Tuesday, August 28, 2007

YOU CAN'T KEEP A GOOD MAN DOWN


Above: Fernado Vargas was recently diagnosed with anemia which postponed what was to be the final fight of his career against Nicaragua's Ricardo Mayorga at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Tough guy Fernando Vargas was briefly knocked out again, but this time it was not a punch thrown by Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya or Shane Mosley that did it.

No, after all of the punishment that he has put his young self through over the years, it was his own body that finally gave out on Fernando Vargas. Feeling sluggish and ill in the gym while preparing for his scheduled September 8th bout with trash talker extraordinaire Ricardo Mayorga, Vargas decided to make a trip to his doctor’s office.

The diagnosis? Anemia.

The bad news smacked home like that Oscar De La Hoya left hook to the head which separated Vargas from his senses back in 2002. Blood tests revealed that the 29 year-old Vargas, who has had trouble making weight for many of his fights, has an iron deficiency.

The fight has now been pushed back nearly 11 weeks to November 23rd and it will still be held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Vargas has lost nearly 100 pounds since being at a high of about 265 late last year and his efforts to get down to the contracted weight of 162 pounds for the fight with Mayorga were paying off, but then he just didn’t feel right. He said he felt very weak and sick to his stomach and when he couldn’t train he decided to seek medical advice.

The Oxnard, California native told the Ventura County Star that, “I had no choice,” when it came to postponing the fight. “I can't fight in this condition,” he claimed.

Simply put, anemia is a condition in which there aren't enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to body tissues. It causes a person to feel weak, breathless, light-headed and tired.

Vargas’ anemia was reported to have been caused by stomach ulcers which led to internal blood loss. A possible cause was his overuse of aspirin to help alleviate minor muscle discomfort associated with his training.

“Every athlete has aches and pains,” said a downtrodden Vargas, “and I guess I was taking a little bit more aspirin than recommended. The doctor said it's common for people who take a lot of aspirin to have this.”

Dr. Jonathan A. Mitchell, a physician contacted for this story, said it depends on what's causing Vargas’ anemia as to what the course of treatment will be. “There are many, many causes of anemia,” explained the doctor. “For example, if anemia results from losing too much blood, the cause of the blood loss will need to be addressed first,” said Dr. Mitchell. “If anemia results from a diet that's low in iron, the doctor may recommend a change in your diet or even iron pills.”

As for the length of time a person may be expected to be sidelined by anemia? “Well it can depend on many factors,” said the good doctor. “It can vary widely according to the cause and the manner in which the person being treated responds to the prescribed course of treatment.”

As a result, the grudge match against Nicaragua’s Mayorga has been rescheduled leaving ticket buyers for the original date very happy. Ticket sales for the original date were reportedly brisk, with nearly a million dollars in the till.

Vargas’ doctor has recommended that he refrain from training for at least two or three weeks, thus making the reschedule of the pay-per view match a logistical nightmare on the crowded autumn boxing calendar.

For Vargas, the fight will be his swan song and he says he’s going to ride off into the sunset for a career in the movies. A lover of Mexican food, which caused his shocking weight gain after his loss to Shane Mosley last July, Vargas is clearly looking forward to the end of his boxing career, which has now been prolonged by his anemia diagnosis. The sacrifice of making weight has always been his constant nemesis.

A couple of weeks ago, when asked what his life after boxing was going to entail, Vargas had this to say. “After this fight I get to go eat whatever I want, whatever I want I'm going to eat,” he happily declared. “If I want to drink a little bit, I’ll drink a little bit. But for now I like the diet and the training; it's for your health. I got the fat gene from my biological father so I need to stay in the gym. But after this fight, if I want to let loose a little bit, I'll do that. Other than that I’ll be keeping my shape for my health, and looking good for my wife and doing movies.”

Whether Vargas and Mayorga can hold their shape until November 23rd is a big concern for everyone involved in the fight. Neither fighter is the picture of self-discipline. Vargas has a penchant for food, while Mayorga’s vices are beer, cigarettes and street racing.

Quizzed several days ago as to how his training camp was progressing for the fight against Vargas, the often-comical Mayorga, who got into a pre-fight press conference brawl with Vargas, didn’t exactly sound like he was sacrificing or living a Spartan existence. When asked if he was still drinking and smoking he claimed he was. “I basically have been doing the same thing because that's my style,” said the wild child. “I like to drink and smoke, but this time a little less. It doesn’t matter, though. I'm going to fight a bum that’s going to get knocked out.”

With the rescheduled date, Vargas will still be able to keep the promise to himself to retire before his thirtieth birthday. He turns 30 two weeks after he will fight Mayorga and he always said he would never fight past that age. He hand-picked Mayorga as the opponent for his final go round and smart business moves throughout his career mean that he doesn’t need the money this fight would have brought him.

“I said I was going to leave by the time I'm 30 and I'm doing that…I'm 29,” said Vargas. “And I'll be 30 on December 7th. I said I’d never be fighting after 30. And I remember saying that, even as a kid. That's too old to be fighting. I'm glad for the top fighters who are 30 or over. But that’s not me. I don't want to do it. My body won't let me anymore. My body is tired of all these ups, downs, ups, downs. I want to stay healthy for myself, for my wife and for my kids and continue doing that.”

For Vargas, who accomplished so much in boxing at such a young age, it is bittersweet to wave goodbye to the young warrior, but he claims he’s happy with the way in which his career has turned out.

“I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish in boxing,” said Vargas. “Three-time junior middleweight champion of the world and the only one in the history to do so. I made a lot of money and I still have my faculties and I still have my family. Everything is fine with me. My health is fine. I did everything I wanted to do in boxing.”

If the Mayorga fight is indeed the end, Fernando Vargas has certainly provided his loyal legion of followers with thrills, chills and spills throughout his 10 year professional career. He was a courageous gladiator who was more than happy to go out on his shield and shed his blood to make fans happy in this game they call boxing.

And it’s a strange irony that it’s that same blood which has now prolonged his final goodbye.

August 2007