The loss to Ricardo Mayorga on Friday in Los Angeles in many ways typified Fernando Vargas' boxing career. It was exciting and passionate but when he needed that extra push, he was unable to find it.
Vargas retires with a 26-5 record, 22 knockouts, two stints as a world champion at 154 pounds and a wholly deserved reputation as one of the most entertaining fighters of his era.
His biggest wins were back-to-back, in 1999 and 2000, when he won a majority decision over Winky Wright and a unanimous decision over Ike Quartey.
The win over Wright is the most significant of his career, even though many feel Wright deserved the decision. And while Vargas should be commended for beating Quartey, it also must be noted both that Quartey was moving up in weight and that Quartey had had just one fight, albeit against Oscar De La Hoya, in the previous 30 months.
He had a good career – better than most – but he wasn't great and isn't a Hall of Famer. He'll be remembered fondly as a good fighter who was as brave as they come but simply not quite good enough to beat the greats.
The response to my column last week criticizing the antics of both Vargas and Mayorga ran about 3-1 in favor of those who wearied of the pre-fight nonsense, but nearly every Yahoo! Sports reader noted he or she was entertained while watching Vargas compete. In the end, that's really what it's about.
With that, it's time again to delve into the reader mailbag. I'll tackle a number of Vargas questions, as well as many on other boxing topics.
As always, my answers are in italics below the question.
NO NEED FOR THUGS
Brother, you read my mind. I loved your column on Vargas and Mayorga. I hate thug wannabes who want to be boxers. I loved seeing those two fighters get knocked out. Now I just hope the same happens to Floyd Mayweather Jr., but it probably won't happen because he's too quick.
The reason I was critical of Vargas last week was because of the way he and Mayorga conducted themselves. I'm not against trash talk, but those two way crossed the line and the promoters made fools of themselves condoning it and putting up their little Plexiglas walls to separate them at public appearances.
If they're wild animals, then why not put collars and leashes on them and have someone walk them around?
TOOK ON ALL
Whether or not Vargas won his fights against top-caliber opponents doesn't mean as much as the will and desire he showed to compete against these top contenders. Vargas never ducked anyone. Nowadays, fighters want to dance around and look pretty. As long as they win by decision, they're happy! Vargas would go toe-to-toe with anyone and put it all on the line, even if it meant getting knocked out.
No one is arguing Vargas wasn't worth the price of admission. If you liked a fight, you never made a bad choice if you chose to buy a ticket to see Fernando Vargas in action.
Why are you so hard on Vargas? Granted that he lost to Oscar and Shane Mosley, but what gives you the right to say you hope this is the last time Vargas fights? Vargas is a good fighter and I really hope this is not his last fight.
There's this thing you may have heard of, Brian, called the United States Constitution. Its first amendment kind of says it's OK for me to say that kind of thing. I enjoyed watching Vargas, but I wearied of the out-of-ring antics after seeing them so often.
SPEAK FOR YOURSELF
Speak for yourself. Some people like sparks because it leads to a more interesting fight and brings out the best in people. Would you say the same about Floyd Mayweather Jr. the boxer/runner. At least these two go for gold and go do their job and actually fight.
I was speaking for myself, though judging by the reaction I received to the column, I was speaking the minds of many others, as well.
Why are the titles not on the line for the Kelly Pavlik-Jermain Taylor rematch? Does this mean that even if Taylor wins the fight, Pavlik will still get big fights and be considered a champion? I was very happy when Pavlik won, very happy and surprised, indeed, but I think Taylor should have an opportunity to win his titles back and avenge the loss.
Taylor's not getting the opportunity to win the titles back because it was his decision. He was the one who insisted upon the rematch being fought at 166 pounds. Because that's over the middleweight limit of 160, the titles can't be on the line. But I don't think they'll sell one fewer ticket because of it. I think it's great that the WBC and its greedy, hands out president, Jose Sulaiman, won't be able to get a sanction fee from the fighters for this one.
LACY WAS BRUTAL
Jeff Lacy wasn't written off because he simply lost a fight. Lacy was written off because of the manner in which he lost the fight. Joe Calzaghe danced rings round him. He did not look like a champion. He didn't even look like a professional boxer. Being beaten by a boxer of Calzaghe's caliber is no great shame. No one has written Mikkel Kessler off having suffered the same loss as Lacy. The difference is that Lacy was shown to have very little skill against world-class opposition. A knockout punch is only good if you can land it. Lacy couldn't.
Lacy was clearly horrible against Calzaghe. I believe he has the physical skills to be good, but was rushed in his development because he could make money for his promoters and for television. If he's allowed to learn the game now, I think he could still be a factor. He'll never be Marvin Hagler, but few were or will be. But he can be good, if given time.
WHY NOT GUZMAN?
Promoter Bob Arum went on about how Taylor initially avoided Pavlik and now he's ranting about Mayweather avoiding Cotto. But what about Manny Pacquiao, whom Arum promotes, avoiding Joan Guzman? It smells of rank hypocrisy.
I don't remember going on about Taylor avoiding Pavlik. I believe that was an easy fight to make. As far as a potential Pacquiao-Guzman fight, it's only now come to the forefront. Top Rank will make the fight, but not before a bout with Juan Manuel Marquez, which would be a much bigger event at the box office. And if Pacquiao chooses to move up to lightweight, he'll fight David Diaz for the WBC title. There's a lot you can criticize Arum for, Mike, but he deserves credit because he's been putting Pacquiao into good fights.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
This is going back a bit and you will think me stupid for bringing him up, but what would have Tony "El Torito" Ayala done if he had stayed clean during his prime. I watched him as an amateur and pro and I think he could have taken Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns all on the same night!
I remember watching many of Ayala's fights back when they were on NBC when Marv Albert (who was by far my favorite boxing play-by-play guy) was calling the action. Ayala's ability clearly put him in the league with the men you mentioned, though he didn't get to their level because he was convicted of rape.
NO EXPERTS HERE
No Paul Williams in the Top 10? Joe Calzaghe at No. 3? Who has Calzaghe fought? Oh, yeah, the Dutchman no one in America has ever heard of. But we all know what a boxing powerhouse the Netherlands is, so it's justifiable that he is ranked ahead of a legend who knocked out both Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya and made Winky Wright and Antonio Tarver look like amateurs. Your analysts are not pros, pal. They call Larry Merchant an analyst, too, and no one above a double-digit IQ thinks that guy knows a thing about boxing.
Atlantic City, N.J.
Perhaps Calzaghe is overrated at No. 3, though I had him at No. 2 on my ballot. But I'm not going to consider seriously the opinion of someone who says he's never heard of one of the world's elite fighters, Mikkel Kessler. I double checked the rules, Danny, and found there's no prerequisite for a birth certificate from the U.S. for being a good fighter.
Do you think Antonio Margarito will get a chance to fight Cotto, or will Cotto dodge him just like Mayweather?
If Cotto doesn't fight Mayweather next, I think he'll fight Margarito. Much will be predicated on what De La Hoya chooses to do. But there is no way Cotto is ducking Margarito.
Who do you have between Aaron Pryor and Floyd Mayweather Jr.? I would favor Pryor slightly because of his strength, power, and underrated speed.
Wow, what a great match that would have been. I think Pryor's strength would have been too much and he would have pulled out a late stoppage.
NEXT FOR OSCAR?
Oscar De La Hoya said during the Mosley-Cotto post-fight interviews he is going to fight another bout next year but didn't want to give away his opponent. Who do you think is the logical contender for the upcoming De La Hoya fight?
If Ricky Hatton beats Mayweather, then I think they announce a Hatton-De La Hoya fight for May 3, 2008. If Mayweather wins, it's up in the air. This is a wild guess, but why not IBF welterweight champion Kermit Cintron? Another title for Oscar would be appealing and it would revive the Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry.
- Can't get enough of Kevin Iole's mailbag? Then check out last week's edition.
- Fernando Vargas
- Oscar De La Hoya
- Ricardo Mayorga
- Winky Wright
- Joe Calzaghe