The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

August 3, 2013

Seneca's Cook thrills crowd

22-year-old boxer improves to 6-0

By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer

MIAMI, Okla. — The ESPN2 broadcast was over, and it was more than four hours after the seven-fight boxing card began.

Still, about 90 percent of what had been a near-capacity crowd stayed to watch Seneca High School graduate Dillon Cook face Joel Vargas at 11:20 Friday night at Buffalo Run Casino.

“That was awesome,” Cook said. “I was surprised. I figured people would leave.”

Cook didn’t disappoint what was a basically a hometown crowd as he earned a unanimous decision over Vargas in the six-round junior middleweight fight. All three judges scored the fight 60-54.

Cook maintained his unbeaten record, improving to 6-0 with three knockouts.

It was a big step for the 22-year-old Cook, who is in the early stages of his professional boxing career. After previously fighting mostly on local or regional cards, Cook battled Vargas as part of ESPN Friday Night Fights. The earlier TV fights featured former featherweight champion Javier Fortuna battling former Olympian Luis Franco to a draw and former welterweight champion Kermit Cintron earning a unanimous decision over Jonathan Batista.

Dallas Cook, who is Dillon’s father and trainer, said he hopes this is just the start of bigger fights and bigger card.

“We were just happy to be here,” Dallas Cook said. “We were happy to get on the ESPN card. We were happy with the way they treated us here, and hopefully they liked us enough to invite us back.”

Cook’s brawl with Vargas (4-9-1, 4 KOs) prompted some of the loudest cheers of the night. Vargas, of Dodge City, Kan., obviously had trouble coping with the speed of Cook, who is nicknamed “White Lightning.” Cook landed at least a half dozen clean shots to Vargas’ head each round. The Seneca native also delivered numerous crushing body blows that elicited roars from the audience.

Regardless, Vargas kept motioning toward Cook as if he wanted more.

“As far as taking a hit, definitely,” Cook said when asked if Vargas was the toughest opponent he has faced. “I hit him more than probably anybody, and he took it good.

“I hit him as hard as I could. He can take a punch, that’s for sure. I thought I had him hurt in the sixth. I did have him hurt, but by the sixth I was pretty worn out.”

Before Friday night, Cook had only competed in four-round fights. Plus, only two of those had gone the distance. The extra rounds took their toll on Cook as he unleashed a flurry of punch combinations throughout the fight.

“It was tough,” Cook said. “It definitely is a lot tougher than four-rounders. But I managed and got through it. I just had to be strong minded. It’s kind of what I needed, really.”

Vargas also was an upgrade in competition for Cook as four of his previous five fights were against opponents without a win.

“It was a confidence booster to go against somebody who is that tough,” Dallas Cook said. “The experience of the actual rounds ... we stepped up another level tonight. We want someone who he can go the rounds with and hang in there. We don’t want the easy stuff. That’s a big plus of stepping up.”

Dillon Cook is scheduled to fight next against an undetermined opponent on Aug. 10 at Beech Activity Center in Wichita, Kan. Dillon’s older brother, Jesse Cook, also will fight on the card. The 26-year-old Jesse Cook (7-0, 6 KOs) is set to face Bryce Madden La Mastres (0-1) in a four-round super middleweight bout.

Both brothers also are slated to compete in a fight card on Sept. 7 at the Holiday Inn Convention Center in Joplin.