Fans got an eyeful last time, and we want more. The first Vargas vs. Mosley bout was one of those rare fights big enough to interest more than just hardcore fans, and it's become somewhat legendary now--though for the wrong reason--as Vargas's much-discussed swollen peeper has been replayed endlessly on HBO. Someone should have kept a running list of fruits and vegetables that it's been compared with... cantaloupe or tomato? Orange perhaps? Lemon? Personally, I'm going with grapefruit--"swollen like a grapefruit" has a nice ring to it.
It was a memorable bout, gruesome headshots aside, and I for one have been looking forward to this rematch ever since. In the first fight, Mosley seemed in control most of the early rounds, using his superior speed and ring savvy to outbox Vargas. Vargas' strength and heart seemed to advance his cause later on, pressing the slicker Mosley back with his aggression. Yet even as the tables may have been turning, the infamous eyeball made its' presence more and more known, until the fight just had to be stopped. Really, it should have been stopped the round before, as even by then his vision was completely blocked on that side.
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UPDATE: After you read the rest of this preview, you may want to check out this NYT story comparing the father / son dynamics at play in Mosley (whose dad has returned for the first time in years to train his son) with Mayweather and Roy Jones. Yes, the New York Times is actually covering boxing. Believe it or not, the story is on the front page of their website.
Vargas later claimed the injury resulted from a headbutt, but the film clearly shows Mosley sharp-shooting for that eye the moment it started to go. I don't buy Vargas' line here, but the claim does allow HBO to promote this fight as "unfinished business"--and unfinished business it is--though not because of the supposed headbutt. This bout's better justification is the fact that Vargas was ahead on two of the judges' cards when it was stopped, and eye or no, he was clearly full of spit and vinegar in the later rounds and may very well have won if not for the stoppage.
If you're going to lay down the 50 bucks, you're doing it for one fight only (it's an uninspiring undercard), but this one has the potential to be truly great. Vargas is going to be revved beyond belief for his chance at vengeance. He knows his reputation as a top-tier fighter is on the line. Mosley has less to lose, as a loss would set him up for another big payday with the tie-breaker. Still, Sugar Shane Mosley is a pro and well-known for his obsessive preparation. There's no doubt in my mind that both men will be giving 100%.
The way I see it, the match-up favors Mosley, and I'm predicting he pulls out a close decision. First of all, I think Mosley is one of the top PFP fighters around right now--a defensive master with a reasonably solid punch, great handspeed, and superior ring intelligence. He may be six years older than Vargas, but he hasn't absorbed the same punishment as "El Feroz." Mosley's only losses are to two of boxing's greats: Vernon Forrest and Winky Wright, and he seems to have more trouble with other skilled defenders than sluggers like Vargas. I think he will find ways to take better advantage of Vargas' aggressive style, boxing Vargas more from the outside this time and using his feet. Vargas' best shot is to turn this into trench warfare and not give Shane any breathing room. He will get his blows in, but not enough of them. He may even knock Shane down, but I still see Mosley outpointing him in a close but unanimous decision. Vegas odds have Vargas at +155, Mosley at -185.
I haven't heard from Scott yet, but Brent sees Mosley winning this more decisively than I do, predicting "a pretty one-sided decision."
As I write this, Kevin tells me he's partying his brains out in Puerto Rico, having foisted the pre-fight job off on to me because he plans to be "hungover until 3PM Saturday." Anyway, soused González disagrees with Brent and I and has this to say:
Vargas by TKO in the 10th:
Contrary to what a lot of people have been saying since even before their first fight, I don't think this is a do-or-die fight for either guy. Regardless of what happens here, both guys will still have their drawing power: win or lose, Mosley will probably return to a loaded welterweight division, where some lucrative fights will undoubtedly develop, and Vargas could still make good money fighting the likes of Taylor and Mayorga (regardless of their records or recent defeats, I'd buy this one in a heartbeat). So I don't think it will be desperation, per sé, what will win it for Vargas. I see him coming into this fight very well-prepared, moreso than Mosley, who reportedly didn't want this rematch to begin with. Plus, I think Vargas, who is always a warrior, will come in with a vicious desire of vengeance, not having been able to get his rematches against either Oscar or Trinidad--his only two other conquerors--in the past. I don't think Mosley dominated their first fight by any means, and I still thought Fernando was landing consistent hard shots when Cortez stepped in. Not only that, he was landing the harder shots, and on many occasions, he got Mosley to engage with him and trade toe-to-toe. I think Vargas will go to the body earlier this time around, and that, combined with Mosley's age, will wear Shane down towards the middle rounds. I suspect, also, that Vargas' trainers and sparring partners worked to improve his defense against Mosley's right to the head during camp. If he can force Shane to go toe-to-toe with him again, I think Vargas might become the first man to stop Mosley, en route to the biggest win of his career. Not to get ahead of myself, but a decisive win against Mosley would certainly put Fernando on Oscar's radar once again, particularly given the PPV numbers that both Vargas/Mosley fights will have generated.