‘Wild’ Will Tomlinson’s dreams of boxing glory are about to turn nightmarish when he faces Francisco ‘El Bandido’ Vargas. Opting for a strategy that severely underestimates Vargas’ proficient volume punching, and overestimates his own ability to counter it, he’ll have to overcome a grueling tribulation to prove that he has the heart to match his championship desires.
Overcome he must, after arriving in the US from Australia with an undefeated record (21-0-1), Tomlinson suffered his first professional loss after signing a 5 fight deal with Golden Boy Promotions. It’s taken two straight wins since that loss to gain another chance at contention and any further setbacks would be disastrous. When asked about the loss to Jerry Belmontes, Tomlinson stated, “Belmontes & Vargas are chalk and cheese. Vargas will be right there in front of me ready to fight and I’ll be ready to score my biggest win in America.”
Yes, Vargas is aggressive, but he’s far from the stereotypical slugger. As a former Olympian, he has a strong grasp of the fundamentals that compliments his patient and disciplined aggression. This unrelenting, psychological and physical pressure quickly exposes those that aren’t on his level. Many have chosen to relieve themselves of their anxieties by throwing caution and strategy to the wind, trading recklessly with Vargas who relishes the moments when his opponents crack.
The word ‘Wild’ is often associated with recklessness, I asked Tomlinson about Paulie Malignaggi’s criticism whilst commentating on his previous fight against Miguel Zalmudio. Malignaggi was concerned about Tomlinson’s tendency to lead with left hooks and overhand rights, Tomlinson replied, “Well I’ll interrupt you there, he wasn’t having a go at me. He was pointing out that, I hope that Will understands that he can’t get away with throwing lead left hooks and lead right hands with every opponent out there. And of course I do, I’m no beginner, I’ve been a professional for nearly 7 years. I understand you can’t pluck people off with lead left hooks and right hands all day. However, the type of fighter Zalmudio was, he was a very flat footed, just standing in front of me, he was there to hit, he was an easy target, and when I was throwing those lead left hooks and overhand rights, they were landing. So if I have a choice between, okay, I can land a jab here or I can land a lead right hand or a lead left hook power shot, of course you’re gonna take the left hook or the right hand, they’re the more damaging shot. I fully understand that if you’re up against someone that moves around, that isn’t going to be a sitting duck, a still target for you, you can’t get away with that stuff. But in that circumstance, in that fight, I could get away with it, and I knew I could get away with doing it, so I did it, and it looked good and it was effective in the process.”
This implies that Tomlinson could, and would, change his approach to a fight depending on the circumstance. However, when his trainer Niko Robredo stated, “our main goal is to counter Vargas’ punches,” concerns arose that the change was too drastic. Despite Tomlinson’s skills as a boxer, he had never been defined as a counter puncher; he himself describes his style as a cross between Jeff Fenech and Kostya Tszyu. Factor that with the sheer volume at which Vargas throws, 864 punches thrown, 232 landed (27%) against Belmontes over 10 rounds, I asked how he intended to carry out such a game plan. “You don’t have to throw 850 punches to counter 800 punches. You just gotta make him miss with the first couple of shots he throws, then counter him hard with a big counter shot. So that he feels it and then he gets the respect for your power, not to recklessly throw an abundance of punches, because the moment he does you’re gonna hit him hard. So when he throws shots, I’m gonna make him miss, I’m gonna make him pay and I’m going to make him feel it. Make him think twice about throwing shots and slowly shift the momentum of him throwing a million punches, and slowing the pace of the fight a little bit, and get him thinking a bit more, and what he’s gonna throw, and even when he thinks about it and throws them shots, counter them and hit him again hard. Dictate the pace of the fight, that’s what it all comes down to.”
Easier said than done against a fighter of Vargas’ caliber. Even if he does have some success with this strategy, Tomlinson will have to endure a lot of punishment in the process. However, all is not doom and gloom, as this could be a blessing in disguise. If Tomlinson can overcome, let alone fail with honor, the fans will be exposed to the heart of a fighter that will not give up and fight on, no matter how dire the situation, and prove that he is so much more than just another boxer.