Some fighters don’t know how to lose. (photo by Ryan Hafey)
It doesn’t matter that they look beatable, vulnerable, on the verge…they find ways to win because there is more there than meets the eye.
With now-featherweight titlist, there is plenty to meet and please the eye. His height, jab, punch selection, and timing are all things right there to witness. As he survived some rough late rounds against Mark Magsayo on Saturday night, the things below all the skills he’s acquired through hours in the gym under the tutelage of master trainer Nacho Beristain stood out.
Vargas is tough, mentally and physically. He can appear always trying to master legs that can appear clumsy, knocked off balance or down in multiple fights. Vargas was down Saturday in the ninth, and stayed unsteady through much of the tenth. It didn’t matter. He wasn’t letting Magsayo all the way back in the fight. In round eleven, Vargas all but sealed the deal with a display of deft punching that kept him just out of reach for the shorter, willing Magsayo.
It was the closest title fight to date for Vargas, and yet was comfortably in his favor by scores of eight rounds to four on two scorecards.
Futures: With a new belt in tow, Vargas opens a whole new set of options after losing much of the last three years to injuries. Fighting on Showtime means some access to PBC opponents. For Vargas, that could mean a unification showdown with Leo Santa Cruz, still holder of the WBA’s primary belt despite not fighting at featherweight in three years. It could also mean Gary Russell Jr. when Russell is back and healthy. There is also a victor on Saturday’s undercard, Brandon Figueroa?
How would Santa Cruz handle the height and range of Vargas? How would Vargas handle the speed of Russell or the relentless pressure and volume of Figueroa? Winning Saturday puts Vargas in position to find out.
Magsayo seemed to be a right place, right time titlist when he defeated a mitigated Russell earlier this year. Saturday he showed real grit, hanging in there and looking for the sort of bomb that could overcome disadvantages in skill and experience. He almost found it and fought his heart out. Whoever isn’t seeing Vargas next may well find a foe in Magsayo and the now former titlist will make another good show when it happens.
Sometimes making good shows counts for a lot as was the case for a big winner overseas this weekend…
Heavyweight Dereck Chisora doesn’t win them all. His 33-12 record tells us that. Now 38, Chisora isn’t likely to win or lose many more given the way he fights.
And yet, there he was, Saturday with a packed house at the O2 Arena. Once more memorable for his antics in press conferences pre-fight spitakes, Chisora has evolved into a guy who almost always shows up and makes a show in the ring. He avenged a loss to Kubrat Pulev in a battle of former title challengers in a fight that was sloppy, lumbering, and violent. Everyone got their money’s worth from both men, and Chisora got revenge for a decision loss in 2016.
It might have been Chisora’s best win since he defeated Carlos Takam in 2018 and deepened a career that is a veritable who’s who of his era. Is there one more big payday before he’s done?
Futures: Chisora would probably love to see Anthony Joshua on the other side of the ring given the pounds at play in the UK but Joshua has Oleksandr Usyk to prepare for right now. Chisora also mentioned Deontay Wilder, a dangerous fight for a man without great defense or speed.
There aren’t any safe options for Chisora right now but there are lucrative ones if the chips fall the right way. One option that might be worth exploring is a man who in many respects is his American doppelganger. Chris Arreola hasn’t fought since a battle last May with Andy Ruiz. The two have had similar careers and would mix like peanut butter and jelly. It’s probably a long shot but is there a more obvious fight that hasn’t happened in this heavyweight generation?
Figueroa was his usual thrilling self in defeating Carlos Castro this weekend and may be more formidable at featherweight with less weight to take off. His style might not be built for a long run but Figueroa is going to be a nightmare as long as his body holds up…Israil Madrimov-Michel Soro is turning into the equivalent of the Joshua Franco-Andrew Moloney saga at Jr. bantamweight. It could be a blessing for the division if it keeps that mandatory in limbo for a bit as it could decrease pressure to break up the belts in the class for a hair longer.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com