Vargas-Mayorga a tired act
By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) --I really tried this time, guys...honest.
But like my failed attempt at wrapping my mind around the MMA/UFC...LOL... lifestyle this spring, I still can't seem to understand why anyone would care even a little bit about what?s happening between Fernando Vargas and Ricardo Mayorga at Staples Center on Friday night.
Oh sure, I got the e-mails from all the breathless publicists, telling me these two guys had developed a genuine enmity for each other, so much so that a Plexiglas shield -- courtesy of the NHL?s L.A. Kings -- had to be imported to separate them at their final pre-fight media conference.
And yes, I understand that they're a pair of former world champions, with a combined 54 wins, 45 KOs and five title belts between them. Yet somehow, I can't help but get the feeling that I've seen all this before...maybe three or four or five times.
Correct me if I'm wrong here, but isn't this the same Vargas fellow who cockily promised imminent Mexican-style destruction of foes like Felix Trinidad and Shane Mosley, and most notably Oscar De La Hoya -- all of whom subsequently dropped him like a hot enchilada?
And I believe this is the very same Mayorga who had his welterweight bling snatched by a slap-happy Cory Spinks, was pounded silly by a rusty Trinidad and got dominated for every bit of six rounds by De La Hoya -- even after menacingly drawing thumb over throat to indicate angry pre-fight intentions.
So when I see the same sort of spontaneous (wink, wink...) press-table scrums and hear the same sort of chest-thumping "I'll retire you" palaver this time around, it's hard to generate anything more than a yawn -- regardless of how intense the dislike and how macabre the violence.
Here?s a sample of what they're promising...
"I've said it all along that I am going to knock his (bleep) out! I don't like him and I never have. He keeps pushing up the weight because he is too fat. He is just a fatty who thinks he can still fight. He doesn't have any fight left in him. He is a coward. I'm going to hit him like he's never been hit before. He doesn't want to be in the same ring as me."
And, from Vargas:
"Mayorga is going to lose as many pints of blood as he wants to on Friday. If he keeps getting back up, he is going to keep losing more blood. It won't go past six rounds. I'm not going to spit on Mayorga because I'll get fined. But I am going to knock him down and tell that joke to get back up so I can knock him down again."
Problem is, there?s not much else to offer.
Mayorga has been exposed as a crude bully since a fluky dethroning of Vernon Forrest in 2003, losing three of five fights. Meanwhile, Vargas followed his loss to De La Hoya with four non-descript wins, before two inside-the-distance flameouts against a thought-to-be-faded Mosley in 2006.
But when Friday night comes...someone's got to win.
Whatever boxing acumen exists between the two lies primarily with Vargas, who should be both faster and stronger at the contracted 166-pound catch weight. And oddly, the duller it is, the better off "El Feroz" figures to be. He also has the power of motivation on his side with a promise to retire after the fight -- win, lose or draw.
"I'm humbled by the fact that this is my last fight and I am fighting in Los Angeles," he said. "I'm really going to soak up this win because this will be my last one."
FitzHitz says: Vargas by unanimous decision.
As it turns out, anything worthwhile is elsewhere on the card Friday night.
IBF welterweight champion Kermit Cintron, who's reinvented himself with four straight KO wins since a 2005 disappointment against Antonio Margarito, makes the second defense of his title when he faces journeyman Jesse Feliciano in the final 12-round hurdle before a rumored February unification bout.
Now 28 years old, Cintron began his career with 24 straight wins and an interim claim on the WBO?s 147-pound belt before an aura-shattering fifth- round stoppage at the fists of then-incumbent Margarito in April 2005.
But rather than the stumble toward anonymity taken by many former unbeaten power punchers, the Puerto Rican import reached out to Emanuel Steward and climbed back toward success, stopping David Estrada in an IBF eliminator before toppling Mark Suarez for the full-fledged belt in October 2006.
He erased Walter Dario Matthysse in two rounds in his first defense in July and has since been linked with Margarito conqueror Paul Williams in a reported showdown for the WBO and IBF crowns, penciled in for Feb. 2 in Puerto Rico.
"I have great people around me and I knew once I started with (Steward) that eventually I'd have a chance at a world title again," he said. "He is more involved with professionals and we're very much one-to-one when we're training together. I've had three fights since and you can tell how much I've improved and how he knows the game inside out."
Feliciano, a 25-year-old from Las Vegas, began his career at 12-1-2 before consecutive losses to Mohamad Abdulaev (TKO 8), Mike Arnaoutis (TKO 1) and Oscar Diaz (UD 10) over 12 months in 2004-05.
He?s 3-1-1 since, including a come-from-behind eighth-round defeat of Delvin Rodriguez at Connecticut's Foxwoods Resort in March.
"He's the type of fighter that tries to make the fight and he's got some good wins under his belt in the last couple years," Cintron said. "We decided to fight him to stay busy, and because it was a chance to go out and look good once again."
FitzHitz says: Cintron in 5.
It's not my favorite chore by a long shot, but a few hours of pre-holiday closet cleaning on Monday begat a treasure chest of memories.
Buried deep among the boxes and tubs untouched since my move to Florida in May, I dug up a portion of the boxing magazine collection I'd first begun compiling as a socially-inept pre-teen back home in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Among the issues I subsequently spent the evening skimming was the November 1982 edition of "Boxing Illustrated," which that month featured a cover story titled "Roberto Duran: Nothing Left and Nothing Left to Prove," by Ben Sharav.
The magazine came out shortly after what many figured would be Duran's last fight, a 10-round decision loss to unheralded British contender Kirkland Laing on the inaugural episode of ESPN's "Saturday Night at the Fights" from Cobo Hall in Detroit.
"It was a disappointing ending to the career of a great fighter and it left many of his fans feeling cheated," Sharav wrote. "It was as great an erosion of skills in as short a time as most had ever seen. Roberto Duran -- Manos de Piedre -- who personified raw ferocity in the ring for a decade, instills fear no longer.
"Once called, with good reason, "pound-for-pound the greatest fighter in the world," just two years ago after looking down from the pinnacle, the greatness has diminished and all that remains are our memories of what once was."
Duran, as it turned out, fought 41 more times -- winning major belts at 154 and 160 pounds and a fringe crown at 168 -- finally retiring after a 12-round decision loss to Hector Camacho in July 2001, one month after his 50th birthday.
I'm getting old. But it?s good to know I'm not alone this weekend.
Former Olympic medalist Virgil Hill, who debuted as a professional back in November 1984, will take part in his 29th major world title bout on Saturday night when he risks the WBA cruiserweight crown against German southpaw Firat Arslan in Dresden.
Hill is defending the vacant crown he won with a unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Valery Brudov in January 2006 in Atlantic City. He's dropped a non-title match to former foe Henry Maske and battled myriad injuries since, while Arslan captured the interim title with a split nod over Brudov in June.
Now 43 years old, Hill is 24-4 in previous championship fights, initially capturing the WBA's 175-pound crown in 1987 and adding the IBF belt in 1996. He won the WBA cruiser title for the first time with a one-round stoppage of Fabrice Tiozzo in December 2000 before losing it in defense No. 1 to Jean-Marc Mormeck.
Arslan, 37, has won nine straight since dropping a decision to Lubos Suda in 2003.
On the same card, Hungarian-born Zsolt Erdei will defend his WBO light heavyweight title for the ninth time when he faces lanky Panamanian veteran Tito Mendoza.
Erdei has been champion since 2004, when he defeated Julio Cesar Gonzalez by unanimous decision in his 19th pro fight. His most recent outing came in June, when he stopped George Blades in the 11th round at the SYMA Sport & Leisure Center in Budapest, Hungary.
Mendoza has won five straight, including four by KO, since a 10-round loss to Luis Andres Pineda in July 2005.
Elsewhere, in Veracruz, Mexico, local favorite Edgar Sosa defends his WBC light flyweight title for the third time against veteran challenger Roberto Carlos Leyva.
Sosa won the vacant belt with a defeat of Brian Viloria in April and has since beaten Luis Alberto Lazarte (DQ 10) and Lorenzo Trejo (TKO 9) to improve to 29-5 with 15 KOs.
Leyva, now 24-6-1 in 31 pro bouts, hasn't fought since a six-round decision win over Felipe Acosta in October 2006. He held the IBF minimumweight title in 2001-02, but is 0-3 in world championship attempts since losing his title to Miguel Barrera.
Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is a periodic contributor to the Dave Smith Show -- broadcast weekdays from 6 to 9 a.m. on Sporting News Radio (radio.sportingnews.com) -- and provides "In the Ring" boxing commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com).