LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A bloodied Francisco Vargas retained his World Boxing Council (WBC) belt on Saturday by battling to a draw with fellow Mexican Orlando Salido, in a match that could earn him a second straight fight of the year award.
The 31-year-old Vargas and Salido went toe-to-toe in a 12-round slugfest for the world super featherweight championship at the StubHub Centre stadium.
Vargas improved to 24-0-1 with 17 knockouts, as he had to go the distance despite suffering bad cuts over both eyes, which he claimed were the result of head butts from Salido.
"It was a great fight that the fans liked," Vargas said. "Unfortunately the cuts are always with the head. But I never gave up.
"I am very happy that I won and I am looking for more challenges."
Rightly so. Vargas then added that he needs some time to "relax" and recuperate.
In November, Vargas got off the canvas and recovered from getting badly cut to take the belt from Japan's Takashi Miura by ninth-round technical knockout to win the fight of the year.
This was another battle of attrition. Vargas will need time to heal as he had deep cuts over both eyes, but still managed to land heavy punches on Salido as the two pummelled each other right up to the final bell.
Two officials scored the bout 114-114, while the other had it 115-113 for the champion Vargas.
Vargas' preparation for the fight was clouded by controversy after he tested positive in April for the banned stimulant Clenbuterol. But he claimed that the substance came from contaminated beef he ate during his training camp.
The 35-year-old former title holder Salido came into the ring wearing a T-shirt with a picture of the late Muhammad Ali, who died on Friday at age 74 after a lengthy struggle with Parkinson's disease.
Salido thought he did enough to win on Saturday in front of a crowd of 7,300 at the outdoor facility in south-central Los Angeles.
"I felt I won. It was a close margin and a tough fight, but I feel I won," he said.
Salido also brushed aside accusations of dirty tactics.
"We banged heads at some point but those were punches," he said of the cuts on Vargas' face. "That is what happens in boxing. Head butts are accidental, but it happens."