NEW YORK (AP) Rey Vargas outpointed Oscar Negrete in an awkward 12-round brawl Saturday night in which the champion was left with a swollen and bloody face from head butts.
Still, Vargas won the battle of unbeatens to hold onto his WBC super bantamweight title.
Vargas easily won all the judges' scorecards, using a significant reach advantage for scores of 119-109, 119-109, and 120-108. The Mexican champion improved to 31-0, while Negrete, of Colombia, lost for the first time in 18 bouts.
''It was really hard to find my rhythm,'' Vargas admitted.
No wonder: Negrete's unorthodox rushes had Vargas missing time and again.
But Vargas, 27, also landed dozens of body blows and rarely allowed the 30-year-old Negrete inside. Yet it was Vargas who looked the worse when they left the Madison Square Garden ring.
Also on the HBO undercard to the Miguel Cotto-Sadam Ali WBO junior middleweight title bout, Angel Acosta dominated Juan Alejo before knocking him out in the 10th round for the WBO junior flyweight crown that Japan's Kosei Tanaka vacated on Friday. Acosta, 27, of Puerto Rico, is 17-1 - the only defeat was by decision to Tanaka in May - and all of his wins have been by knockout.
Acosta had Alejo, 33, of Mexico, in trouble throughout the later rounds. He landed a sharp right-left combination to end the fight.
''It's taken me five years to get here, and I'm cherishing this moment for me and for Puerto Rico,'' said Acosta. ''I've learned a lot since my last fight for a world title against Tanaka, and this fight proves that I learned and fixed all I needed to win a world championship.''
Alejo is 25-5-1 and has lost in both his shots at a world title. He was beaten by Donnie Nietes for the WBO championship in October 2015.