NEW YORK – The only source of comfort for Jessie Vargas in suspending his political was knowing that it was due to his finishing unsettled business in the ring.

On a Madison Square Garden show where headlining acts Katie Taylor (20-0, 6KOs) and Amanda Serrano (42-1-1, 30KOs) have been respectful to one another and saving their heat for the ring, the co-feature between Las Vegas’ Vargas and Liverpool’s Liam Smith has been nothing but contentious. The pair of former titlists have traded barbs for the past two years—the amount of time this fight has been in play as it now makes its way to the ring on the third try.

“For me, yeah it’s a bit personal,” Vargas told “He’s had a lot to say. I can’t wait to knock his ass out and shut his mouth.”

The initial launch point for the upcoming junior middleweight bout (Saturday, DAZN, 7:30 p.m. ET) was last May, though never coming to fruition. The delay and other contributing factors would leave Vargas without a fight for all of 2021 and out of the ring since a competitive but clear defeat to former four-division titlist Mikey Garcia in February 2020, just before the start of the pandemic.

The fight with Smith (31-3-1, 17KOs)—a former WBO junior middleweight titlist—was finalized for February 5 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. However, Vargas (29-3-2, 11KOs) was forced to withdraw after testing positive for Covid. The first available date for Matchroom Boxing to reschedule was April 30. The near three-month delay was far out enough to where Vargas had to abandon his plans to run for Nevada’s 4th Congressional District as a Republican, dropping out of the race earlier this year to instead focus on his ring comeback.

It was a difficult decision on a personal level for Vargas, who sought office to stand up for what he feels is an underrepresented community. However, Smith’s desire to make this fight personal helped Vargas realize that the good fight in the ring was here he needed to conduct business.

“I’m now on my third training camp for this fight,” notes Vargas, a former junior welterweight and welterweight champ whose training team includes four-division champ Nonito Donaire along with Donaire’s wife, Rachel, overseeing strength and conditioning for the team. “I’m readier than ever to get back in the ring, knock this guy out and begin my journey to become a three-division world champion.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox