LOS ANGELES — The buildup was ugly. The fight was a beauty.
Ricardo Mayorga scored a majority 12-round decision over Fernando Vargas on Friday night, winning on the strength of knockdowns in the first and 11th rounds.
Then, as he had promised, the 29-year-old Vargas said his boxing career was over.
"Absolutely, this is the end. This was my last fight," he said.
The dislike the fighters professed for each other seemed sincere from the time the bout was scheduled. They exchanged punches July 11 at the first pre-fight news conference, and every other gathering was filled with angry, ugly exchanges.
It was a different matter when the fight was over, as the two hugged at the news conference.
"I am not going to take anything away from Mayorga. He was the better man tonight," Vargas said. "Sometimes you have a bad night. That is the way it goes. I thought that Mayorga would be a lot wilder. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case."
Judge Max DeLuca had Mayorga winning 115-111; Glenn Trowbridge had it 114-112 for Mayorga; and David Mendoza scored it 113-113. The Associated Press had it 114-110 for Mayorga.
The former world champions exchanged punches in the middle of the ring through most of the bout, with Vargas growing stronger in the later rounds. But it wasn’t enough, thanks to the knockdowns.
"Those were flash knockdowns," Vargas said, not that it mattered.
Mayorga began celebrating midway through the final round, thrusting his right fist into the air during brief lulls in the action.
But there weren’t many of those.
As the 12th round ended, both fighters celebrated as if they won. But only one could win, and that was Mayorga.
"Vargas came out with a different style than I anticipated," Mayorga said through a translator. "I adjusted well and was able to land heavy punches. Vargas was faster than I thought, but I stuck with my game plan and put the pressure on him.
"I want to keep fighting a few more times at 154 pounds. You saw the fight. I have a lot of fight left in me."
Mayorga, a 34-year-old three-time world champion from Managua, Nicaragua, raised his record to 28-6-1 with 22 knockouts. Vargas, a two-time world champion from nearby Oxnard who turns 30 on Dec. 7, fell to 26-5 with 22 knockouts.
The crowd of 10,365 at Staples Center was almost completely pro-Vargas.
The bout matched two once-prominent fighters who both entered having been idle for more than 15 months and had each lost two of their previous three fights.
Vargas hadn’t fought since July 15, 2006, when he was stopped for the second time in five months by Shane Mosley. Mayorga last fought May 6, 2006, when he was stopped by Oscar De La Hoya.
Both fighters weighed 164 pounds at Thursday’s weigh-in — a startling development for Vargas considering he admittedly ballooned to 264 following his second loss to Mosley.
The WBC Continental Americas super middleweight title was at stake. The bout had been scheduled for Sept. 8, but was delayed after a routine blood test revealed Vargas had an iron deficiency.