The good news is that Vargas unlike Hamed appears intent on once again becoming a factor on the boxing scene. On March 26, Vargas takes on Raymond Joval in a middleweight bout in Corpus Christi, Texas. The last time Vargas was in the ring was Dec. 12, 2003 when he stopped Tony Marshall in seven rounds. Since then Vargas has been sidelined with back problems.
While Vargas seems like hes been around for ages, hes still only 27. However, hes an old 27. Vargas began his professional career at age 19 and was 8-0 before reaching his 20th birthday. He took a long, sustained beating from Felix Trinidad in 2000 absorbing the kind of punishment from which some fighters never fully recover. Then, in 2002, after wins against two lesser opponents, Vargas took another lengthy beating this time from rival Oscar De La Hoya.
Despite his lack of activity, Vargas remains a star. His comeback bout will sell out despite the fact that Joval, a native of the Netherlands, is a virtual unknown in this country. The fight will be televised on HBO and likely generate solid ratings. Vargas is a star in the same way that Arturo Gatti is a star. Neither is necessarily the most talented fighter in his respective weight class, but every fight promises action and excitement and thats what sells tickets.
So how will Vargas fare in his comeback? Trinidad and Kostya Tszyu both looked great after extended layoffs. Can Vargas do the same? Initially, it may be tough to gauge how much Vargas has left because he has selected what appears to be a much easier opponent for his comeback than either Trinidad or Tszyu. Joval has won ten of his last eleven bouts and has a record of 33-3. But hes also 36 years old and has never faced much less beaten a world-class opponent. Barring a recurrence of back problems, Vargas should have little trouble with Joval.
Assuming he comes out of the Joval bout relatively unscathed, Vargas will have plenty of options. A bout with Javier Castillejo could net Vargas an alphabet title belt. A bout with Ricardo Mayorga Vargas equal in the action and excitement department - would seem to almost guarantee fireworks. Vargas box-office power could also put him on the fast track for a big-money rematch with Felix Trinidad, Winky Wright or Oscar De La Hoya. The guess here is that Vargas would likely come out on the short end against those three but he would certainly make it interesting for as long as it lasted.
But were getting ahead of ourselves. First, lets see how Vargas looks against Joval on March 26. Regardless of how his comeback plays out, its good to have Fernando Vargas back in the mix. Maybe Prince Naseem Hamed will be watching and get the itch to launch his own comeback . . .