Just like last week, we have a sitting featherweight titlist moving up to 130 to try for a vacant belt this Saturday, as Rey Vargas takes on O’Shaquie Foster in a Showtime main event.
Who wins? We’ve got our picks in!
Scott Christ (10-5)
I think it’s gonna be a debatable one in the end, and my gut says that “a debatable one” will lean toward Vargas, the A-side in San Antonio and the PBC fighter in the PBC main event. But we all know how I love to argue with my own common sense.
Anyway, I’m going with Foster. I think he’s in very good form coming into this fight, and he’s become right about the fighter he was thought to potentially be when he lost a couple on ShoBox back in the day, learning from the setbacks and improving his game. I’m also just not sold on Vargas at 130; he has plenty of height for the division and he can still box, but his frame gets lankier with every move up, and he doesn’t have much pop, never really has. Maybe this is a level where he still does his thing and I’m overestimating Foster or underestimating Vargas, but I think Rey goes back to 126, where he still has a belt, licking his wounds a bit after a fairly bold play that doesn’t pay off. Foster UD-12
Wil Esco (11-4)
This fight should prove to be a pretty closely contested match, in my estimation. Both Rey Vargas and O’Shaquie Foster have their strengths combined with some clear vulnerabilities, but I think it’s going to be Foster’s leaky defense that ends up getting him the short end of the stick here. Foster, while having some technical proficiency, gets caught a little too easily for my liking, and I think against someone like Rey Vargas who’s going to be throwing in combination and digging down to the body will take advantage.
Vargas is hardly a defensive wizard himself, but I do think he stays a little more responsible in that department and I think with a concerted attack downstairs he’ll be able to take enough steam out of Foster so as to sap his power. There should be some back-and-forth moments in this fight, but I’m taking Vargas to edge it out on the scorecards. Vargas UD-12
John Hansen (14-1)
This feels like Emanuel Navarrete 2.0, but with a higher risk fight for Rey Vargas at a point in his career where I think he’s not quite up there at Navarrete’s level. I honestly don’t understand why Vargas is making this move, having spent hardly any time at 126, never defending his title there, and generally having looked less impressive at featherweight than Navarrete did.
Maybe Vargas is less comfortable with the weight cut at this point in his 30s. If so, that’s unfortunate, as I loved watching him work his size advantages as a 122 pounder in his mid 20s. But now, at 130, he’s giving those up at the same age where guys in the lower divisions often really start to decline.
Foster is good. Damn good. He’s a regular at 130 lbs, and he’ll have the height and reach advantage, which is a situation I can’t recall Vargas ever facing before. Everything about this fight, other than reputation and world title fight experience, favors the betting underdog. My debate isn’t over who will win, it’s whether Foster will take cards, or break down Vargas to the point where we get a late stoppage by the ref or the corner. I’ll go bold, and predict a clear finish in what I expect becomes a coming-out party for a guy that’s taken a long, challenging path to earn it. Foster TKO-11
Patrick Stumberg (12-3)
At 122, Vargas’ size and technique were enough to compensate for the fact that he can’t punch. His one stint at 126 looked like it was pushing it a bit, though his neglect of the jab didn’t do him any favors. If he stays at 130, he’s going to struggle with sluggers.
I do think he has the right tools to get past Foster, though. “Ice Water” is a delightfully well-polished boxer, but not to such an extent that he can decisively outclass Vargas at a distance despite his height and reach advantages. Conversely, Vargas’ body work gives him a clear edge in the pocket, and his swings can be more visually impressive than Foster’s textbook shots. Foster’s willingness to cede ground should also give Vargas plenty of opportunities to ply his craft at his preferred range, especially since he’ll almost certainly be more difficult to outmaneuver than Muhammad Yakubov. It’ll be back-and-forth and probably close enough to generate controversy, but I like Vargas to edge it out. Vargas MD-12
Mario Barrios vs Jovanie Santiago
- Scott: Barrios UD-10
- Wil: Barrios UD-10
- John: Barrios UD-10
- Patrick: Barrios UD-10
Lenier Pero vs Viktor Faust
- Scott: Pero TKO-7
- Wil: Pero UD-10
- John: Pero UD-10
- Patrick: Pero TKO-3