Fernando Vargas: Resurgence, Or Last Gasp

28.03.05 - By Matthew Hurley: On March 26th Fernando Vargas returned to the ring in front of an adoring, capacity crowd against non-descript Ray Joval in an attempt to get his stalled career back on track. Vargas had been laid up for fifteen months with a bad back and had opted against surgery on a bulging disk in hopes that he could regain his past championship caliber form. His first fight on the comeback trail was as a full fledged middleweight and though he won a clear cut ten round decision the result did not answer all the questions being asked about his latest return to the ring.

From the opening bell it was obvious that Fernando was determined to employ a more technical approach. Instead of immediately slinging his best punch, the left hook to the body, he tried to establish his jab and, perhaps ironically, he adopted the tuck and roll defense his nemesis Oscar De La Hoya used against him in their bout. Whenever Joval attacked, Vargas dropped his left, tucked his chin behind his left shoulder, held his right fist tightly against his chin and rolled his body backwards at an angle. The ploy worked against the light hitting Joval but the tall, lanky middleweight was still able to walk through everything Vargas threw back at him in return and kept the bout relatively interesting..

Vargas continued to counterpunch but he seemed to slow down as the rounds progressed. However, only once did he lose his composure (a flaw in his mental make-up he has to control if he is going to be successful.) A cut on Joval’s right eyelid seemed to seal the deal for Vargas but a follow up low blow – reminiscent of the one Felix Trinidad pulverized him with in their classic battle – brought out the “Ferocious” in Fernando. Vargas won the round big but seemed to lose his energy. He seemed distressed and tired in the corner between the ninth and tenth rounds but his new trainer, Danny Smith, calmed him down and Vargas went back about his business in determined, workmanlike fashion.

After the fight Vargas said his back felt good and that he was trying to pace himself and box smartly. Still, on a scale of one to ten a rather disappointed Vargas replied, “I’d give myself about a 3 ˝. I’m my own worst critic but that’s how I feel. There’s plenty of room for improvement. I’m still learning.” A bit harsh considering it was his first fight in over a year, in a new division and against an opponent who entered the ring at 175 pounds. But in the long run his overly critical assessment may help him. His reaction reveals a more mature personality rather than the angry firebrand boxing fans have grown accustomed to when it comes to Fernando. He also seemed to realize that maybe the middleweight division is too much for him. “I’m going to go back down to 154. Hopefully I can get a fight with (newly crowned) Javier Castillejo. Then after a few bouts I’ll think about Trinidad and De La Hoya.”

Whatever happens, it was nice to see Vargas back in the ring. His fans, some of the most ardent in the sport, will support him no matter what happens from here on out. There’s a love affair between Vargas and his fans and Fernando has let his desire to please them dictate his sometimes reckless style in the past. Perhaps in this, what will undoubtedly turn out to be his final run for a title, a more mature and disciplined Vargas can put aside the roar of the crowd and fight with his head rather than his heart. But would he be “Ferocious” Fernando Vargas if he did that? As the level of his competition rises we will find out.

Article posted on 28.03.2005

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