On This Day: Oscar De La Hoya defeats bitter rival Fernando Vargas in the 11th round of hellacious grudge match

Oscar De La Hoya
Oscar De La Hoya catches up with and punishes Fernando Vargas

September 14, 2002; Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, NV
FERNANDO VARGAS had spent the best part of five years lobbying for the chance to topple Oscar De La Hoya, a fighter and man he had grown to dislike immensely. Vargas questioned De La Hoya’s Mexican heritage, he questioned his ability and – calling him Bob Arum’s ‘puppet’ – he insulted his character. In the end, Oscar, tired of the abuse and the embarrassment, accepted the fight. What followed was a truly violent battle. Vargas punished his rival in the early rounds but De La Hoya, in one of his finest performances, rallied to stop his enemy in the 11th after a truly remarkable contest. It was tainted in the aftermath, however, when Vargas tested positive for steroids and was suspended for nine months.

DID YOU KNOW? Vargas, as a teenager, jumped at the chance to train with De La Hoya at Big Bear. The story goes that when the pair were doing roadwork, Fernando lost his footing and tumbled down a hill. As he got to his feet, De La Hoya laughed at him. That is where the grudge was born. Oscar has no memory of laughing at Fernando and eye-witnesses who remember the incident insist De La Hoya was not being spiteful.

WATCH OUT FOR: Everything from the opening bell to the finish. A true thriller.

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