by Cliff Rold
For the sentimental, the Miguel Cotto farewell tour on Saturday will have its moments for sure.
The problem is boxing isn’t good at sentiment. Farewell fights always feel contrived. Boxing is about big fights and building to big fights. Saturday’s main event is likely a foregone conclusion paying out at a healthy price tag with funds that could have been spent on future focused boxing.
Lucky for viewers at home, there will be opportunities before the main event to think about tomorrow.
For the second time this year, Jr. featherweight Rey Vargas (30-0, 22 KO) will get quality time on an HBO broadcast. As was the case in August, the 27-year old Mexican WBC titlist at 122 lbs. will be in support of Cotto.
It says something about what Golden Boy might think of Vargas that they would pair him with one of their most bankable commodities. While Cotto’s matchmaking in 2017 has been fairly laughable, his shows draw eyes. In August, up against Mayweather-McGregor, Cotto versus Yoshihiro Kamegai still did a decent-for-boxing-on-cable of between 7-800,000 viewers.
Vargas is someone Golden Boy can do things with going forward and that includes this weekend. His challenger, like Vargas, has never lost. Colombia’s 30-year old Oscar Negrete (17-0, 7 KO), who fights out of California, will do his best to take Vargas’s seat at the table.
It might be tough. Vargas is the sort of fighter who doesn’t jump off the page but he’s got some talent. Many were expecting a close fight with Ronny Rios in August; some even picked Rios to take Vargas’s belt.
Vargas barely lost a round. His deceptive speed, work rate, and very long arms for a Jr. featherweight were too much for Rios. He can box inside or out and to date has shown a solid beard.
Given his frame, it’s not hard to picture him moving up in weight eventually but, as long as he stays, it’s an important weight for anyone to mine for new stars. Jr. featherweight has been a source of great profit and memories in the land of premium cable for most of the last two decades. Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Manny Pacquiao, Israel Vazquez, Nonito Donaire, Mahyar Monshipour, and many more have combined to make a range of classics few other weight classes can boast.
For now, Guillermo Rigondeaux remains as the current top man among active fighters in the class but his future is uncertain. The WBA is moving to potentially, and shamefully, take his title for moving up two classes to face Vasyl Lomachenko. Already in his late 30s and never a very active fighter, he’s not where the division’s future lies either way.
Vargas may not be either but at his age he’s got as good a chance as anybody if he can hold on to his belt for a bit. If he can get people asking when they’ll see him again after the Cotto victory lap closes, he’ll have been the real show on Saturday.
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]