Our American boxing expert Jake Donovan looks ahead to this weekend's hotly-anticipated 130-pounds world championship bout at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
Rey Vargas is exactly where his fellow countryman Emanuel Navarrete was one week ago in his bid to join elite company.
It provided cautious optimism for the unbeaten Mexican, who viewed from afar as compatriot Navarrete survived the first knockdown of his career to stop Liam Wilson in the ninth round of their vacant fight.
With the win, Navarrete became the tenth fighter from Mexico to win titles in three or more weight divisions, and just the sixth fighter in history to win a title at 122, 126 and 130-pounds.
Vargas (36-0, 22 KO's) has the chance to add to both of those categories as he faces O’Shaquie Foster (19-2, 11 KO's) of Houston, Texas for the vacant WBC junior-lightweight title in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The unbeaten Mexican is a narrow 4/5 favourite to become a three-division champion but will leave nothing to chance in the televised main event (02:00) in Texas.
“I don’t want to call this a dream, because I’m about to make it a reality,” said Vargas ahead of the bout.
“It’s a short list of three-division world champions and I want that to be part of my legacy. But when you compete on this stage, a miniscule error can cost you the fight.”
Vargas enters his eighth career title fight, with the bulk of his fighting experience coming at 122-pounds, where he defended the WBC junior-featherweight title five times before vacating the belt after a July 2019 points win over Tomoki Kameda.
A three-year gap that included a switch in promoters and a broken leg ultimately led to his July 9th win over WBC featherweight champion Mark Magsayo (26-0 at the time) at the Alamodome - the same venue where he looks to conquer his third division.
Like Navarrete a week ago, Vargas had to survive a knockdown to get past Magsayo via split decision (115-112, 115-112, 113-114).
“You have to be smart and alert. I was a little careless and I made a mistake,” admitted Vargas.
“Magsayo caught me with a big blow. Things happen very quickly in those moments, but I told myself that I had a strong opponent who hits hard, but I’m more ‘cabron’, so I got up, fought smart, and got the win.
“Now, all I’m focused on is becoming a three-division champion on February 11th.”
Foster has won his last nine fights after stumbling out to a 10-2 career start.
The run includes a ten-round win over Spain’s Jon Fernandez - an unbeaten prospect at the time of their September 2018 meeting - and a thorough outclassing of undefeated Muhammadkhuja Yaqubov in their WBC title eliminator last March in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The politics of the sport contributed to his lengthy ring absence preceding his first career title fight, though the 29-year-old boxer acknowledged that everything happens for a reason.
“I would have liked to fought sooner but it just didn’t work out that way,” accepted Foster, who is just a 10/11 betting underdog, and currently at 15/8 to win by decision.
“It’s easy to get down on the sport and be (pessimistic). I like to look at the glass as half-full, though.
“Of course, I’ve always felt like I was ready to fight for the world title. But I had to trust the process and realise that whenever the opportunity came, it would be the perfect time.”
Foster will become the seventh current Texan to hold a world title with a win, whilst he will also be the fifth specifically from Houston which also boasts Jermall Charlo (WBC middleweight champion), Jermell Charlo (undisputed super-welterweight champion), Regis Prograis (WBC super-lightweight champion) and Marlen Esparza ().
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