posted on Jul, 26 2003 @ 04:45 AM
Associated Press - July 24, 2003
LOS ANGELES (AP) - After having the better part of a year to recover from a loss to Oscar De La Hoya, Fernando Vargas returns to the ring.
Judging by his demeanor two days before facing Fitz Vanderpool at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in a 10-round junior middleweight bout, Vargas is eager
for another fight.
``I know there's been word I haven't been training up to par for fighting Fitz. I want to show you guys,'' Vargas said Thursday at a news conference
as he removed his shirt and flexed his muscles.
``I'm excited about this fight and I've worked hard. We were up in Big Bear for three months. We weren't playing. I don't play when I go to camp.''
Vargas, 22-2 with 20 knockouts, will be fighting in Southern California for the first time since making his pro debut in his hometown of Oxnard in
All 6,700 tickets for Saturday night's fight have been sold, prompting Vargas to say: ``It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.''
Actually, Vargas couldn't have returned much sooner, having been suspended nine months and fined $100,000 for testing positive for steroids following
the De La Hoya fight. Vargas says he thought he was taking nutritional supplements, not steroids.
Vargas' manager, Rolando Arrelano, said the fighter is a different man than the one who De La Hoya stopped in the 11th round last Sept. 14 in Las
``He's made a change for the better, he's grown up,'' Arrelano said. ``He's a 25-year-old man now, he's not a kid anymore. His style is a little
different, he's more defensive-minded, he's more fluid on his feet, he's throwing more jabs.
``It took him about four weeks for him to put the De La Hoya fight behind him. It's behind us, we've moved on. He will be a champion again, and a lot
quicker than people think. We hope to fight Oscar soon, we're looking at May 5.''
The fight will easily be the biggest ever for the 35-year-old Vanderpool, 24-4-4 with 13 knockouts.
Vargas may be a heavy favorite, Vanderpool backers wore T-shirts to the news conference saying: ``I smell an upset!''
``It will be an upset in the eyes of boxing people, but not for us,'' said Grant Elvis Phillips, Vanderpool's manager. ``The people will know Saturday
night why the WBC ranks Fitz Vanderpool as the leading challenger.''
Vanderpool is ranked No. 1 for De La Hoya's junior middleweight championship in the latest WBC rankings, with Shane Mosley second and Vargas third.
``They are taking me lightly,'' Vanderpool said. ``Do you see any of my pictures on those posters? My name is only in the small print. That's very
motivating. Next time it'll be my pictures on those posters.''