Machado v Cancio and Vargas v Manzanilla

WBC super-bantamweight king Rey Vargas makes the fourth defense of his title, when he takes on little-known Franklin Manzanilla in the Fantasy Springs Casino, Indio on February 9.

Now sporting 32 wins from 32 contests (22 opponents have fallen early), Vargas should probably be facing sterner opposition than this. Unification bouts must surely be on the table if he negotiates a way past Manzanilla as anticipated. Daniel Roman is expected to defend his WBA 122-pound crown against IBF ruler TJ Doheny in a summer unification clash. The WBO title is currently held by Emanuel Navarette, who surprised Ghana’s Isaac Dogboe over the distance last year.

Vargas Looks to Defend Title

Vargas picked up the WBC super-bantamweight title that he defends on the night by winning a majority decision over Gavin McDonnell in 2017. That was a productive year for the Mexico City native, who defended twice against reasonable competition. Ronny Rios was 28-1 when Vargas won a wide decision on the Miguel Cotto-Yoshihiro Kamegai undercard. The second man to step-up and attempt to wrestle away Vargas’ strap was 17-0 Oscar Negrete, who was defused by the champion on another Cotto support slot.

Vargas had his hands full in his only appearance of 2018 when rugged Armenian brawler Azat Hovhannisyan gave him all he could handle over 12 rounds. Vargas is now a seasoned operator and established champion at the weight. Defeating Franklin Manzanilla will teach us little that we don’t already know, but at least Vargas will once again be active again after a tough 2018 saw him sidelined with a dose of pneumonia and shoulder surgery.

Manzanilla Coming In Strong?

Venezuelan challenger Manzanilla, meanwhile, arrives with 17 knockouts from 18 wins. On paper that looks impressive. The truth is that Manzanilla has been busy wrecking low-level foes on the circuits of Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and beyond. Manzanilla, 30, scored the biggest win of his career last time out when he made former world-level campaigner Julio Ceja retire with a fractured nose four rounds into their Mexico City clash. Ceja was being primed for this Vargas shot. Manzanilla spoiled the party, so he now gets the gig.

Despite having the proverbial puncher’s chance, Manzanilla will struggle to contend with the long limbs and smooth boxing skills of Vargas. His toughness should help him to the last the course. Anyone fancying the upset in this two-horse race could be tempted to lay down on Manzanilla who is priced anywhere between +400 to +500 depending on the outlet. Champion Vargas is around the -600 to -800 mark.

Machada Turning Into Capable Fighter

The Vargas-Manzanilla bout is one of two “world” title encounters on this card. Boxing under the tutelage of wise old sage Freddie Roach, Alberto Machado is maturing into a capable fighter. His purported world title is open to debate, however, as he possesses a selected version of the WBA’s plethora of belts on offer. The true WBA king at super-featherweight is Gervonta Davis, who defends his WBA “Super” title on the same night against Hugo Ruiz in Carson. It can all get very confusing for the casual sports fan.

Making the third defense of the title he won from Jezreel Corrales in 2017, Machado takes on Andrew Cancio. Plucky Cancio opened as a +850 underdog, with champion Machado at -2500. Cancio is now available at +1725, and Machado -5000.

Machado is on the books of Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions alongside Miguel Cotto Promotions, which holds a sizeable stake in the belt holder. Cancio—who is also signed with Golden Boy—will enjoy good local support being from Ventura, California. Puncher Machado, nicknamed “El Explosivo,” has an 81% knockout ratio, but has only competed in 61 rounds. Recent victims Rafael Mensah and Youndale Evans were not of championship caliber, and both proved to be ripe pickings for Machado.

Cancio is more seasoned, having boxed twice as many rounds, and is in reasonable form. Ronny Rios and Joseph Diaz were both unbeaten at the time when they defeated Cancio on the way up. Cancio, 30, did stop unbeaten Kazakh Aidar Sharibayev in early 2018 in an upset victory.

Both men can punch, but Machado is the fighter on the way up. Cancio may have enough experience to hear the final bell, but his attacking nature could walk him on to a big shot when he starts to tire. Therefore a Machado KO could be the pick in this one.