THERE is a mouth-watering matchup in boxing this weekend that’s got fight fans divided and fiercely debating the outcome. Two guys with high volume, big power and loyal fanbases collide in a true 50/50 that can swing either way.
Five thousand miles away from London’s O2 Arena – the destination of a heavyweight rematch nobody was calling for – Rey Vargas steps up to featherweight to challenge Mark Magsayo and someone’s ‘0’ has to go.
Just a few hours after Derek Chisora and Kubrat Pulev have huffed a puffed their way around the O2 ring, in San Antonio, Texas the real action unfolds down at nine stone.
Filipino Magsayo, 27, lived up to his ‘Magnifico’ moniker at the start of the year when he took the world title away from American Gary Russell Jr with an underdog masterclass over the former long-standing champion.
The champion is a typical modern day Filipino fighter. A Manny Pacquiao paradigm who combines relentless workrate with fast hands, fast feet and chilling power.
Undefeated in 24 fights with 17 knockouts, the Manila marauder is used to being away from home and well versed in facing Mexicans with big followings.
Mark Magsayo is prepping up for Saturday night 🏆 #MagsayoVargas
(via @markmagnificomagsayo/IG) pic.twitter.com/OO4DPjt9OA
— ESPN Ringside (@ESPNRingside) July 4, 2022
However, Vargas is far from your average Mexican. Himself undefeated in 35 fights – with 22 KOs – the 31-year-old held the world super-bantamweight title for four years, making five successful defences.
A bustling fireball of a fighter, he earned his first title by outpointing Doncaster’s Gavin McDonnell at Hull’s Ice Arena back in 2017.
He relinquished that crown in 2020 only for a foot injury and the global pandemic to put his featherweight title aspirations on hold. He finally returned in November with a slick 10-round decision over countryman Leonardo Baez and insists he’s ready to climb back on top.
Despite spending the majority of his career in the weight class below, it’s Vargas who boasts the natural advantages. At 5-foot-10 he’s incredibly tall for the weight, four inches bigger than Magsayo, and has the boxing skills to utilise a 2-3-inch reach advantage.
The power, however, undoubtedly lies with the champion. Vargas has got strong knockout stats too, but he’s stopped just one of his last nine opponents. The champion has stopped five, in their tracks, in the same number of fights.
Expect the challenger, roared on by big Hispanic support, to start fast and get his nose ahead. But the power of the champion cannot be denied and at some point Vargas may have to climb up off the canvas to keep his double-weight world champion dreams alive.
Back in London, I just hope Chisora and Pulev put on a fun fight for any loyal home fans. Their first encounter in Hamburg, Germany back in 2016 was a stinker. But both still harboured world title ambitions back then and had a lot to lose.
In 2022, Chisora–Pulev is not nearly as an attraction as it once was and I just hope both look to bow out on their heavyweight careers with a scrap worth remembering.