Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Two Turkeys in a War of Words

At a recent press conference, excitabe fighters Fernando Vargas and Ricardo Mayorga needed to be separated by plexiglass in order to keep the peace.

They’ve been trading insults and barbs and saying nasty things about each other for the past four months. And on the day after Thanksgiving in Los Angeles, Fernando Vargas and Ricardo Mayorga are finally going to try and shut each other up for good.

“Vargas is going to be a coward and run from the very beginning,” proclaims Mayorga, a bandito like character who grew up dirt poor on the mean streets of Managua, Nicaragua. “I don’t plan to wait around for him to fight. I’ll be looking to knock him out in the early rounds.

Mayorga also laid out his holiday plans: “I'm not going to celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday because I'm going to kill my fat turkey on Friday. He’s not going to remember anything until he wakes up in the hospital the next day after I beat him down.”

The fight had to be postponed for 2 ½ months while Vargas waited for a case of anemia to clear up. He claims that “too many aspirin,” caused stomach ulcers that led to internal bleeding. The rumor is that Vargas, a lover of all things food, may have also needed extra time to lose excess baggage and sweat down to the contracted weight of 166 pounds. He has lost over 100 pounds in the past several months and the initial contract called for the fight to take place at 162, but Vargas re-negotiated the contract and asked for the higher limit. Whatever the case, Vargas says the postponement was justified. “I was losing the equivalent of two pints of blood,” he says. “It took me two months just to get back to normal.”

The postponement and the higher weight don’t seem to bother the carefree Mayorga at all. “It’s going to be an advantage for me to fight at a higher weight,” he says as he smirks. “Vargas is too fat to keep up with me. He’s done, he doesn’t have the skills to fight me.”

Things began badly right from the start with these two. They got into a widely publicized brawl at the press conference to announce the fight after Mayorga made some disparaging remarks about Vargas’ weight – and his new wife. What resulted was a melee involving members from both camps that caught promoters Kathy Duva and Don King in the middle.

But what it also did was beam the fracas all over the world compliments of YouTube and ESPN. The fight, which will take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, became an instant sensation at the box office. Over a million dollars worth of tickets were sold before the fight was postponed and the public frothing at the mouth hasn’t cooled while everyone waits for Friday night.

“I can’t forget what happened at the press conference,” says Vargas. “The cat tried to sucker punch me. You try and back hand me at a press conference, that’s the wrong thing to do, I’ll tell you that much. I’ve been in one or two street fights in my life. I let him slip off my jacket and he didn’t land anything.”

Nicaraguan wildman, Ricardo Mayorga, is all suited up and ready for action.

While Vargas and Mayorga are clearly past their best days, with neither having tasted victory in over two years, this fight matches up two cocky combatants that ooze machismo. It’s been the most rude tussle of the tongues that boxing has seen in years. The sport hasn’t heard so many outlandish statements denigrating opponents and their family members since the fiery Roberto Duran retired. Like Duran, both men wear their emotions on their sleeve and have hair trigger tempers that can be set off like a trip wire. Both are known as extraordinary trash talkers and they have always used face-to-face confrontations with their opponents as a chance to goad and intimidate.

Vargas, a 29 year-old from Oxnard, California made his name as a 154-pound super welterweight and was the youngest fighter in history to ever win a title in that weight class. He says that Friday night will be his final fight but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to get under Mayorga’s skin and gain every advantage that he can with his tongue. “I don’t like anything about Mayorga,” says Vargas. “He has a face only a mother gorilla would love. I’m going to beat the (expletive) out of him. He’s a stupid fighter and he just don’t get it.”

A millionaire several times over, Vargas has a burgeoning business empire that he oversees and it includes a soon to be released clothing line, a telecommunications company, as well as a budding acting career. The ‘Ferocious One’ as he is known, fashions himself as a modern day “Tony Montana” from the 1983 movie “Scarface” which starred Al Pacino. Like that character, Vargas believes that the world is his.

Earlier this year, in a ceremony that cost him over half a million dollars, Vargas wed his longtime girlfriend Martha Lopez who is mother to his three boys. By all accounts it was an opulent ceremony befitting that of a young king. The invitations alone set Vargas back $20,000. Two wedding cakes hit the cash register for $14,000 and special lighting and a dance floor imported from Spain carried a price tag of $100,0000. “It was worth every penny to make sure that I was able to give my wife the wedding of her dreams and that to me was everything,” he said.

Fernando Vargas says he is ready to face Ricardo Mayorga in Los Angeles.

Vargas also maintains that he is at peace knowing that this fight will be the last in his decade long career as a prizefighter, but the beginning of his new life as a full-time businessman. “I feel good that this is it,” he says. “I know I’m going to look great in this fight, but this it, this is my last fight. I’ve got other things I’ve got to do. I’ve got other business ventures.”

The 34 year-old Mayorga, a feisty character and speaker who reminds many of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, has won world titles at welterweight and super-welterweight. But he also has a training regimen that has sometimes been known to consist of Budweiser beer and Marlboro cigarettes. Be that as it may, it hasn’t stopped him from being in some semblance of fighting condition. Earlier this week, as he pulled up his shirt to reveal a set of washboard abs, he said that he’s ready for a fight and that Vargas will be pose no problems for him.

“Vargas is done as a fighter,” sneered the quick-witted ‘El Matador’. “He was great when he was in his prime when he was a typical Mexican fighter with guts. But now he doesn’t have anything left…he’s taken way too many shots. He’s done.”

A wild outlaw who lives his life fast and hard, Mayorga has a penchant for street racing fast cars. “I’ll probably ending up dying in a car crash,” he says before grinning wryly and chuckling to himself. He fights with a kill or be killed attitude and comes out at the sound of the first bell swinging wildly like a drunk man in a dark barroom. He lost his last fight, a sixth round knockout at the hands of Oscar De La Hoya, and he says the memory of that fight still bothers him and that he’s using it as motivation to take care of business against Vargas.

Like Vargas, Mayorga also has a special lady who is close to his heart.

"My mom’s birthday is coming up and she asked for a great present from me. She asked me to knock Vargas out as her birthday gift and that’s what I’m going to do,” he laughs. “Vargas made a very big mistake picking this fight to be his farewell fight. If he wanted to retire, he shouldn’t have taken a fight with me. He’s not going to retire with a victory. He’s going to lose and embarrass himself.”

Mayorga, who has a sophomoric sense of humor, makes you wonder if he really believes any of what he is saying or if it is just part of a big game for him. He alternates quickly between being stone faced and stern and then being playfully funny.

When asked what he thinks will happen in the ring he gives a couple of scenarios. “Vargas is going to be a coward and run from the very beginning. If he stands in front of me, the fight will last one or two rounds. If he decides to run, it will last maybe five rounds.”

So what should the fans who show up in Los Angeles or tune in on pay-per view expect from the big fight?

Vargas has his own ideas and says this: “I’ve never really hated anyone this much since I fought Ross Thompson,” whom he spit on after he knocked him down. “Mayorga has a big mouth and I’m going to shut it for him.”

Clearly, the time for talking is over.

November 2007

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