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Vargas Proves Ready for Trinidad
|Vargas proves ready for Trinidad
Forrest still titleless after no contest
Ross Thompson really only landed one significant punch to the face
of Fernando Vargas. That punch, an unexpected right cross
launched 48 hours before the official start of their junior
middleweight title fight, bloodied Vargas' lip and made an
otherwise perfunctory press conference quite interesting. It
also woke up Vargas, who was planning on sleepwalking through a
mismatch mandatory bout for his IBF belt. Now focused on the
pest before him, Vargas' attention drifted from the mega-payday
awaiting him in December. Thompson had made the volatile Vargas
angry, and that action came with a price.
Thompson almost didn't make it past the weigh-in. Drying out
to 156 lbs., the anonymous challenger required steam room overtime
to finally make weight. Starched to the bone, he finally
scaled at 153.5, and then began rehydrating. By fight time,
Thompson had filled himself with enough food and water to cause a
Nevada State Athletic Commission scale to report his fight-night
weight at 173 pounds. Despite the noticeable size advantage
over Vargas, Thompson was outmatched. That became clear
moments into the fight, when a lead left hook from the champion
slammed into Thompson's jaw and bent him backwards. It was
just a matter of time.
While the lumbering Thompson leaped in with wild punches, a few of
which tagged Vargas, Fernando simply waited and countered.
Despite an out-of-the-ring temper that has often made headlines,
once between the ropes
Vargas has never been anything short of patient. For two
rounds, Vargas studied Thompson's sloppy style. Forgoing his
usual heavy jab for angry power punches and intense observation,
Vargas tasted a bit of leather while trying to time Thompson.
But in the third, Vargas would suddenly turn the fight around.
After many swings and misses, Thompson fell off balance into
Vargas. Twice he fell past the champion, who punched at the
passing target. Thompson's momentum left him with his back to
Vargas, and both times Fernando openly swung at the back of his
head. One warning was issued, and then a point was
deducted on the second occasion. But Vargas could care less.
His blood lust was growing. Soon after the penalty, Vargas
countered a wild overhand right attempt with a left hook that
rattled Thompson and a right hand that sent him down onto the seat
of his pants.
Up on his feet and looking dazed, Thompson was allowed to
continue. A furious Fernando rushed in, his punches finally
coming in combination. Thompson covered up on the ropes and
prayed for the bell. It finally came,
but only just after another Vargas right landed on Thompson's
temple and send him to the canvas again.
Thompson rose in his corner, and was so dazed that he tried to sit
down on a stool that was not yet in place. Eventually
Cortez reached the count of eight, and despite not looking totally
aware, Thompson was allowed to take a seat and regain his senses
under a shower of cold water. A minute of ice and water and
counseling was not enough to revive the challenger, and he began
the fourth round on stiff legs.
Vargas ignored his own promise to carry Thompson a few rounds to
extend the punishment, and instead raced at his opponent to see
what he had left. Thompson's arms now extended in an effort
to grab on, but before he could
tangle Vargas' offense, a blazing straight right crashed into
Thompson's forehead and sent him down for the third time in the
bout. Blinking his eyes and balancing precariously on wobbly
stilts, Thompson was again allowed to continue.
Knowing what was to follow, Thompson closed his gloves tight over
his face as Vargas came in for the finish. Vargas used a
cute little trick, jabbing with the left, and as he retracted the
punch, he pulled down Thompson's guard to make way for an incoming
right cross. The punch cracked into Thompson's face and
forced him to lean back on the ropes, helpless. Vargas
continued pumping alternate lefts and rights into Thompson's
gloved defense. Although these punches were not making their
way past the challenger's guard, he was not
returning fire and simply getting beaten on the ropes.
Referee Joe Cortez mercifully stepped in an halted the contest
before Vargas could inflict one more blow and send Thompson down
for good. Vargas KO4.
A quick bout was just what the doctor ordered: an
uncomplicated tune-up for what promises to be the showdown of the
year. This December, Felix Trinidad will attempt to unify
his portion of the 154 lb. title against Vargas (now 20-0/18) in a
battle of unbeatens. Boxer vs. puncher, speed vs. power,
experience vs. youth, fluidity vs. leverage. It will be a
classic. And more, it will be exactly the kind of mega-fight
that the game needs: a showdown between two fighters at the
top of their game. Bragging rights, and serious cashola,
await the winner. We can hardly wait.
Waiting is the name of the game for welterweight Vernon Forrest.
Despite competing on the same Olympic team that produced Oscar
DelaHoya, Forrest needed eight years to secure his first title
bid. It took most of this year to get elusive #1 ranked Raul
Frank into the ring. The winner would fill the IBF 147 lb.
title left vacant by Trinidad. For Forrest, a heavy betting
favorite, it was the realization of a lifelong dream... or so he
Despite beating Frank to the punch for the first two rounds with a
crisp right hand and thudding body blows, Forrest chose to
exchange hooks with his opponent once Frank found mild success
catching Forrest with the punch. Several hook-exchanges
resulted in a clash of heads, but none as bad as the
one that occurred midway through the third round.
As both men launched big left hooks, they turned their heads into
one another, clashing skulls in center ring. Forrest
immediately leaned back and grabbed his head, but he was fine.
Frank also grabbed his head. He then staggered around the
ring and dropped to his knees. Soon, blood began pouring out
of a large gash on his forehead. The cut, which was wide and
deep like a puncture wound, spat out blood in a thick series of
diverging rivers down Frank's face. A stoppage was obvious,
and because less than four rounds had been complete, the bout was
ruled a no-contest. Neither man wins, neither man improves
his record, and neither man walks away with the title.
Forrest was overcome with emotion. His long wait had now
been extended even longer. Frank will require months to
recover from the cut, and purse bids
for a rematch may take awhile to be settled. A win for
Forrest this night might have lured Shane Mosley into a lucrative
unification battle, but that too must now wait. Even if
Forrest's backers can bribe the IBF into making another tune-up
fight qualify for an interim title, Forrest is looking at close to
a year's wait before the matter between him and Frank will be
settled. That could push a showdown with Mosley back to
2002. All from an accidental headbutt.
And so it goes in boxing: one mega fight is now in the
on-deck circle, while another has been postponed indefinitely.
For Fernando Vargas this was a night that lined up his future.
For Vernon Forrest, this was an evening that delayed an
oft-delayed dream. Two completely opposite outcomes from two
very similar showdowns. The unpredictability of boxing once
again commands center stage.