoma and Ohio on ESPN are usually accompanied by game-breaking plays by All-Americans, and often Heisman hopefuls, on the gridiron. Tonight Oklahoma City’s Alex Saucedo looked to reestablish himself in the Super Lightweight division’s championship picture versus Ohio’s Sonny Fredrickson. Top Rank’s Bubble inside the MGM Grand Conference Center — Grand Ballroom was about 100,000 fans light, but it readily served as the field of play where Saucedo and Fredrickson would decide who moves on to contend for a world title.
Saucedo (30-1, 19 KOs) was attempting to re-brand himself beyond something other than a bloody all-action fighter. This opportunity, possibly the last for Fredrickson (21-3, 14 KOs), was originally scheduled to take place April 25 but here in June the Toledo native was still staring at the same reality. A loss could result in an unimaginably difficult rebuild for the 25-year old who celebrates his 26th birthday in less than a few weeks.
In the first stanza, Saucedo truly looked like a reworked and upgraded version of the No. 1 ranking he once ascended to in the WBO’s Top 15. His jab was busy and accurate. He snapped Fredickson’s head back a few times, and followed up with power punches, his attack had the taller Ohio backing up looking to steady himself.
Fredrickson withstood the early aggression, and he briefly got the attention of Saucedo by sneaking in a short uppercut later in the round. Saucedo’s pressure and volume rarely relented over the balance of the 10-rounder, and Fredrickson struggled to extend his brighter moments which were often represented by his right uppercut.
The Oklahoman widened his scoring gap round after round, and despite the fact Fredrickson finally settled into his offense in the third he never found the gear to give himself a shot at a decision. Saucedo jabbed well in spots, he crowded Fredrickson and fired away with combinations as the former Top 15-ranked Super Lightweight stood with his back against the ropes for too long. While Fredrickson landed his share of power punches in the mid rounds, Saucedo pushed the majority of the action over the final three frames. The judges favored the busier Saucedo, a world title challenger, and handed in wide scores of 99-91, 98-92 and 100-90.
In the opening round, Saucedo basically set the tone for the entire fight. His jab was highly effective, and it opened up an extended scoring spree in the final minute. Fredrickson disrupted the building momentum with the first of several uppercuts.
Saucedo continued to push the pace to start the second frame. Fredrickson weathered Saucedo’s early attack and established his own jab while working off his back foot. Prior to a solid two-punch combination near the end of the round, a trickle of blood appeared under Saucedo’s nose.
Saucedo’s work-rate built over the first two minutes of the third round. Fredrickson worked his jab when he was able to maintain his space, but he ran into heavy contact in spots where he backed up into the ropes, and stood behind his guard.
Fredrickson stood his ground center-ring early in the fourth round. He fired off a series of hooks with a few catching Saucedo’s head.
Fredrickson continued with his mix of effective moments followed by costly lapses through the early middle portion of the fight. Saucedo’s sharpness and pace subsided in the sixth. His scoring returned at the top of the final minute in the frame as Fredrickson lingered on the ropes again.
Both men landed good leather, while circling center-ring, to open the seventh round. The fight still was there to be taken by both fighters.
The first half of the eighth round closely resembled the center-ring action from the preceding round. Fredrickson’s right uppercut returned in the final minute, but its effectiveness was possibly overshadowed by the volume of Saucedo.
With time running out Fredrickson entered the ninth round needing a pair of decisively won rounds. Saucedo’s jab stole the first 45 seconds. The former top-ranked Super Lightweight crowded Fredrickson over the next minute. Fredrickson mustered some punches at the top of the final minute, but Saucedo immediately responded with flurries of his own.
Fredrickson opened the final stanza with some longer power punches – most wider arcing hooks. The two exchanged good leather, but Saucedo appeared to be the livelier fighter. Saucedo continued with the central theme of the fight, he managed to land several more shots than Fredrickson was able to throw.
The win will undoubtedly propel Saucedo into a meaningful fight, but he’ll need to remain patient as the division’s two unified champions – Jose Ramirez and the winner of the World Boxing Super Series’ Ali trophy Josh Taylor – are on a collision course for a potential undisputed champion.
Fredrickson fought with an immense amount of heart, and perhaps he just needs to develop a hatred towards being bested for any stretch of a fight. The division is somewhat young and loaded, so quality opponents will be in demand as fighters vie for contention and title shots. Before encountering any fighter working his way up the ranks, he will need to take advantage of opportunities to fine tune a few areas of his game. He managed distance better overall in the fight, but adding some physicality and strength to his game would benefit him moving forward. If he is unable to punch with the division’s higher output fighters, he can look to slow them down with various tactics.
JOSUE VARGAS VS SALVADOR BRICENO
Southpaw Super Lightweight Josue Vargas has to overcome a bit of drama against Salvador Briceno before the first bell. His father and trainer was notified earlier in the day that he could not corner his son after violating the quarantine protocol at the Top Rank’s Bubble at MGM Grand.
Vargas (17-1, 9 KOs) started the fight showing few signs of any impact created by the absence. He wasn’t left in bad hands in replacement Raul “Chino” Rivas – lead trainer of former IBF Junior Lightweight champion Tevin Farmer. Vargas, the shorter of the two, fought sharp enough in the opening round to set up a few uppercuts on Briceno (17-6, 11 KOs).
Vargas’ combination of offense and legs had Briceno looking frustrated through the fourth and fifth rounds. In the sixth Vargas went to throw an uppercut from outside and clashed heads with Briceno as he went to throw a shot. A cut above his left eye was enough to disrupt the rhythm Vargas worked with throughout an exceptional fifth round.
Briceno showed signs of life in the seventh, looking to capitalize on any impaired vision Vargas may have been experiencing. Vargas spoiled those plans with his movement, as he stayed off the ropes and continued to outbox the taller Mexican.
Vargas’ in-and-out and side-to-side allowed him to easily outmaneuver Briceno’s A-to-B entry into the pocket. Briceno sported a cut on his left eye in the ninth round. Rivas guided Vargas safely into the winner’s circle in the 10th and final round. Following the final bell, the cards were quickly tallied up in favor of the 22-year old Bronx product whose showing was rewarded with a unanimous decision via scores of 99-91 and 100-90 on two cards.
All photos by Mikey Williams/Top Rank