1. THE light-middleweight showdown between IBF champion Fernando Vargas and WBA boss Felix Trinidad was loaded with expectation. It took place on December 2, 2000 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and, while previewing the bout, Boxing News editor Claude Abrams compared its importance to the first Sugar Ray Leonard–Thomas Hearns collision.
2. VARGAS was eager to triumph and trained vigorously. There were reports of beaten up sparring partners leaving the 22-year-old’s Big Bear training camp in California because they could not cope with the ferocity. According to reports, future world light-heavyweight champion Glen Johnson was Vargas’ eighth sparring partner.
3. “I HAVE that anger inside because they are saying I’m a kid and this and that,” Vargas, 20-0 (18) explained. “I guess I am a kid but I’ve been whipping these old guys for a long time.”
4. TRINIDAD, 27, came into the bout with more big fight experience and as a narrow favourite. “Vargas is a baby,” the Puerto Rican said. “He can’t beat me. What has he done that makes you think he can beat me? I’ll knock him out and can promise you that.”
5. SUCH chatter was guaranteed to get up the nose of Vargas, whose temper was generally hovering just below boiling point. “How’s he going to knock me out?” he snorted. “What are they going to do – take him into surgery and get him a new jaw? He’s been knocked down six or seven times by fighters not half as good as me.”
6. IN fact, Trinidad – unbeaten in 38 fights – had been forced to get off the floor five times. Each time, of course, he came back to win and each time, the knockdowns occurred in the opening three rounds.
7. VARGAS pre-fight boasts came back to haunt him when he was dropped twice in the opening round. He managed to survive and staged a rally. By the fourth he was back in the contest and sent Trinidad to the mat with a counter left hook. It was a perfect shot, and upon rising at ‘four’ some ringsiders – including Emanuel Steward – thought that Vargas had the power to put Felix away. But the former welterweight champion slammed in a shot south of the border, bought some time, and lost a point.
8. THE American, of Mexican descent, retained control through rounds five and six before Trinidad recovered in the seventh, and stung Vargas with a series of blasts before hammering in another low blow that cost him another point, and granted his rival 30 seconds respite.
9. THE tide, swirling violently in ring centre, turned one way and then the other during the final third. Vargas lost a point for straying below the belt-line himself in the 10th and it seemed Trinidad was the stronger. Vargas gamely repelled defeat for as long as he could – landing a big right at the end of round 11 – but he did not hear the final bell. The Californian was dropped three times in the 12th session, the last time by a chilling right, and it was all over.
10. KEVIN LUESHING, a British fighter who was one of the men to have floored Trinidad, phoned up the Boxing News offices to discuss the savage win. “When Trinidad went to work in the last, it brought back a horrible memory of how he finished me,” said Lueshing. “I was right there in with him again, and it wasn’t nice – brought a shiver down my spine.”
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