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Rey Vargas looking to unify at 122, wants Santa Cruz at 126

Rey Vargas returns to action on Saturday in California.

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Rey Vargas v Oscar Negrete Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

WBC super bantamweight titleholder Rey Vargas returns this Saturday on DAZN, part of a card featuring two world title fights, but the 28-year-old unbeaten Mexican fighter has his sights set on bigger fights down the line, including unification at 122 and a move to 126.

“We want a unification fight by the end of the year. Also, I would like a fight with Leo Santa Cruz before he moves up to 130 pounds. I would move up to 126 pounds to get a fight with Leo Santa Cruz.”

Vargas (32-0, 22 KO) defends on Saturday against Franklin Manzanilla (18-4, 17 KO), a Venezuelan fighter now based in Colombia, who boasts a big knockout percentage but has built it up against largely limited opposition.

That said, Manzanilla, 30, did stop former titleholder Julio Ceja in his last outing, so he can’t be completely overlooked, even if he is the clear underdog.

If Vargas wins on Saturday, the chances of unification are there, but things are a little tricky in terms of getting it done any time soon. WBA titleholder Daniel Roman and IBF titleholder TJ Doheny are expected to unify in April, but the winner will have to face the WBA mandatory challenger, Murodjon Akhmadaliev, immediately after that. On paper, a fight between Vargas and the Roman-Doheny winner is easy to make, since all of them fight on DAZN, but getting it done by the end of 2019 could be a problem if everyone wants to keep their belts, and that would be the whole point of unification, so they probably do.

As for Santa Cruz, he’s got the WBA featherweight title which makes it attractive for Vargas, but Leo is a PBC fighter, which makes a potential deal likely hard to get done. That’s not to say that it couldn’t be done, but we’ve all seen the promoter/platform stuff for many years now, and it’s arguably more pronounced than ever given the way everyone’s TV deals work now, and how much content is needed from everyone. Allowing a fighter to fight on another platform removes that fighter from potentially fighting on your platform in the short term, and everyone needs a lot of fights.

But that’s all for another day. Vargas has Manzanilla first, and we’ll see where he goes from there if he wins.

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