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A Great Victory for Fernando Vargas
by Eldon Frost (email@example.com)
On the night of Saturday the 2nd of November 2000, Fernando Vargas lost a
memorable battle against Felix Trinidad. It was a great victory for
Trinidad, a great victory for Puerto Rico, and just maybe an even greater
victory for Fernando Vargas.
In the days before the fight, Fernando impressed the media and fans with his
hard training and his attitude. In newsreels from the Vargas training camp
at Big Bear California, Fernando worked the heavy bag as if it were filled
with foam. Head trainer Roger Bloodworth talked about the difficulties in
keeping sparring partners for Vargas, most of who proved unwilling to take
the physical beating that he unleashed. The only thing that struck me as a
possible downside to Fernando's training was his mental game plan. He
talked about 'cutting off the ring.' He talked about how he was going to
control the pace of the fight. He talked about Felix Trinidad as if he were
just another good fighter. In retrospect, it was bound to be a disaster.
Fifteen seconds into round one, a shocked Fernando Vargas was on his butt
after catching a huge left hook from Felix Trinidad. It was obvious that
Vargas did not expect to encounter the speed or power of a fighter like
Trinidad. It wasn't that Vargas couldn't handle Trinidad. In later rounds
Vargas showed that he could. It was that Vargas didn't EXPECT anyone to be
equal to his own speed and power. The bell at the end of the round one
created a broad smile on the face of Vargas. It was as if to say, 'OK, I'm
not a virgin any more. Now I know what this is like.'
By round three, Vargas' punching power and skill had returned. He bobbed
and weaved so much it made me dizzy watching him routinely avoid five-punch
combinations. By the final rounds of the bout, however, the early abuse he
sustained caught up with him. An exhausted Vargas hit the canvas for the
final time, 93 seconds into the twelfth round.
The day after the fight, did Fernando cry and whimper, whine about the low
blows, make excuses, and announce a 6-month layoff? No. First he expressed
his dismay at having let his fans down. Then, just as he had promised, the
Vargas camp declared Felix Trinidad the best pound-for-pound fighter in the
world. When Main Event's Gary Shaw asked Fernando if he wants a rematch with
Felix Trinidad, Fernando's response was, "Absolutely yes."
What did Fernando lose in the fight? Well, he lost his 20-0 perfect record,
and he definitely lost his naivete about fighting top opponents. What did he
gain? Vargas gained even greater prestige and support, increased his draw
power, and likely increased his future pay. He also showed us that at merely
23 years old, there will be much more of Fernando Vargas to come. Vargas put
up a great fight and a noble effort. He gave it everything he had, just as
he promised he would.
In the few days prior to the fight, commentators, sports writers and fans
alike jumped on the Vargas bandwagon. Far fewer have jumped off. Felix
Trinidad may just be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, but
Vargas has also emerged from his loss as a champion.