By: Mike Sloanin Las Vegas:: Undefeated welterweight contender Jesse Vargas expected that on the undercard of the biggest fight of 2012 thus far, he was going to electrify the world with a brilliant performance against a tough, pretty-well-known opponent. Vargas (18-0, 9 KOs) had been training incredibly hard for Alfonso Gomez, a popular but limited perennial contender who gained a modicum of fame thanks to his role on the reality TV series The Contender.
Gomez didn’t win the “championship” on the inaugural season of the show but his character and personality, along with his skillset, allowed him to take on the likes of Ben Tackie, Jose Luis Castillo, the late Arturo Gatti, Miguel Cotto, and most recently Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Gomez was supposed to be a terrific test for young Vargas, but on the day of his media workout on Tuesday inside of Floyd Mayweather’s gym inLas Vegas, the news quickly spread that Gomez had been injured in training and had to withdraw from the bout.
Vargas was still going to fight, according to the promoters, but at that point in time there wasn’t a replacement. Vargas, though, has been fighting for most of his life and has had his share of opponents drop out at the last minute.
“I don’t know anyone who has been in this position as much as me,” he joked with a hint of frustration just before he climbed into the ring to workout for the hundreds of media on hand. “I’ve been around the sport for a while. I have a massive amateur background and I’m not scared of anyone.”
Vargas was undeterred and went through the motions of a light workout; pads, shadow boxing, heavy bag, etc. Confident of victory no matter whom he was going to face, Vargas praised trainer Robert Alcazar for the preparations and noted that he’s so much knowledge after being with the veteran trainer.
Still a young buck with lots to learn both inside and outside the ropes, Vargas’ rise has been meteoric thus far. Having already beaten every single man to step foot in front of him in a professional ring including Vivian Harris, Walter Estrada and Josesito Lopez, Vargas was ready for what was going to be his toughest test to date. But with as disappointed as Vargas was when he learned that Gomez had been removed from the bout, there presumably was as much excitement with the man who has officially been named as Gomez’ replacement: Steve Forbes.
Another fighter with The Contender reality show on his resume (Forbes competed on the show’s second season), “2POUND” has taken on a virtual who’s-who of the weight classes he’s competed in throughout his career. Forbes has locked horns with the likes of Cornelius Bundrage, Andre Berto, Carlos Hernandez, Alejandro Gonzalez, Oscar de la Hoya and a host of lesser-known but tough veterans, he knows every trick in the book. However, Forbes will need every single tool in his shed to score what would be a sizeable upset over Vargas; he’s been on the decline for a few years and has lost seven of his last eleven bouts. He also hasn’t fought in almost a year. His last bout was a TKO loss at the hands of Karim Mayfield; it was the first time in his career that he was stopped.
"I’m a very confident fighter and whoever they have in front of me (Forbes or otherwise), I’ll be ready,” Vargas stated. “After people see me on pay-per-view, I think they’ll begin to recognize me and get to know who I am."
Forbes (35-10, 11KOs) took the fight without hesitation and is hoping a win, or at least a terrific performance against one of the more hyped young contenders in recent years will rejuvenate his career. Forbes was at the open workout and watched Vargas train, though at that time he was uncertain as to whether he’d get the call to fight the young Mexican-American. Forbes has been a part of massive cards before – when he fought De la Hoya – but this is different: He’s not the featured fighter. But like his lopsided loss to the future Hall of Famer, not many give him a chance coming into the bout against Vargas.
“I know there’s pressure being the favorite, but I want to be the best in the world,” he said. “I’m prepared to fight anyone. There are different styles of fighters and I will fight whoever is put in front of me. My job is to be prepared for anybody and I’ve trained very hard for this fight. On (Saturday) the world will see me at my best.”
As of press time, there weren’t any official odds on the Vargas-Forbes matchup but it’s logical that by the time they square off, Vargas should be a substantial betting favorite over Forbes. Their tussle will be televised live on HBO Pay-Per-View preceding the Canelo-Shane Mosley matchup.
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April 27, 2012