Sharkie’s Machine: When Muscle Mouth Meets ‘Goody-Two-Shoes’ Fist

Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank

Oscar De La Hoya Vs. Fernando Vargas
(34-2-0-27 KO’s) (22-1-0-20 KO’s)

By Frank Gonzalez Jr.

18.09 - Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay in L.V. Nevada, Bookies were going crazy with all the ebb and flow of the odds. Fight fans have been speculating for over a year now about how this fight between “The Golden Boy” Oscar de la Hoya and “Ferocious” Fernando Vargas would end up.

Their animosity is common knowledge. According to Vargas, as a teen that greatly admired De La Hoya, he was training up in Big Bear at the time and fell in the snow, when Oscar, who was running the same trail, saw Fernando fall and raise his hand for help. Instead of helping him up, De La Hoya laughed at him and kept running. Vargas was a big fan of Oscar’s before this fall in the snow business happened but his admiration turned to bitter hatred after the incident at Big Bear.

When asked, De La Hoya said he didn’t recall the incident.

Vargas has been itching for this match up against his hated California-Mexican rival for a long time. A chance for vengeance and a lucrative purse fueled Vargas desire to face Oscar, but De La Hoya refused to fight him, saying that he didn’t want to give Vargas the opportunity of a lifetime since he behaves like a street thug who has no respect, and like Mike Tyson, gives the sport a bad name.

Vargas is a good boxer who has proved his worth many times before in solid performances against some of the division’s quality fighters. Even in his brutal loss to Trinidad, Vargas showed heart and great will to continue in spite of being knocked down twice in the first round. He not only survived but also put Tito on the canvas in the fourth round. Trinidad later finished him with a knock out victory late in the fight. Many observers believe that Trinidad left Vargas a damaged fighter.

In Vargas next outing after Trinidad, he was knocked down by the soft-punching Wilfredo Rivera. I thought Rivera simply caught Vargas with such a clean shot; it would have knocked down anyone in the division. Vargas, to his credit, got up and finished the fight with a KO victory over Rivera. But the questions about Vargas chin continued to grow.

Vargas started out as a Jr. Middleweight and made his bones beating Yori Boy Campos by TKO-8, in 1998 winning the IBF Jr. Middleweight Title, defending that title four times against Howard Clarke (26-10) by TKO-4, Raul Marquez (30-1) by TKO-11, and a split decision, controversial win over Ronald “Winky” Wright (39-2). He beat Ike Quartey (34-1) by UD-12 convincingly and Ross Thompson (24-3) in a TKO-4 victory. His tough guy attitude, the tattoo and crested hairstyle have built him a solid fan base among the wannabe thugs. Hey, they buy tickets too.

Oscar De La Hoya has been a huge attraction in Boxing since he debuted as a pro in 1992, after winning the Gold Medal in the Olympics. Not just an exciting boxer but a pretty-boy who could fill seats with fans AND their girlfriends, who come to see the handsome pugilist do his thing. His pen chance for saying all the right things has made him a commercially viable money magnet.

He’s not called the “Golden Boy” for nothing. The man is a money making machine. His fights always put fans in seats and draw huge ratings for the TV Network that carries his fights. If you ever see Bob Arum standing next to Oscar, you don’t have to guess why he’s always smiling the way he does.

Here’s some history on Oscar:

He started out as a Super Featherweight, won his first title in 1994 against Jimmi Bredahl (16-0) by TKO-10.

He moved up and won the WBO Lightweight title against Jorge Paez (56-6) by KO-2 in July of 1994. He won the IBF version of the title against Rafael Ruelas (43-1) by TKO-2 in May of 1995 and defended against Genaro Hernandez (32-0) winning by TKO-6 in September of the same year. He later beat Jesse James Leija (30-1) by TKO-2 and Darryl Tyson (47-8) by KO-2.

Moving up to Light Welterweight in 1996, DLH fought legendary Mexican champion, Julio Cesar Chavez (96-1) by TKO-4 when Chavez suffered a bad cut and the fight was stopped. He defended at Jr. Welter against highly regarded Miguel Angel Gonzalez (41-0) winning a UD-12.

Oscar moved up to Welterweight and won a controversial decision to Pernell Whitaker (40-1), who many felt out-boxed Oscar although De La Hoya connected with the better punches. He beat track star, Hector “Macho” Camacho (64-3), who ran for 12 rounds while getting tagged by Oscar. In a rematch with Chavez (100-2) he won by TKO-8 when Chavez refused to come out for the 9th round. Had he fought Chavez in his prime, I don’t know that Oscar would’ve been so successful. Oscar’s fought his share of ‘old fighters.’ He took on unbeaten Ike Quartey (34-0) and won a SD-12 in a fight where DLH was downed in the 6th round and put Quartey down in both the 6th and 12th rounds. He won by TKO-11 against aging Oba Carr (48-2).

In one of the more memorable DLH fights, he faced unbeaten Felix Trinidad (35-0) and was winning most of the rounds up until about the 8th, when Oscar thought he could just coast on his point build up and ran for the last few rounds, leaving the door open for a very controversial loss by MD-12. Don King’s hand picked Judges proved more powerful than the Boxing clinic Oscar put on Trinidad, resulting in Oscar’s first loss.

Then there was the Shane Mosley fight, where Oscar was out worked and practically out boxed by the exciting, high octane “Sugar” Shane. It was a close fight in a lot of ways but Mosley was a bit busier and more intense. Shane’s MD-12 win over Oscar propelled him into the mythical status of best pound-for-pound fighter in Boxing.

Although many in the “establishment media” were saying Roy Jones Jr. was the best p4p, Roy resides in the very soft, Light Heavyweight division, where competition is scarce; in spite of saying he’s naturally a Super Middleweight. Jones never fights top fighters either, so it’s hard to take him seriously in my opinion. Jones is more of an exhibition-class fighter in my view. His ‘fight’ last week against Clinton Woods was more of a sparring match with an amateur class fighter than anything else. It’s not a good fight when everyone knows the outcome of a fight before the first bell rings. Also, Jones always finds ways OUT of fighting the people fans want to see him face, very un-Oscar like indeed.

After Oscar’s first loss, to Felix Trinidad at 147lbs. in a controversial decision and later losing a split decision to Shane Mosley, Oscar moved up in weight to 154lbs. and fought Javier Castillejo of Spain for his WBC Jr. Middleweight Title. Many detractors said Castillejo “sold” his title to Oscar, who couldn’t finish off the Spanish champion and was only able to knock him down in the last moment of the fight. Question marks about DLH’s lack of power at 154-pounds began to surface.

* * *

Fans have been frothing at the mouth to see Vargas and De La Hoya fight. Some questioned Oscar’s heart for refusing to make it happen for so long. Especially since Oscar had moved up and become a Jr. Middleweight, the same division as Vargas, who was never shy about his desire to fight Oscar.

Vargas had developed a reputation as a top fighter in his division, sporting an unbeaten record and having faced some common opponents. He beat Ike Quartey convincingly, an opponent who gave Oscar a tough fight but being knocked out by Felix Trinidad, who Oscar would have beaten had he not run away for the last few rounds.

At one point, De La Hoya agreed to fight Vargas but then opted out of the fight citing an obligatory fight against number one contender, Roman Karmazin instead. But, Oscar hurt his wrist and didn’t fight for more than a year, recuperating from the injury. Between the long lay off, Oscar again agreed to fight Fernando Vargas, which was scheduled for May 4th, 2002.

That fight didn’t happen either. Again, DLH’s injury needed more time to heal, so the fight was rescheduled for September 14th. Again people questioned whether the fight would ever happen and if Oscar had lost his nerve. Vargas styles himself in ‘Thug’ fashion, he ran a campaign of smack talk about Oscar than exceeded anything I’ve ever seen before. I think Ali had more respect for Sonny Liston than Vargas had for DLH. Vargas went on ESPN2 and showed off his new and improved physique, much to the arousal of Max Kellerman, who gushed over Vargas and picked him to win, while implying that DLH and Arum owned the Judges. The Judge’s played no part in the outcome of the fight when if finally happened. DLH took Vargas to school; Finishing school.

* * *

The Fight

Round One

In the first round, DLH showed he could beat Vargas to the punch. He used his speed to tag Vargas, who used his power as he worked DLH into the ropes and pounded away almost knocking Oscar through the ropes, but DLH survived the onslaught. I gave Vargas the first round as he hurt Oscar early. During the break, Oscar had a big raspberry on his left cheek compliments of “Ferocious.”

Round Two

Oscar out-boxes Fernando using superior footwork and speed to catch Vargas with plenty of jabs and a few power shots. Vargas again works Oscar into the ropes and shows that although DLH owns the center ring, Vargas owned the ropes. At one point, Vargas seemed to try to head butt DLH as he forced Oscar into the ropes. Oscar did more and wins the round.

Round Three

DLH’s protective cup was fairly high, as Joe Cortez, the referee indicated at the onset. Vargas was very aggressive and forces DLH back into the ropes where he threatened to knock DLH out. But Oscar proved to be cagey enough to get out of harms way. Vargas’ power was the big factor in this round. I gave it to Vargas. During the break, Floyd Mayweather, (Oscar’s trainer) says, “He did all the punching in that round.”

Round Four

Oscar uses the jab effectively, catching Vargas at will, causing a swelling on Vargas right eye. Vargas was outworked. Oscar wins the round.

Round Five

Vargas comes on strong, DLH gives as good as he gets. Vargas is able to box well, making good adjustments to Oscar and taking away the center ring. Vargas out scores and hurts DLH as he pummels him into the ropes and chases him into a defensive posture. It is a back and forth battle and it looked like Vargas might overpower Oscar and possibly knock him out. I’ve never seen Oscar KO’d before. This was getting more intense by the moment. Leaving Oscar’s nose bloodied, Vargas wins the round big.

During the break, Mayweather seems confused as he yells inaudible instructions at Oscar. HBO’s George Foreman complained repeatedly about Mayweather’s coaching, saying he stuttered before giving Oscar advice. Oscar blew his nose twice on his stool, a no-no unless you want to induce swelling of the eyes. Foreman continued to rag Mayweather throughout the contest, citing how guys like Alcazar and Stewart taught DLH all he needed to win this kind of fight and questioned Mayweather’s corner presence.

Round Six

Oscar free-lances in the sixth, keeping away from the ropes and working his jab, setting up Vargas for some decent power shots as Vargas seemed to slow again, looking more and more hittable. DLH catches Vargas with a punch that opens a cut under Vargas’ right eye. Blood for blood, Oscar takes this round.

Round Seven

Vargas and DLH square off in the center ring like the two warriors they are. Vargas, seeming to make adjustments was still less effective then Oscar. Vargas gets a few shots in, but Oscar was scoring in this round frequently, catching Vargas with cleaner punches. Oscar wins the round.

Round Eight

Oscar imposes his will on Fernando, giving Vargas a Boxing lesson.

Round Nine

Vargas comes forward, catching DLH and hurting him. Oscar ‘holds his own’ and tries to steal the round late but Vargas just did too much. Vargas wins the ninth on pure determination.

Round Ten

Vargas does well coming forward, practically chasing DLH down. With only seconds left, DLH ‘shoe shines’ the body and turns the combo into a left hook that wobbles Fernando. As Oscar tries to finish him off, the bell rings, saving Vargas. It was a tough round to score, but since DLH obviously did more damage, I gave it to him.

Round Eleven

Vargas enters the eleventh round still woozy from the tenth. They box. DLH is patient and doesn’t go after Vargas in an effort to close the show; instead, he waits for his opportunity to strike again. Oscar catches Vargas with a left hook. Then follows up with a second left hook that drops Vargas to the canvas. As Cortez counts, Vargas, all heart, gets up. Oscar then attacked Vargas, pummeling him into the ropes until Cortez steps between them and stops the fight. It was over.

The Golden Boy wins what had to be the most satisfying victory of his career, after years of taunting from Vargas.

* * *

Punch - Stats

Total Punches
Power Punches
DLH - Vargas
281 Landed 227
171 Landed 59
110 Landed 168
660 Thrown 525
423 Thrown 136
237 Thrown 389
43% Percent 43%
40% Percent 43%
46% Percent 43%

Judge’s Scores

*Patricia Jarmon Manning -- 97-94 for Vargas

Paul Smith – 96-94 for De La Hoya

Doug Tucker – 96-94 for De La Hoya

My score was 96-94 for De La Hoya

*Hey, I remember P.J. Manning, she’s the one who scored it in favor of Holyfield in his fight with Lewis, causing a Tie.

* * *

Fernando Vargas, beaten and disappointed, showed poor sportsmanship in defeat; he didn’t shake hands with Oscar or even acknowledge his victory. He left the ring before the interviews were conducted and was taken to a nearby hospital for precautionary measures.

During the post fight interview with HBO’s Larry Merchant, DLH was gracious, even crediting Vargas as a strong fighter as well as compliment the two men who have wins over him; Trinidad and Mosley.

Merchant congratulated Oscar and asked him if he thought it would come to a knock out ending or just be a very intense Boxing match?

DLH: I did feel his conditioning was wearing down a bit, and I know my conditioning is great. I should have moved my head a little more, popped more jabs—he was wide open for the jab.

LM: How does this rank among your greatest victories?

DLH: It’s got to rank up there Larry. I mean, Fernando Vargas is no pushover. He’s a strong puncher but I knew I was faster and could utilize my quickness and eventually catch him in the later rounds.

LM: He got you on the ropes several times. Was that distracting to you, did you believe he was too strong for you, and did you have to make adjustments?

DLH: At first, I thought he was too strong for me but when I was rolling and he was missing, I knew he would get tired in the later rounds.

LM: When did you see him getting tired?

DLH: I believe in the seventh, even in the sixth round, somewhere around there, I felt he was wearing down.

LM: What did the blood mean to you? What is the message that sends to a fighter.

DLH: I’m sorry to say, I know it sounds brutal, but when I see blood, I want more! That’s just the way it is.

LM: How satisfying is this, simply on a personal level after being taunted and goaded for so many years by him?

DLH: Oh, it feels great because all the talk he was saying, I got fed up with it. I wasn’t going to fight him but he got under my skin. So I told everyone, inside the ring, my fists were going to do the talking.

LM: What keeps Oscar De La Hoya going? You have all the money in the world, you’re married to a lovely woman and you’ve had so much success, why do you keep doing this?

DLH: Well, in Boxing Larry, it’s my whole team; Mayweather, little Joe, my brother, Bob Arum, especially my wife. My wife motivated me. Although she was there with me for about a month and a half in camp—eh, the team sometimes feels, ‘we don’t want women there,’ this and that, but my wife is different. She pushes me. Every time I’d leave the room to go train, she’d tell me, “You better train hard or don’t come back.”

(These types of remarks don’t exactly endear Oscar to fight fans, but his performance Saturday night sure did.)

LM: All right, let’s take a look at the 11th round, you tell us what’s going on?

DLH: Left hook. I was just waiting for his jab. He was starting to throw a solid jab but I knew that if I fainted him, I fainted him and threw the left hook. We’re always working on that, and if I had a chance to throw the right hand, I would throw it. I was working on the body, just trying to stop him here basically.

LM: Did he say anything to you during the fight?

DLH: No, he just left. I thought he was going to shake my hand or something but he just left. It’s OK, no problem.

LM: Do you feel sort of like you beat up a kid? Because the first time you laid eyes on him, he was just a kid.

DLH: Well, you know what, I never disrespect any fighter because any fighter who steps inside this ring I respect a lot because it’s a tough sport. But, he talked a lot of stuff about me. So, I had to show him a lesson.

LM: How long do you want to keep going on?

DLH: Uh, until I know I can secure my legacy in Boxing. That’s fighting Shane Mosley, fighting Trinidad, if he comes back. If he doesn’t I respect that. But, fighting the best. You have to fight the best to be the best. And with Mayweather in my corner and the rest of my team, man, I’m going straight to the top.

I wonder if Roy Jones Jr. was listening to that part!

This fight may not have been as exciting as Gatti vs. Ward, but it was certainly a fight that lived up to it’s hype. The best performance I’ve ever seen from Oscar De La Hoya. The second best fight I’ve seen in 2002. Hats off to Oscar for a thrilling victory over his long time antagonist, Fernando Vargas. I hope Vargas learned a valuable lesson this week about humility. He fought a good fight, showed heart, and gave one of the best fighters in the division a serious run for his money. Had he not talked so much smack before the fight, he might have felt better about showing some good sportsmanship at the end. In his arrogance and lack of good council he is what he is. I think he’s a good fighter with very credible skills and is still young enough to bounce back and make his mark in the division, hopefully as a changed man, spiritually.

Vargas’ attitude may grate on people outside the ring but inside the ring, he is ‘ferocious’ and a force to be reckoned with. I’d love to see Vargas take on Mosley or Forrest (if Vernon moves up to 154 lbs.). Then there is Daniel Santos, holder of the WBO version of the title. There is still a looming rematch with Winky Wright, owner of the IBF version of the title. I hope Vargas gets some better people around him so that he can truly learn from this loss. Creating all that bad karma by taunting Oscar for so long finally caught up to him. At 24, he’s still a kid. I look forward to seeing him fight again.

As for Oscar De La Hoya, the only pressing business he has is to face Shane Mosley again to secure his legacy. Then, I fear, he will take all his money and amazing resume and retire from Boxing, living happily ever after.

I don’t see him ever fighting Bernard Hopkins or anyone outside of his division at this point. At 29 years old, he’s come a long way. After suffering two defeats, he came back and looks ready to redeem himself for the two losses. I believe he can.

I thank both men for an outstanding fight, a real fight. The kind of fight you remember until senility kicks in. Even then, you’ll just remember it all out of sequence.

* * *

Agree or disagree? Send comments to



Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank

by Cliff Clark

14.09 - Oscar De La Hoya fought the most impressive fight of his professional boxing career tonight in battering arch enemy Fernando Vargas into an eleventh round KO defeat. The fight was even after 6 rounds, but it was evident to this writer that DLH was on his way to a knock out victory. Vargas looked stiff, tight and nervous, while DLH looked relaxed, determined and quick. That’s the opposite of what I expected. Vargas followed Oscar around the ring and was looking for one big punch, rather than boxing and cutting the ring off. Fernando seemed to be trying to bully De La Hoya with strength and power. Vargas’ strength training program proved ineffective, and he looked slow and tight. When Vargas began trading punches with Oscar, I felt he was treading on thin ice. Throughout the fight it looked as though Oscar would inevitably land his big left hook. I gave DLH a 2 point round in the 10th, when he hurt Vargas badly just before the bell. Fernando’s corner went crazy between rounds, but Fernando was smoked at that point. Oscar is a bigger puncher, and has a much stronger chin than Vargas, so I believed Vargas had to stay out of big exchanges at all costs. The thing that really surprised me was the way Oscar out jabbed and out-boxed Vargas. Vargas didn’t use an effective jab all night. He was looking to hurt Oscar with one big punch, but he never looked like a threat to land it.

DLH has progressed farther with his controversial trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. than I've ever thought he could in two years. Oscar displayed more range, versatility and speed with his left jab. His new jab is much harder to counter than the monotonous jab he used to throw. He went to the body better with both hands, and his left hook has greater punching range. His right hand was quicker, harder, and more accurate than ever, and his defense and feinting skills have greatly improved. Oscar also looked a lot more relaxed and confident than he did for his other big fights. In his last two fights DLH really struggled with the new techniques Mayweather is trying to teach him. I didn’t think he looked good at all in those fights. The new style seems more a part of him now, and he seems to be mastering it. He’s a better finisher than ever. It was something like Lennox Lewis when he was struggling for a couple of years to learn the new boxing skills Manny Steward was teaching him. Instead of getting frustrated, Lewis stayed with it, and it paid off. I give Oscar credit for being smart, and for changing trainers until he got what he wanted and needed, to improve his chances against the elite boxers who have beaten him.

De La Hoya was very wet with sweat as he came out for the first round. He started fast with body shots hooks and jabs. Vargas was dry and took a while to get started, but as he warmed up he drove Oscar to the ropes and landed a barrage of punches including two left hooks that abraded Oscar’s right cheek. Vargas won the round.

Oscar took the second round with lefts to the head and body. He peppered Fernando with jabs and got under a wild right hand. Vargas bulled De La Hoya into the ropes near the end of the round, and got a quick verbal warning from referee Joe Cortez. Fernando was fighting with great contempt and having trouble controlling his emotions.

Vargas took the third round as both fighters exchanged heavy punches. Vargas connected with hard left hooks and right hands to the head and body. De La Hoya got under a wild right, but was hit by a sharp left hook to the head. Vargas was fighting at a high emotional pitch, and looked extremely intense. The Vargas corner seemed to be doing a lot of cheer-leading. They kept telling Vargas that he’s the only one, that he’s the champion, and that he’s too strong for DLH. Oscar’s corner was more relaxed, and dispensed more advice of a technical nature.

De La Hoya came back to win the fourth round, by landing a hard left hook, and a hard right. Oscar’s jab continued to dominate the action. Oscar kept retreating and Fernando kept following him around the ring.

In the fifth round Vargas started fast with some left hooks and rights to the head and several ripping left hooks to the body. Oscar continuously retreated and was obviously trying to tire Fernando out. Both fighters kept going to the body with jabs and hooks. Vargas won the round.

Vargas slowed down in the sixth round. After controlling the round with his jab, and quick hooks and rights, De La Hoya hit Vargas after the bell. He extended his glove in a sportsman like gesture of apology, but Vargas rejected the overture.

In the 7th and 8th rounds, Vargas continued his slow pace. He showed unmistakable signs of fatigue. De La Hoya easily won these rounds as Vargas continued to walk straight in and eat jabs.

A tired Fernando pressed the action hard in the ninth. He landed more punches in this round, particularly the left hook and straight right. Even though Vargas won the round, you could sense De La Hoya was coming on.

Vargas started very well in the 10th round, but I gave De La Hoya a two-point edge in the round. With a few seconds to go in the round they were trading punches when Oscar threw a right-left-right to the body. He immediately followed up with a devastating left hook to the chin. Vargas staggered back at the bell, and wobbled to his corner.

In the eleventh round Oscar knew he had Vargas hurt. He was hot on the hunt, and was looking to apply the finisher. A minute into the round he caught Vargas with a brutal left hook that sent Vargas flying to the canvas. It appeared to be a finishing punch, but the emotionally geared up Vargas jumped quickly to his feet. He evaded a barrage of follow up punches against the ropes, but got nailed with more left hooks as he tried to move away and stumbled wearily across the ring. De La Hoya drove him against the ropes and finished him off with a hard, accurate flurry of unanswered headshots. The barrage forced Cortez to step in and call a halt to the fight.

I never thought hate was a good thing to bring into the ring. You have to fight with a clear head to have your best chance to win. The Quartey fight is still Vargas’ best fight by far. That fight was a couple of years ago and Fernando does not seem to be getting any better. Vargas has to be one of the most disappointed men in the world right now. He has been calling out De La Hoya for six years, and has publicly labeled Oscar a Coward. After the fight there was no congratulations offered by Vargas, or any gesture of sportsmanship or acknowledgment that you might expect from a humbled loser. Instead Vargas left the ring quickly looking bitter and discouraged. De La Hoya talked about the bitter animosity briefly in his post fight interview. He said he had to teach Vargas a lesson because Fernando had talked so much.

Vargas will now be forced to assess what went wrong and redirect his brief career. A rematch with Winky Wright, which Vargas talked about before the De La Hoya fight, now looks like a fairly dangerous undertaking. In contrast to the bleak outlook for Vargas, De La Hoya fought the best fight of his career tonight. Oscar has got to feel like he’s on top of the world. After the fight Oscar talked about a rematch with Shane Mosley, however, Vernon Forrest is the most deserving of the first crack at Oscar’s new unified title.


Bad Blood: Ferocious Taunts, Ferocious Insults, and A Golden Response.

Mike Samuels

14.09 - From December to May, then once again to September, the fight between Fernando Vargas and Oscar De la Hoya was built around "Bad Blood", and many boxing experts and fans never thought the fight would materialize.

Oscar De la Hoya was too much of a "Chicken" to step into the ring with the young, strong willed, and lion hearted Ferocious one.

Oscar De la Hoya was to busy working in the production studio on another Grammy nominated album.

Oscar De la Hoya doesn’t have the heart or determination.

It’s hard to get up and run when you’re wearing silk pajamas.

The list of questions continued through out the long and agonizing months up to this big mega fight of the summer. The doubts that swayed through our minds, the questions you found yourself asking over and over, and the love or hate you showed for either Vargas or De la Hoya was put to rest tonight.

Who is the better fighter?

Who deserves victory?

Who is ready and who isn’t?

Fernando Vargas shot off at the mouth and promoted the hell out of this fight. He even went to extremes by pushing De la Hoya at a press conference in January, and then referring to his foe as talking like that of a homosexual. During all of the pre-fight frenzy, De la Hoya remained as calm as the other side of the pillow, refusing to say much about Vargas or his comments.

Tonight, however, The Golden Boy delivered a Golden Response to Nando’ and his critics. And there wasn’t a damn thing ‘gay’ about how he did it.

Oscar De la Hoya started the fight off by moving around the ring; utilizing his strengths from the get go and popping Vargas with jabs, with an occasional focus on the body. Things were on easy street until Vargas decided to make a physical presence – one that was apparent from the first days– felt by backing De la Hoya into the ropes and punishing him with short combinations. Vargas turned the round around, sent De la Hoya rearing into the ropes and staggering him momentarily with a left hook.

At the conclusion of the first round the Golden Boy didn’t look so golden. A scratch like cut formed on his cheek and his face was beat red. Mandalay Bay was throwing a fit for their Mexican hero, El Feroz.

The remainder of the fight was a sea-saw battle for the most part. With De la Hoya coming back in the second round and boxing supremely, followed by Vargas coming back the next round and forcing De la Hoya against the ropes, where he was most vulnerable for Nando’s attack. Vargas was punishing De la Hoya, hitting him more than he had ever been hit in any of his previous thirty-six professional fights, and showing him how "Real Mexicans" go to war.

But De la Hoya weathered the storm for the first half of the fight and managed to keep things close to even on all three score cards. From the sixth round on De la Hoya proved that the blood of a Mexican runs through his veins and down to his soul. He made adjustments, threw his right hand (the one that had disappeared), swayed against the ropes, and boxed circles around Vargas, continuously popping him with two and three punch combinations.

There was nothing fake about his Mexican’s heritage.

And while De la Hoya got stronger, Vargas seemed to slow down and eat more and more punches. As each round passed the Golden Boy’s confidence grew and he began to open up his attack. Vargas is always a game fighter, though, and he can never be counted out. He brought out a ferocious display of will in the tenth round, pushing De la Hoya back momentarily and landing a few shots with bad intentions. But De la Hoya stayed away from the bigger bombs and snapped Nando’s head back violently, then following up with digging shots to the body, and then stole the round by stunning Vargas with seconds remaining.

Oscar began to pull away, but Vargas was still at range.

Going into the tenth round it was still very close. De la Hoya appeared to show more life in his legs, kept his hands down very low, and bobbed his head back and forth, as if to let Nando’ know he was is control and on the verge of taking him out.

The eleventh round would prove to be the exit point for Fernando Vargas. The frustration was evident in his corner as well as on his face. Still fighting with a sense of caution De la Hoya executed a picture perfect body flurry, following it up with a left hook on the neck – similar to the one that Trinidad used to knock down Vargas – that sent the Ferocious one stumbling to the canvas. Nando’ isn’t a push over, and he got back up within seconds, but The Golden Boy rushed him and shook him with a random delivery of shots to the face that left the "Firm but Fair" Joe Cortez only one choice, to step in and call an end to the bout.


If you doubted Oscar De la Hoya’s power at 154lbs, don’t stop just yet. He doesn’t have the power to knock most guys out, but Vargas is very susceptible to the left hook. He doesn’t take it well, as proved by Tito before De la Hoya. The thing that makes Oscar dangerous is his heart. It was over looked in this fight because Vargas’s heart has acted like a poster child in helping to promote him to the big time. But Oscar De la Hoya is no slouch and he came to fight tonight.

With all the legit questions answered by De la Hoya’s performance tonight, I’ll be awaiting to hear a rebuttal of sorts by most boxing writers in the direction of Vargas. Things like, "What makes a real Mexican?" Last time I checked the reputation of a Mexican fighter was one of high honor, respect, and courage. Fernando Vargas showed his courage and heart tonight, as always, but he lacked in the area of respect and honor. I’m sorry, Nando, but after a fight – win, lose or draw, love or hate – you give respect to your opponent. If you need to cool down and take a walk to the dressing room (ala Morales after the second decision against Barrera), that’s acceptable, but it’s only appropriate to come back and give your take on things.


If you’re going to talk the talk, and you go out and give it your best efforts but come up short, you still need to show some class and walk the walk. Even If that means the short walk to give your opponent his props, and not the walk leading you to the dressing room with a second belt.


Bad Blood (and there was PLENTY of it) proved to come through in the clutch and give boxing a great fight that will be remembered as the years pass. De la Hoya has Mosley and Trinidad (pending his retirement) in his sights, as well as a possible unification bout with Ronald "Winky" Wright in mind. Vargas will need to settle down from the most brutal loss of his career, but he’s definitely not a "shot fighter" and one with a bright future ahead of him.

All he needs to do is grow up a little bit more.

Mike Samuels can be reached at for comments, or entries into this weeks Boxings Baddest: The Fans Speak! Vol 1. Issue 27



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