‘Ferocious Fernando’ brings fire, ferocity to Chicago

Aug 16, 2005 1:28 AM

Mike Tyson was shooting craps when the earthquake hit. He was in his Tokyo suite, awaiting his appointment with Tony Tubbs, and queried his trainer, Kevin Rooney, about the room shaking.

Upon learning it was a quake, and that he had survived, Tyson calmly said, well, that was Tubbs’ last chance.

It is almost that certain when the firemen put out the blaze on the fourth floor of Chicago’s venerable Palmer House the other night and Fernando Vargas did not get scorched.

There went Javier Castillejo’s best chance of upsetting the once-Ferocious one on Aug. 20, the second straight week of big-time boxing in the Second City.

Let me issue a caveat, however. This is not the first time that a comebacking Vargas has had a hot prelim. Back in 2001, before his first fight following the drubbing given him by Felix Trinidad Jr., there was another hotel fire, this time in El Paso.

No one was injured in the blaze that time, either, but Vargas’ rep suffered a bit of a shakeup when he was dropped — and it was no flash knockdown. He was hurt in the second round by light-hitting Wilfredo Rivera.

Rivera, who seemed as shocked as everyone else at the knockdown, could not follow up and was dispatched in the sixth round.

A month later, coincidentally, Castillejo was losing his WBC junior middleweight title to Oscar de la Hoya by 12-round unanimous decision. The Spanish veteran, now 37, showed a decent chin, not being wobbled until the final round.

Yet, now that Chicago’s Bravest have kept Vargas cool, it seems unlikely that Castillejo will do as well this time.

But there’s another caveat to remember when contemplating laying -325 on Vargas. El Feroz looked quite tame when he finally returned earlier this year with a 10-round decision over the light-hitting Dutch middleweight Raymond Joval.

The question is whether Vargas, at only 27 but suffering beatings from Trinidad and de la Hoya (a year after the Golden Boy beat Castillejo on points) is close to being a Shot" fighter.

The Joval fight, in which Vargas was never in any danger, was his first with new trainer Dan Smith, who has been working to plug up some of the leaks in the Californian’s defense.

Vargas was betwixt and between against Joval. He’s had several more months now with Smith to perhaps get it right against Castillejo.

The Spaniard is not a terrible fighter. He’s a decent counterpuncher, knows his way around the ring and does have a decision over Roman Karmazin, the new 154-pound title-holder who recently upset Kassim Ouma.

But don’t be fooled about the de la Hoya comparisons. Yes, he went the distance, but he never looked like he was going to beat Oscar. Vargas, by contrast, gave de la Hoya fans some very anxious moments and was dangerous until a terrific left hook landed late in the 10th round.

I don’t like the +250 offered on Castillejo. I don’t think he can hurt Vargas and it seems unlikely he would win a decision against an American fan favorite in Rosemont, Ill. Fire or not, this probably will wind up looking like a mismatch.