LAS VEGAS -- Jessie Vargas of Las Vegas certainly didn't have his best night, but he was good enough in the eyes of the judges to outpoint Russian southpaw Khabib Allakhverdiev to win a junior welterweight world title on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The fight was one of the featured bouts on the undercard of the rematch between welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. and former titleholder Manny Pacquiao.
Perhaps the judges were swayed by the considerable damage on Allakhverdiev's face as he was cut and swollen around both eyes. They had it for Vargas 117-111, 115-113, 115-113. ESPN.com had it 115-113 for Allakhverdiev.
"I thought I should have been busier earlier in the fight and I got stronger and I thought I took control midway through the fight," said Vargas, 24, who dropped down from welterweight for the fight. "This was my first 12-round fight. I worked hard for three months in the Top Rank gym. This fight, this win will make me an even better fighter."
Said Allakhverdiev, "I want a rematch and I want it right away. I won that fight and I want the rematch right away."
Vargas (24-0, 9 KOs) raised swelling under Allakhverdiev's right eye in the third round of a nip-and-tuck fight. As the fight went on, Allakhverdiev (19-1, 9 KOs), 31, began to pick up the pace and was attacking Vargas to the body and head with both hands.
Vargas worked well with his jab, snapping Allakhverdiev's head back in an active seventh round of a fight that was difficult to score.
"We knew the left jab would cause a lot of damage which it did," said Ismael Salas, Vargas' trainer, who was working with him for the first time.
An accidental head-butt in the eighth round popped open a cut over Allakhverdiev's right eye and it was bad enough for referee Tony Weeks to call timeout in order have the ringside doctor examine it. It was a good round for Vargas, who rocked Allakhverdiev with an uppercut.
Allakhverdiev's cut was getting worse and in the ninth round Weeks had the doctor examine it for a second time, but he was allowed to continue. He was also cut over the left eye. Allakhverdiev appeared to clinch the win with a big 12th round in which Vargas did very little.
Allakhverdiev was making his second title defense in his first fight since signing with Top Rank last year. Allakhverdiev held a secondary belt in the 140-pound division as Danny Garcia is the organization's top titleholder.
Lightweight contender Raymundo Beltran (29-6-1, 17 KOs), likely one fight away from a second shot at a world title, easily outpointed Arash Usmanee (20-2-1, 10 KOs).
With the victory, Beltran's next fight probably will be a summer shot against newly crowned titleholder Terence Crawford, who outpointed Ricky Burns on March 1 to win the belt, one fight after Beltran was given a highly controversial draw against Burns in a fight most thought Beltran won.
Beltran, 32, who is from Mexico and lives in Los Angeles, was clearly the stronger puncher and took it to Usmanee, 32, a native of Afghanistan fighting out of Montreal, for most of the fight. When Usmanee did connect he did not seem to have much steam on his punches.
In the end, the judges had it for Beltran by scores of 118-110, 117-111 and 117-111.
"This is one of my greatest fights ever," Beltran said. "I had a change in opponents. He was a difficult, complex, awkward opponent. My hook and my body shots were the difference."
Beltran was supposed to face Rocky Martinez, the former two-time junior lightweight world titleholder from Puerto Rico. But Martinez got ill and pulled out of the fight last week and Usmanee, who had been training, accepted the bout on short notice.
• Bryan Vasquez (33-1, 17 KOs) outfought Jose Felix Jr. (26-1-1, 12 KOs) in rough, physical fight to win a unanimous decision and retain his interim junior lightweight title for the first time.
All three judges had it for Vasquez, 117-110 and a surprisingly close 114-113 twice. ESPN.com also had it for Vasquez, 118-109.
Vasquez imposed himself on Felix, 21, of Mexico, and had him backing up often during a solid action fight. They both landed their share of clean shots during sustained exchanges. Felix, who countered a lot, flashed a strong left hook and Vasquez worked well to the body.
An accidental head-butt in the seventh round badly rattled both fighters, although it was Felix who emerged from it with a lump over his right eye.
In the ninth round, referee Robert Byrd deducted a point from Felix for kneeing Vasquez in the crotch. It was a big round for Vasquez, who landed some hard shots and seemed to hurt Felix with a combination to the head as the round was ending.
Felix landed a hard low blow in the 10th round and was warned by Byrd, but he didn't take a point. There was another bad accidental head-butt in the 11th round that shook up both guys and Felix appeared cut before they finished with an action-packed 12th round.
Vasquez, 26, of Costa Rica, won a vacant interim 130-pound belt in October via fifth-round technical decision against Rene Gonzalez, Vasquez's second stint with the interim title.
• Light heavyweight Oleksandr Gvozdyk (1-0, 1 KOs), 26, of Ukraine, who earned an Olympic bronze medal at the 2012 London Games, made his professional debut in explosive style, starching Mike Montoya (4-3-1, 2 KOs), 26, of Colorado Springs with five seconds left in the first round. Gvozdyk, who wound up signing with Top Rank thanks to his close relationship with Olympic teammate and two-time gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko, swelled Montoya's right eye in the first 30 seconds of the fight and continued to batter him until dropping him very hard with a clean right hand on the chin. Referee Russell Mora immediately waved off the fight.
• Junior lightweight Oscar Valdez (10-0, 9 KOs), 23, a 2012 Mexican Olympian, destroyed Adrian Perez (10-5-1, 1 KO), 33, of Sarasota, Fla., in the fourth round of a one-sided fight. Valdez attacked Perez relentlessly throughout the fight, landing hard left hooks to the body and head. In the fourth round of their scheduled eight rounds, Valdez unloaded a combination that he finished with a debilitating left hook to the body that dropped a breathless Perez to all fours and referee Mora counted him out at 1 minute, 23 seconds. Valdez is scheduled for his next fight on May 17 at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., on the Juan Manuel Marquez-Mike Alvarado undercard.
• Southpaw middleweight Esquiva Falcao (2-0, 1 KO), the 24-year-old 2012 Olympic silver medalist from Brazil, laid a beating on Publio Pena (2-2, 1 KO), 31, of Providence, R.I., to win a shutout six-round decision. Two judges had it 60-54 and the third had it 60-53, giving Falcao a 10-8 round without a knockdown. That's how dominant Falcao was. He hammered Pena for virtually the entire fight, landing all kinds of head and body shots with both hands.
• Light heavyweight Seanie Monaghan (21-0, 14 KOs), 32, of Long Beach, N.Y., plowed through Joe McCreedy (15-7-2, 6 KOs), 29, of Lowell, Mass., using a ruthless body attack to score a fifth-round knockout. Monaghan dropped McCreedy three times, all on body punches, once in the third round and twice more in the fifth round. When McCreedy went down for the second time in the fifth, referee Jay Nady waved off the fight at 2 minutes, 25 seconds. Monaghan is due back in the ring June 14 on the Ruslan Provodnikov-Chris Algieri undercard at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.