By Jackie Kallen
Here it is. Tomorrow night at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. A night that all undefeated boxers dream of, wait for, and count on: a title shot in a new, higher weight class. Jesse Vargas is hungry and he can almost taste the sweetness of victory. But he has to get past Timothy Bradley first. And that may not be so easy.
As much as Vargas, 26-0, feels ready for this fight and confidant that moving up from junior welter to welter is the right move, Bradley is predicting a win for himself. God knows he needs it. He hasn’t had his hand held up since beating Juan Manuel Marquez almost two years ago. Since then he has suffered a loss to Manny Pacquaio and a draw against Diego Gabriel Chaves. He is chomping at the bit for a win. The interim WBO belt at stake is a bonus. It’s the W on his record that means the most. But the belt will be a nice accessory.
Both men are polite and are not known to be trash talkers or big brawlers. They are, for the most part, skilled boxers who respect their opponents and always give their best inside the ropes. But Vargas and his trainer Erik Morales have gotten under Bradley’s skin.
In pre-fight interviews, Bradley has admitted that Team Vargas is getting on his nerves. They have questioned his abilities and belittled his talent. Morales, a former champ in his own right and a future hall-of-famer, has said that even at his advanced age he’d beat Bradley.
There’s no doubt that Bradley hasn’t looked his best in his last two outings. But that being said, he is still a classy fighter who has been in with some top names in his division. Vargas, on the other hand, has yet to compete at this level. He knows he has to bring his A game. He knows that Bradley is comfortable at welterweight and views Vargas as just another opponent.
Bradley has said that the smack talk from Vargas is giving him more incentive and fuel. He claims it is will make him fight harder than ever. Vargas thinks it’s just the opposite and his talking has frazzled Bradley and rattled his cage. It can go either way and we’ve all witnessed instances of both.
Vargas was being trained by Roy Jones, Jr. when he decided he needed a change. He brought in Morales and seems happy. The results will be seen when the bell rings. Vargas is said to be a fan of the Morales style of fighting and believes that having him as a trainer will help him become a heavier hitter.
This is not a major fight in anyone’s book, but a win for Bradley will keep his career alive and he needs it. I’m going with Bradley by decision.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank