More than “ferocious” interest in Fernando

Jul 22, 2003 4:05 AM

Let’s go backwards and forwards this week.

Back to the thrilling (albeit sloppy) 12 rounds between Ricardo Mayorga and Vernon Forrest, ahead to the 12 rounds, probably less, between Fernando Vargas and Fitz Vanderpool next Saturday.

Could they be connected? Could Vargas, returning finally from his loss to Oscar de la Hoya and suspension for steroid use, wind up on the menu or either Mayorga or Forrest?

Forget Forrest. I’m part of the vociferous minority that thought he outpointed Mayorga. I don’t award points for wrestling or missing. I don’t give them for running, either, but Forrest did more than run. He stopped and fired and couldn’t miss. But enough about that. Suffice it to say, I picked Forrest, I thought he won ”” and I cashed a small ticket on Mayorga because at 5-2 he was the bet.

In any case, this discussion of whether Vargas fights either Mayorga or Forrest ”” no one should seriously give any thought to Vanderpool winning ”” becomes academic if Oscar de la Hoya is able to wreak vengeance Sept. 13 against Sugar Shane Mosley.

Then, it’s directly on to de la Hoya-Vargas II, which the Golden Boy’s brain trust believes would be a walk in the park the second time around.

The key for Vargas, then, is to not look all that good in beating Vanderpool, who is not to be confused with his kid brother, Syd, a bigger and better fighter. That might scare away Bruce Trampler and Bob Arum ”” although not Floyd Mayweather Sr. But Vargas, bless his fan club, is still big bucks, bigger than Mayorga or Forrest, bigger perhaps than even Mosley.

But he may not be the perfect opponent for either Mayorga or de la Hoya, not if Buddy McGirt, the biggest new addition to his camp, can remind Vargas that he knows how to box. That’s right. Vargas is more than just "Ferocious," more than just guts and a hook.

Eduardo Garcia, his longtime trainer, has versed him in some subtle nuances, stepping one way, firing another. In the gym, the kid can box, when reminded.

McGirt, and Vargas, were smart enough not to shunt Garcia aside. The old man has been a real father to Vargas, who hates the man biologically responsible for his birth. And besides the emotional support he brings, he’s not a bad trainer. However, like some other fine conditioners ”” Goody Petronelli, who handled Marvelous Marvin Hagler, and Bill Miller, the Detroit legend who taught James Toney ”” he might not be the greatest between rounds.

Some guys are born for the gym. Others can skip the gym and go straight to the corner. Angelo Dundee is the greatest example of this breed.

McGirt may be the rare breed who combines both, like an Eddie Futch. He was wise to come in as an "assistant" to Garcia, but he’ll make a difference, especially between rounds.

People are asking if Vargas is through, finished at age 25 because of the beatings he took from Felix Trinidad Jr. and de la Hoya, and the way he got hurt by the light-hitting Wilfredo Rivera in between.

I don’t think so. I think he’s still a major force, not just a major commodity. The man who completely outboxed Ike Quartey could really fight. With McGirt and a new conditioning program, minus steroids, and with a couple of victories to enhance self-confidence (if I’m Main Events, I wheel him right back after Vanderpool and get in another bout, even if it’s on ESPN), he could be trouble even for de la Hoya.

He already could be trouble for Mayorga. Vargas is naturally bigger than the wild-swinging Nicaraguan. He also punches much straighter. He will not be cautious, not back away to give judges an excuse to reward Mayorga for "aggression." He could clock Mayorga even before the welterweight champion gets tired. Do not misread this: at the same time, Mayorga could clock Vargas early.

I don’t think he beat Forrest, not when the name of the game is still "boxing." But Mayorga is a tremendous talent, a great chin, a big punch and an indominatable will. The way he came back in the 10th and 11th rounds, when I thought he was ready to collapse, proved that, even if he may not have won those rounds the way the judges thought. He would be tough for even de la Hoya, whose speed and boxing should handle him, but let’s underline "should."

De la Hoya "should" handle Vargas easier than the first time, too. Again, the underline. I have a feeling McGirt could do more for Vargas than Floyd Mayweather Sr. has done for de la Hoya.

But if I give Vargas mucho chance vs. Mayorga and somewhat less against de la Hoya, Forrest would be another story. Vargas would be the aggressor against the Viper, who would try and make it a boxing match. Forrest wins boxing matches. Ask Mosley.

Of course, if Mosley beats de la Hoya again, then Vargas might have to look at the possibility of a Forrest fight ”” rather than have to deal with Don King and Mayorga. And where does this all leave Winky Wright? Still on the outside, looking in.