Bad Blood- Oscar De La Hoya's greatest fight!

16.12.05 - By James Slater: "Ferocious" Fernando Vargas had a deep personal hatred of Oscar De La Hoya that went way back to when they had both been amateurs. Apparently, Fernando had been very badly slighted and mocked by Oscar at a time when he had needed his help and encouragement. He had never forgotten and, whatever the exact incident had entailed, it was clearly still uppermost in Vargas' mind and he spoke frequently of wanting to beat up his tormentor in the pro ranks.

Now, on the 14th of September 2002, he had his chance because, although Oscar, adding more fuel to the fire of hatred that burned inside Vargas, had said he would never grant Fernando the opportunity at such a big money earning fight, had now changed his mind and was willing to do so.

With new trainer Floyd Mayweather snr in his camp, Oscar had set about remedying the possible shortcomings some felt he had regarding his stamina. He'd hired Mayweather, one of quite a few trainers he had worked with in his career, prior to his excellent KO win over Arturo Gatti. The event was billed as "Bad Blood" and this wasn't a simple case of hype. Vargas, like Julio Cesar Chavez before him, didn't consider De La Hoya a real Mexican like himself and, despite Oscar's claims to the contrary regarding the validity of the incident that had so angered him, "Ferocious" was hell bent on destroying "The Golden Boy" and exacting his revenge. He even went so far as to say that he would rather die than lose to De La Hoya. Nobody likes this kind of talk obviously, and, despite the passion that clearly flowed through Vargas, most felt such talk was unnecessary and in poor taste.

At the weigh in for the fight Vargas looked absolutely magnificent. His physique was chiselled in a manner it had not been before. He really looked strong at the weight and people questioned whether or not Oscar would be able to match him in this department. With this being only De La Hoya's second bout at 154 pounds some felt Fernando, who had fought at this weight ever since turning pro, first becoming a world champion in 1998 when he'd KO'd Yori Boy Campas, possessed a big advantage. In the opening round it looked like it.

After a fast start by De La Hoya in which he landed a good right hand and a left hook, Vargas trapped him on the ropes and Oscar was in trouble. He had an alarmed look on his face, almost as though he was thinking, "Yeah, this guy is too strong for me". He was almost knocked through the ropes and needed all his experience to get through this bad patch and survive the round. Clearly the first round was Vargas' and he'd made a statement. He'd also marked up De La Hoya's cheekbone with his clubbing left hand blows.

The crowd was electrified and those who had bet on Vargas must have thought they'd be collecting their money pretty soon. After one of the worst opening rounds of his career, Oscar pumped out lots of jabs in the second round, almost certainly knowing he was going to be in for a long night. He was the superior boxer of the two though, and his jab proved to be a very effective weapon.

Some more big punches landed for Fernando, most notably a right hand to the head followed by a left hook to the jaw that shook Oscar in the third, and another big right that stunned him in the fifth. But now there was swelling underneath his right eye and, come the sixth round, Oscar was frustrating and out boxing him, and then he began to noticeably hurt him.

De La Hoya scored with two left hands in this round and opened a nasty cut under the same right eye. It was a deep cut and soon it was pouring blood. By the seventh, Vargas appeared tired; he had put out a lot of work in the fight yet De La Hoya was still there snapping jabs into his damaged face. It looked as though Oscar might be able to stop Vargas, who had only lost once before, by a late round KO against Felix Trinidad in an incredible fight.

Vargas got a second wind though and managed to stay out of trouble through the eighth and ninth rounds, and he was winning the tenth until he was badly wobbled by a three punch combination near the end of the round. He looked quite exhausted as he rose from his stool to start the eleventh, and Oscar was looking to finish him. He did so with a perfectly timed left hook that crashed into Fernando's jaw and put him flat on his back. Showing great courage he somehow beat the count , yet he had absolutely nothing left, and after a barrage of follow up blows that had him pinned helplessly against the ropes, the referee, Joe Cortez, jumped in and stopped the fight. Oscar spat out his mouthpiece and raised his arms in victory. This was one of his best, if not the best, win of his career. Certainly it was the most satisfying, especially after he'd had to listen to all the pre-fight talk from Vargas. Oscar had shut him up and taught him a lesson in the process. In the post-fight interview he confirmed this saying he'd had to punish his opponent for being disrespectful.

Vargas could have no argument about the result, he was thoroughly beaten and some wondered how the loss would affect him. He did look devastated in the ring immediately afterwards. Fortunately, showing his fighting spirit, he carried on in his career and is today still hoping for a rematch.There was a controversial aftermath to the fight though. Vargas tested positive for the steroid Stanozolol and was suspended by the Nevada Commission for nine months. He claimed he'd had no knowledge that he had taken anything illegal during training and put the incident down to his being misled in camp by one of his nutritionists. Some believed his pleas of innocence, others didn't.

Whatever the case Vargas would not work with the nutritionist again and tried to put the matter behind him. Unfortunately, it did tarnish his image in the eyes of some people.For Oscar there were only celebrations. This was his biggest victory for quite some time and it had proved that he could be a warrior in the ring if the situation demanded. No one could ever question his heart again after coming back from such a bad start in a gruelling contest, nor did anyone question his stamina in this performance. The pound for pound rankings had him up as high as he had previously been, and he again graced the covers of many boxing magazines. He had definitely answered any questions people may have had regarding his commitment to boxing. "The Golden Boy" now shined brighter than ever before!

Article posted on 16.12.2005

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