NEW YORK -- For all of the blown chances and constant trouble that follows him outside the ring, Adrien Broner rarely fails to entertain inside of it. Saturday's welterweight main event in Brooklyn was no different.
A former four-division champion, Broner (33-3-1, 24 KOs) may have put his flailing career back on track by rallying to force a majority draw against Jessie Vargas (28-2-1, 10 KOs) in a thrilling 144-pound catchweight bout in front of 13,964 fans at the Barclays Center.
The fight was as grueling as it was entertaining, as both fighters traded hard shots throughout at close range. A pair of judges scored it 114-114, while the third had it 115-113 for Broner. CBS Sports also had it 114-114.
Vargas, 28, invested in the body early to build a big lead and went on to throw 332 more punches than Broner, yet connected on just nine more overall (203 to 194), according to CompuBox.
"We went at it for 12 rounds. If they want to do it again, I'm ready to fight right now," Vargas said. "I felt I won the fight and was up by two rounds, but I didn't judge this fight. I rely on the judges to give a good decision. They saw it a draw and I respect it.
"It must have been a close fight for every judge to have it close."
Vargas, a former welterweight titleholder, was bruised below his left eye in Round 7 and was cut above the same eye four rounds later. He began to fade at times in the second half just as Broner, who was implored in the corner by new trainer Kevin Cunningham to throw more punches, started to let his hands go and rally.
Broner, 28, closed Round 9 with a huge flurry, including a devastating left uppercut which violently snapped Vargas' head back.
"I want to thank Jessie Vargas -- he's a two-time world champion for a reason," Broner said. "He came to fight but at the end of the day, you all know I beat him. Point blank, period.
"Honestly, I beat him 7-5. If he wants to do it, let's do it."
Broner, who cut ties with longtime amateur trainer Mike Stafford in order to take his career more seriously and avoid a second straight loss, fought with heart and passion in his first pairing with Cunningham. The no-nonsense trainer made his name with the likes of former world champions Cory Spinks and Devon Alexander.
"I thought he won the fight, 7-5," Cunningham said. "I thought he gave away some rounds to get warmed up. If he put his combinations together a little bit more I think he could have won that fight going away or stopped him."
Broner, who dropped a wide and lifeless decision to Mikey Garcia last July, was pleased with his performance.
"I want to thank Coach Kevin Cunningham and I want to give one of the biggest thanks to my original coach, Mike Stafford, for understanding that I needed to do something different in my corner," Broner said. "A lot of people don't train as hard as me. A lot of people think all I do is have sex and party all day."
Broner began to win a war of attrition against Vargas late by walking him down with heavy counter shots. He also remained the aggressor late despite getting beaten hard to the body throughout.
"As you could see I let my hands go," Broner said. "This was a very different training camp. I felt great. As you can see, I'm clean as a whistle. [Vargas] is f----- up. He probably have to spend a night in the hospital."
Here are the rest of the results from Brooklyn.
Jermall Charlo def. Hugo Centeno Jr. via second-round TKO
There's a serious problem brewing in the middleweight division and his name is Jermall Charlo.
The unbeaten slugger from Houston made quick and destructive work of Hugo Centeno Jr. to claim the interim WBC middleweight title on Saturday and become the mandatory opponent for full champion Gennady Golovkin.
"Two-time world champion, bring on GGG!" Charlo said. "I want the title belt. Bring on GGG."
After a slow and tense opening round, Charlo (27-0, 21 KOs) began to let his hands go with authority in Round 2.
Charlo, the 27-year-old twin brother of WBC junior middleweight champion Jermell, landed a crisp and powerful four-punch combination to drop Centeno (26-2, 14 KOs) under the ropes. Although referee Steve Willis gave him every chance to beat the count, Centeno was unable to lift his head as the fight was waved off at 55 seconds.
Golovkin, the division's unified champion, will defend two of his three titles on May 5 against Vanes Martirosyan and, if victorious, is expected to rematch Canelo Alvarez this fall. Top contender Danny Jacobs, who faces Maciej Sulecki on April 28, could be in line as a future opponent considering he traded harsh words with Charlo during a backstage argument on March 3 at the Barclays Center.
"The networks and the teams can figure out how to get the GGG fight done," Charlo said. "I have the best manager [Al Haymon] in the world. I'm 27-0 with 21 knockouts. Everybody sees it. What more can I say?
"Everybody has always avoided me and from now on, this is how it's going to be. You see what you get."
Gervonta Davis def. Jesus Cuellar via third-round TKO
For all of the hype and pressure placed on the shoulders of Gervonta "Tank" Davis by those, including promoter Floyd Mayweather, who believe he's the next big thing in the sport, the unbeaten junior lightweight sure looked the part on Saturday.
Davis (20-0, 19 KOs), one fight removed from losing his world title on the scales last August, was back to business in a dominant third-round TKO of Argentinian Jesus Cueller (28-3, 21 KOs). The native of Baltimore, who entered to a rousing ovation of cheers at the Barclays Center, captured the vacant WBA 130-pound title.
"There's always bumps in the road when you want to become successful," Davis said. "It's all about how you bounce back and tonight I showed that I'm a true champion."
By targeting the body from the very start, the 23-year-old Davis was simply too quick and powerful for the hard-charging Cuellar in this battle of southpaws. Davis landed a clean left cross downstairs that floored Cuellar in Round 2. He went on to add a pair of knockdowns the following round, both on body shots, that brought an early end to the fight.
Of the 26 punches landed by Davis in Round 3, 14 of them were power shots. He dropped Cuellar, 31, for the final time to one knee with a left hook to the body, forcing referee Benjy Esteves Jr. to wave it off at 2:45.
Davis, who knocked out unheralded Francisco Fonseca last August on the Mayweather-Conor McGregor undercard but did so under a chorus of boos for missing weight and showboating, was happy to gain redemption.
"On the undercard of Mayweather-McGregor fight, I just wasn't focused," Davis said. "It was the second time fighting on his card so it got to my head and it showed. After the fight, I went home and talked to my team and we decided it was time to leave Baltimore. I'm focused and it showed because I'm a champ again."