by Cliff Rold
With no belts on the line, not even of the interim variety, this clash of former welterweight titlists is being fought at a catchweight of 144 lbs. because…
It doesn’t make much sense but then again not much around Broner has to. While his in-ring performances have been scattered over the years, he still knows how to sell a show. He got them talking this week with a feud against a Brooklyn origin music act, beef with other fighters on the card, and some choice words at the final presser.
None of that matters once the bell rings. Both Broner and Vargas need a win here badly, Vargas probably even more than Broner. Broner’s ability to talk his way through promotions probably wouldn’t expire with a loss here. He’ll get chances until he’s completely shot.
Vargas, a more quiet and traditionally professional fighter, can afford to move back in line less. Will he be able to continue the rebound from his loss to Manny Pacquiao?
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Previous Titles: WBO super featherweight (2011-12, 1 defense; lost on scale); WBC lightweight (2012-13, 1 defense); WBA welterweight (2013); WBA super lightweight (2015-16; lost on scale)
Weight: 144 lbs.
Hails from: Cincinnati, Ohio
Record: 33-3, 24 KO?
Press Rankings: At 140 - #4 (TBRB, Boxing Monthly), #6 (BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 6-1, 5 KO
Last Five Opponents: 137-12-4 (.908)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Daniel Ponce De Leon UD10; Antonio DeMarco TKO8; Gavin Rees TKO5; Paulie Malignaggi SD12; Marcos Maidana L12; Shawn Porter L12; Khabib Allahkverdiev TKO12; Mikey Garcia L12
Previous Titles: WBA super lightweight (2014-15, 2 defenses); WBO welterweight (2016)
Weight: 143 ¾ lbs.
Hails from: Las Vegas, Nevada
Record: 28-2, 10 KO
Press Rankings: At 147 – #6 (ESPN, BoxRec), #7 (Ring), #9 (TBRB)
Record in Major Title Fights: 4-1, 1 KO (4-2, 1 KO including interim title fights)
Last Five Opponents: 175-17-5 (.901)
Current/Former World Champions Faced: Vivian Harris RTD1; Steve Forbes UD10; Khabib Allahkverdiev UD12; Antonio DeMarco UD12; Timothy Bradley L12; Sadam Ali TKO9; Manny Pacquiao L12
The Case for Broner: Broner is the more consistent puncher in terms of single shot power and retains that power even late into a fight. Just ask Shawn Porter who was well in front when Broner gave him a scare in their final round. Broner sometimes lacks a game plan and takes his share of shots but his chin has been a big asset. Broner can do good work to the body and may need it here. Vargas keeps a tight, high guard and his jab is effective. If Broner can stay inside that jab for sustained periods, his chances of landing the sort of quick shot Vargas doesn’t see coming go up. Broner has to focus on winning rounds and not letting himself get into a hole on the cards.
The Case for Vargas: Vargas, like many fighters, struggles with opponents who can beat him to the punch. Vargas keeps his orthodox guard in place well and should be able to pick off a lot of Broner’s incoming to the head and body; his danger will be in exchanges in Broner can force them. Vargas is the larger man in terms of frame and that includes longer arms. If he can establish his jab, he will have the chance to impose his size on Broner. Broner isn’t all that effective fighting off the ropes and Vargas has the style to force him there. If he can keep Broner going back, and stays landing hard when the chances arise, Vargas will appear to get better as the fight goes on.
The Pick: With years of evidence to look at, one can make the case Broner is a fighter who was probably as good as he was going to get in the DeMarco fight. That’s not a future Hall of Famer, but it’s still well above average. This is a fight that matches a pair of guys who can keep most anyone honest around welterweight but are a cut below the elite in class. It’s well matched and neither man has officially lost yet to anyone who wasn’t a real player at the top of whatever class they were fighting in. Broner is the heavier hitter; Vargas is the steadier, more rounded fighter. Both men have been down and this could be the sort of fight where Vargas is down early and Broner has to weather late. The pick here is that it’s just the sort of fight we get with Vargas winning a close decision in Brooklyn.
Middleweight: Jermall Charlo KO Hugo Centeno
Jr. lightweight: Gervonta Davis KO Jesus Cuellar
Rold Picks 2018: 7-4
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]