By Dan Ambrose: Former 2 division world champion Jessie Vargas (27-2, 10 KOs) reportedly believes he can get a crack against WBA/WBC welterweight champion Keith “One Time” Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) in his next title defense, according to Lance Pugmire of the LA Times.
Thurman, 28, has been out of action with an elbow problem since his 12 round split decision win over Danny Garcia on March 4 in a fight televised on Showtime Championship Boxing at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Thurman subsequently had elbow surgery on his injured elbow, and he’s expected to be out of action until early 2018. When Thurman does return to the ring, it’ll be him making an optional defense in early 2018; hence a fight against a guy like Jessie Vargas would be perfect for him.
”Was told in those talks that Danny Swift [Garcia] could fight Brandon Rios next and that JVargasBoxing thinks he has shot at Keith Thurman,” said Pugmire on his Twitter.
Thurman has had back to back tough title defenses against Danny Garcia and Shawn Porter. Thurman is clearly entitled to an easier title defense. I wouldn’t call Vargas an easy fight for Thurman, but you can argue that he’s easier than what he’s gone through recently in fighting Porter and Garcia in back to back fights. Thurman fought only once in 2016, and once in 2017. He’s been dealing with injuries that have limited his ability to take fights. You have to wonder whether the remainder of Thurman’s career will be slowed by injuries as well. It’s likely to get worse for Thurman in terms of him suffering injuries as he ages.
Vargas, 28, is rumored to be no longer with Top Rank Promotions, which might explain why he feels he could get a fight against Thurman. Vargas isn’t ranked in the top 15 by the World Boxing Association, but he has a No.4 ranking with the WBC. That’s obviously not high enough to force a fight. But if Vargas is no longer with Top Rank, then it might be a doable fight between his management and Thurman’s management.
Vargas hasn’t fought in 11 months since losing his WBO welterweight title to Manny Pacquiao by a 12 round unanimous decision on November 5, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Vargas lost the fight by the scores 118-109, 118-109 and 114-113. Boxing News 24 scored the Pacquiao-Vargas fight 118-109 in favor of Pacquiao. Vargas was knocked down in the 2nd round by Pacquiao. Vargas has now lost 2 out of his last 3 fights in the last 2 years. He was beaten by Tim Bradley by a lopsided 12 round unanimous decision in a fight for the interim WBO welterweight title on June 27, 2015.
The only good thing to say about Vargas in that fight was he finished strong in staggering Bradley in the 12th round. Unfortunately for Vargas, the referee that worked the fight Pat Russell, got confused in the last seconds of the fight and stopped the action with 10 seconds to go. Russell thought that the bell had sounded to end the fight. What he heard was the 10 second bell to let the 2 fighters know that the fight was close to ending. Bradley was badly hurt at the time the fight was stopped. It’s debatable whether Vargas could have knocked Bradley out, but it was disappointing to see Vargas lose out on a shot to try and end the fight.
Vargas defeated Sadam Ali by a 9th round TKO last year on March 5. It was an impressive win for Vargas in easily defeating the previously unbeaten Ali in 9 rounds. Vargas knocked Ali down in the 8th and 9th rounds in a fight for the vacant WBO welterweight title. What’s interesting is WBO junior middleweight champion Miguel Cotto has selected Vargas to defend his title against in his final fight of his career on December 2 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Surprisingly, HBO Boxing will be televising the Cotto-Ali fight as the main event in their December 2 card.
Ali has never fought in the 154lb division, and he’s not ranked in the WBO’s rankings at 147 or 154. Don’t be surprised if you soon see Ali ranked in the WBO’s top 15 at 154. Welcome to boxing. I’m hoping the WBO doesn’t do something really weird like give Ali a No.1 ranking at 154. We saw the WBO give Cotto a No.1 ranking recently despite him not having fought since 2015. The WBO ranked him No.1 and gave journeyman level fighter Yoshihiro Kamegai a No.6 ranking, putting him above Erickson Lubin in their top 15 rankings. Kamegai would arguably be a punching bag for Lubin, as would Cotto in my opinion. Lubin is VERY good, and he has future world champion written all over him.
As for former 2 division world champion Danny “Swift’ Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs), it is not surprising for him to be looking to fight Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios (34-3-1, 25 KOs) next, because that’s been his style of match-making. Garcia, 29, only rarely fights talented guys. Garcia mostly faces weaker opposition in easy record-padding fights. I have to call it like I see it. Before Danny Garcia’s recent fight against Thurman, he hadn’t fought a dangerous opponent since his 12 round unanimous decision win over Lucas Matthysse on September 14, 2013. After that fight, the boxing public saw Garcia take 6 easy fights against these fighters:
• Mauricio Herrera
• Rod Salka
• Lamont Peterson
• Paulie Malignaggi
• Robert Guerrero
• Samuel Vargas
Garcia arguably lost to Herrera, but was given the decision. Peterson almost beat Garcia as well. That was supposed to be a fairly easy fight for Garcia, but Peterson walked him down and punished him in the last 4 rounds to make I close. Garcia was getting dominated by Thurman in the first half of their fight last March. Thurman started coasting beginning in the 7th round, and that made the fight a lot closer than it should have been.
Rios, 31, recently defeated Aaron Herrera by a 6th round knockout on June 11. Still, Rios is far from being in the upper echelon of the welterweight division. Garcia fighting Rios would be all about the business of boxing rather than it being a fight that has any meaning. Rios has lost 3 out of his last 6 fights. You would have to believe that there are far better guys for Garcia to fight instead of Brandon Rios. Like I said, Danny Garcia mostly fights soft opposition and only rarely does he fight someone that has a chance of beating him. That’s been his style of being matched for years now, and it’s not surprising that he’s still being matched that way. It obviously isn’t great for Garcia in terms of making him a more popular fighter in boxing, but it’s kept him from getting beaten a lot. If Garcia had taken on guys like Errol Spence, Terence Crawford and Viktor Postol, he might have 3 more losses on his record.
Garcia had the chance to fight IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. for his title, but he doesn’t seem to be interested in that fight for some reason. Instead of fighting Spence for his title, Garcia appears to be on the verge of facing non-champion Brandon Rios next. You can argue that it’s better for Danny Garcia to take a safe fight against Rios than face the more dangerous Spence and risk getting knocked out. You get what you put into a career. I think Danny Garcia would have stood a better chance against Thurman if he had fought good opposition for the 4 years leading up to that fight instead of padding his record against guys like Rod Salka.