Vargas-Mayorga: Fernando's Last Stand

fernando vargas24.08.07 - By John Howard: I was invited to Valencia, CA, last week to watch "Ferocious" Fernando Vargas train for his upcoming fight with Ricardo "El Matador" Mayorga. Vargas 26-4 (22 KO's) will fight Mayorga 26-6-1 (23 KO's) on September 8th at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. This will be Vargas' last fight in a ten year career.

And what a career it has been! A roller coaster ride that started with his pro-debut back in '97, and his first world title in 1998, knocking out Yori Boy Campas in seven rounds for the IBF title and becoming the youngest champion in the junior middleweight division's history (21 years and 5 months).

This non-title fight is contracted at the catch weight of 162 pounds, the heaviest either fighter has ever fought.

Vargas has a loyal following of fans in Southern California and is from nearby Oxnard, CA. This fight at the Staples Center will give Vargas' fans the opportunity to see him in person for the last time.

"It's not for money. It's not for belts. I'm making this fight for one reason and one reason only - for pride," Vargas was quoted in the Ventura County Star as saying.

The first thing I noticed when I entered Big John McCarthy's Ultimate Training Center was the intensity in the camp of "Team Vargas." Unlike HBO's four-part documentary leading up to the De La Hoya-Mayweather fight where you saw both camps with a jovial, light feel to them, this wasn't anything like that. Vargas is focused and I truly believe has his mind made up to show his fans that his last fight with Shane Mosley was not the true Vargas.

If you recall, in that highly anticipated July 15, 2006 rematch, Vargas was stopped in the 6th round via a 6th round TKO by Mosley. After that fight, most fight fans believed they had seen the last of Vargas. He looked sluggish and didn't appear sharp at all.

Is Vargas letting his pride influence the fact that he performed poorly in his last fight against Shane Mosley? Or, is Shane that good?

Robert Ferguson (Vargas' nutritionist & conditioning coach) believes his poor showing was due to Vargas "killing" himself trying to make the 154 lb limit. Ferguson feels at 162 lbs Vargas will be a much stronger fighter. Also, Vargas has parted ways with former trainer Danny Smith and has returned to "old school" trainer Eduardo Garcia who's trained Vargas since he was 10 years old. Nobody knows Vargas better. Who could be a better choice than Garcia to train Vargas for his final fight?

Let's break down this fight by experience, styles, and of course, the intangibles. Then we'll take a look at what the experts have to say and the odds on the fight. To summarize, I'll have a few final thoughts.


Vargas had a long amateur career with a record of 100-5. Mayorga won the National Championship and was the Central American Golden Gloves champion as an amateur. He had 103 amateur victories with only a few losses. Because of conflicting data, I was unable to confirm exactly how many losses. In their last seven fights as professionals, both fighters have an identical record of 4-3. Their common opponents are Trinidad and De La Hoya. Both fighters suffered TKO losses in these fights, but Vargas performed much better than Mayorga in his losing effort. Vargas put Trinidad down in the fourth round of their fight back in '00. Vargas is 29 years old to Mayorga's 34. Advantage: Vargas


Over two days, I sat down and analyzed twelve of Mayorga's previous fights (thanks for providing the DVD's). Mayorga has no sound boxing technique. He fights in an unorthodox, swarming style. He wings wild, looping rights and lefts, and occasionally an uppercut, usually from way outside. He has no jab. When he's in a clinch, if his right arm is free, his favorite foul is the rabbit punch. If the fight goes long enough, he'll be warned for this.

In contrast, Vargas is a boxer/puncher. He moves well and uses all of his punches. Vargas beat future Hall of Famer Winky Wright on points and his only losses are to future Hall of Famers Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, and Shane Mosley (twice). Except for the last Mosley fight, all were extremely competitive. Without the low blows from Trinidad, who knows what would have happened. Look for Vargas to out-box Mayorga and probably stop him in the middle rounds.

Caution! Forget experience and styles if this fight becomes a real barnburner early on. If that becomes the case, watch out for Mayorga. He loves that kind of fight. It would not be in Vargas' best interest to be lured into a wild brawl. Vargas should stay focused, throw straight punches and move. Vargas should watch the tape of the De La Hoya-Mayorga or Trinidad-Mayorga fights and emulate De La Hoya and Trinidad. Even though Mayorga doesn't have a sound boxing style, he can punch — and punch well from some awkward angles. Advantage: Vargas


Vargas is fighting in front of his fan base in Southern California. This is his last fight and he wants to look good. Even though neither fighter has fought at this weight before, the additional weight will benefit Vargas. He should have moved up to middleweight years ago. The help of nutritionist & conditioning coach Robert Ferguson is a major plus.

Mayorga will no doubt fight again. George Foreman is quoted later in this article as saying, there's "too much water under the bridge" for Mayorga. I agree. I feel, like Foreman, that Vargas hand-picked Mayorga because he sells tickets. Mayorga definitely has the bigger mouth. Against Vernon Forrest and Andrew "Six Heads" Lewis, he was able to back it up. Will he be able to do that against Vargas?

Mayorga was destined to become a fighter. "I come from a country where everything is war," Mayorga was quoted as saying. "Even the women are tough. In Nicaragua, women give birth wherever - in the middle of the street, in the countryside - with no medical attention. You see that and it puts a totally different perspective on things." Mayorga was given the title of "The Craziest Man in the Sport" by The Ring Magazine. In the fight game, to be given that distinction is quite an accomplishment.

Weight could also become a factor. As Ted Sares points out in the opinions below, Vargas has shed a lot of weight to make 162. Zapped strength? Flat? We'll see. Advantage: Even

Expert Opinions:

"Vargas by knockout. He's a better fighter and he'll be in better shape." ~Thomas Hauser (acclaimed boxing writer)

"Vargas is the best in this fight! Mayorga has the best heart in the business, but too much water under the bridge; he has become just an opponent. He sells tickets." ~George Foreman

"Mayorga. Vargas has lost too much weight. I see Mayorga winning early. But if Vargas gets through the first 5 rounds, he wins by stoppage." ~Ted Sares (well-known online boxing writer)

"I'm picking Mayorga in a minor upset. Vargas has always been the much better fighter, but this is going to be a pure brawl, and at this point, Mayorga has the better chin." ~Steve Farhood (Showtime commentator and former editor for The Ring Magazine as well as being a contributing force in the Boxing Writer's Association of America.

"While I don't see how either guy can possibly have much left, I have a gut feeling Mayorga will score a mid-rounds KO over Vargas in what could well be an exciting slugfest for at least a while. The way Fernando looked a while back - when massively overweight - was quite shocking. Unless he can somehow turn back the clock and surprise us all, I see "Ferocious" being taken out around the fifth or sixth round." ~James Slater (well-known online boxing writer)

"I'm taking Vargas. He's said he took this fight because pride wouldn't let him go out with a showing like his last fight with Shane Mosley. That motivation — and a higher weight class that should prevent some of the difficulties he's had recently in making weight - should be more than enough to give him the advantage," said David Lassen, a Sportswriter who has covered Vargas's career - Ventura County Star- Vargas' hometown newspaper)


The odds opened with Vargas being a 2-1 favorite. Since that time, the odds on Vargas have dropped. I consulted with my handicapping expert José Gonzalez. José runs the most premier combat sports handicapping business in the world (

"Mayorga's best defense is his offense and Vargas is no longer "ferocious." I know for a fact that Mayorga will KO Vargas with his wild, quick looping power punches. Vargas doesn't have the firepower to keep Mayorga off him. The over/under line is set at 9.5 rounds. That fight is an "under" more than any other bout I've seen in recent years. As the underdog, bet Mayorga!"

Final Thoughts:

As a follower of the sport since the "Fight of the Century" back in '71, and a contributing writer for ESB, one thing I'm certain of is this fight will in no way resemble the De La Hoya-Mayweather letdown we saw back in May. These two guys just love to fight! I predict this fight will be very fan friendly.

Article posted on 25.08.2007

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