Fernando Vargas: ‘Another Look’

12.04.05 - By Tomas Chico: I disagree with many of the recent assessments regarding Fernando Vargas’s fight with Raymond Joval on March 26, 2005. Admittedly, I admire Vargas' talent as a boxer, but I do not think the fight was close at all, which brings me to a topic I've been reflecting on, judging criteria. Joval was moving forward, but his punches (or whatever they were) were not landing.. His aggression was not effective; in fact it was not even coordinated. Vargas did land some good clean punches and buzzed Joval a couple of times, and then impressively showed patience, which could be a sign of maturity. Fernando was not going to force anything- it was clear he had a plan he was going to stick to. The few times he did stray from his plan he got an earful from his new trainer.

Fernando's defense, although very intentional and methodical was better than Joval’s, and safe to try out against him. Neither fighter seemed to display generalship, but I would tip my hat to Joval since he was bringing the fight (or pillows) to Vargas and the audience. Then again, Vargas clearly out-classed Joval as he picked his spots, getting in and getting out.

I think we have to look at this fight for what it was...a safe training ground to see where Vargas is. Would his back hold up for ten rounds? Yes, it did. Would his new defense be effective? We still do not know given that Joval broadcasts his punches. It seemed like Fernando’s rhythm was off, but I think that was the result of Joval's slow and predictable punches. At times it seemed as though Vargas was just sparring, with his defense both methodical and natural at times. Could he have gotten Joval out of there early? Yes, but that was not his goal. Fernando is trying to extend his career and improve as a fighter by not relying entirely on slugging. It is easy to look at the fight and dismiss him as washed up, but maybe this fight was just the right step at the right time.

It is surprising that so many are quick to write Fernando off. Granted his two losses to Trinidad and De La Hoya were devastating, but they also showed how gutty and resilient Vargas is. In his bout with Felix Trinidad he demonstrated tremendous defensive skills when he was in trouble. However, he showed little movement and stood flat-footed when he was the aggressor. Had he shown an even modest amount of movement causing Felix to reset, Fernando would have avoided a lot of big punches. The low blows in that fight came at especially inopportune times for Vargas. It still troubles me that Tito cheated to the degree he did. I am a big Trinidad fan and I do not have any illusions about his place in boxing history, but after the timing of those low blows I was expecting Tito to bite Fernando’s ear off. It would have been a great experience for Fernando if he had gone the distance with Trinidad. Regardless, he showed the determination of a champion.

In addition, Fernando seems more humble after his two losses, and based on his most recent performance one could infer that he realizes what is at stake. If he wants to continue to fight he cannot or should not go with the one-sided brawling approach. He is not just a guy that can throw a big punch accurately, he is also a terrific athlete who can make adjustments and improve as a fighter. Sure, we all miss the exciting Fernando Vargas who knocked out most all of his opponents. However, for me it is exciting to watch a guy face adversity and rise to the occasion. Put another way, what else does he have in the bag? I suspect, and maybe I am just hopeful, that Fernando will bounce back and live to show his great skills against top fighters again.

Article posted on 12.04.2005

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