By: Hans Themistode
The arena will be empty tonight, but the stage has never been bigger for Josue Vargas.
The super lightweight contender faces off against Salvador Briceno in the co main event at the MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The 22 year old Vargas is in search of attention, and on December 14th, 2019, he got exactly what he wanted. On the night, the Puerto Rican born native joined a star studded lineup in Terence Crawford, Teofimo Lopez and Michael Conlan when he took on Noel Murphy. On paper, it was the biggest fight of his life as the vacant IBF North American title was on the line.
Vargas boxed circles around his man on his way to a unanimous decision victory. The belt that he gained on the night was the first check mark on his long list of what he hopes to accomplish before he hangs up the gloves. Grabbing world titles, winning big fights and of course, getting checks that are even bigger.
The road to his goals will take a jump forward if he is able to pick up the win tonight against Briceno. At the age of 25, his performances have been a mixed bag of results. On some nights, he can look sensational. His second round stoppage against Eddie Guzman in his last ring appearance can attest to that. Other times however, he can look flat and out of whack. Case in point would be his unanimous decision loss against Yomar Alamo in mid 2019.
Consistency is what Briceno is in search of. It’s been four years since he has been able to reel off three straight victories. Vargas on the other hand, hasn’t tasted defeat in the same time frame.
Mentioning the lone loss of his career to Vargas is something that he takes umbrage to. He is quick to remind those who look at his marred record that it should be picture perfect.
Everything was going according to plan for Vargas on the night he took Samuel Santana in 2016. He was out classing his man over the course of three rounds and was on his way to another victory. Yet, with only a few seconds left in the round, Vargas inadvertently hit his man while his back was turned and the action was paused. He was disqualified on the night while comfortably ahead on the scorecards of all three judges at the time.
The 0 in the loss column that fighters attempt to protect at all costs was gone. But he’s taken care of his business in the ring as if it never happened. Vargas has dominated the competition. Now, he finds himself in the co main event on Top Rank’s summer series card tonight.
The usual presence of Puerto Rican flags being held by his fans will be replaced with empty seats and silence. But what first felt like a step back for Vargas, will actually be a step forward. Hundreds of thousands of eyes will be placed upon him on the night from the comfort of their homes. Something he isn’t accustomed to.
Vargas will be looking to take full advantage of his new found platform. But the man standing across the ring from him on the night will be looking to do the same.
To watch Josue Vargas vs Salvador Briceno and the rest of the four fight card tonight, tune into ESPN 8 PM ET.