A long-discussed showdown between a pair of former titlists appears to have a home.
BoxingScene.com has learned that The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is in play to host a forthcoming junior middleweight clash between Liverpool’s Liam Smith and locally-based Jessie Vargas. Matchroom Boxing has placed a request with the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) to host the bout on January 29 at the intimate venue. The matter will be addressed during the monthly commission agenda hearing scheduled for Monday, December 13.
Smith (30-3-1, 17KOs) remains in the hunt for a second title run in the junior middleweight division. The 33-year old was the first of his fighting family to win a major title, claiming the WBO 154-pound belt in a seventh-round stoppage of John Thompson in October 2015. One successful defense followed before suffering a ninth-round knockout at the hands of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in September 2016.
Nine fights have followed, including a competitive but clear defeat to then-WBO junior middleweight titlist Jaime Munguia in July 2018 which was preceded by two straight wins over veteran contender Liam Williams. Smith’s lone other career defeat came in a questionable twelve-round, unanimous decision in favor of unbeaten Magomed Kurbanov this past May on the road in Ekaterinburg, Russia. Smith quickly rebounded with an eighth round stoppage of Anthony Flower this past October 9 in his Liverpool hometown, calling out Vargas in the aftermath.
Vargas (29-3-2, 11KOs) has not fought since a competitive loss to former four-division titlist Mikey Garcia last February 29 in Frisco, Texas. The welterweight affair headlined the last DAZN show before the pandemic, with the sport having since returned but with Vargas remaining idle while in search of the right opportunity along with other ventures.
Outside the ring, Vargas has previously worked as a commentator for DAZN’s Spanish feed and has also recently announced a bid for a seat in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District in the upcoming election next November. Vargas—whose family relocated to Vegas from California when he was five years old—is seeking a place on the Republican ballot as a former Democrat who plans to fight for voters with conservative values.
Meanwhile, he continues the actual fight to become a three-time titlist. Vargas previously held the WBA junior welterweight belt and the WBO welterweight title, the latter claimed in a ninth-round stoppage of Sadam Ali in March 2016. Vargas lost the belt in his first attempted defense, a lopsided defeat to Manny Pacquiao in November 2016—immediately after Pacquiao’s own political run when he claimed a seat in the Philippine Senate earlier that May.
Vargas has fought just five times since then, going 2-1-2 over that stretch including back-to-back draws in 2018 with former four-division titlist Adrien Broner and veteran former title challenger Thomas Dulorme. The last in-ring win for Vargas came in a sixth-round stoppage of former two-division titlist Humberto Soto in April 2019.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox