August 1, 2003

“Ferocious” Fernando Vargas Struggles To Victory

By Fiona Manning

Former two time 154 pound champion “Ferocious” Fernando Vargas, once one of the biggest superstars in boxing showed the effects of what happens when a fighter is pushed too far, too fast in a wobbly sixth round KO over #1 WBC contender, Fitz “The Whip’ Vanderpool at the legendary Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles on Saturday night.

Filling the downtown facility to capacity, the smack-talking, wide-swinging “El Feroz” showed that he still has the people’s hearts; the only thing missing for fans and the media was a working air conditioning system.

What was missing for Vargas was a clear indication of where he is headed next: not only did he come in two pounds over his contracted fight weight on Friday (he weighed 156) but he had swelled up to a massive 170 pounds in less than 24 hours.

Vargas was rusty getting things rolling, but as the fight went on, it became obvious it was simply a matter of time. Easily slugged by a rather timid Vanderpool, “El Feroz” settled down from the 3rd on, and was putting combinations together when the end came in the 6th. With 48 seconds left, Vanderpool was saved by the ref who realized the Canadian had sustained enough torture for one night.

IBF super middle champ Winky Wright, who lost a disputed decision to Vargas a few years ago and has struggled to get him back into the ring since, was a candid and critical commentator after the fight.

Vargas taking a solid right from Vanderpool. Photo by Paul Gallegos

“Forget Miller Lite sponsoring this guy,” he told La Prensa San Diego and many other reporters he called. “He’s not ferocious. He’s atrocious. He looked terrible in there. He should be looking for sponsorship from Winchester Rifles. Fernando is shot!”

Wright is understandably frustrated since he has, as a reigning champion offered Vargas a crack at his chin anytime, anywhere and has been openly disdainful of Vargas’ choice of Fitz Vanderpool as an opponent.

Vanderpool (younger brother of Syd Vanderpool) proved to be a tougher opponent than many thought. He surprised Vargas with some solid punches and forced Fernando to go to work.

At the end, we saw much of what the “boxer-puncher” Vargas of a few years ago was and mercifully, since his suspension for drug use in Nevada, he tested free of Steroids.

The question remains however: Can he ever challenge the top guys again?

Had this been a title fight, he would never have been allowed to weigh two pounds over without shedding the excess first. Under newly-installed unified rules, he would also have been banned from the ring for coming in more than 10 pounds over his scheduled fight weight.

“I did pretty good considering I fought a guy who weighed two divisions higher than me,” Vanderpool said afterwards. “He looked huge! You could tell he’d put on weight and I wasn’t real happy about the disparity.”

Despite the grumbling, Los Angelenos were happy to have a bona-fide marquee name in their own backyard.

Among them, actor Sylvester “Rocky” Stallone, who chomped on an unlit cigar and was enthusiastically cheered by the crowd, none of whom seemed to mind the sticky, cramped conditions at the Olympic.

“Some of us remember the show every week here,” Stallone said. “The Quarry Brothers, Mando Ramos, the Lopez Brothers, and so many others. We can thank Oscar de la Hoya for resurrecting the Old Olympic.”

Though “The Golden Boy” was conspicuously absent for this fight, he has apparently proven himself to be a Golden Man by offering out of the ring support for Vargas following his KO over the Ferocious one last year.

Vargas’ people spit out Oscar’s name as a possible opponent but de la Hoya won’t be signing a contract for that bout any time soon.

The best fight of the night was a spectacular performance from Filipino superstar Manny “Pac Man” Pacquiao who arrived in the wake of bad headlines from his native Manila where the IBF featherweight champion caused a lot of trouble trashing a night club.

He looked like none of it (including a whopping $1 million US in restitution) affected him.

Pacquiao put on an explosive perfomance, knocking out his wild-looking opponent, Emmanuel Lucerno, in the 3rd with a terrific left hand. Pacquiao timed Lucerno just perfectly.

Up next for Pac Man? He wants Paulie Ayala which would be a super-fight indeed for the fans.

At 24 and 0 percent body fat (as long as he stays out of those night clubs) the sky is the limit for Pac Man. “I love to fight,” he said. “I do my best training here in Los Angeles and I was glad to fight here for a change. I usually have to fly to some place else. But I loved the feeling here. That tunnel you walk through to come to the ring, I felt the spirit of old fighters there. You feel like you are coming out of the lion’s den, ready to give your heart to the fans.”

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