Boxing
Mayorga and Vargas: A summer of glove
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Call it the "Oscar De La Hoya whipped my @$$" world tour.

When Ricardo Mayorga and Fernando Vargas finally close their mouths and actually get in the ring on September 8 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, it'll end of one of the more contentious hype-generating press junkets in recent memory.

Fernando Vargas
Fernando Vargas hasn't done much more than bleed, swell and fall down since December 2000.
The ex-junior middleweight champs have been at their menacing and threatening bests in the early stages of the whirlwind trip, including a July 11 scrape in LA that resulted in an exchange of punches and a cut under Mayorga's right eye.

The actual matchup -- billed as "The Brawl" -- will surely be fun to watch.

But boy, what I wouldn't give to just fast-forward past all this nonsense and just get to fight night -- because, quite frankly, it's getting more than a little old.

Oh sure, Vargas looks scary when he says he'll stop Mayorga. And Mayorga looks imposing when he says he'll go one better and hurt Vargas. Problem is, it's been a long time since either one of them came close to backing up the tough- guy chatter.

Vargas hasn't done much more than bleed, swell and fall down since December 2000, when Felix Trinidad punched away his invincibility while scoring a 12th- round stoppage in a light middleweight unification bout.

"Ferocious" Fernando has come up short three more times since, including a conversation-filled 11th-round loss to De La Hoya in 2002 and consecutive TKO losses to Shane Mosley in February and July of last year.

He's claiming this will be his last bout, regardless of result.

Meanwhile, Mayorga is one of Vargas' few peers in terms of vitriol, though it's been equally meaningless in recent days.

The chain-smoking Nicaraguan is just 2-2 since dropping his welterweight titles to Cory Spinks, including an eighth-round stoppage loss to Trinidad in October 2004 at Madison Square Garden and a sixth-round TKO at the hands of De La Hoya last May in Las Vegas.

That fight featured a particularly hatred-fueled lead-in tour, with Mayorga brandishing a sword and threatening damage to the former Olympic gold medalist until he tasted a thudding left hook in round one at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino.

But, bless his heart. He's at it again.

"I will do Vargas a favor by retiring him in this fight so his family doesn't have to suffer every time he steps in the ring," Mayorga said. "I'm going to do (his) wife a favor and not let her cry anymore after I disfigure (him)."

Hey, thanks anyway, Ricardo... if it's all the same to you, I'll wait for the movie.

It's official. The maturation of Andre Berto has begun.

The 23-year-old welterweight will risk his "FitzHitz's No. 1 prospect in boxing" status on Friday night when he meets former world title challenger Cosme Rivera in a scheduled 10-rounder at the City Center facility in Saratoga Springs, New York.

The bout with Rivera represents a significant rise in class for the 18-0 Berto, who's won 14 in a row by knockout against the middling likes of James Crayton, Miguel Figueroa, Norberto Bravo and Martinus Clay.

Rivera was stopped in three rounds in a try for then-champion Zab Judah's 147- pound belts in May 2005, and in his last fight scored a 12th-round knockdown while dropping a razor-thin split decision to Joel Julio in October 2006.

Berto's last four foes had a combined record of 94-44-9 with zero title fights.

And with a win, it hardly gets easier.

The Miami native is penciled in for another tough 10-rounder just two months down the road, when he'll tentatively face 20-3 fringe contender David Estrada on the undercard of Jermain Taylor's 160-pound bout with Kelly Pavlik on September 29 in Atlantic City.

Estrada, a slick stylist who's scored 11 KOs in 20 wins, was 18-1 before dropping a unanimous 10-round nod to the aforementioned Mosley in April 2005 in Las Vegas. He was TKO'd by Kermit Cintron one bout later, losing in the 10th round of an IBF title eliminator in Palm Beach, Florida.

Also a Miami native, the 28-year-old has fought twice since the two-bout skid, stopping 11-9-2 Clarence Taylor and 13-8 David Toribio in seven and four rounds, respectively, in September 2006 and April 2007.

Berto's closest challenger in my budding superstar class -- fellow welterweight Rock Allen -- took his 11th step without a stumble last Saturday in Las Vegas, winning a unanimous six-round verdict over Ramiro Rivera on the Hopkins-Wright undercard at Mandalay Bay.

The 25-year-old Philadelphian turned pro in August 2005, stopping Damon Antoine at 2:27 of the first round at the Borgata Hotel Casino in Atlantic City. He won his first five bouts by TKO, then earned a pair of six-round decisions before splitting his four most recent outings between stoppages and unanimous scorecard verdicts.

Allen's 11 opponents have a combined record of 41-43-4.

Round one in the 168-pound cold war goes to Joe Calzaghe.

The unbeaten Welshman adeptly countered Bernard Hopkins' declaration of super middleweight conflict on Tuesday, claiming that his upcoming unification battle with fellow European Mikkel Kessler is a higher priority than the 42- year-old instigator.

"Hopkins can get in line and wait for me," said Calzaghe, who's defended his WBO strap 20 times since defeating Chris Eubank for the vacant title in October 1997.

"I was all set to fight him two years ago and he doubled his financial demands after first agreeing to the fight."

Lovable Bernard reached the 20-defense plateau himself at 160, defeating Englishman Howard Eastman via 12-round decision in February 2005 before dropping consecutive nods to Jermain Taylor and heading to 175 for a successful date with Antonio Tarver.

He made it two straight upsets over the weekend, defeating Winky Wright at a catch-weight of 170 and immediately summoning Calzaghe to Yankee Stadium for a not-so-peaceful summit meeting later this year.

"Now people look at me and say, 'Look at your shoulders. Look at your midsection. It's like you're a wide receiver for an NFL team,'" Hopkins said. "Why cheat myself and not be able to exploit the situation by continuing?

"I want Joe Calzaghe next. Tell him to come over here and I'm going to beat him, too."

FitzHitz scored Saturday's bout for Hopkins, 115-113.

Calzaghe and Kessler are scheduled to meet for the WBC, WBA and WBO super middleweight belts at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales on November 3.

Kessler won the WBA crown with an eighth-round stoppage of Manny Siaca in November 2004, then added the WBC laurels to his collection with a third-round KO of Markus Beyer last October in Copenhagen, Denmark.

His last bout was a violent 12-round decision over Librado Andrade on March 24.

Calzaghe was last in action two weeks later, stopping Peter Manfredo Jr. in three rounds.

And now, a south-of-the-border weekend update...

Mexico City native Edgar Sosa travels to the seaside hamlet of Cancun on Saturday night, when he'll make the first defense of his WBC light flyweight title against well-traveled Argentine veteran Luis Alberto Lazarte.

Sosa, who'll turn 28 next month, claimed his room in the 108-pound penthouse back in April with an upset majority decision over Brian Viloria on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao's wipeout of Jorge Solis at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

He is unbeaten in his last 15 fights since starting his career at 12-5.

The 36-year-old Lazarte has won 17 bouts in a row, including four in row in a busy 2007.

The championship chance will be the fourth of his career, but his first in nearly five years since a 12th-round disqualification loss to countryman Omar Andres Narvaes for the WBO flyweight title in September 2002 at home in Argentina.

He lost a 12-round split decision to Colombian incumbent Kermin Guardia while trying for the WBO's minimumweight crown in October 1999, then was stopped in two rounds by Pongsaklek Wonjongkam in a grab at the WBC flyweight crown in December 2001 in Thailand.

The loss to Wonjongkam is the lone defeat by stoppage for Lazarte, who's now 37-7-1.

Meanwhile, far away from the title-bout glare, it's "Macho Time" in Nevada.

Hector Camacho Jr., the 28-year-old son of the former multi-division kingpin, takes another anonymous step toward respectability in a scheduled eight- rounder against St. Louis resident Don Juan Futrell.

A winner of 33 straight to begin his career, the younger Camacho has slumped to 9-2-1 in his last dozen outings, including a controversial eighth-round TKO loss to junior middleweight Andrey Tsurkan on the Hopkins-Tarver undercard last summer in Atlantic City.

Camacho complained vehemently when the bout was halted at 1:42 of the eighth by referee Randy Neumann, claiming he was unhurt after laying on the ropes and absorbing an extended combination from Tsurkan on his arms and sides.

He's fought just once since, moving up 15 pounds to super middleweight for a third-round stoppage of George Klinesmith in September 2006.

Also on the Laughlin card is fellow championship progeny Carlos DeLeon Jr., the 28-year-old son of former cruiserweight title-holder Carlos "Sugar" DeLeon.

A 6-foot-2 super middleweight, "Baby Sugar" has won six times and drawn once since his lone career loss, a surprise fourth-round TKO at the hands of veteran Marcos Primera on the Corrales-Castillo undercard in May 2005.

DeLeon will face 8-17 journeyman William Gill on Saturday night, then has a 10-rounder with an as-yet-undetermined foe set for August 25 in Mississippi.

He beat Ted Muller -- last seen falling at the fists of a comebacking Andrade on the Hopkins-Wright PPV show -- by an eight-round decision in December 2006, then stopped Derek Andrews at 2:59 of round one in February.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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