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Coming of Age
Richard Hoffer
April 24, 2000
A bloodied Fernando Vargas proved his mettle by beating veteran Ike Quartey
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April 24, 2000

Coming Of Age

A bloodied Fernando Vargas proved his mettle by beating veteran Ike Quartey

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The subtext is that Vargas can't stand De La Hoya (and vice versa). In the Mexican-American community, which has been reluctant to embrace the more refined—and, by definition, less macho—De La Hoya, Vargas is considered more the real thing. For his part, Vargas can't abide comparison with De La Hoya, the multimillionaire, multimedia, ethnic-crossover impresario.

But Vargas never took the bait. Even as his life might seem out of control (he swears his reckless behavior is behind him), his mouth and his fights aren't. Once in the ring with Quartey, Vargas maintained a disciplined attack, outjabbing Quartey, who's known for his jab, and just staying busier. There was no high drama—no knockdowns, few trying moments. There was, however, an ebb and flow to the fight, with Quartey coming on strong in the middle rounds, and plenty of action. Though CompuBox's punch stats show Vargas outthrowing Quartey by an amazing 909 to 645, the bout wasn't one-sided. The image a lot of people might remember from the night is Quartey banging out Vargas's mouthpiece. Or the blood smearing beneath Vargas's nose.

Those moments were most important because they demonstrated that, even if everything wasn't going his way, Vargas could respond. He was artful in neutralizing the more experienced Quartey, turning him into the ropes and unleashing his own flurries. When the fight was over and the judges had pretty much agreed on a wide margin of victory, Quartey's right eye was nearly closed.

Vargas immediately began positioning himself for a bigger-money bout. (He received $1.35 million for Saturday's labor.) He cannily addressed Trinidad, saying, "I'm the Mexican who won't run away," alluding to the bout De La Hoya let go with late-round safety-first tactics. "I'll stand and fight, show you how a real Mexican fights."

Right now, however, Trinidad's promoter, Don King, only has ears for Trinidad-De La Hoya II, which is penciled in for Sept. 9. The rematch has been problematic from the get-go, with De La Hoya, still a welterweight, and Trinidad, comfortable at 154 pounds, unable to agree on a weight. But, assuming that De La Hoya beats Mosley (a grand assumption) Trinidad-De La Hoya will be the fight of the rest of the year. King, who was on hand for Saturday's bout, did allow that Vargas might be an attractive opponent for Trinidad because, "if you noticed, he don't fight like Carl Lewis." More likely Vargas exists in this triangle only as a motivational ploy, as in: Of course Vargas is in the picture; do you really believe De La Hoya will get back in the ring with Trinidad?

Well, he almost certainly will—and Vargas will have to wait his turn for one of these huge-money bouts. What Saturday proved, however, is that he deserves his place in line.

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