By Jake Donovan
As boxing hipsters continue to reflect fondly upon the career of Hozumi Hasegawa, a void left behind by the former three-division champion will soon be filled.
Unbeaten super bantamweight contender Rey Vargas received an early Christmas when he was informed by the World Boxing Council (WBC) that he is first in line to contend for the title vacated by Hasegawa upon his retirement this past fall. Vargas was the mandatory challenger to the title, and will now face the next highest-rated contender, England’s Gavin McDonnell in a matchup of unbeaten title hopefuls.
The bout is due to take place either February 18 or 25, likely in the United Kingdom.
“This is an opportunity I’ve dreamed of for as long as I even thought about boxing, and now it’s going to happen,” Vargas (28-0, 22KOs) told BoxingScene.com when learning of the news. “I’ve already begun preparation to conquer my dream.”
Vargas moved into the top spot following a 5th round knockout of former 115 lb. titlist Alexander Munoz this past September in Zaragoza, Mexico. The 26-year old from Mexico City was in an interesting position given that both he and then-champion Hugo Ruiz both fight under the Promociones del Pueblo banner.
It likely wouldn’t have prevented such a bout from happening, as no opponent is off limits for the unbeaten knockout artist. However, any lingering conflict was removed when Hasegawa turned back the clock and stopped Ruiz in nine rounds in mid-September. As Vargas was prepared to gain vengeance for boxing-rich Mexico, any plans for such a matchup dissolved upon the sudden and shocking retirement announcement from Hasegawa.
He will now set his sights on McDonnell (16-0-2, 4KOs), a 30-year old from Doncaster, England who makes a big leap in class for this his first world title fight. Should he manage the feat, he will join on the championship stage his twin brother Jamie, who presently reigns as a bantamweight titlist.
McDonnell positioned himself for a future title shot with a 12-round win over previously unbeaten Jorge Sanchez in their title eliminator this past February. He has since added a stay-busy eight-round win over Robin Zamora this past September
The bout will mark the first trip outside of The Americas for Vargas, who is trained by Hall of Fame cornerman Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Beristain. His lone two career bouts outside of Mexico have both taken place in Southern California.